A £25,000 grant was made in March 2019 to Alderney Methodist Church and its small congregation on this remote Channel Island. The funds supported a major building project, which enabled the church to create the first fully accessible public building on the island for Alderney’s close-knit community.
Alderney is a tiny island (3.5 by 1.5 miles), 28 miles north-east of Guernsey. It’s hilly, with cobbled streets, which makes life difficult for the 2,000 residents, more than half of whom are over 65*. The island is self-sufficient, independent and resilient because it has to be, and possesses the best qualities of village life. But it’s also dependent on the outside world and the burden of isolation can be heavy.
Of the five churches on Alderney, the Methodist church is the only one to have continuously remained open for worship since it was built in 1851 (even during the German occupation from 1940-1945). A decade ago, it was reduced to only one church member and was threatened with closure.
The faith to rebuild a new future
In 2012, funding for a fulltime deacon saw the beginning of its revival and by 2015 the congregation had increased to twelve. The church members, determined to keep serving the people of Alderney through worship, prayer and hospitality in the name of God, committed to Phase 1 of a project to makeover the chapel into a building fit for worship and welcome for the whole community.
By 2016, the small congregation had raised the £77,000 needed to renovate the downstairs hall and install a disabled toilet and lift from ground level. The achievement gave them courage to have a ‘bigger vision’ and work began to transform the upstairs worship area, extend lift facilities, create a new gallery and vestry, and remove the chapel’s exterior whitewash to reveal the original slate walls. A key part of the project was to install state-of-the-art IT equipment to stream both Methodist and wider interest events (like football matches) in ‘real time’, so Alderney could feel part of the wider world and more connected with the Methodist family.
With its transformed chapel as a strong foundation, the church is ready to grow
Minister, Reverend Elizabeth Bellamy, said: “Our congregation wanted to do this, really wanted to turn the chapel into a flexible, attractive and accessible building. We really wanted to live up to our message to the island. So when we say, ‘all are welcome’ the building itself isn’t giving out a different message; the building’s not saying you can’t come in if you can’t climb a set of steep steps or you don’t like sitting in a damp, musty room.”
Grants Officer, Paul Playford, from Benefact Trust, who run the Methodist Grants programme, said: “We were delighted to provide a £25,000 grant to Alderney Methodist Church. There’s no doubt that church members have already risen to huge challenges to renovate the building in support of their mission to serve this small island. It’s clear this is only the beginning of a new vitality in Christian and community life on Alderney.”
*States of Alderney Census Report (2017)