St Benedict's Plans

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May 9th:  The proposal to build a new church in Gillingham has been approved in principle by the Diocesan Property Commission. This now means that with their help we can get into detailed financial planning and deciding the most appropriate location for the church to be built. This will be done by members of the development team working with the diocesan property manager James Wilson. We will continue to keep you informed as we proceed and of further consultation days as and  when dates have been decided.  

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8 April 2018

Fr Martin Budge Parish Priest


  1. Situation

On his last visit to our parish in October 2017 Bishop Mark noted that we need to build a larger church in Gillingham. The town has grown rapidly over the last 15 years and the rate of growth is going to increase even further in the coming years. St Benedict’s is much loved, but is small and cramped and already (over) full most Sundays, which has been the case for some time. There are no rooms for hospitality, catechesis, children’s liturgy, charitable works, or mission and there are many access and health and safety issues.


  1. Numbers

Average current attendance: Marnhull 90 (2 Masses) Gillingham 85 (one Mass)                                

Current capacity: Marnhull 90, Gillingham 90

Expected future attendance: Marnhull 90, Gillingham 145

Need for future capacity: 150 seats minimum are needed in Gillingham to meet current and predicted population demands


  1. Pastoral Reorganisation

In due course, Marnhull/Gillingham and Shaftesbury are most likely to have to be served by only one priest. The Bishop has no intention of closing any of our churches. The number of Sunday Masses a priest may celebrate is a maximum of three; so reducing to one priest will result in there probably being only one Sunday Mass in each church. None of the present churches are large enough to accommodate this inevitable change. The question is how best to enable the priest to meet the sacramental and other needs of the faithful. Adequate sized buildings with car parking and mission space will need to be provided. The population in all the towns and villages is increasing, but neither Our Lady’s Marnhull nor St Edward’s Shaftesbury lends themselves to enlargement. So it falls to Gillingham to build a much bigger church.


Current Average Attendance in combined parishes 307

Expected Future Attendance Gains, not only in Gillingham (plus 60), but also Shaftesbury (plus 40) and Marnhull and Stalbridge

TOTAL 400+ expected Mass attendance (not including fruits of mission).

To meet this demand there is a need for a new replacement church in Gillingham with 250 seats, increasing total capacity to 480 in our parishes. In addition, creating a highly visible, warm, accessible and welcoming centre of Catholic life will result in spiritual growth for many and further missionary zeal.

Architects advice is that seating for only 200 and limited ancillary rooms for mission might be squeezed onto the current St Benedict’s site, however, there is already inadequate car parking and it is not future-proof beyond 20 years.


  1. Proposal

To build, on a high profile new site, a church for 250 (with space to extend in the future) with beautiful liturgical space, ancillary space and rooms for mission, catechesis, hospitality and charitable works etc. and ensuring easy accessibility for young and old alike and adequate car parking.


This is a wonderful opportunity for our parish to plant the Tabernacle at the heart of North Dorset and to build a joyful and vibrant church around it: to build a church where parish people can come to celebrate the Mass in a setting worthy of the Sacrifice, developing a relationship with the Risen Christ through prayer and catechesis and so bringing the Gospel to all they meet in daily life. This is for today and the long-term future.


This proposal is strongly supported and encouraged by the Deanery and the Diocese in pastoral, financial and spiritual terms.



In the meantime please keep the consultation forms with your suggestions and questions coming in and do visit the parish website or email the deacons – details in the Newsletter.

Feel free to click and open up this sheet, print it off and fill it in with any ideas you may have and post it into the boxes at the back of both St Benedict's and Our Lady's.