A rural church is making plans to become a community hub after securing funding for nearly £200,000 for a restoration to the Grade I-listed building.
St Michael’s Church is Alnham’s only public building and hopes to become a place for everyone in the community to find a place to relax and feel at home.
The move comes after Alnham residents successfully bidded to the Heritage Lottery Fund and have so far been given £178,000 in the first round of bids.
The team, led by St Michael’s church warden Steven Clark, will now begin to transform the church using local materials and builders, where possible.
Mr Clark said that the building, at present, is completely ‘underutilised’ and in vital need of change as they cannot afford to keep the building running.
“Every penny we raised would go into electricity and insurance and we couldn’t afford the building.
“To think, it is the only public building and there’s a thriving community out there.
“The community comes in three parts, the village has 33 houses, then we have the surrounding ten-mile radius.
“The wider community could be anyone that wants to come to Alnham so why not have that building, in such a condition that people may want to bring revenue into the area.”
Around four years ago, the church held 12 services a year with a mean congregation of just four.
Since then, they have managed to increase the number of services per year to 18 to 20 and have seen the average congregation rise to 18.
Last year saw more than 100 in church for Remembrance Sunday and 162 on Christmas Eve.
“We have made the church the focal point of the village,” Steven said.
“It is the place where we all meet, a place where after services there are often impromptu social events.
“We have also made the church a centre for the wider community and have forged partnerships with youth groups and schools, most notably Kings Priory School in Tynemouth, which also owns the old school in Alnham.”
The Kings Priory School use the church for art, history and music, they have forged soild relationships with the village making use of farmland for Duke of Edinburgh awards, as well as the church for study.
The first step for the team is to make the church structurally sound and free from damp. Repair work for that will cost around £90,000.
An additional £90,000 has also been submitted as, according to the church, a structurally sound building is ‘not enough’.
The group also wants to make the church an information, learning and educational centre. A place where a landline and broadband are available for anyone.
Steven hopes that they will also have iPads and their own computers with the hope that topics such as history, environment, geography and outdoor education could be tied into key stages in the National Curriculum.
Steven added: “We have not yet secured all our funding. We are hopeful that the Heritage Lottery Fund will be able to fund the structural work to the church to restore the building, making it safe and dry.”