Fire on Stow Hill

A message from Fr. Michael

Following the devasting fire at Bethel Community Church on Stow Hill, it is important that we keep our brothers and sisters of Bethel in our daily prayers.  We all know the importance we tend to place on our church buildings whilst forgetting the building is merely an outward facade for what is a concrete spiritual reality. It is we, the baptised, the followers of Christ – Christians, that ARE the Church; and in times such as this we are reminded of that important fact.  The Community of Bethel held Sunday service in the car park opposite the shell of their meeting place, not just an expression of solidarity, but a witness that God’s glory will always shine through and always bring good out of evil.  I know some of our parishioners joined with their celebration, truly the Church of Christ, coming together in a sign of unity and fellowship.

I was in London when I heard the terrible news from Fr. Daniel; he called the fire brigade when he saw smoke rising from the former Zanzibar nightclub as he left for evening Mass.  But nobody could predict what happened next.  As soon as I heard the news, I contacted Pastor Andrew of the Bethel Community Church on two occasions , immediately upon hearing the news and when it was announced that Sunday Service would take place on the car park.  On both occasions I offered him the prayers and support, in any way, of the Catholic Community.  Pastor Andrew has acknowledged both messages with gratitude.

Somewhere in all of this Almighty God will see His purpose through. And like a pilgrim leaving the Jewish Temple to return home, the people of Bethel begin their journey heading to their new home, be it in a restored/redeveloped Stow Hill site, or a new location.  And just like those pilgrims they will be praying the great words of blessing of Psalm 121:

“I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help?

My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)

And as they pray these words, we pray:

“The LORD is your guardian;
the LORD is your shade
at your right hand.


The LORD will guard your coming and going
both now and forever.” (Ps 121:5, 8)

Fr. Michael.

The present situation on Stow Hill:

The situation on Stow Hill remains grave whilst assessments of both the former nightclub and the Bethel Community Church, and the ensuing investigations continue.  As such a cordon remains in place for public safety that severely restricts access approaches to St. Mary’s church.  The closures are as follows:

  • Stow Hill from Havelock Street down to just beyond the presbytery at St. Mary’s – the front door fo the presbytery is out of use, for access either knock the link door inside the church or ring ahead to be met outside the church for entry.
  • School Lane, which runs to the back of St. Mary’s is completely closed, and has no way through to Stow Hill.

This means the only way to get into St. Mary’s is to approach from the bottom of Stow Hill and walk up the hill.

Latest updates suggest the cordon is likely to be in place for a number of weeks. As we get more information we will keep you updated via this page.

All other churches in the parish are not affected.

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