14 June 2021
From Near Closure to a Bright Future – despite Covid-19
Syke Methodist Church, Rochdale has for much of its 150 years been the thriving hub of the community. The church now works in what may be a unique partnership between a Methodist Church and an independent community charity, under the name Syke Connexion. Syke Community Base is a small local charity with a big heart and a local feel.
The local community is in the lowest 8% deprivation and faced many issues even prior to the pandemic. Our daily 9am – 9pm activities catered for all ages and local needs including parents, toddlers, over 60s, uniformed groups, painting, camera club, youth clubs, health and cooking, benefits advice, employment skills and many more. Our activities are determined by the needs and wishes of our community. Until we had to close due to Covid, around 350 people were using the building each week.
Five years ago, the church faced closure and Syke Community Base was about to be made homeless. The Base was invited to run its activities from the church and since then, both organisations have gone from strength to strength. The church has doubled its small congregation. The Rev Helen Johnson said ‘Perhaps more importantly, the teachings of Jesus are now heard in a number of ways, by large numbers of local people, who may not attend Sunday services’. Examples are through attendance at community groups, through Forest Church or the Christmas lights ‘Switch On and Nativity’, attracting over 200 people.
In those five years, we made tremendous improvements to the building - fixing the hole in the roof, a much needed heating system, new kitchen and external render. Our building was being fully used every weekday and we were unable to respond to further requests for more and different activities. We had a beautiful 150 years old first floor worship hall but, as there were fixed and tiered wooden pews and poor access, it was hardly ever used!
So we raised over £250,000, with a plan to take out much of the interior, then re-build with a useable, multi – purpose floor and additional improvements to the interior - office, toilets, access, and other facilities. We were still £90,000 short of our overall target in March 2020. Following the Coronavirus outbreak, funding for capital almost dried up, our architect was furloughed, we had no builder’s quotes (crucial for further funding applications) and some of our funding pledges were nearing deadlines and could be withdrawn. A new approach was needed or the project would simply stall.
Our architect returned to work and split the plan into two phases. Quotes allowed building to begin on phase one, without losing any pledges and helped secure a further grant of £48,000. Much of phase two is now possible. In the New Year, Covid permitting, we would love to open our doors to our community and help to heal some impacts of the pandemic. During lockdown, we have continued to work with our most vulnerable users and know that for most, life has become more difficult.
Still short of funding for some elements, including an external disabled ramp, fundraising will continue and more applications are planned. A ‘Go Fund Me’ site has replaced our usual fundraising events during the pandemic. Positive as ever, Rev Helen reminds us that ‘With God’s help, we will succeed but it is not about a building, it is about people’’.
We welcome new contacts – as a disciple, user, advisor, Base Board member, contributor of funding or expertise. Contact information includes: