Tom Rout is vicar of the Ipswich Waterfront Churches (St Helen’s, Holy Trinity and St Luke’s) and Anglican Chaplain to the University of Suffolk and Suffolk New College. He is married to Nicola and father of 3 young children.
“The church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members” So said former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple. It’s worth us re-reading that quote to feel its full force, especially those of us in the church, who may be prone to forgetting it. We’re here really as a channel for the good of people around us, whoever they may be. And that applies also when it comes to our buildings.
A lot of heat gets generated in areas (predominantly sea-side communities) where properties are bought as second homes by people who live elsewhere and only use them at the weekend or in the holidays. It’s nice for them… but it doesn’t do much for the resident community. The church risks being like that. Its buildings can stand idle much of the time, taking up a lot of space, but doing very little… until Sunday rolls around.
While our worship spaces are best suited for worship and seminar purposes, we try to make our church halls available for other uses that may benefit the local community. Sometimes these are events and activities we run – most of which are open to all! Just recently we held a quiz night at Holy Trinity church hall. We also use St Luke’s hall on Cliff Lane for a Wednesday morning parent and toddler group (Grapevine), a Wednesday afternoon children’s club (Kids’ Rock) and a Thursday morning cafe (Coffee Pot).
But our halls are available for local people to hire out as well. The purpose needn’t be ‘religious’ in any way. Sometimes people need a suitable venue for a birthday party or family reunion. Perhaps there’s a club or a group that needs a space to meet whether weekly, monthly or quarterly. For example, there’s a dance group that hires the hall at St Luke’s every Monday afternoon and a toddler group has used St Helen’s hall every weekday morning for years. One of the best uses of Holy Trinity Church hall in recent times has been the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter, who provide a safe, warm place for the homeless of the town to spend the cold nights. We’re delighted when our buildings can be a benefit to everyone – especially non-members!
If you ever need to hire one of our halls, please contact [email protected] or call 07419 746281