Creative Church Project
Want to know more about the arts and culture activities we’ll be running as part of our Creative Church project? Click here to learn more about our Creative Church Programme and how you can get involved.
Interested in how the building works are going? Here’s a video update from April 2022.
If you would like to support our Creative Church project financially, we are currently raising money for durable and beautiful chairs to go in our regenerated building. By donating £250 to sponsor a chair, you can include a short dedication which will be engraved on a plaque and attached to your sponsored chair.
For more information on the history of the project, as well as on the changes we’re planning to make to our ancient building, see below. We hope to complete the building works by late 2022.
In 2015, an architect’s report indicated we had to make urgent repairs to St Mary’s ancient building – the roof, render and other parts of the fabric were in poor condition. However, as we looked at how we might fund repairs, we began to dream about whether we might do something bigger.
One of our challenges – and something we often hear from local people – is that our building is regularly locked. There are many reasons as to why this is the case, but the primary one is that our church offices are across the churchyard in the church hall, a separate building. We also have funding challenges – we receive no money from the government (other than reclaimed tax through Gift Aid) or the Church of England, and yet we have to find ways of keeping the building open and in good repair.
So as we began to think and dream together, our goal became much bigger than simply trying to find a way to get the building repaired – it became to find a way to make our ancient building the heart of Walthamstow once again, as it has been in centuries past, and in so doing to make it accessible and financially sustainable. Church of England churches exist for the flourishing of the whole community, and we want our building to be safe, welcoming and accessible to everyone in Walthamstow.
In 2017, we convened a group of artists, designers, musicians and writers from St Mary’s to create a funding proposal incorporating research we conducted with nearly a thousand local people about how they would like to use the building. The survey results were overwhelming: people wanted to use the building for creative activities, and were particularly keen to see more concerts in the church.
We called our proposal, A Creative Church for a Creative Community, and it won £1.67 million in Heritage Lottery funding. With additional outside funding, our project will cost nearly £3.4 million in total and will regenerate Walthamstow’s oldest building, making it an arts centre/ cafe/ meeting space/ education space/ working church – all of which is in keeping with our vision for St Mary’s and with wider community interests, and all of which will allow us to get the building open throughout the week.
We plan to begin renovations in the second half of 2021 and hope to finish by late 2022. When our project is completed, St Mary’s will be a centre of Arts, Prayer and Transformation with a building open during the week, in the day, with a cafe run by wonderful local partners who currently run a popular local coffee shop.
The changes to the building and church property will include an extension which will create an additional entrance into the building, an art gallery/ community meeting space, and church offices; outside, the current car park will be turned into a landscaped public area for pedestrians to enjoy.
In the church itself, we will take out the pews and replace them with flexible cathedral-style seating which will drastically increase the number and variety of activities we can have in the church. A new kitchen will be installed with a serving window for outside customers. The current entrance will be preserved, but a new glass door will get more light through while keeping the current door in place and open in the day.
We will install new lighting, a new sound system, underfloor heating and renovate the two back vestries as meeting spaces. The church’s existing toilets will be renovated and three additional toilets will be added. A new door next to the side chapel will make it easier to access the back vestry, and a new staircase will make the gallery more accessible. Inconspicuous storage will be added throughout the building to allow us to hide away chairs and tables. A new heritage and gallery space will also be added, providing a museum-calibre display about the history and heritage of the building. Outside, the render will be repaired and cleaned and the roof will be repaired.
We’re excited to make St Mary’s the heart of Walthamstow again, and to give Walthamstow a creative church for a creative community!