Church building work shows high ambition

Rev Mike Willis at the New Life Christian Centre at Dacre Street, Morpeth.'REF 2210146765
Rev Mike Willis at the New Life Christian Centre at Dacre Street, Morpeth.'REF 2210146765

Building work is going through the roof at a Morpeth church — and worshippers couldn’t be happier.

The New Life Christian Centre had scheduled essential work to repair cracks in the fabric of the Dacre Street building, as well as some investment in new hi-tech kit.

But now the church is going the whole hog with a £100,000 revamp, including removing decades-old ceiling tiles to reveal the impressive roof beams of the 116-year-old building, and the full height of the 12ft to 15ft windows.

Minister Mike Willis said: “It is all a bit exciting and frightening at the same time.

“Originally, we wanted to open the ceiling to the full height, but we looked at the costs and they were something stupid so we had to think again.

“We needed to do something because we have some structural cracks in the building so we thought we would restrict ourselves to doing that work, but once the scaffolding was up we found that the plaster has to come off so we had to look at different ideas and we are going for the whole hog afterall.

“When people see the roof everyone says ‘you have got to keep this’. It is going to be more money, but nothing like we were originally quoted, and the place is transformed with the light coming in. There are two huge windows at the front and the light just pours in.

“I had taken a few ceiling tiles out before so you could see the roof, but it was nothing like the effect you get now. When I walked through the doors and looked up, I just thought ‘oh my goodness’. It was amazing. I’m not usually one for pretty, pretty buildings, but I was quite staggered by it.”

The investment will also include the installation of underfloor heating, a glass front door and new lighting, and there will be a state-of-the-art HD projector and PA system.

“The church will look altogether different,” said Mr Willis.

“I think we are going to see the best of the 21st Century and the best of the 19th Century together.

“The main thing is the church has to be warm. I’m not going to have a cold church. We want to be very family orientated, that is what we are, so the church has to be comfortable.

“We are a modern church and that is why we have got the projector. We don’t use hymn books, and even the Bible comes up on the big screen. The message doesn’t change, but the way we present it does. Everyone has computers and all this technology stuff now so we should use it.”

Mr Willis says once the work is finished, the church could put its new kit to community use.

“The kit is going to be really modern and we could use it for different things, such as showing films or other things. Maybe we could even do more with the church. There are no dedicated conferencing facilities in Morpeth so we could offer that. There are lots of possibilities,” he said.

The project is entirely funded by the church.

“We are totally self-funding. We won’t go knocking on doors saying ‘please give us money for our roof’. That is not us,” said Mr Willis.

“It is our building and our responsibility. We worship here and we want the church to be really nice for us, and to be able to use it as a community hub.”

The building work is expected to be completed in about two or three months.

In the meantime, worshipers are meeting in its back hall, but they are being kept fully up to date with the progress.

“People are really excited,” said Mr Willis.

“I have been trying to take photographs of the work every day and have been putting them on Facebook to keep people up to date.

“I am getting a lot of comments from people. Everyone has said they want to leave the ceiling open, which is great because it is going to cost us more, but everyone is on side.”

He added: “At the end of this, we are going to have something new and something different, and it is something to look forward to that is going to be really nice.”