Lancaster church reveals £2.5m plans to create ‘Heart of the City’ family support centre

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Hundreds of Lancaster church-goers have helped to raise more than £1m by sacrificing 10 per cent of their wages for three years.

St Thomas Church in Penny Street is aiming to become the “Heart of the City” with a new building project that will house a family support centre.

Jon Scamman, vicar at St Thomas Church Lancaster

Jon Scamman, vicar at St Thomas Church Lancaster

The church received planning permission for the project over the summer.

The congregation has pledged £1.86m towards the total cost, and families have already donated £1.1m to the project by sacrificing 10 per cent of their income over the past three years.

The church still needs another £700,000 to make the £2.6m project - which includes repairs to the church itself - become a reality.

The shortfall has just been boosted by a grant of £40,000 from Allchurches Trust, one of the UK’s largest grant-making charities.

In 2016, St Thomas Church celebrated its 175th anniversary, and it is now contemplating how it can meet the financial shortfall required to see the project through to fruition.

The congregation has also been working on its own fundraising initiatives and has raised over £25,000 from a variety of events including sponsored walks, afternoon teas, an auction of promises and many other novel activities.

Jon Scamman, vicar of St Thomas Church, said: “We are so grateful to Allchurches Trust for their generous grant.

“Our Heart of the City project is a sign of our commitment as a church to the future health and well-being of the City of Lancaster.

“This significant grant will help us bring that commitment to reality, with building work starting next year.”

A spokeswoman for the the church said: “The plan for the new centre is to offer a much greater level of support to the community in Lancaster, and its vulnerable members, at a time when this is needed more than ever.

“The flexible, multi-use community building will house a cross-disciplinary ‘Family Life Centre’, bringing together health, education, counselling/listening and financial services, and providing early intervention social support for families under pressure.

“The services offered by the centre will be for any family in need, regardless of religion, ethnicity, orientation, and with no strings attached.

“Some rooms in the centre will be available for hire by local organisations.

“The centre will be available for community activities six days a week, while on Sundays it will be used for church activities currently attended by about 100 children each week.”

The church said The Family Life Centre will house multiple services and make use of good practice and key partnerships which are developing nationally.

The core activities are expected to include PEEP (Peers Early Education Partnership) for pre-schoolers and their parents, Parish Nursing, providing health care integrated with Christian spirituality, Parenting and relationship courses, to strengthen family bonds, Safe Families for Children, helping families ‘on the edge of care’, Transforming Lives for Good, bringing mentors together with children at risk of exclusion, and a Christians Against Poverty life course, teaching money management and cooking skills.

It will also provide listening services and a variety of support groups.

The centre will employ a part-time Parish nurse and a part-time manager.

Fundraising still continues and anyone interested in donating, or finding out about forthcoming events, can find more information on the website (www.st.tees.org.uk) or via the Heart of the City Facebook page.