When church and community come together in Leeds, the benefits multiply

Allchurches Trust recently awarded a grant to Stainbeck United Reformed Church towards the renovation of its building into an improved, more efficient space for worship and the community.

Stainbeck Church is well known in Leeds for its work in the community and has, for many years, opened its doors to serve the needs of local disadvantaged people.

The focus of the church’s work is its weekly community cafe, where problems of debt, finances, benefits, finding work, loneliness and other living concerns are addressed in ‘family solutions’ sessions offered to anyone who wishes to attend.

The church worships in a building on two levels and in the past has hired out the downstairs level to various groups to fund its running costs, along with the hire of additional space to the Angels Nursery, whose main pre-school is close by.

Over the past few years, the problems related to operating the building have increased. Apart from the many volunteer hours directed into booking and administrating the hire of rooms, there has been no way to heat only part of the building at a time. In addition, the old ground floor café and kitchen, shared by the church and external hirers, has been in need of renovation and expansion.

Despite Stainbeck Church being aware of these difficulties, it was struggling to find a way to overcome them, largely due to cost. Unexpectedly, a crisis for its neighbour, Angels Nursery, when their premises were suddenly closed in July last year, held within it the seeds of a successful solution that worked on so many levels.

When Angels Nursery discovered it needed to relocate its main pre-school to new premises, the church offered to exclusively lease out its ground floor to them. The new lease for the nursery will secure financing for the church’s building with far less volunteer hours needed than before; and, it will allow the church and community to really come together, with greater provision for community groups to meet on the second floor without disturbing the main worship space.

Allchurches’ grant will help to fund the development of a larger church café upstairs, linked to the lower level carpark by a new accessible lift, and the upgrade of the building’s heating system to heat each zone independently, reduce costs and improve the building’s environmental performance.

The renewed focus on church and community working together, expressed in shared activities and around shared meals, is developing the mission of the church, building new relationships with local people and is expected to bring more volunteers from the wider community.