PLENTY of people have said shopping is the new religion.

And now, in a former Bournemouth church, people can be seen swiping their Clubcards and loading their carrier bags beneath stained glass windows.

The former Westbourne Methodist Church has re-opened as a Tesco Express after a period lying empty.

The pews have gone and the church aisles have been replaced with checkout aisles.

But the fabric of the church remains, with cashiers ringing up the tills in front of huge stained glass windows depicting Biblical characters.

You might imagine John Wesley, the founder of teetotal Methodism, turning in his grave at the sight of money changing hands and discounted alcohol going through the tills.

But while some have been critical of the change of use, others are pleased to see the building kept in public use.

The Rev Dr Bob McKinley, former minister at the church, said it was “sad” to see the church become a shop. But he added that as a charity, the church had no control over whom the building was sold to.

He added: “Our main concern was the people. Although it is sad, it is only a building. You could say it is not appropriate to have a Tesco Express in it but once it is sold it is no longer under our control.”

To mark the store’s opening on Friday, manager Craig Ansell presented a £500 cheque to Diana Newbury, appeals manager at the Daily Echo-backed Sparkle Appeal.

A ribbon was cut by pupils from Victoria Education Centre and Sports College, which runs the appeal to provide new hydrotherapy facilities and a centre.

Many members of Westbourne Traders Association have supported the new shop, saying it will attract more shoppers to the area.

But others are not so impressed. Rob Forbes, owner of family-run Seamoor News, said the store “spooks you out”.

“I have to cross myself every time I walk past it,” he said.