A few years ago Fitzroy did a survey around the area and discovered that our neighbours new us as “oh the Church on the corner”. To be fair, like many old churches, we looked cold and archaic at best and shut at worst!
Not anymore! This week, Fitzroy has become the talk of the neighbourhood. Our stunning renovations and extension has seen neighbours peering in the windows of our new welcome area and even coming in to see around.
Buildings are just buildings but they are also so much more than just buildings. They are missional in themselves. They have an ambiance and send a message. They can be warm and inviting or cold and excluding. They can be vibrant and contemporary or they can be dead and irrelevant. Our neighbours are beginning to realise that this church is open for business.
I am a little overwhelmed myself. I remember, the day I was interviewed to be the minister, being astounded at the state of the Church halls. They were simply no reflection of the spiritual vitality of the congregation. When I spoke to our architects Knox and Markwell I was a little concerned at what they could achieve in the confined space that we had. What they have achieved is an exceptional piece of architecture. The space has been maximised beyond our dreams.
Then there is the beauty of the buildings. We were careful from the outset not to end up with some garish looking monstrosity where the old and the new clash. The finished product blends perfectly the historic Fitzroy with the contemporary community. The new welcome area with the old outside walls coming inside and the back corridor where again the original stone work becomes a feature are stunning.
The best feature of all is that Fitzroy is now open to the neighbourhood. The facade takes the style of the late 19th century original but with more windows out onto the street, south Belfast can now see that vitality of what we do.
It is now time to make these new halls our home, to use them as a resource to develop our desire to keep Jesus alive in the city centre. We will now be more able to be the welcoming prophetic and imaginative community that we believe God has called us to be in 2015 Belfast.
Though life in the new halls has already started, and I hope to be in my new office this week, we will have our Official Opening Weekend from Friday November 13th to 15th. This will be two years to the very weekend that we launched our Fundraising Campaign to celebrate our 200th Birthday as a congregation. There will be various activities that weekend to welcome neighbours, families and children.
On Sunday morning of the 15th we will cut the ribbon. After much talk about what famous person should do this we ended up deciding that every member of Fitzroy should do it! So, at around 10.45 we will all stand around a long ribbon and cut that ribbon all at once! Then there will be a Celebratory Service of worship and thanksgiving.
In the evening at 7pm we will be asking our neighbours about their vision for the local community. Tony Gallagher Pro Vice Chancellor at Queens University, Brid Ruddy from Wildflower Alley in the Holy Lands, and hopefully all of our local Councillors will share their dreams. We are also thrilled to have Ednar Nyakaisiki Adyeeri from Kampala there too. Ednar is Executive Director for Fields of Life. We tithed the fundraising for the new buildings to fund Onialeku Primary School. It will all be wrapped up in some brilliant music from Fitzroy’s cast of musical genius! Put it in your diary!