26 May 2022
Little Changes Make a Big Difference for Barrow upon Soar Methodist Church
In 2012, the Church Council of Barrow upon Soar Methodist Church in Leicestershire discussed our mission in the community and how it could be developed. At this time, in a typical month the Church was using the premises 30 - 35 hours and the community 140 - 145 hours and the demand was increasing. We had access problems with steps, sloping floors, narrow aisles and fixed pews. The Worship Area was not easily accessible or visible. The heating system was old and the insulation was poor. The Church was 100 years old.
The Play Group had used the premises (Hall, Coffee Lounge and Kitchen) for 40 years. In 2010 it had increased its time requirements to 5 mornings and 2 afternoons a week. It wanted to extend this further to 5 afternoons a week. We were unable to fulfil this request because of our own use of the premises. In the evenings the Hall, Kitchen and Coffee Lounge were used 3 nights a week by Keep fit classes and a Youth Group. There was no other time available for community use as we needed it for Church activities.
Our concern was that many people who used the premises did not realise that it was a Church because the entrance led down the corridor to the Coffee Lounge and Hall and had no view of the Worship Area. The Church Council requested the formation of a Development Group to look into these problems and how they could be solved so we could move forward. The proposals of the Development Group taken to the Church Council were as follows:
- Create a new glass main entrance.
- Make the floor level from the outside pavement into the visible Worship Area.
- Convert an old doorway into a Display Window.
- Remove the pews.
- Level the raked floor and remove the dias at the front of the Worship Area.
- The original rooms between the Entrance and Worship Area would become a new
Coffee Lounge and Kitchen.
- The wall between the new Coffee Lounge and Worship Area would become glass bi-fold doors.
- The original door to the Worship Area would be replaced by glass double doors.
- The new Entrance would create a Foyer which would be further enlarged by filling in the steps which led down to the cellar, thus creating space for a ramp and a wider
Corridor to the existing Hall and Coffee Lounge.
- A new heating system for the whole premises and new insulation for the Worship Area would be installed.
The Church Council approved the proposals and so we were able to move on. We employed an architect and the Church Council agreed to pay his fee to draw up plans. One of the architects first questions was, “How much have you in your funds?” Our answer was “Nothing.” This was a big task. We are not a big Church and we had to raise £336,000. How did we do this?
We knew we could apply for grants from the Methodist Church, from Charitable Trusts and we would have to raise funds ourselves. We were successful in obtaining grants from the Loughborough Circuit, the Northampton District and the Methodist Connexion. When we looked at Charitable Trusts it was more difficult, but we just had to persevere. We looked at more than 300 Charitable Trusts, but found only 20 to whose criteria we fitted and we were successful with 8 of these. We knew we would also have to raise a lot of funds ourselves so we set up Monthly Giving over a five year period, two Gift Days and monthly social events for the community over a number of years. We raised our £336,000.00 as set out below.
Loughborough Circuit }
Northampton District } £110,000.00
Methodist Connexion }
Norwood & Newton Trust }
Garfield Weston }
Leics Historical Churches }
All Churches Trust ] £114,750.00
Corah Foundation }
Methodist Insurance }
TARMAC Landfill }
Joseph Rank Trust ]
Church Fund Raising } £111,463.00
With our £336,000.00 raised, work on the project started in May 2019 and finished in February 2020. During this time we held our Services in the existing Hall and Coffee Lounge.
Our first Service in the newly developed premises was on Sunday 16th March 2020 when we had a Service in the morning and in the afternoon “Tea and Praise”, therefore changing the lined formation of the chairs and coffee tables into a circle, to enjoy a different form of worship with tea and cakes. What a change! Just the versatility we wanted. Unfortunately, the very next day we went into Lockdown, and so we were unable to use the new premises for sixteen months.
During this time we installed new lighting, a new audio system and WiFi. Another important development during Lockdown was the use of the newly developed display window, the glass entrance and the stainless steel bollards. As Lockdown continued the Display Window had the Advent Candle Banner and information on show and at Christmas there was a Nativity scene in the window. The bollards were decorated as Shepherds and the Three Kings and the new glass Entrance had a life size Nativity scene. The Display Window was regularly changed as were the bollards. This is continuing to the present day. These displays bring a lot of attention to the Church and are enjoyed by village residents and people visiting the area.
Since we opened up after Lockdown, the use of the redeveloped part of the premises, the original Hall, Coffee Lounge and Kitchen has increased by Church groups and outside groups. It is now common to have two groups independently on the premises at the same time. Church groups using the premises are:
- New Horizons Bereavement Support Group
- our mid-week Sunday School
- Ladies Circle
- Men’s Supper Group
- Cuppa and Chatta
- Crochet and Craft.
Outside groups using the premises include: Play Group,Guides, Parish Council, Gardening Club, Circuit Leadership Team, Barrow Youth Theatre and Cosmic Theatre Group. Of these groups seven are new since we opened the redeveloped premises after Lockdown.
The redevelopment of the premises has certainly been worth all the hard work and fund raising done by the Development Group. There is now much more flexibility available for Worship. The cross in the Worship Area is always lit 24/7 and reminds everyone using the Worship Area of God’s presence. The light can also be seen from outside. The seating is much more comfortable with our new chairs and the whole premises are accessible for everyone. The premises are warmer, efficient and far more eco-friendly. The new glass entrance, the display window and the decorated bollards have given the Church a much enhanced presence in the community.