Norwich church re-opens community centre
A Norwich community centre was re-opened today, thanks to a local church who has stepped in to run it for the benefit of the area.
Helen Baldry reports
Russell Street Community Centre, located off Heigham Street in Norwich, had been empty for more than a year before Norwich City Council appealed to groups to take over the running of the centre, as the council could no longer afford to keep it.
The centre is located in Mancroft ward, one of the most deprived areas of the country. St Thomas’ Church was successful in bidding for the building via an asset transfer scheme and now hold the lease for the next five years.
The centre was re-opened by the lord mayor of Norwich Councillor Marion Maxwell on April 29th with an opening party attended by members of the local community and the church.
Sports minister Ruth Graveling, who heads up The Sports Factory, a branch of St Thomas’ work – has been living in the vicarage of nearby St Barnabas Church for 18 months. During this time, she has formed relationships with people and organisations within the Russell Street community, many of whom were at the re-opening. St Thomas’ officially took over the running of St Barnabas’ Church in January this year.
After establishing a presence in the parish of St Barnabas, Russell Street Community Centre was an obvious area to branch into and serve. Ruth has organised a community meal every Thursday and is keen to work in partnership with local groups who want to use the centre. The intention of the church running the centre, is not to put on ‘church’ activities, but rather to enable the community to put on events and activities themselves.
Ruth’s hope is that the centre will “make the community even more amazing than it already is.”
Ruth thanked a number of people who have put in a tremendous amount of work to made the reopening possible – from installing new lights, resurfacing the floor and revamping the kitchen area. The lord mayor Marion Maxwell expressed her pleasure that the centre has become a positive place for local residents. She visited the building many years ago and described it now as “brighter, nicer and more welcoming” than before.
Guests enjoyed refreshments, including a BBQ in the garden. There was also music and face painting for children.
The re-opening party, and indeed all the renovations, has been a team effort from the whole church. Rev Dave Lloyd described the church’s involvement as a demonstration of love in action. He said, “The re-opening of the centre is a fresh start, which speaks of what St Thomas’ church does. It’s renewal, it’s revival. It’s kind of in our DNA. We want to give it a new lease of life and build new relationships.”
Pictured above: Ruth Graveling and Councillor Marion Maxwell