St John & St James Church purchased the former St Stephen’s URC buildings on Bailey Drive in Bootle back in January. This is the beginning of an exciting community project in which the buildings are going to be transformed into a brand new community Hub and Church Centre.
Plans have been approved and building work begins on the 4th August.
Over recent months the church sent an invitation to everyone in the neighbourhood to come inside, have a look at the architect’s plans and give their opinion on how building could serve their needs. 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.
An Open Forum and Consultation for organisations working in the local area was also conducted, 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.
Planning permission has been approved for a complete refurbishment of the buildings to include a new side extension and welcome area which will house office space, disabled toilets and community kitchen facilities.
The remainder of the building will be refurbished to create a sustainable and flexible multi-use community space and resource. There is a main hall and another attached hall which can be used for training and other smaller local community activities. By providing activities, training opportunities for volunteering and improved access to services it is hoped that the centre will help isolated and vulnerable people within the community by improving self esteem, increasing a sense of health and wellbeing and providing options for them in their lives.
It has been an interesting and challenging couple of months with a lot more challenges to come, not least of course in raising the extra money needed to complete the project. In all the project will cost £568,242 but over the 17 years since the building appeal was launched, the church has raised a total of £477,036, however, this leaves a shortfall of £91,206 to find.
However, 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.