A sign of hope

Published: Friday, February 27, 2015


A National Churches Trust Community Grant is helping to transform Holy Family Church in Gravesend.

In June 2014, the National Churches Trust awarded a £5,000 Community Grant to Holy Family Church in Gravesend. The grant was the final piece of funding needed to ensure that £34,000 of essential modernisation to a hall attached to the church could go ahead.

The essential works carried out included repairing cracked and drafty windows, remodeling the entrance area and the existing toilets to create separate male and female toilets, and providing a toilet with disabled access and baby changing facilities. Part of the project which the National Churches Trust grant helped to enable also included resurfacing the hall floor.

The refurbishments were the first significant improvements to the building in the church's 55 year history.

Safer, cleaner and tidier

One of the main users of the church hall is the parent and toddler group, which has been going for 19 years.

Claire Leader, one of the group's newest members thinks that the modernised building "is safer, cleaner and tidier."

Members of the group agree that it's much warmer since the windows were fixed. "We used to have to wear our coats during the group" said Peter Souten. "You could see your breath" added Fiona Souten, "we'd joke that it was colder inside than outside."

Dee Wallace has been the group's facilitator throughout its 19 year history. She says that she has noticed some new faces thinking about giving the Holy Family Church was built in 1957-8 and consecrated group a try.

In particular, the group has also noticed that since the building works have been completed there has been an uptake in rentals for activities such as family events and children's parties.

There have also been other uses; an Alpha group has started meeting, the Casara residents association held their Christmas market at the church and regular quiz nights are thriving.

The future

There is huge excitement about the future of Holy Family Church. Reverend Richard Martin, who has been with the congregation for two years and was instrumental in coordinating the funding for the project, said: "Completing these works has created an impetus within the congregation especially for the members behind the scenes; the wardens and the committee. These are the people that faithfully keep a church going for years and years. It's a great encouragement for them, a sign of hope."

The wardens agree: "It's amazing how different it looks, but more it's about how different it feels. It isn't dingy any more, it's a great space to be in", Maureen Stoneham commented.

Rosemary Spicer is particulary pleased that the hall attached to the church now fulfills the legal requirements to have disabled access toilets, and she is excited about the broader scope of hall hire that will now be possible because of it. "The investment
has given the church a future", she says.

Changes are also taking place outside the building. Bill Sales a church committee member has built raised flower beds in the church grounds. During an open session all attendees were encouraged to plant a bulb, making a direct connection to the future of the church.

Every spring the bulbs will be in bloom, creating a beautiful welcome for visitors to the church and the modernised community hall.