Work has started on a 2,000-seat auditorium at a Bradford Church which will be finished in time for a big party on New Year's Eve.

Exactly a year after a fundraising day brought in an incredible £600,000, the Abundant Life Church cut the first sod of the new project.

The huge building, which will take up most of the car park behind the church in Wapping Road, is costing £1.5 million.

Initially it was thought it would be an extension of the church but the plans have changed to make it a separate building - leaving the church to young people and children.

The first event inside will be a 9pm to 2am party to welcome in the Millennium and celebrate 2,000 years of Christianity with worship, singing, food and fireworks.

Minister Paul Scanlon said: "When we built this building 12 years ago we wondered if it was the right size and we have never experienced as much growth as in the last two to three years.

"The message it sends out to our city is that the church is alive and well where most places are closing down and church buildings are being turned into bingo halls and carpet warehouses. It says people are tired of religion but they are drawn by life. Religion is what's left after God has gone.''

He said the remaining cash needed had been lent by Natwest Bank. Asked how the church was going to pay off the loan, he replied: "We are looking to God for the rest."

The church's biggest recent achievement has been its show on Sky TV's Christian Channel which reaches 300 million viewers in 30 countries.

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