If it has been said once, it has been said a hundred times…that the church is the people, not the building. And it is true! Even so, reality dictates that a people need buildings from which to operate – a place for coming together and a feeding station from which to go out. Even from Old Testament times, God’s people sensed their need for special places – places set apart for the Holy One.
Our building was essentially sound and, through the years, we had all developed a strong attachment to it…but there are aspects of it that were due for a make-over, while maintaining the essential character of the church. However, as we worship and work together in 2009, the 50th anniversary of St. Andrew’s Church being founded, we recognise that our world is a very different one to the one of the late 1800s when our church was built. In these days, church-going was more or less the done thing. Nowadays, that is hardly the case. We have to work much harder, therefore, to draw people into the life of the congregation…and the look and feel of our buildings is part of that.
And that was the heart of it – we made these plans as part of the overall plan to further the mission of the congregation. We talked about a new, efficient heating system; flexible, comfortable seating; a greatly enhanced platform area (chancel); an open, welcoming approach to the church, with easy physical access for all. We wanted a building ‘fit for purpose’ for the next fifty years…a centre for worship and mission that will be as useful to those who come after us as our present building has been to us.
In 2007 a small group from the Kirk Session began to travel around the country (even to Northern Ireland) to see what a number of churches had done to revitalise their buildings. These trips gave us enough encouragement to take our thinking a stage further. The next step was the formation of a Feasibility Group which was charged with bringing forward initial proposals for the re-enlivening of our buildings. These were formed and then, through the services of an architect, plans and drawings were prepared.
We gained approval for our plans from the various bodies of the wider church, then presented the proposals to the full Kirk Session and to the congregation. The members of St Andrew’s gave their whole-hearted support to the plan to breathe new life into our sanctuary and halls – all with the hope that better facilities, fit for purpose, might aid us as we moved towards, and beyond, the landmark of fifty years of St. Andrew’s Church in 2009.
We moved out of the building in November 2008 and gathered for Sunday worship in the hall of Arbroath Academy, the secondary school in our parish area. The various organisations which use our church premises were spread across many locations in the town. We are very grateful for the hospitality that was given to us by other churches and service organisations and by Angus Council’s Department of Education.
The work proceeded smoothly throughout the project, thanks to the hard work of our Building Project Team and the professionalism of the company. The building contractors finished their work within budget and slightly ahead of schedule. They handed the keys to us on 2nd October 2009, and a few weeks of hard work by an army of St Andrew’s volunteers completed the redecorating, reinstallation of equipment, cleaning and moving everything back into place.
Our first worship service in the remodelled premises was held on All Saints’ Day, 1st November – a moving and wonderful celebration! A few weeks later we held a fantastic weekend-long celebration to publicly re-open and re-dedicate our church home:
The redesigned complex offers:
Over the previous five years we had been buildingup a Church Redecoration Fund, which became the deposit on our much bigger project! The estimated cost represented a formidable target and we had some apprehension about achieving the total. However, we knew that if it was God’s plan for our future, HE would provide the resources we needed.
General income has been increasing year on year as our numbers have grown and the average level of giving as gone up, resulting in regular surpluses for which we give thanks to God. The balance in our Reserve Account and our expendable endowment funds gave us a great starting point for our dreams and visions for this project, and there was a magnificent response by the congregation to the building project appeal in 2008, both in terms of one-off donations and by pledging further giving over the next 2 years; much of this giving is augmented by Gift Aid. We had a further gift appeal when we moved back into the building, resulting in further pledges and donations to help repay the remainder of our loan.
We were successful in attracting a number of grants to augment our congregational giving, and a loan from the Church of Scotland’s central funds enabled us to commit to the building contract.
The final cost of the project was just over £600,000, but the results in terms of a quality environment for mission and ministry is worth every penny!