Page 4 - Moravian Messenger October 2019
P. 4

Renewed Mission and Renewed Building at Hall Green
Over the past year many of us have visited Hall Green United Community Church for Provincial events and we have all been thrilled to see the results of the renovation work that the Congregation have undertaken in recent years. We asked Val Dickens to write about the process of undertaking such a restoration and hope other churches will find it an encouragement. Editorial Team
© Sr Val Dickens
Autumn 2013
After five years of worshipping together, at last we, Sparkhill United Church and Hall Green Methodist Church were almost ready to sign both our new Constitution as a Local Ecumenical Partnership, and a Sharing Agreement in relation to the church buildings.
Together we faced big decisions about those church buildings. Our history comprised Sparkhill as a Moravian/URC congregation with clear memories of large, problematic premises and the sadness of leaving them and the Hall Green Methodist congregation which for some years had been undecided about work on its own buildings.
Where were we as a church?
A gloriously mixed congregation, largely of either Caribbean or white British ethnic background, in an area whose majority population was of Asian background. What was God calling us to be and to do?
The buildings we started with
Large, under-used, decoratively tired, outdated Methodist premises. Problematic heating in parts. Major areas inaccessible for many people. The kitchen and two meeting rooms sited at the far end of the building, reached by five steps. All the space at ground level taken up by a large and attractive worship area in need of re-decoration and a hall of roughly the same size together with inadequate toilet provision. Two first floor areas, at one end containing two large rooms plus toilets and at the other a large room, a balcony and a storeroom/office.
Feasibility Study, late 2013
We needed to know:
• the current and future need of the church community for premises
• whether the community had a need for the church's buildings
• what changes to the premises would be required to meet each of these
• whether or how far sufficient resources of 'person-power', expertise and funding existed to make changes which met those needs
• was there still a mission for the church while sited in this particular place?
Before any project moved forward, we needed to consider seriously which option was in line with God's purpose. The study would provide information to help the church community reach a decision.
In pairs, we visited other churches to learn from their experience. We talked with all internal and external users of the building to find out their priorities if the building were redesigned. We delivered a small-scale survey in local streets and explored on- line community data. (At a later stage we undertook a larger, more representative street-based survey.) After this, we would know what the building needed to achieve for us. We set a budget based on what we thought we could afford - God had a lot to teach us here.
Discoveries and decisions
A group of five people, responsible to the church leadership, was appointed to lead the process. By January 2014, we had answers to the first two questions. We also knew that vital and advisable work to the premises would cost £280,000 and the additional cost of changes to make the buildings more suitable for purpose could be £262,000. This sum would not resolve all the issues. The congregational meeting recognised that it would be a lot of hard work, but unanimously decided that God was indeed calling us to remain in the same place. Despite our ageing congregation, we believed that our ministry would include making the premises available to an area lacking communal facilities, working jointly with those of other faiths and none to maintain community harmony, and offering the message of God's love in Jesus Christ to whoever would listen.
Help from others
'You don't know what you don't know'. None of us had specific expertise, but help is available. We weighed advice; we listened and learned.
In the early days when we were learning a new language and feeling our way; to/ was a tremendous help. We worked through its Project Route Map meeting by meeting and attended a day seminar. The choice of the architect and quantity surveyor are critical to success. By the end of 2014 we had selected a firm of architects based on its understanding of our needs and appointed a quantity surveyor whose work we knew well.
In-house action
Whilst this was going on, God provided a small group of able hands-on enthusiasts from within the church who enthusiastically converted one of our first-floor areas into an office suite with its own toilet and kitchenette facilities. This was completed and locally funded long before builders came on-site for the major project and became invaluable as a completed and usable space, now available as a separate let.

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