Planning for the major renovation and rebuilding project, began six years ago, but in February 2019, the upgrading and refurbishment of parts of the existing halls began, with work also taking place to demolish the old prefabricated halls to make way for a new extension. This would connect the old buildings with the new for the first time, making for one interconnected church building. The work took a year and was completed in March 2020, just before the first Covid lockdown. Having been invited twice, and cancelled twice, due to the ensuing lockdowns, Dr Bruce was able to dedicate the new complex.
The much anticipated event was witnessed via a live link by those in the main church building, and in the overspill hall for morning worship, along with many people watching online. Speaking after the service Dr Bruce said, “To see the result of a vision for the future come to fruition in this way, knowing that it has involved much patience and prayer, coupled with faithful sacrificial giving, and precise planning, is a very welcome and inspirational sight.
“It was a pleasure to be able to finally dedicate these halls to the glory of God, which will serve the ministry of Bloomfield Presbyterian in a way that will assist the congregation in its stated aim, ‘to know Jesus and share his love’ for many, many years to come. I hope and pray that this new space, designed and built with such care, will be used as a gathering place for the people of God, and a place of welcome for all,” he said.
Reflecting on the current times, the Moderator continued, “To be here today is another sign of the new and slowly changing times we are seeing, for which we all give thanks. My prayer for my brothers and sisters in Christ in Bloomfield, as they get used to each other again, occupying the same space, albeit socially distanced, as they take time to gather again, opening up and hearing God’s word together, along with churches up and down the land, my prayer is that the familiarity of it would begin to spark and glow in their minds and hearts afresh.”
Sitting on the corner of Cyprus Avenue and the Beersbridge Road in east Belfast, Bloomfield Presbyterian opened in 1897, close to the Belfast and County Down railway to Newcastle. Twenty years later its halls, which have been refurbished as part of the regeneration work, opened. Today the church draws around 340 families from the local area and further afield.
While the new halls had to be mothballed, they have been used to accommodate the return to in-person socially-distanced worship from July to December last year, and since worship returned again for Easter this year. A relocated and enlarged kitchen in the new complex has also been used to continue the work of one of Bloomfield’s outreach ministries, the ‘Soup Club’ to the local district.
The new halls will be a fresh and spacious resource for the congregation and the community. The work has enabled the existing Megaw Hall to be extended, with a new welcome area and breakout rooms. The new complex includes a sports hall, large kitchen, washrooms and a minor hall, with the Session Room, small hall, and meeting rooms above.
Thanking the Moderator for coming, sharing God’s Word, and officially opening the new complex, Bloomfield’s minister, the Very Rev Dr Frank Sellar, said that while so much planning had gone into the new halls, no one could have foreseen the pandemic that what would come so soon after their completion, preventing their use.
“Looking back at the photographs of that Sunday in January in 2019, when we used the old halls for the last time, seems like a very different world. Over the next 12 months so much work was undertaken, from the demolition of the 1960s prefabricated hall, to the new build itself, to the painting and furnishing of the complex, all to get us to the point when we could dedicate and use them for the Glory of God and the benefit of the community around us. Then in March 2020, Covid hit, and everything changed,” Dr Sellar said.
“They have effectively been mothballed since then, with the Moderator invited to come and officially open them twice, only to be politely cancelled on each occasion due to the first and then second lockdowns. Dr Bruce has been very accommodating, and I give thanks that he has been able finally to open them for us. I also wold like to thank everyone who also made this day possible,” Dr Sellar said.
With 77% of the cost of the project already funded, leaving £450,000 to raise, looking to the future, Bloomfield’s minister said he very much looked forward the halls being used by both church and community, from the Boys’ Brigade and Girl Guides, to parents and tots, dads and toddlers breakfast group, to Bloomfield’s Charis Youth Club for children and young adults with autism and additional needs, to PW and bowls.
“The money raised also purposely included a tithe of £180,000 for overseas mission, with £80,000 having already gone to our partners coping with Covid conditions in Rwanda. The opening of the halls also comes at a very happy time for Bloomfield. Our leadership team has expanded with 10 new elders ordained recently, so it is a nice coming together of both spiritual and physical elements of growth that has brought us to a good place, as we anticipate the future, and all God has instore for his people in this part of the city.”
Photos: (1) The Moderator, Dr David Bruce, having unveiled the plaque to mark the dedication of the new church halls, is pictured with former Moderator and current minister of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church, Very Reverend Dr Frank Sellar (2) An aerial view of the east Belfast church showing the old church building with the new integrated church call complex (3) the prefabricated halls before demolition that were put up in the 1960s, initially for use over the next 20 years (4) the exterior of the old halls, now an interior wall joining together the old and new buildings.