Blackhill and Shotley Bridge Methodist Church is situated in the north of County Durham, serving an ever-widening community as other churches have closed in the area.
In 2010, the North West Durham Circuit commissioned a structural survey of the current church building which dates back to 1872. The survey had worrying outcomes, reporting serious defects, especially in the stonework.
As the deterioration continued over the years, the main worship area had to be abandoned and all church activities moved into the attached hall and ancillary rooms in 2014. In the same year, Shotley Bridge Methodist Church closed and the congregation joined with Blackhill.
In 2018, it was decided that action needed to be taken and a plan was formed to demolish the entire premises to replace with a new multipurpose church and hall, fit to accommodate a growing population. The new buildings will include a quiet sanctuary, ancillary rooms, a kitchen, toilet facilities, and improved access for people of all abilities.
The congregation moved into the local community centre in August 2021, ready for demolition to begin. In spite of the setbacks over the last 10 years, the level of membership and support for the scheme has remained strong. An exciting programme of activities, outreach and mission has been maintained throughout, supporting a disadvantaged ex-mining community where food poverty is prevalent.
The church was instrumental in the development of the local Consett foodbank which has been the busiest of the 28 foodbanks in County Durham. The Methodist church has also been active in tackling one of the major problems identified in the community – isolation and loneliness – creating bespoke activities for people living on their own.
The new building has been planned with a vision of maintaining and enhancing the church’s social action work, with greater flexibility to host more groups at the same time. There will also be more opportunity to reach out to young people, with a team of 20 trained to deliver sessions for schools; and new avenues for outreach with a new housing development in the area.
Andrew Bass, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, said: “We’re delighted to support this exciting new development which will make a huge difference to Blackhill and Shotley Methodist’s ever-growing congregation and community. It’s amazing to see what the church has achieved without a permanent home, so I can only imagine the incredible opportunities the new building will bring.”
Find out more about Allchurches Trust's Methodist Grants Programme.