How We Got Here
The first opportunity we had as a whole church to visit the building and give thanks to God came on Sunday 14th February. After the evening meeting, we transferred the people to the new building, all piling in, some seeing the inside of the building for the first time. We explored the territory and then met in the main hall to give thanks.
In the midst of all that, the police arrived. Alerted by the resident postmaster next door to unusual activity in the building, they arrived to find a different kind of break-in to anything they had expected! Once reassured that we were the rightful owners now (how good it was to be able to say that!), they departed and we were left then with the task of organising work the next day.
The task ahead is perhaps best captured in pictures, not words. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! The two pictures above are of the community hall.
After eighteen months of prayer interspersed with intermittent action, the work was about to begin in earnest. As we wandered around the building on the Saturday after exchanging contracts, it was evident that there was a lot of work to be done. The building, although structurally sound, had been empty for a long time and was desperately in need of redecoration and renovation.
The building has two main halls: one to be used for church meetings, one (with a stage) to be used for community work. This community hall has been used for sports activities for many years and is ideal for the youth work and Mums and Toddlers group run by the church. The two main halls are linked by a corridor off which are the toilets, a small room to be used as a vestry, a larger room to be used for Sunday School work and a kitchen (the most modern room of all, with kitchen units that were relatively new.) All of these rooms would need attention, some more than others.
And so the task of organising the work began. With God’s impeccable timing, the school half-term holidays were about to begin, and a number of church members who work in local schools suddenly had five days available to work! With enthusiasm running high, it was time to start work!
Work has been around for a very long time and building projects feature frequently in the Bible. From the ill-fated Tower of Babel (resulting in the plethora of languages which infuriate so many school pupils today!) to the slave labour of Egypt, the Bible has a lot to say about work. Not surprisingly, attention was focussed on the temple projects in the Bible: Solomon’s temple, the destruction of that temple as a result of Israel’s sin, the rebuilding of the temple and of Jerusalem after the exile. What could we learn from these examples of work?
The book of Haggai, short, succinct and very relevant, suddenly blazed with life. In the middle of that book comes the simple verse “Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty” (Haggai 2:4).
God’s presence makes all the difference. We would need much physical strength and much hard work to see the plans we had come to fruition. But having come this far, having crossed our own Red Sea in actually becoming the owners of this building against all expectations and all practical hopes, we knew that God is with us.
Colossians 3:17 says “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” The work was about to start!
January 2010 started with snow. There had been snow in December, but more came down during that first week of 2010, starting on 5th January. One of the church elders who was away on holiday decided to cut short his trip because of the bad weather. It was a good job he did: a letter from our solicitor waiting at home was finally getting things moving. He had a lot to do!
Over the next few weeks, a flurry of telephone calls, letters and e-mails finally saw further negotiations (and increases in the asking price) moving towards a favourable conclusion. Each day we waited for contracts to be exchanged: every time we had a semi-firm date for this to happen, something else intervened to put us back into limbo. But there was now that increasingly firm conviction that very soon, St Mark’s would be ours.
By the time contracts were exchanged on 12th February 2010 (truly a red letter day for the church!), there was a sense of stunned disbelief. Was it really true? Was the building really ours? Even now, there was a sense of unreality: ‘it’s not really definite until completion, but no one can back out now.’
‘You can start working on the building, but can’t make any structural changes until we’ve completed the transaction,’ the solicitor said.
So we can start decorating? We can actually have the keys? It’s ours? It didn’t feel quite real, but the reality was about to set in. St Mark’s was now the property of Goldthorpe Pentecostal Church. The long awaited dream was about to come true. The vision, though it had certainly tarried, was about to be fulfilled.
The process of buying a new building is not always an easy one. First of all, there was the funding application. (Unless you’ve tackled one of these things, you really have no idea what a massive amount of work has to go in to this!) Then there was the question of putting in a bid to the Methodist Church – minimum price required £150,000. Even when the funding application was successful and there was money available to purchase the building (February 2009), things did not go smoothly, for there were other bidders whose offers seemed more attractive to the Methodist Church. With much disappointment, the CRT grant had to be returned to the funders at the end of March 2009, since it seemed that there was no chance of the church being allowed to purchase St Mark’s.
All we could do was wait… and pray! A prophetic word that we would see others overtake us initially but that the first winner would not be the final winner was very encouraging to us. The desire to own St Mark’s just wouldn’t go away, but we knew that there was nothing more we could do. Then, in July, we were approached by the Methodists: the property developer’s deal appeared to have fallen through, and they asked if we were still interested. Still interested? Definitely! But being interested and having the money to do anything about it were two different things.
The chances of getting the money again from CRT seemed remote. Even when it seemed that there might be a chance to re-submit our application, we were sure this would only be the prelude to yet more masses of paperwork! But in the end, CRT allowed us to re-submit the application with only minor amendments, and by September 2009 we had been given the grant again!
We hoped to be in the new building by the end of the year… but even this was not to be. Every time we hoped to make progress, another stumbling block appeared. The property developer was still around, still offering more money. Legal wranglings and delays kept cropping up. Weeks would go by with no sign of any movement. October turned into November… November turned into December, and still nothing was happening.
Then we had an e-mail reminding us of the date of the stone on the building: 1960. “Its Jubilee year is next year, 2010. I’m certain in my soul you will get the keys to the building for then, not this year. It’s not long to wait – 1 month.”
Jubilee – the 50th year. Leviticus 25 talks of this – a time of rest and release, a time when debts were cancelled and slaves were set free. Maybe, then, 2010 would be the year when we finally took possession of this new building.
2010 – the year that Goldthorpe Pentecostal Church saw a dream come true! This blog is dedicated to charting the church’s progress in renovating the building formerly known as St Mark’s Methodist Church. The story of how we come to be in this position goes back many years, but the recent adventures in actually getting possession of the building is nothing short of miraculous.
Some background information first: we are an independent Pentecostal church, situated in Goldthorpe in South Yorkshire. Since June 1964, we have met in a building on Beever Street, but over the past three years, this has become too small for the community work we have been doing and we have been looking at moving into a bigger building. When the local Methodist church building came on the market, the church leadership felt that this was the time to move. The vision for this dates back many years, but having the resources to do this still seemed way beyond us.
Years of faithful ministry in the local community, establishing a thriving children’s and youth work and working with Mums & Toddlers, meant that the church has an established presence in the area and funding became available for equipment for the youth group from Coalfields Regeneration Trust. “Is there anything else we can help you with?” a representative from CRT asked the pastor of the church, as the grant for equipment was being sorted.
“Well, the only other thing would be a new building,” came the reply, only to be told, “We can probably help you with that too.” And so the dream was about to become reality…