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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 17:36 GMT
Holy orders for bookie's shop
Betting shop
A different kind of congregation?
A vicar is to hold a special anniversary service in a betting shop.

The service is to mark to 125th anniversary of St Michael's in Camden Town, north London.

The vicar of St Michael's, the Reverend Nicholas Wheeler has invited his congregation to a celebration of prayers, hymns and Holy Communion at the William Hill shop in Camden.

The shop's location is where the original congregation of St Michael's worshipped before they built the church.

Community event

In 1877 the first vicar of St Michael's and his congregation bought a shop on Camden Road to provide a place a worship until they could raise the money to build a church.

The first service was held in the shop on 25 February.

The shop has changed hands over the years and is now William Hill the Bookmakers.

Reverend Wheeler said: "This isn't a gimmick and we're certainly not encouraging people to gamble.

Unusual request

"But at the start of a year when we are beginning the repair and restoration of our church building and providing new facilities for the homeless, the young and the refugees in our neighbourhood, we want to remember the men and women who began it all with worship and prayer so many years ago."

A William Hill spokeswoman said: "This is truly the oddest request we have had but we are delighted to help commemorate the start of the church's involvement with Camden.

"The congregation can also have a flutter on the next Archbishop of Canterbury - I'm sure we can arrange special odds for the vicar."

The service will take place at 0800 GMT on Monday.

The current church was built by Bodley & Garner, widely acknowledged as leaders in the field of ecclesiastical Victorian architecture.

The building is now given "listed" protection, with the interior being of particular architectural significance.

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18 Jul 01 | Scotland
Betting on the church's standing
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