All Saints make history
THE NEW £1m Stewart Memorial Hall was officially launched on Sunday but bricks-and-mortar is only the start for Rev Malcolm Ferry and co. as All Saints Clooney intends creating a ‘thriving community centre’ in the Waterside in time for the parish’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
The state-of-the-art facility is the latest incarnation of the hall, which was originally established as a National School back in 1882, and is named after the Rev. Alexander Stewart, who was rector of All Saints Parish when the idea for the building was first conceived.
The new building is ultra-modern and much more accessible than before from both the Glendermott Road and Bonds Place entrances.
Rev Ferry says the All Saints Caring Association (ASCA) - now replete with its very own unique font and logo as part of the re-launch - wants to create a ‘home from home’ for people in the Waterside.
The ethos of the new hall will be informed both by Christian teaching and also by the Swedish concept of ‘Parish homes’ as opposed to ‘Parish halls.’
Crucially, the Association has set itself the key goals of transforming young attitudes, empowering the elderly, supporting families, enabling ‘in betweeners’ - people who are staring off in life or have young families and find themselves under pressure - and creating a thriving centre of community by 2017.
Rev Ferry explained: “The Association’s motto is to improve the lives of people living in the Waterside. That can be offering a family night out two or three nights a week.
“It can be, for example, a quiz night, that won’t cost anything. It’s a cheap night out. But what does that do for the family and the community?
“If you’re going to take your family into these paid facilities, it costs a lot. And we think as the economy bites this provides an alternative.
“We have a list of events for the next year including simple barbecues, rickety wheels and fun nights. Things that are simple but create a family and a home.”
A strong social outreach mission, informed by Christianity, but based also on evidence which sadly shows that the surrounding district is one of the most deprived wards in Northern Ireland, is already high on the ASCA agenda.
Rev Ferry said welfare officer, Michael Gallagher, is already inundated with requests for advice and information from parishioners.
His work will now be transferred from the Association’s temporary base in Melrose Place with the new facility up-and-running.
“It’s different in that people sometimes aren’t too comfortable going to social services because it’s seen as very formal,” explained Rev Ferry.
“That’s a very strong service that we’ve introduced here,” he added. “Again we’ve found people have a lot of pride about coming and asking for what are termed benefits. “These are entitlements that people have worked all their lives for but they don’t like going down to the dole office to ask for something.”
He said the new centre will hopefully provide a homely and informal setting for people to get things off their chests.
“When they come down here they have a cup of tea and talk through their situation and before they know it someone’s saying: ‘You know you’re entitled to this?’
“That has been a really strong part of the home aspect,” he added.
Sadly, the Association has seen a sharp upturn in usage of the welfare service as a result of the economic downturn. This underlines how important a service it is.
“It’s busy for us. As the economy bites - we’re getting more and more families drawn into that. Men that are unemployed and can’t get any work.
“He (Michael Gallagher) also meets people on home visits. It’s about serving. You have to go out and serve in the community. That’s an extension of what we have been doing,” he said.
Rev Ferry says that in the past a rector’s ministry may have been solely confined to the pastoral and the spiritual. Now, he says, the parish can also offer social support.
“Fifty years or twenty years ago an old couple may have been living together, the man dies, and you would go out to the widow and say: ‘Are you OK?’
“Now I can go out and say: ‘Do you need anything sorted or your forms filled? We have someone who does all that for you.’
“It gives our ministry a real life, which we didn’t have before. I don’t know anything about the benefits schemes.
“I don’t know anything about the business of it but we discuss it and tell people we do have this support which extends beyond the spiritual and pastoral that I do.”
Although, it’s about more than just bricks-and-mortar it was also clear that something needed to be done with the old hall when the decision to re-build was taken a few years ago.
“The old hall was no longer fit for 21st century engagement with the community,” said Rev Ferry.
“The decision was then taken to knock it down and rebuild it - a very courageous decision. We then got funding through the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).
“We now have this purpose built facility for the first time ever, because before it was an old school, it’s now purpose built.”
In a fitting nod to the past the new hall incorporates twin port-hole style windows with cracked mortar extant, which date from the original building.
“Once the decision was made to level it and have something that was purpose-built we could then put something into place that was going to serve.
“We have the legacy of the past and we want to build on that legacy and take it into the future,” said Rev Ferry.
Now the hall is open ASCA are keen to get people back in the door and using it. The Association has 16 core groups that have used the facilities in the past and hopes to attract more.
Equally, the Association is inviting anyone who has an interest in volunteering to come along and help out.
“We’ve got to use it. We haven’t created an ornament here. It’s not something to look at. It’s very beautiful to look at. But we’ve created a space to be used, that’s efficient and affordable,” Rev Ferry said.
Refreshingly, Rev Ferry doesn’t labour the cross-community aspect of the Association although this will undoubtedly help in drawing down funding. ‘Cross-community’ isn’t even a part of the conversation. It something the hall was always used for, he says.
“I think it was finally recognised that the huge work that went on in the Stewart Memorial Hall was of a cross-community nature.
“I don’t want that to be the thing. That’s not the message. We’ve had that argument,” he said.
“Every other group now says they are cross-community. They are trying to create cross-community. Ours has been very organic.
“The cross-community thing is something we’ve never had to talk about. We’ve always done it, even at times when it was difficult to do,” he added.
Additional to the construction of the new hall and the ambitious social outreach work being undertaken from the new headquarters, plans are also afoot to launch an impressive new digital archive and timeline charting the history of the church, hall and parish.
The project is a happy offshoot of the move and is being run by Project Officer Norman McCorkell and local parishioner George Kees, who have compiled a range of old archive photographs.
ASCA secured £10k in Big Lottery Funding to create the archive, which will be accessible through a new website and a £4k visitor kiosk at the Memorial Hall itself both of which will be launched in the near future.
If anyone is interested in any of the services provided at the Stewart Memorial Hall, in using the facility, or in volunteering at the ASCA, get in touch with Norman McCorkell on 02871349348; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Weather for Londonderry
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: South west