Revd Paul Arnold engages in the redevelopment of his Green Church - St Paul's in Stockton-on-Tees. [PICTURE: KEITH BLUNDY]

A substantial legacy left by a parishioner of a Stockton Church is being used to develop a Community Hub with important sustainability credentials.

St Paul’s Church in Stockton was the beneficiary of a £1/3 of a Million legacy left by a wealthy parishioner with instruction it was to be used to develop the church.

Now that legacy is helping to fund a radically new development that will see green renewable energy scheme in the form of geothermal heating and modernising of the building designed to be adaptable and become the beating heart of the community for its use.

The Revd Paul Arnold said:
“Our vision is to be the beating heart of God’s love in Stockton. That means being in and serving our community. It means creating space, particularly as we recover from COVID, that is able to be used by the community throughout the week. Providing a platform for services like CAP, toddlers, pilates, knit and natter, open mic nights and other community activities that both serve and celebrate what is good here. As well as a social enterprise in the form of a community café that will provide training and employment in the local area.

“As Christians, we are commanded to be good stewards of God’s good creation – we wanted to move from our old, expensive, broken and dirty oil-fired heating system with single glazed windows to a renewable, clean heating system as part of that. It makes good long term financial sense too as we will be recouping the capital cost from 20 years of renewable heat incentive payments.”

The four-phase project which stared earlier this year is estimated to cost around £0.65 Million and is due to be completed in 2023

The first phase of replacing the existing heating with green renewable energy from ground source heat pumps is already underway and other building works to make it a warm and friendly environment with strong green credentials. The building will reopen after this work is complete. 

Phase 2 – Community Café – renovating the small hall attached to the church to put in more toilets, enlarge the kitchen and add a servery for allowing them to put a community café in place that will generate local employment and training as well as provide a place for people to gather through the week and a space to find sanctuary. 

Phase 3 & 4 – additional works on the church building to enhance it as a worship space.

In addition to the legacy left by the Jenny Bowron trust, funds are being raised through loans, grants and fundraising to make the project a reality. 

Revd Paul added:
“Although we have been very fortunate to receive a fantastically generous legacy we still need to be able to raise additional funds to see our vision to be the heart of the community realised. 

“We are well underway with Phase 1 and this will be completed in time for the church to open its doors again on Pentecost Sunday 23rd May. This is one day before the anniversary of John Wesley’s heart being ‘strangely warmed’ – given that half of the congregation comes from a Methodist background, this is a really auspicious date for us. 

We hope that the funds will be in place and works completed for Phase 2 by the end of this year.”

The whole community is behind the project including Councillor Marilyn Surtees and local MP Alex Cunningham.

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