Background information and historyYou might think Stamford had enough churches but the post war spread of the town saw the development of extensive areas of local authority housing. Through succeeding decades to the present day this area has grown in density and variety. In the early sixties the opportunity to plant a new church was taken and a wooden hut was erected on a small piece of land purchased from the Borough Council. The new church of Christ Church soon flourished rooted in this new and growing community. By the mid seventies it was decided that a permanent church should be built on a larger site.
The former Stamford Water Company site came on the market. It appeared less than satisfactory although the location, opposite the newly constructed Bluecoat School and shops, was a good one. What we would now call a 'brown field site' was dominated by a large concrete water tank sunk two thirds in the ground and measuring some eight by twenty five metres and four metres deep. It was surrounded by a collection of old sheds and garages and concrete hard standings. It would have cost a fortune to remove the tank and the resources for a new church were limited. It was an inspirational idea to use the tank as a foundation and simply build the new church on the top.
Christ Church had flourished as a fledgling parish church and had become an autonomous parish in 1993. The new church had been designed to accommodate a growing range of groups which supported not only the worshipping community but also the wider community with pastoral care. This pattern of pastoral care and outreach to the wider community is an established feature of the pattern of life and mission at Christ Church.
In 1998 the church council comprehensively reviewed our pattern of mission and laid plans for future growth and development using all the resources at our disposal to develop the ministry of this financially poor but energetic new church.
Although Stamford is well established on the heritage trail, the beauty of the town needs no further introduction, being the first conservation area in England and regularly featuring in costume dramas on television and in feature films. And, of course Burghley house is on the doorstep. But that is only part of the story; there are pockets of deprivation in the Northfields area. A review of mission seven years ago highlighted this and we began to develop ideas for a broader pastoral outreach.
Since its first beginnings in the 60's when Christ Church operated from a wooden hut on Willoughby Road the church has been engaged in addressing the needs of the community in which it was set. The Christian life takes us through healing and reconciliation to a new place of peace and wholeness. This dynamic of hope for positive change at the heart of the gospel became the motivation behind the idea of an Access and Learning Centre.
The concept was to engage in partnership with other agencies and charities in the town also concerned to meet these complex needs. It was considered to be essential that this should be delivered in a non-threatening, non-institutional location that would provide an easy and welcoming point of contact.
Our 'Basement', as we called the old water tank, seemed to be the ideal location and sketch plans were drawn up which described the conversion as a 'stand alone facility with a new entrance and self-contained facilities, a kitchen, toilets and a large meeting room. It was designed to be appealing to all ages and to also facilitate our youth outreach work in a similarly friendly and appealing space.
Fundraising began over five years ago and it has been a long haul. A small group representing the main users of the existing church centre set up a fund raising committee. We had some of the funds from the sale of the old wooden hut available which enabled us to attract £75000 match funding from the Welland Sub-regional Strategic partnership. We have also been well supported with capital funding by local charitable organisations such as our local Rotary Clubs as well as our local authority, South Kesteven District Council, and Stamford Town Council, through the Skells Trust. There have also been numerous car boot sales, auctions, sponsored slims, you name it we've done it and raised £225,000.
Before the building work was completed we were taking our first bookings from our partners in the community. Two years ago the Bluecoat School was designated as a Children's Centre and has just opened its doors this autumn. As a strategic partner the Christ Church Access and Learning centre will be the location for the delivery of adult learning programmes associated with the Children's Centre.
After the formal opening on Saturday 26 November we begin our Wednesday morning drop-in called 'Take Five' where members of the public are invited to take five minutes to have a cuppa and find out more from the agencies that will be offering advice. These agencies range from The Stamford Volunteer Bureau and Fresh Start to our Community Police Team.
Our list of participating groups seems to grow by the day at the moment and we thank God that this is now coming to fruition and the local church is becoming a new focal point for our community in this area of Stamford.
On Advent Sunday, 27 November we will host a service of praise and celebration at 5pm. At the beginning of the church new year we mark the beginning of a new chapter in the life of this parish church.
We feel that God has blessed this venture to enable it to progress to this point and we continue to pray for his blessing and guidance to take this forward to serve Him and our community.
The Rev Bob Mackrill
Priest in Charge
Christ Church Stamford