Church unveils £200,000 project to become a community hub

A church near Bury St Edmunds is throwing open its doors to the community by taking out some of its traditional pews to create a flexible space for other activities.

All Saints’ Church, Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds, aims to build its place in the heart of the community with a £200,000 redevelopment project.

The church is disposing of 21 old Markham pews and replacing them with wooden chairs so that it can create a ‘‘welcoming, warm and wonderful space at the heart of our community, open and accessible to everyone.’’

The Revd Cathy Bladen, Rector of eight rural churches including Stanton, said: "Removing the pews from the central nave area will enable us to use the space for all kinds of services – both formal services, our Everyone Welcome services, festivals and for other church and community gatherings, and enable us to better serve the community here in Stanton. The chancel area and the choir stalls will remain unchanged and so will the side chapel area although these will now have under pew heating. We are having new radiant heaters installed, a kitchenette built into the west wall which will be cupboarded so when it’s not in use it will just look like lovely oak cupboards. Our existing porch door will have a large glass door fitted in front of it, to keep the church much warmer and also to enable folk to see into the church before stepping in. Also, we’re planning an extension out from the original north door to accommodate a toilet, with disabled access, baby changing area and a new flat level entrance leading on to the Church Rooms car park."

Cathy explained that: “This part of the project may need to wait as cost of the project has risen so greatly since Covid. But we hope to begin the first phase as soon as we can secure the necessary grants." She added: ‘‘The aim is to make the building as hospitable and as friendly as possible with people taking ownership of their church. “We have a wonderful flexible space to worship in – and now we can use it in all types of ways, to support our community."

During the Covid pandemic the Church set up an informal Food Bank and thanks to donations from local people they are still able to provide food to those in need. The church also operates a Church Pantry for the village.

Cathy explained that with space and the kitchen they hope to provide for a whole range of people and needs in the community. The church already hosts a Men’s Breakfast once a month. Cathy says she is hopeful a tea and toast club can be started for mums and toddlers who have dropped off children for school. Teenagers already use the building as a warm space after school and at weekends and the church hope to provide an after school ‘drop in’ for them offering toast and tea/hot chocolate etc so they can start their homework, play board games and socialise in a safe space before going home. 

Cathy hopes she can obtain funding from the diocesan Growing in God fund to finance a families’ and children’s worker to help with these projects. "We would also like to do a monthly soup lunch - there is a lot of need out here and our vision is to be able to provide a community hub, for people. " she said.

Costs have increased on average by a over a third. For example, the original budget for the chairs was £5,000 but this has increased to £9,000 since original estimates were issued. 

Cathy said: “It’s a wonderfully exciting project and our hope and prayer is that as a church we are able to serve our community as best we can and make a real difference.’’

Page last updated: Tuesday 26th March 2024 3:20 PM
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