Members of St Stephen’s Church have had to make the really difficult decision to close and because we no longer have a building, the idea came to pass that maybe we could buy St Stephen’s Church, refurbish it and have this as our new home.
Well after nearly a year of negotiations we have now signed the contract of sale. We have also received planning permission for the alterations and hope to start work on the building during 2014 and for the building to be open in 2015.
Over the past few months members of our church have been busy. We took possession of St Stephen’s Church on 22nd January and had our first service there on the 26th. This was followed by an invitation to everyone in the neighbourhood to come inside, have a look at the architect’s plans and tell us how they thought the building could serve their needs.
People told us that the neighbourhood was friendly with a good community spirit but others said that they did feel isolated and it was hard to make new friends. Suggestions on how the building would be able to help the community appeared to identify a need for somewhere to meet, have a cup of coffee, chat and get advice and support. This view appeared to be across the age ranges as it included requests for a drama group for young people, a ‘Mums and Toddlers’ group and a ‘Memory Lane Sing-a-long’ (I am assuming that was for the young at heart?)
On the 5th February we then held an Open Forum and Consultation for organisations working in the local area, this included people from the local schools, council and various support agencies. As well as feeling that this was a great project for us, guests also felt we would be in an ideal position to identify people who had specific needs. They also felt that our centre would be a bridge between those with needs and the agencies which could provide the support. Several organisations said they were looking forward to forming a partnership with us.
These consultations have been continuing over recent months in order to gain an understanding of the needs of people living in the area; to identify organisations already working in the area and to discover the activities, help and support our centre will be able to offer.
It has been an interesting and challenging few months with a lot more challenges to come I am sure but the vision that God gave to members of St John & St James many years ago to build a “flexible fellowship centre that is the servant of the parish” still appears to be his desire for us today.