SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM NEWS IN 2010
Plans are submitted and finally accepted
Hamilton Hall renamed and upgraded
Ring out the bells
Strand Centre manages the building
PLANNING PERMISSION AGREED
Two years after we first submitted plans to alter the inside of the church building, in September we finally got agreement to alter our building.
Like the Church of England, the URC has delegated powers to approve internal alterations to its listed buildings, and as our church is a Grade 2 building, but before permission is given by the Synod Property Committee, the LBAC has to study the plans and its advice taken very seriously. Three heritage bodies, English Heritage, the Victorian Society and the Ancient Monument Society have to be consulted and – because the building is listed – their views carry great weight.
On 20th July 2010 the LBAC agreed to recommend our plans and the Synod Property Committee approved the application on 15th September.
The minister, Revd Roger Whitehead, said, “This is great news. It is the result of hard work by a dedicated Refurbishment Group, by our architect Paul Heighway and our Heritage Advisor, Ian Parkin – and a wave of prayer within the congregation and from friends. Before we do anything else, we need to spend time thanking God for this result.”
This meant that the church could go ahead with grant applications because permission had been given for the alterations.
The congregation decided to have a first stage, which was the removal of the pews to provide a flexible space until enough money had been raised to go ahead with Strage 2. "It will give us much more flexibility in worship", says Revd Roger Whitehead, "as well as enabling us to develop our community work."
BOCCIA GETS STARTED
When the church refurbishment is complete we want to develop work with the disabled, and so we have started a Boccia Group. Boccia rhymes with “Gottcha” and is rather like the French Boules or bowls played in doors.
The distinctive aspect of the game is that everyone plays sitting down, so there is no advantage to the able bodied. The game has caught on; we hope soon that our monthly session will become weekly.
It is a great social occasion for those who are often housebound, because each session ends with tea and biscuits.
We hope soon to be expert enough to invite the local bowls club to compete against us.
Flip Ware, one of our members, throws the red ball high in the air to get near the jack.
HAMILTON HALL RENAMED AND UPGRADED
The Elders Meeting was concerned to ensure that when the congregation moved out of the church building so that the refurbishment could take place, there would somewhere pleasant to worship and to meet in. It knew that this would be a crucial time for the congregation – keeping ourselves together and feeling a sense of purpose when not in familiar
So areas of the Hamilton Hall were repaired and upgraded. There is now a new feel to the kitchen, complete with dishwasher, fridge and freezer. The old toilets have been lowered to ground floor level from the mezzanine floor they were on, so that they can be used by those who are disabled. The Carey Room, which is upstairs, is has been transformed into a useable meeting room and it may be the base for our computer club which we hope to start shortly.
To mark the change the name has been changed to the Strand Hall. One reason was that this would make it much easier to locate in the town.
The hall with new paint and new heating
The upgraded kitchen
RING OUT THE BELLS
At the end of the year, advantage was taken of the loudspeakers in the tower to create a peal of bells. A CD of bells was acquired, and these ring out over the town for half an hour before the start of morning worship, and to celebrate weddings etc.
Several residents have commented, "How nice to hear the bells on a Sunday morning" (though it has not necessarily succeeded in summmonsing them to worship). The parish church is about a mile from the town centre, and its bells are only heard when the wind is in the right direction.
Because the tower is comparitively small, children are convinced that we have a group of dwarf bell ringers
STRAND CENTRE TAKES ON RUNNING OF THE BUILDING
At the request of Church Meeting and pending the granting of the lease of the church building to the Strand Community Trust, the Strand Centre ran the building for the whole of 2010. The Centre took on all responsiblities for looking after the building and managing all its activities except those directly to do with the congregation. The result was that a lot of lessons were learned about how the partnership will operate once the lease has been signed. It has also helped to identify the costs of running the building.
The experiment ended after a year, but a permanent arrangement will be introduced as soon as the lawyers have sorted out the paper work.
These have still be to uploaded.