The fastest parish church in the west

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LR: The Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Philip Mounstephen, with his wife Ruth; the Rev Stewart Turner; Paddy Paddison, Wildanet chief technical officer

As part of a new initiative, a Cornish village church has found an innovative way to open its doors to the community and encourage more people to use its historic building – by launching a digital hub and café complete with free hyper-fast broadband.

Monty’s, at St Constantine Parish Church, in Constantine, near Falmouth, was officially opened and received a blessing by the Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Philip Mounstephen. He praised the initiative as an excellent example for other rural parishes in Cornwall wishing to see greater use of their churches by their communities.

The idea of using part of the 15th Century church as a high-tech hub and meeting place came from parish priest The Rev Stewart Turner who said it was born out of a desire to reach out to and serve the local community.

Pews have been removed to create space at the back of the church, with seating and tables, a hot drinks machine, a mini-library and toys available to keep younger visitors entertained. The free WiFi has been provided by Cornish broadband company Wildanet, which worked with the church and Diocese of Truro to install a wireless internet hub on the church tower overlooking the village as part of the company’s own mission to bring high-speed broadband to rural communities in Cornwall.

Rev Stewart said: “We had been looking for more than three years at ways in which we could reach out to our community and as part of that process we started talking with Wildanet about the broadband hub on the church tower and that opened a whole new range of possibilities.

“Thanks to Wildanet, we now have one of the fastest broadband connections of any parish church anywhere in the county. We can offer free WiFi in the church and people are coming in to access the internet and to have a coffee.

“It’s been amazing. We’ve actually not done anything new, but rather we have gone back to basics, to what churches always used to be, which is meeting places for the community. What’s new is the technology and we’ve just moved with the times.”

Paddy Paddison, Wildanet’s chief technical officer, said he was delighted to see the success of the community hub.

“Unlike many parts of the UK,” he said, “Cornwall still has countless communities suffering with poor quality Internet connection, making life harder for many families and businesses in these areas.

“Constantine is a great example of how Wildanet can work with parishes and parish churches to extend high-speed broadband services to the hard-to-reach areas of Cornwall and at the same time offer community services to the parishes and the parish churches. We’re delighted to see how the new internet service in Constantine is helping a community re-connect, both online and in-person.”