Community church open for business

Ex-Everton ace Duncan McKenzie cuts the ribbon with mayor Geoff Pearl
Ex-Everton ace Duncan McKenzie cuts the ribbon with mayor Geoff Pearl

A church and community venue is hoping to maintain its position at the heart of the community after opening its new extension.

Former Everton footballer Duncan McKenzie cut the ribbon to unveil the new orangery at Downall Green and Garswood Independent Methodist (IM) Church.

The opening represents the culmination of a decade of hard work for the congregation and local community, which raised around £20,000 to make the orangery a reality as well as receiving a £50,000 grant from waste company Biffa.

The venue, built on to the side of the church, contains a coffee bar which will allow residents to enjoy refreshments after services as well as sample sandwiches and cakes during the week.

The orangery will also become home to some of the many community groups which use Downall Green and Garswood IM as a base, including Knit and Natter, a card-making class, a book club and an organisation run by the local authority which repairs bicycles.

Melvin Riding, church president and chair of charity Action and Resources in the Community (Arc), which runs the venue’s community operations, said: “It’s a huge weight off our minds and it’s absolutely magnificent to see it open, it’s been a long time.

“It’s quite light and airy and it’s warm with comfortable seats. Everyone’s very happy with it.

“We raised about £10,000 towards the cost of the building then raised another £10,000 ourselves to fit it out, with grants from several other church and charities.”

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“We’ve had coffee mornings, raffles, special events, cake sales, anything you can name to raise the money we’ve done.

“It’s been a massive effort and there’s been tremendous support from the local community. What we’ve got to do now is make the old building look as good as the new one.

“It’s a bit like the Forth Bridge, it never stops and there’s always jobs to do.”

The orangery hosts community events and groups every day of the week, with everything from a dance academy to a mums and tots group and a prayer morning bringing together worshippers from different churches in Garswood.

Downall Green and Garswood IM, which also chips in by organising summer activities in the field behind a local pub and running days out for youngsters, is also hoping to reopen its youth club to continue developing its crucial role as a community asset in Garswood.

Mr Riding said: “People say we’re the heart of the community. If they want to do something they will come to us, people really trust us to help them to organise things for them.

“We’ve had really good support from councillors and MPs and even the local pub. The Mayor of St Helens was really pleased with what we were doing at the launch event.”

For more information about the church and orangery, visit www.