A FORMER nightclub in Lincoln is to be transformed into a church and community space.
The two-storey building will become home to St Swithin’s, Lincoln, which has been meeting in a series of temporary venues since the church’s Victorian building was closed in December 2017, in need of repairs costing at least £1.2 million.
The application to develop the former Co-op Hall on Free School Lane was first submitted to the city council last year, and was approved in May. Once opened, it will be known as The Salt House, with a community space and kitchen on the ground floor, and a space for worship on the first floor, besides offices and meeting rooms. The name is a reference to the fact that there was once a warehouse for salt distribution in the area.
The 300-strong congregation is due to move in to the building in the spring. The plan is to use the space to further the church’s work in the community, offering programmes for families, young people, and students, and vulnerable people in the city, besides providing a venue for events.
Relaunched in 2014 by a team sent by Holy Trinity, Brompton, St Swithin’s is the latest city-centre church in the HTB network to make its home in a former commercial building. Other examples include Pattern Church, Swinson, in a former railway workshop (News, 21 December 2018); St Luke’s, Gas Street, Birmingham, which meets in a converted warehouse (News, 6 March 2015); and Trinity Church, Nottingham, based in a former auction house (News, 2 December 2016).
Problems with St Swithin’s Grade II* listed building were identified early on, the diocese said; these included a leaking roof and crumbling walls. It has been estimated that repairs would cost at least £1.2 million, and would rise to £2 million to address the need for heating, lavatories, and disabled access. Even were this to be achieved, a statement said, “the building would still not meet St Swithin’s future long-term needs — no kitchen, no break-out spaces for the growing children’s, youth, and student ministries — making it questionable whether such investment would be worthwhile.”
The church would be “kept in mothballs with the aim of reopening it again for worship space in the coming years. The long-term vision is to have both the church and The Salt House open and used for mission.”
The project is being funded by a strategic development grant and “significant funding from the diocese and St Swithin’s congregation,” the diocese said. The diocese received £2.67 million last year to enable three churches to become “resource churches” — in addition to St Swithin’s, these are St George’s, Stamford, and Lincoln Cathedral, where a centre for formation in Catholic mission is to be established (News, 25 January 2019).
The Vicar of St Swithin’s, the Revd Jim Prestwood, said: “One of the things St Swithin was known for was throwing open the doors of the church, hosting parties for those not usually invited to parties, and extending a welcome to anyone and everyone. That is how we want to be known as we work to play our part in seeing lives and communities transformed in our church, city, and region. The Salt House provides us with mission-shaped facilities to do just that, and everyone is welcome.”