Taking A Lead From Those Who Have Gone Before Rothbury URC’s Journey Continues…
Rothbury URC Development Group
Rothbury United Reformed Church set out on a new journey in April 2017 when the Elders approved a suggestion that the concept of building a new room at first floor level over the Welcome Area be revived. It had first been mooted in 1992 when significant changes were made to the lay-out of the building and then again in 2014. This time a Steering Group was appointed and charged with looking into the feasibility of this idea as we were now seeing the need for additional space due to only having the main worship area and a small vestry to the rear of the building. Along with this the group were also asked to consider making changes at the opposite end of the church too.
When a Special church Meeting in March 2018 agreed in principle to seek approval from Synod Trust to make the alterations suggested that was another step forward.
At that point the Steering Group was enlarged and became a Development Group. By this time it was agreed that Graham Hatt of Gritstone Project Management be asked to be Project Manager and Ben White, Architectural Technician, was asked to provide Concept Design drawings and later Construction Design drawings.
Without these two as fellow travellers, we would still be working on the equivalent of sketches on the inside of a fag packet.
Throughout this time the Development Group held regular meetings themselves and organised explanatory meetings with the congregation and, where necessary, held Special Church Meetings to agree on formal motions – such motions were all carried unanimously. They held an Open Day to get ideas from the people who lived in Upper Coquetdale to find out what they thought of the proposals for change and to gather information about what was already happening in the area. They also visited other churches where significant changes had been made in recent years, notably St James United Reformed Church, Alnwick. These discussions not only encouraged the development group on their journey but also gave them ideas about what could be done and achieved.
In December we made a formal application to the Synod Trust for funding and were given an ‘extra-ordinary’ grant in support of the project.
The final proposals were as follows:
*Build a room above the existing Welcome Area with toilet and appropriate stair access to be used as a small Meeting room for activities such as Junior Church.
*Make consequential changes at ground floor level including re-alignment of doors to the Worship Area and provision of storage space; these included providing a new accessible toilet to meet current statutory requirements and improving the servery to create a ‘fire-proofed’ facility.
*At the other end of the building remove the pipe organ, which was beyond economic repair; and replace with a digital organ and appropriate external speakers and remove the existing large dais (40% of the floor area!) and replace it by a smaller one to increase the available level floor area; install a fixed projection facility, and create a new storage area behind the main south wall.
*Redevelop the vestry and associated area with modern fittings and enable it to serve multiple purposes beyond that of a vestry.
Since the pews were removed in 2008, the flexible space is widely used by the local community whilst also giving the church a greater connection with our community through the contact the fellowship maintains with each of these groups. Two choirs rehearse here, both attracted by the good acoustic. Two children’s groups, First Coquetdale Rainbows and Singing Tots, value the open space, the warmth and the central location in the Village. A Churches Together Youth Fellowship was established just over a year ago and uses the building for its twice monthly meetings and most recently a Tai Chi class has begun to use the space. These and other activities have resulted in at least a three-fold increase in the number of people passing through the church doors each week.