The Mustard Seed Project
Stokesley Methodist Church has “Mission First” as its core objective. With this in mind, The Mustard Seed Project was initiated to look at how we could sow the seeds of modern ministry.
Quote By Florence Nightingale:
|“So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.”|
Here is the story of how the seed of change has evolved:
Stokesley has witnessed significant growth over the past 20 years with diversity being a key feature of its population. Our aim is to reach out to all those who walk past our doors and offer a welcome that will bring people in and take ourselves out into the community.
The present Methodist Church is located in a central position on the High Street of Stokesley, which is itself designated as a conservation area. The church is Grade II listed and the only significant change to its High Street frontage since it was built was to remove the boundary wall, railings and wrought iron gates to achieve an open space in front of the building. An alteration to the steps leading to the main doors and provision of some seating was also carried out. The curved wall installed to the left and right of the main entrance adds a presence to the building and the entire appearance brings character and bearing to both the location and the town.
Internally, many of the original features of the church were retained although alteration to the chancel with the removal of the reading desk was carried out at the church centennial in 1987. Most recently, 3 rows from the front of the pew set and the choir pews were removed in 2004 to allow the church to be used for different styles of worship and to accommodate a full orchestra or brass band. Modern chairs were obtained to replace these pews. Areas without the pews were carpeted and gas fired convection heaters installed to provide a warm, comfortable and welcoming worship space.
All of the original stained glass windows have been retained and the pipe organ – installed in 1896 by Harrison and Harrison of Durham – is still in regular use. The church also has a rear garden and a suite of halls attached to the rear of the church – to which a kitchen, toilets and other facilities were added in 1993/4 as the concluding part of the centenary project.
Internal view, taken in 2011, showing the pews, the area under the balcony and the rear wall.
This picture shows the fantastic potential for flexible worship space to suit today’s worship and develop current mission opportunities. It shows the historic balcony we love and are keeping in its original state, original pews and all.
The aim of the Mustard Seed Project was to improve the use of the main church building for worship and to provide outreach to the community through extension of the entrance vestibule and complete removal of the pews located on the main floor of the church.
The removal of the wall separating the worship space from the vestibule has resulted in the removal of the two original wooden doors at the rear and the central window featuring stained glass panels, pictured above. These two doors match other doors at the front of the church, therefore examples of the originals have been retained. The central window contained leaded glass panels and these are of a similar design to the external windows in the main church (which are noted in the Listed Description as late 19th century).
The two ornate columns supporting the balcony have been retained and form a key structural feature of the development. The new glass screen follows the forward line of the balcony and has enabled an effective transfer of approximately 30m2 from the worship space to the vestibule area.
The seating capacity on the main floor has been reduced by 30, from 180 to 150, due to the transfer of space to the vestibule. This was given full consideration by the Church Council and the conclusion reached that the more productive use of the vestibule space was on balance more important to the development of outreach. The picture above demonstrates how the space can be used for a Café Style event.
The Church has identified an alternative use for some of the pews in a local entertainment venue that supports the local “Air Ambulance” charity. In the scheme completed in 2004, wood reclaimed from pews was used to provide two new lecterns and a screen for the front of the choir seating area, situated to the west of the chancel. In a similar vein, other creative uses for the wood contained in the pews was pursued & such items as book cases and objects for use in Godly Play were created. Some members have bought their own “pew” as a keep-sake, while 2 have been preserved to re-install into the main worship space as wall-side features, 1 has gone into the new vestibule entrance and another is now situated in the Heritage area.
The pews have been replaced with comfortable, durable wooden chairs that can be stacked by a group of church volunteers when required. A storage area has been created to stack the new chairs and a trolley purchased to permit their movement in accordance with safe lifting practice. The existing wooden chairs have been retained and there is ready access provided for wheelchairs.
The new “Church Heritage Area” is to be set up in the old vestry along with a library containing a range of historic books and topical reading material. Photographic evidence of how the church has been developed to meet the changing needs of Stokesley worshipers will be researched, documented and displayed here.
The excellent acoustics in the church, which have encouraged several orchestras to hire our premises, are largely achieved by the high, arched ceiling and remain unaffected by the removal of the pews or the addition of so much carpet.
The overall development has improved the visibility of the worship space directly from the High Street, through the open front doors, glass inner doors and vestibule area and has been very successful in increasing the willingness of newcomers to enter the building. The visual impact of the entire internal area of the church from the entrance has been significantly improved.
We have created a worship space which reflects the growing needs of an increasingly all-age congregation, especially allowing space for a crèche. Outreach projects to the Stokesley community enabled by this enlarged space include Godly Play, Family Meals and Christmas/Easter tableaux.
The new kitchen allows refreshments to be served directly to those using the worship space.
A clear message has been given to the wider community that this Methodist Church is “fit for worship” for present and future congregations; dispelling an often expressed misunderstanding that we are a community hall with a church attached. Ecumenical projects and links with the local schools and the Stokesley Community Care Association have been further strengthened by the enlargement of the entrance vestibule and pews removal.
With seeds of faith, Stokesley Methodist Church has found the means, through many fund-raising events, donations and gifts from sponsors, members and friends, to “water” this project planted by God and turn it into a special place for all. The vocation and work of our church is to communicate our faith in a variety of ways to the wider community and to welcome that community through the doors, both inwards and outwards.
Here are three quotes from John Wesley which embody what we have done:
“What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.”
“I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfil God’s creational intentions.”
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Let us build a house where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
A place where saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;
All are welcome,
All are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.
(Hymn 409, Singing the Faith)
Our Mission to Charity
As part of our Mustard Seed Project, Stokesley Methodist Church pledged to raise £10,000 for 2 charities – £5,000 to a charity at home & £5,000 to one overseas. Infact, a total of £12,000 was raised which meant that we could donate £6,000 to each charity. This is an achievement of which we are extremely proud.
The 2 charities chosen were Compassion and The Great North Air Ambulance.
Compassion is an international Christian Child Development and Child Advocacy Ministry. Partnering with local churches they are committed to the spiritual, economic, social and physical development of children living in extreme poverty in 26 countries.
The Great North Air Ambulance charity serves Cumbria, the North East and North Yorkshire 365 days a year. They need to raise £4 million a year to keep 3 helicopters flying.