Church group prays for pub conversion

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IT has dispensed plenty of spirits in the past but a former city watering hole is now set for a new life as a church.

A planning application has been lodged to transform the Harvesters Way bar into a new home for an African evangelical group.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God – which originated in Nigeria – wants to set up in the former pub, which is part of the Greenway Centre, as it now boasts a 150-strong congregation. Emmanuel Ebeh, 33, a lay minister with the church, said an application had been lodged to transfer use of the premises to religious purposes. The pub was closed down in 2008, and the church hopes to secure a ten-year lease.

Mr Ebeh said there were no plans to make structural changes to the building.

“It’s been the other way round for so long [churches being converted into pubs] and I believe that everything starts with a step and I think this is a step in the right direction,” he said.

The lay minister said the majority of the congregation, which currently holds services at the Odeon Cinema in Wester Hailes, was from Nigeria but they also had parishioners from Poland, Holland, Kenya, 
Zimbabwe and Scotland. “Most of us that have immigrated here have come together and the church has started to grow and establish itself in Scotland,” he said.

“In the short term, we want to use the premises as a church but the long-term plan is to integrate into the area which is classed as deprived. We want to have a soup kitchen and food shelter as well as the possibility of opening a nursery or counselling facilities.”

The church already runs a charitable service, called Harmony Outreach – that seeks to donate items to less affluent members of the community – which it also hopes to establish in west Edinburgh.

Local councillor Jason Rust welcomed the church’s plan to provide facilities for the community. He said: “It’s an interesting change of use from a former pub to a place of worship. It’s very positive if they want to integrate with the local community and use the premise not just for worship but to help an area that in some senses is in need of assistance.