24 March 2022
The Journey of Strathmore Methodist Church
End of 2015
Around 7 years ago now, members and friends of Strathmore Road Methodist Church in Tyne and Wear started to talk about redevelopment of our premises and of the refurbishment of buildings which had stood the test of time but had been built so long ago that now sadly, were no longer fit for purpose. Our Church Council appointed a small group of interested individuals to draw together thoughts and ideas as to what redeveloped premises could look like - the floor levels were not conducive to accessible use, storage facilities were filled to overcapacity, the kitchen would benefit from a total makeover, the heating system required upgrading, thermal insulation properties of the buildings were almost non-existent and the toilets were badly in need of total refurbishment.
We set to with a dedicated team pulling together initial ideas to address all of the above, including a new entrance to the premises. We appointed a local Architect to provide a feasibility study and concept design incorporating our ideas. At the same time it was necessary to advise various local and national bodies within the Methodist Church, to obtain the necessary consents from them to do the work and to take them along with us, on what was to become an enlightening journey. Once we had passed these initial hurdles and more, we were able to present the concept design to church members and friends in January 2017. The overwhelming support for the scheme was more than apparent, with the outcome that we should now proceed with the definitive purpose of turning concept into reality.
We consulted widely with the membership, user groups and our professional advisors before agreeing the way forward. We believe the project has delivered the facilities we need to support our future mission, our local community and to enable the church to grow. The project has delivered what the membership wanted.
A Steering Group and several sub-groups were appointed to look at specific aspects of the design. We also launched our design feedback meetings. These purposeful meetings and follow on correspondence, provided constructive and important feedback to inform changes to the concept design and incorporate the wishes of the wider audience who would be using the premises on completion. By the end of the year, we had incorporated into the updated design the key objectives originally set by the Church Council. This year also saw the launch of our Finance strategy and the minor matter of how we were going to fund the redevelopment work!
Having satisfied ourselves that the financial backing could be there from members, friends and external funders, the focus in 2018 became the procurement route to construction and incorporating into the design as much of the design feedback exercise as possible. Tendering documentation was prepared and sent out to various contractors to price. We received three tenders from which we interviewed two companies and then chose to run with one particular contractor. This was to provide the opportunity for us to seek 'best value for money’ from that one contractor and to work with them to develop value engineering opportunities to reduce price and enhance quality, as the design was developed and finalised.
Our intent for 2019 was to finalise a developed design and to secure sufficient funds to enable work to commence. During the year we pursued external funders with real purpose. A significant amount of work was put into identifying potential funders and writing appropriate proposals - pleasingly most of which were successful, however a few were not. The outworkings of this were that due to the incredible generosity of members and friends and a generally positive response to applications from funders, we were able to work with our chosen contractor in the certain knowledge that our funding plan would be achieved.
During our initial approach to Connexion regarding this project we were pointed towards the ECO Church scheme. We joined the scheme and the whole church has become very involved. This has not just involved the building changes but the gardens, the worship and teaching, encouraging individual lifestyle changes and community engagement. This really has had a significant positive impact on church life. We gained a bronze award in January 2020 and will soon be applying for silver. Click here to read about our journey to become an Eco-Church.
All was going according to plan when along with the rest of the country, we were hit hard by Covid and had to succumb to external regulations and government directions regarding movement of people and carrying out work. Our proposed construction start date in April had to be abandoned.
During the building closures due to Covid and the project works God’s work in the Community continued. A Mutual Aid Group was formed to provide a Covid response to the vulnerable and those in need. Partnerships were formed between Churches, local charities and organisations, Age UK, local councillors and Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council. Emergency food parcels, befriending calls, shopping & prescription collections and signposting to other services were provided. Going forward we aim to build on the relationships developed during this period in order to provide greater community support.
However, once we were able to provide the necessary guarantees that physical work could be commenced safely and within national guidelines, actual construction work began on 29th June. Following a 5-month construction programme, the works should be completed on 30th November. There is some work remaining to be done by our own working groups in order to finalise certain building details and to move back all furniture etc which was moved out to enable the physical building work to proceed.
Following that work which we hope to complete by mid-December, we should be in a position where the fully redeveloped premises are ready to be re-occupied. A new Pay As You can food market is operating weekly in the premises with the Church working in partnership with the Pickle Palace to provide affordable food for families and reduce food waste from supermarkets.
We are grateful for the members and friends of our church, for your continued support in so many ways together with your prayers, over what seems to have been quite a lengthy time. The last 7 years have been a journey of discovery to say the least and there may yet be the opportunity for us to look towards another phase of further physical refurbishment works in the future. Until then, the Vision of our church is to be ‘A loving community...to follow Jesus...and to worship God’ and we trust that our newly redeveloped premises will create the environment and at least some of the facilities, to enable that vision to be realised over time.
Our project has taken 5 years to plan, develop, fundraise and eventually deliver. There has been much prayer, discussion, consultation and hard work by so many people along the way. Completing the build element during a global pandemic posed additional challenges.
We are richly blessed to have such fantastic facilities available to us, however, this project was never really about the building. It was always about providing suitable facilities and enablers for our Mission to show God’s love to others, supporting local communities, building relationships and sharing the Good News of Jesus. Our improved buildings provide us with an excellent launch pad for this mission and a safe, comfortable and welcoming place to invite those we meet to come along and share with us. Much of our work must take place beyond our comfortable surroundings.
The really Good News is that despite the Covid restrictions still in place this Mission is already taking off. Our new Pay as You Can food market is up and running and expanding services, our community user groups are re-engaging and our community outreach projects are rebuilding.
Going forward our Church, Circuit & District have most graciously provided support for us to employ a full time Children’s & Families worker from September 21 to work alongside our existing part-time Youth worker. The need is great and we are really excited about the wonderful opportunities this 4 year project provides for the whole Church to engage in this important aspect of our Mission.
Praise God !!