PART OF TOTTINGTON’S PAST – AND FUTURE If you have been down Kirklees Street recently, you could be forgiven for thinking that St John’s Church is closed and derelict, or is being re-developed. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. The church building is being repaired and made watertight in preparation for it to be re-developed for the benefit of Tottington! St John’s is still the home of a lively and dedicated Church community who have a contribution to make to Tottington. Where are we now?
The word ‘Church’ really refers not to a building, but to a community of Christians, and the ‘Church’ which makes up St John’s is still very much in existence, worshipping together and planning for the future. Part of those plans involve attending to the building and graveyard.
Maintaining an old building - no matter how beautiful and loved - is an expensive business and, as you can see, St John’s is in urgent need of some tender loving care. Because both the origins of the building and its architecture are of historic interest and merit here in Tottington, English Heritage are helping us to secure the building as a resource, not just for the congregation, but for the wider community.
By the time the current program of repairs is completed, over £220,000 will have been spent on removing dry rot, fixing the roof and making the building watertight. What are we planning to do?
We want to make St John’s a church building which is accessible and relevant to people today. We want to make St John’s a place where the whole community is welcome. We want the building to continue to be used as a place of worship, but for so much more as well. We are currently working with Bury Metropolitan Council, English Heritage and a range of local organisations to find ways in which we can best cater for the needs of the people of Tottington. We want to create a centre where there is something for people of all ages - young and old alike. We want St John’s to be a place which is used, not just on Sundays, not just for occasions like baptisms, weddings and funerals, but for a whole variety of other activities and events right through the week.
We want you to feel at home in it!
Over the last few years we will have been doing the research and making investigations to find out what is wanted and what will work. For example, on four separate days public consultations were held in Tottington Library. These were manned entirely by members of the congregation. Diagrams showing possible ways of re-ordering the interior of the building were shown to members of the public, who were asked to fill in a questionnaire. The results have helped us form our vision and prepare a Business Plan.
Whatever we choose to do with the building we must make sure that it is sustainable in the long term and ensure that it is looked after and kept in good condition. We will be working in partnership with the other Church communities in Tottington, together with other local voluntary groups and various local agencies to ensure that our plans for St John’s fit in with the wider community.
Where are we now?
Currently things are happening on three main fronts:
1. There is now a ‘Friends of St John’s Tottington’ group.
Following detailed discussions a new group – The Friends of St John’s Tottington’ – has been formed. This has been launched initially by the congregation and Tottington Amateur Dramatic Society (TADS), though membership is open to anyone who wants to support the vision of keeping St John’s Church for community as well as Christian use. This is now responsible for the upkeep and running costs of the building. Any group using the building (including the congregation) will pay the Friends in proportion to their use.
The first Annual General Meeting of the Friends was held on 7th October 2011. A report appears on the Friends' website.
2. Phase III of the work funded by English Heritage is under way
English Heritage has been extremely supportive of our desire to restore St John’s Church to full use and have made two substantial grants so far. A third substantial grant was approved in 2010. This is something for which we wholeheartedly thank God. This third phase is intended to complete the re-plastering of internal wall surfaces, in particular the chancel, either side of the chancel arch, and the vestries, the reinstatement of internal wall panelling to the nave, the installation of a drain externally and new surfacing to overcome high external ground levels, and restoration of the entrance portico and its paving. This programme will be a natural extension of the work already begun in previous phases, and will restore the building shell to a more finished state after the initial ‘emergency’ repairs required to secure the fabric from further deterioration.
The contractors, Tope Construction Limited, began the work on 3rd October. It is due to be completed at the end of January 2011. We will then be able to proceed to developing the building for community use.
3. Working Parties
Since October 2009 members of other Free Church of England congregations (especially St Jude’s, Walsall, St Andrew’s, Bentley and Emmanuel, Saltley) have undertaken a vast amount of cleaning up of the Church and graveyard. (You can see something of this on the Photos page of this website.) Members of the local community also joined in and freely gave of their time. A toilet has been installed and the chancel rendered fit for worship again. We at St John’s are enormously indebted to our brothers and sisters. On 7th February 2010 a congregation of over 70 people gathered for a baptism, which was a wonderful symbol of new life. Further working parties are planned for 2011. Details will be placed on the Calendar. Please come along!
We invite you to…· Keep in touch. Information about the project will be displayed on this website.
· Let us have your ideas. If you have some thoughts to contribute or are interested in what the building may have to offer you or your organisation, contact us via the details on this site.
· Help with the working parties. We can always find jobs for people!
· Support the work financially. Ask the Minister in Charge or the Churchwardens for details of how you can help in this way.
· Worship with us. Explore the relevance of Jesus Christ for your life. Become part of a loving community.
Access to the building. One of the conditions of our grants from English Heritage is that the Church should be open on a number of days a year. We are delighted with this – we want it to be open as much as possible! However, at the moment, because of the building works, unrestricted and unsupervised access is not possible. You are most welcome to visit St John’s for a service (see the Calendar), after which a member of the congregation will be delighted to show you around the building. In due course full details about access will be posted on this website.