Revamped B-listed church wants to do more for community

Blackhall St Columba's on Queensferry Road has raised more than �1 million to revamp its building.
Blackhall St Columba's on Queensferry Road has raised more than �1 million to revamp its building.
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A CITY church has raised more than £1 million to revamp its building and open it up to the community – and needs to find the same again to complete its vision.

Blackhall St Columba’s on Queensferry Road already hosts a wide range of regular activities but it says there are not many other halls in the area for community use and it wants to improve its accessibility.

The £2.2m project will see a major redevelopment of the sanctuary, halls and entrances, removing the pews, renewing the heating system and creating more space.

Work is expected to start on phase one of the project in 
May. It will see the sanctuary transformed into a friendly space with greater flexibility, movable seating and a café 
area. There will be a new entrance and vestibule and an upgrade for the church office and vestry.

Project director Fay Sinclair said the pews would be replaced by chairs, there would be new flooring and the current “dark and imposing” doors would also be replaced.

“We’re putting in glass doors to make it more welcoming,” she said.

“The whole ethos of the project is to make the whole church and hall more accessible and relevant to current users and others we hope will use it in the future.

“There is not really any other community hall in Blackhall and many non-church organisations use our hall.

“While this is building a solid base for our Christian ministry it is also a commitment to the wider community going forward.”

The church – which has a congregation of around 225 on a Sunday morning – raised £1.1m in just nine months, from within the congregation and the sale of a building it owned.

Services will be have to be moved into the hall for around nine months while the work takes place. Phase one is scheduled for completion by February 2020

And fundraising for phase two has already begun with a couple of concerts and a Christmas tree festival which saw 42 decorated trees on show in the church from church and community organisations and local businesses.

The second phase will concentrate on the church halls, turning them into a community hub fit for the 21st century.

The building is already used by brownies, guides, scouts, Edinburgh Floral Art Club 
and Blackhall Horticultural Society, as well as for art classes, zumba classes and dance classes.

But the revamp will create more rooms and more flexible space.

Ms Sinlcair said: “It is a big project, a very significant redevelopment. People are excited about it, we’ve seen that in the response we have had so far – £1.1m is tremendous.”

The church, which is B-listed, was built in 1900 and has undergone previous redevelopments at roughly 30-year intervals, adding galleries and the south aisle; building hall; and then extending it.

Ms Sinclair said: “The work we’re doing is very sympathetic to existing building, but we’re making a space that’s relevant for the future.”