Memorial Community Church, Plaistow
The importance of providing facilities such as toilets and kitchens and improved access for members of the public is now recognised as a key way in which churches can remain at the heart of local communities.
That is why, in 2008, the National Churches Trust introduced the Community Grants Programme. The programme aims to enable wider and more active community use through the installation of new facilities and so ensure that the UK’s churches and chapels remain living buildings integrated into their local communities. Since 2008 the trust has awarded 119 community grant offers totalling £1.3 million.
A prime example of a place of worship benefitting from a community grant is Memorial Community Church in Plaistow, in the east London borough of Newham.
The church building, which was originally called the Memorial Baptist Church, was opened in 1922 to house the congregation and the church’s welfare work, and it remains a vital and welcoming community hub. In 2011 the trust awarded the church a £20,000 community grant to pay for the installation of toilets and improved access, including a ramp, new flooring, wide self- closing doors and an intercom system.
The grant funding has allowed much greater use of the church by the local community for projects to help the homeless, young people and the elderly. These include the Bridges Project, which gives breakfast every Saturday to at least 70 homeless people.
Next door to the church is a sheltered housing scheme. Many of its residents have mobility problems but the provision of a ramp and toilets means that more of its residents cannow attend activities organised in the church,including a new ‘Active Tuesdays’ group.