New life in an old building
After three years hard work Alvechurch Baptist Church has a new sanctuary - and an infant dedication was one of the first things that took place there. By Andy Parker
After three years’ work to cure problems with damp and to refurbish the 180-year-old chapel, Alvechurch Baptist Church (in Worcestershire) was delighted to hold the 2014 Christmas services in the new-look sanctuary.
The regular survey by the Heart of England Region Trustees in 2011 had highlighted the damp in thefloor and walls, which meant that the original Victorian floor needed to be dug up and replaced, and a damp-proof course installed in the walls.
This meant removal of the pews and wainscotting, so we took the decision to work towards more flexible seating arrangements when the work was complete.
The task was complicated by the chapel being part of the village Conservation Area.
The members also took the decision very early on not to apply for a Heritage Lottery Grant on ethical principles, so the entire project was to be funded through fundraising events and member donations and loans.
But we also took the opportunity to install energy-efficient underfloor-heating and to address storage needs, provide a modern minister’s office and rejig the premises side-entrance. A major work!
After the contractors had finished, various members began to make the ‘empty shell’ back into a usable sanctuary. Rather than ‘design by committee’, we asked a company - Barnetti Design - to come up with a ‘Design Concept’ to include all the features we might need for the next 100 years, as we felt that was the best approach.
By mid-2014 it was starting to look possible to use the sanctuary by Christmas, so we set ourselves that target, and by God’s Grace and hard work from members, we achieved it, though it has to be said that we are still using chairs from the halls, temporary lighting and donated ex-exhibition carpeting, and many of the design details have yet to be achieved.
Nevertheless, this sense of new life in our old building was strengthened when one of our members asked if we could hold a Dedication Service for her new grand-daughter in January!
Members had to bring garden and folding chairs to be able to seat the extra family guests, but it was a joyous occasion in our refurbished sanctuary.
Andy Parker is the treasurer at Alvechurch Baptist Church