St Helen’s Church, Stapleford, has just celebrated the official opening of their Community Annexe. This is the end of a chapter reaching back to 2008, when the Grade 2* listed church was beautifully internally re-ordered, thanks largely to the sale of another church in the parish.
The one flaw in the plan was no toilets, apart from the long and sloping walk to the hall.
Shortly after the Rev Canon Peter Huxtable arrived as incumbent in 2010, a group was keen to put toilets back on the agenda. (There were PCC minutes going back to the 1960s on this!). The vision grew beyond the call of nature to the creation of a new venue built on the side of the church with a cloistered walkway, meeting venue, and contemplative courtyard, that could be used by community groups independent of the church.
The vision also grew to develop a whole new side to the ministry of the church. Vicar, the Rev Canon Peter Huxtable explains: “This new space, built the way it’s designed, is a recognition that conversation and dialogue in an informal atmosphere is how many people today make big strides in coming to faith. So, making this space attractive, spiritual and comfortable was very much in our minds.
“This certainly stretched us in our faith financially and helped us persevere through a very long and, at times, stressful route to getting all the permissions and enough promised finance to build the Annexe”.
Planning permission took a year to secure, then Faculty permission another year, and then a further two years were spent before a suitable quality manufactured stone was found that was affordable but in keeping with the church sandstone.
The plans were contested several times by heritage bodies, but the overwhelming urgent case to have facilities that aided the living church of today to grow and connect with the community won the day thankfully.
The £325,000 project has been funded largely through church members’ donations, alongside important grants and community fundraising. The church membership have been emboldened through concentrating on a wider vision for the parish – one that included concentrating for a three-year period on the marks of discipleship, planting a church from scratch in an estate in the parish and being designated a resourcing church for the wider deanery.
The Vicar said: “We found that by keeping our eyes on this wider calling from God gave us the boldness to believe we could build the Annexe as well. With God’s inspiration, we have been able to fund the new church plant, pay our parish share, and pay all the bills to date on the Annexe, even when costs were rising.”
And so this weekend St Helen’s are rejoicing in God’s power at work among them, excited by all the potential this new space now offers – although the vicar is adamant that he’s not touching a building project again with a bargepole for many years to come!
Photos from the opening, credit Brian Pickering.