A SOUTH Oxfordshire church has officially opened a £180,000 extension thanks to a three-year fundraising campaign by its parishioners.

St Agatha’s Church in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell had been raising money since June 2009 for a new multi-function room, kitchenette and two lavatories.

The extension means the church will now be able to host more community events at the 859-year-old, grade II* listed church.

Tony Lascelles, chairman of the extension appeal committee, said it would keep the church at the heart of the community.

He said: “St Agatha’s is a quintessential part of its local landscape. Nevertheless, it can and should be utilised more widely to keep it at the heart of the local community.

“The extension will facilitate the church hosting more social events such as concerts, exhibitions and coffee mornings, expand its use by the local school and, in addition, provide a standalone amenity for small group meetings.”

The vicar of St Agatha’s Church, Rev Jeremy Goulston, said the expansion meant wedding receptions could be held at the church, and there was also now space for a Sunday School to run.

He said: “The extension means that we as a church can connect better as a community and they can get to know us too.”

Funding for the project came from a range of sources, including donations and fundraising events in the village.

Sponsored walks, a midsummer ball, safari suppers, open gardens day and concerts all contributed to the total.

The church also managed to secure a number of grants, including £35,600 from Waste Recycling Environmental Ltd (WREN), £20,000 from the Southern Oxfordshire LEADER Scheme and £11,000 for Oxford Diocese.

A further £6,275 came from the NatWest Community Force scheme, where awards were based on projects receiving the greatest number of votes by members of the public.

The expansion of the church came second, out of more than 40 projects within NatWest’s Basingstoke region.

The extension was officially opened last Saturday, which coincided with the church’s Teddy Bear Drop.

The bears were dropped by parachute from the top of the church tower in celebration of the extension.