The Saint Stephen's site in Alton Gardens/Manners Way currently consists of an area approximately 0.75 acres comprising a former vicarage (213) with front and rear gardens, a church and hall with cobbled space at the front and overgrown vegetation at the rear and a children’s playground rented out to the local authority on the corner adjoining 213 and the church hall.
The proposal is to provide a new community centre and worship space together with a new play area alongside some possible housing. The existing buildings are proving costly to run and do not meet current standards which severely limit the work and activities that can take place, indeed much of the community work has had to be curtailed due to the buildings. The vision is to re-brand the church by using the project title ‘Lifestreams at Saint Stephen’s’; thereby projecting a more appropriate image of the work of the church today.
Over the past few years as the church has began to grow numerically but more significantly, spiritually, the (Parochial Church Council) PCC has shaped the vision, grown in confidence and is passionate to make a difference for the people in Prittlewell. The biggest issue preventing this development are the current building facilities. The hall (a temporary building from the 1940‘s) particularly is outdated and beyond repair. There are no accessible facilities, no hot water, crumbling window frames, rotten floor around the edges, fibre-board internal walls being held together by tape, corrugated asbestos roof with no insulation but with many holes, damp tiles which fall out of the ceiling grid (we have installed sheeting as a safety precaution). The outside doors are protected by a metal grid gate that makes the building unwelcoming to say the least, like a prison may be more accurate. This is totally against the image we want to project. The church itself is structurally, fine but lacks the facilities for accessibility, heating, hot water, insulation etc. The entrance is dark and not at all welcoming.
The PCC have discussed numerous options - sharing with another church, meeting at school, in peoples’ houses, renting a shop unit, refurbishing the existing buildings but felt that to fulfill the vision new premises were needed. Following initial attempts to raise the required £1.5m that would be needed for this the PCC realised that the time it would take for this small congregation to raise such a sum, the hall would probably fall down before necessary funding would be raised. The way forward would be in partnership with other organisations. Hence the involvement of Southend Council (who need to provide more living accommodation) by using a portion of the site for housing to generate the finance to build the new community hub
Lifestreams at SaintStephen’s will make a huge impact within the local community by working in partnership with local agencies and community groups. The centre will become the hub of activity for all sectors of the local community (eg family, single parents, child-care, loneliness, teenagers) where currently there are very few facilities or none at all. We shall be providing employment for some, volunteering positions for others, raising confidence and providing opportunities. This project will become an example of the Transforming Presence agenda being worked out in reality.
Lifestreams’ strapline is; connect: reflect: expect
Connect: making connections with people and with God, building relationships, encouraging evangelism and initial steps of faith.
Reflect: discovering and developing a life that reflects the character of Jesus (‘making disciples’) and equipping people to fulfil the potential and purposes that we believe God has planted in them
Expect: realising our limitations as humans and thus expecting, welcoming and relying upon the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit within and around us transforming, refreshing and renewing us as individuals, as a faith community and geographical parish.