Stones Methodist Church sits in a beautiful, rural spot in the hills at the western boundary of Calderdale, West Yorkshire. The church plays an important and active role in this countryside community, and has ambitions to do even more, but it’s inhibited by the constraints of the building.
Major repairs are required to the roof to keep it watertight, and the church needs new forms of heating that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable – in line with the church’s goal to be carbon neutral. Space is also at a premium, with every part of the building being utilised in different ways. The church aims to create a more flexible and usable space in the main church worship area to enable more faith and community activity.
A major development was undertaken in 2004 to create a modern hall and meeting room spaces, and a new kitchen on the lower ground floor. These rooms are used every day by Toddler Groups, Pre-School and Dance and Drama groups, which is fantastic, but there is little space to serve the other needs in the community.
After engaging with local people, it was highlighted that there is an urgent need for a space where young and older people can address feelings of isolation and loneliness. The church sits adjacent to a housing estate of 192 homes, mainly occupied by young families. The community also includes older people living alone. For both groups the rural location can feel isolating; the nearest town is Halifax, which is over five miles away and public transport is extremely limited. The provision of more local activities is vital to bring people together as a community, so that nobody feels alone.
The church has been incredibly active with fundraising towards the project, and with support such as ours, the plans for development are on track. A programme of community engagement is already well underway. The church’s Keep Fit class, which launched in May, has 15 women attending each week – many who have never attended the church before. There’s also a monthly Community Coffee morning and a new Guitar Club. This is just the start for the church, with the new space on the horizon they’ll be opportunities for many more clubs and activities.
Paul Playford, Senior Grants and Operations Officer for Benefact Trust, said: “There are many benefits to living rurally, but it also comes with its challenges. Older people especially can feel isolated, with little to no contact with other people and cut-off from support services. This is why projects like this are so important. Stones Methodist Church is creating a hub at the heart of the community where people of all ages can gather, connect, and support each other.”