Community bids to buy-out its local church

For 100 years it was at the heart of the community in the former Doncaster mining village of Rossington.

Monday, 10th June 2019, 11:01 am
Updated Friday, 14th June 2019, 08:19 am

But since February, one of the best known landmarks in the village has been lost to the residents.

That was the month when Rossington Methodist Church closed down, with congregations having dwindled.

Its future remains unknown. But residents fear that the church, which first opened in September 1917, could be demolished and see its site redeveloped for housing.

Now, a campaign is starting to buy the site – for the community.

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Fundraising efforts are underway, with the campaign led by the pastor of the Rossington Baptist Church, Eric Simpson.

American-born Mr Simpson, who has lived in Rossington since setting up his church in the village 17 years ago, believes it would be a blow for the village to lose a venue which he feels was well used by the community until its closure this year.

And he has support among the community groups which used it in the past.

He is drawing up a plan that would see the church bought and restored, with its community use extended.

He would relocate his own church from its current base at the Holmescarr Centre, holding both services and other activities there.

And he hopes it would also give groups including the local scouts, the Geddes Dance School, and Slimming World, to chance to return the venue which they had used before its closure.

He said: "I was approached about if we would be interested in taking it over as an old-school community building run by the community.

“My first reaction was I didn’t want to touch it. It is five or six times the size of that we’ve got here. But when people heard it was closing, there was a massive outcry, with people from all over saying they can’t believe it was shutting down.

“People had been married there, or gone to scouts there. People see the church as an iconic building here, it is seen as a landmark. The pit has gone, the library has gone, one of the old doctors surgeries has gone, the water tower has gone. From an emotional point of new it feels a bit like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“That was when we started to look to see if it would be possible that we as a church could take it on, and keep it open as a church, and also as a community building.”

Suggestions for possible community activities there have ranged from a soft play centre to drama classes.

Mr Simpson believes that it may be possible to buy the building for around £240,000. He believes he can raise around half of that through a bank loan.

Now the effort has started to raise the other half through fundraising.

He and a number of friends are running the Doncaster half marathon to make a start, and already they have thousands of pounds worth of sponsorship, including £5,000 from a friend in America.

A crowdfunding page has been set up, on https://www.wonderful.org/charity/rossingtoncommunitybaptistchurch as well as a system for making donations by text. You can text ROSSINGTON5 to 70085 to donate £5.

Mr Simpson hopes there may be a wealthy benefactor who would be interested in backing the project, too, who could help them raise the money by September.

Under the plans, if the money is found to buy the church, there would then be a move to apply for grants to refurbish and modernise the venue.

Posters and banners in support of the scheme are being displayed in locations across Rossington.

Anyone interested in getting involved in fundraising or making a donation can contact Mr Simpson on 07828 141472 or email eric@communitybaptist.co.uk.

Community backing.

Rossington Methodist Church has a special place in the heart of village resident Julie Large.

Julie was brought up in the village, moving there when she was aged just nine, and was married at the church, on Nelson Road, some 20 years ago.

Now she runs a Slimming World session at the same Holmescarr Centre as is used by Mr Simpson's church.

She is among those supporting the proposals to buy-up the church for the community.

“It is the heart and soul of the village,” said Julie. “It would be great if a way could be found to buy it for the community.

“I got married there, so it means a lot to me. It is such a beautiful building and I think it would be a shame to lose it. There is a fear that it will be knocked down and flats built on the land. It is part of the village.

“With the plans Eric has, I think it would be a great asset.”

She said her Slimming World group had been running raffles and had a collection box to raise money for the plans.

Background

Rossington Methodist Church held its last service on Sunday February 24, followed by community celebration of the work that the church has done in the community over the last 100 years.

Pastor Susanna Brookes said the closure was down to the falling numbers, with only around half a dozen worshippers attending most services now.

The first building on the Methodist chapel site was completed in September 1917, and was laterused as its scout room.

The main hall, vestry and coffee room were opened in June 1921, and the church itself was opened in May 1928.

It was used by the 3rd Doncaster (Rossington) Scout Group since 1957, and also the Geddes School of Dance which has been there for the last 10 years.

The church will be put up for sale on the open market.