Minister Wants to Turn Church's Cross into a Mobile Phone Mast

A CLERGYMAN wants to let a mobile phone company erect a cross- shaped mast on the roof of his church.

The existing cross would be taken down to make way for the speciallybuilt transmitter.

In return, communications company Hutchison, which runs the Three network, will make a donation to the Peter Lee Memorial Methodist Church in Peterlee, County Durham.

The scheme has been greeted with horror by some local people, but minister Todd Gile called it 'a winwin situation'.

He said: 'The church is in the business of worshipping God and making disciples and this is a legitimate fundraiser to support the ministry.

'I believe everything we do is designed to facilitate the gospel and this is just a use of our facilities, like renting out our rooms for the community.

'As long as it does not detract from the rest of the church and is not immoral, then it is kind of a win-win situation.' But local councillor Ted Hall said the plan would turn the church into a commercial enterprise.

'It is totally repugnant to me and creates a precedent for the rest of the churches in the area,' he said.

'The symbol of the cross should remind people to speak to the Lord rather than to phone their mother.' Mr Gile, an American who moved to Peterlee from Indiana with his wife a year ago, confirmed that church authorities had given the plan the go-ahead.

He said the money would be used for the upkeep of the building and added: 'It won't be an eyesore and will look just like the existing cross.

'John Wesley, the father of the Methodist church, always said, "Make all you can, save all you can and spend all you can for the cause of the gospel".'

Hutchison corporate affairs manager Mike Alexander said the comareaspany is looking to apply for planning permission by the end of the month and wants to hear the views of local people.

He said lots of operators have used church buildings to house their equipment because third-generation, or 3G, phone technology needs to be quite near to residential 'We recognise there is a balance-between that and the environmental impact, so churches are a good solution.' The church is around 50 years old and was one of the first to be built in the new town, which was named after Peter Lee, a local miners' leader and prominent Methodist who died in 1935.

Advances in technology have seen phone masts shrink from around 90ft to 25ft greatly increasing the places where they can be hidden.

There is one on a floodlight at Griffin Park, the West London home of Brentford football club.

The spire of St Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol contains four Vodafone masts and a mast disguised as a tree overlooks an estate in Baxenden, Lancashire. Other masts have been hidden in chimneys, lampposts and flagpoles.

(c) 2006 Daily Mail; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

Source: Daily Mail; London (UK)

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