Is there a future for Methodism in Clitheroe?

18 August 2023

TWELVE years ago, a huge question was asked of Trinity Methodist Church. Is there a future for Methodism in Clitheroe?

Fast forward to May 2023 and the church hall is packed to the rafters at the monthly Coffee Stop, manned by an enormous team of volunteers from the congregation, and attended by the community.

The answer was clearly YES and Trinity Methodist Church, built in 1868, is now a bustling hub serving more than 40 community groups and charities.

So where did it all begin?

In 2009, the quinquennial (church inspection) had shown that work was needed on the church roof and that this was likely to be expensive. Rev Tim Thorpe asked the Church Council to consider options for the future of the church and its buildings, as it was felt it was no longer fit for the modern age. A working party was set up, named the Trinity Development Group.





Within the next couple of years many different options were considered: moving the church to another site, only keeping half the buildings, raising funds to re-order the church and joining the church to the rest of the buildings.

The National Church, District and the Circuit, in asking the vital question about whether there was a future for Methodism in Clitheroe, wanted research done into the needs of the town. Surveys were conducted, and the congregation played a vital role at every stage. New homes were being built in Clitheroe at the time, so it made sense to reach out.

Rev Thorpe spoke to the BBC about the process and said: “It’s providing opportunities for the community. I have found that if you get people coming through the door for other things, they say this place is really great and they start coming to church.”

The conclusion triggered a willingness to upgrade the whole site and a vision for the future!

A fundraising team was set up with the massive task of raising over £1 million, and by June of 2011 they had already raised a fifth of the target through events, direct giving and historical monies, including a legacy donation of £10,000.

Once 20% of the overall target was raised, the working party could start to apply for grants.

In 2012, Rev Ian Humphreys took up post. He encouraged the church people to pray for the future, architects were commissioned to submit plans and after a time of prayer and reflection, the decision was made to split the project into two stages. The church re-ordering would be done first, followed by the joining of the church to the other buildings on the plot.

The old dark doors at the front of church were to be removed and glass doors added to make the general feeling, as you approached the front of the building, more welcoming.

Although it drew some initial reluctance from members of the congregation, the pews were also removed to make the space multi-functional.

As Rev Ian says: “The entire process was about building people not just a construction project.

“John Wesley was always in our minds as we battled to bring the building into the 21st Century. He took the church to the people and that’s what we were doing.”

Between 2012 and 2013 enough money had been raised by donations, fundraising and grants, for the church refurbishment to go ahead, and in 2014 the new, more welcoming, Trinity Methodist Church was opened. At the same time as work was undertaken, fundraising, grant seeking and prayer to build funds for the second phase continued.

In 2017/2018 the church stopped to reflect, pray and discern the needs of the community once more. An extensive audit regarding community needs fed into a revised design for the refurbished buildings. This research also concluded that there would be a need for a hub manager to enable the facilities to be managed and most effectively utilised.

The next phase of building work started in the summer of 2019 and saw the refurbishment of the hall and its connection to the church.

The old stage was removed to increase capacity with the option to have collapsible staging for events later. During this process three beautiful windows were revealed that the old stage had obscured! There was also the fabulous addition of a state-of-the-art kitchen adjacent to the hall.





The dark alleyway between the church and the hall was made into a covered accessible space with chairs and tables to link the two buildings. There was also an additional entrance via a new terrace from Castle Park. This area is now called the Rainbow Café, which houses the Hub Gallery and has changing art installations throughout the year.

Some space was taken off the side rooms to create a corridor accessing three rooms which would become available to let. Two rooms with large windows that overlook the park, and a further usable room was created that is close to the castle walls.

The front entrance and space linking the buildings is accessible to all, with disabled access throughout.

The choosing of the furniture was one of many aspects of the project that were put out to the congregation for their views. Comfort, ease of stacking chairs and ability to move furniture around, was of vital importance. When choosing colours for the chairs, the team decided to go for a mixture!

Overall, the congregation wanted a modern, welcoming space, often unexpected in a church setting.

From the very beginning the aim was for the work to be completed in line with the A Rocha Eco Award Scheme. This was always going to be a challenge with a tight budget, but the Hub Gallery has underfloor heating, there is an energy efficient boiler and the lighting system in many areas works on an LED sensor system.

After the obvious delays due to Covid, The Methodist Church and Community Hub was finally opened to the congregation and public during April 2022.

The decision was made shortly after to appoint a Hub Manager. Carol Baird came to post last year and is responsible for the continued work on the building (it does seem like a never-ending task), as well as activities and events. She works alongside the amazing team of volunteers at Trinity.

Amongst the many community groups and workshops held at the hub, there is an expanded Foodbank, a Ukraine Support Group, Parkinson’s Drop in Café and Dementia Choir, which provide a vital network to people.

Reflecting on the journey Rev Ian often gets emotional about how much this Trinity family has achieved: “As the project moved forward, I couldn’t believe we were going to do it, the generosity was overwhelming. I remember one day coming back from a meeting so overcome with emotion that I sat in my study and cried.”

He likened the entire process as ‘salt and light’ for the community. The aim was to preserve and enhance and illuminate and guide.

I think we’ve achieved it.

- Helen Durrant, Trinity Publicity team

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