A quarter of a million pound project has just been completed at the Uniting Church in Whaley Bridge following five months of hectic work. This now gives the church excellent facilities.
The church, made up of three denominations (Methodist, United Reformed and Baptist) worshipping together, is right in the middle of the town. As well as a place of worship, it is also a centre for many community activities, which now become more accessible with the building of a new main entrance. Around 28 church and community groups use the building, including:
· mother and toddler groups
· slimming classes
· Kinder children’s choir
· the youth club
· the luncheon club, run by Churches Together in Whaley Bridge, which has been hosted by Holy Trinity Church since November.
The building dates back to 1821 – it was built as a Wesleyan Sunday School. The original Georgian walls and windows were the main reason why the church became a grade 2 listed building. Planners have allowed unique plans for the building – a glazed link through which the original windows and stone work can be seen – allowing two streams of visitors to reach their chosen part of the church without disturbing others.
Open the new front door and you can see right to the end of the sanctuary, with a stained glass window of Holman Hunt’s Light of the World the brightest object in view. In between, there is a large area for public use, with the original early 19th century metal pillars adapted into the layout. The luncheon club, which will now become a fortnightly activity, and overflow congregations or concert audiences will enjoy the new space.
Kitchen and meeting rooms, as well as storage space have all been radically improved.
John Morten, a retired structural engineer and member of the church, has been project manager over the five months. He sees the work as moving toward the church members’ dream to make the church a complete building open to all the community. Starting back in 1821, there have been additional building projects over the years, the last being 25 years ago which changed the worship area into its modern, multi purpose role.
The large space at the top of the building, used for theatre presentations and other activities, – and services from last November to April – remains the same but access has been improved markedly, with new toilet and storage facilities.
The project has been funded by – the local Church and its members, denominational bodies and various grant funding organisations, including WREN from funds donated by Waste Recycling Group to the Landfill Communities Fund.
The schedule of activities following the work is:
· Palm Sunday, 17 April: first service back in the worship area, conducted by the minister the Rev Michael Peat
· Saturday 14 May: open day for the community, with displays from organisations and activities using the building.
· Whit Sunday (Pentecost) 12 June, a service of thanksgiving.