A church, once restored, helps restore the lives of its community

CHURCH

Funding from Allchurches Trust has enabled Gateshead Presbyterian to find a new home (and name) in a heritage gem, and is now also supporting the church to adapt its services to provide vital spiritual and community support through COVID-19.

Gateshead Presbyterian (now All Saints Presbyterian) is a friendly congregation made up of all ages, abilities and over 15 nationalities! The church community is buzzing with activity, hosting theological conferences with renowned speakers of the world; running youth work initiatives; working with students; training youth ministers; and running the only church service in Tyne and Wear in Urdu for the local South Asian community. 
 
After rapidly outgrowing their current location in a local community centre, it was onwards and upwards, and the search began for a new home…
A service taking place in the church
Helping out in the kitchen

“We became aware that All Saints Church was available in 2018. Many proposed schemes to bring the building back to life had come and gone over the years, and finally the church had found its perfect match in Gateshead Presbyterian.

“Many wanted to adapt the building for their own needs, but we liked the building precisely as it was and planned to furnish and decorate it sympathetically rather than change its character.” – Katherine Calvert, Project Fundraiser

All Saints Church is situated above the Quayside as one of Newcastle’s most prominent landmarks. It has a rare oval design and baroque tower which punctuates the city skyline. 

The Georgian church was built between 1786 and 1796, and was designed by Tyneside architect David Stephenson as the only elliptical church in England!

It served as a parish church until 1959 until it was sold to Newcastle City council in the 1970s as a rehearsal space for the Royal Northern Sinfonia – but after falling into disrepair, it was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2012.

Gateshead Presbyterian sought to bring All Saints back to life as a church once more, and grants of £135,000 from Historic England and £16,000 from Allchurches Trust helped make this vision a reality. This architectural gem has now been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

The doors opened to the new congregation in 2019, as a place for worship, a tourist attraction, a venue for weddings, a concert hall and much more. And then came COVID-19 in March 2020…

A view from the balcony
A view of the pews

“Supporting one another is an important part of who we are as a community. COVID-19 has brought a whole new set of challenges and has forced us to be flexible - to think outside of the box.  Whether that was live-streaming our services, having a buddy system or offering technical support to enable everyone to have access to online platforms, we wanted to ensure that we were helping our community practically and pastorally.” - Revd. Benjamin Wontrop, Minister of Pastoral Care, All Saints Presbyterian

When lockdown struck the nation, All Saints Presbyterian was grateful to have the building available to them to live-stream Sunday services – which would not have been possible before. They were also able to share their virtual services with two other churches who were without ministers and in need of spiritual support.

In addition, the church offered a phone buddy support system for the most isolated as well as pastoral support and counselling.

One church member said: “The live-streaming, along with the lockdown buddy system and now the increased pastoral support has been an absolute lifeline.”

Not only has their new home helped to support the church through these difficult times, but an additional Allchurches’ Hope Beyond grant of £6,000 will help them to purchase equipment needed to enable the church to offer continued live-streamed services and also to train volunteers to improve their digital savvy and continue to support the congregation to move online and adapt to the changing environment.