‘‘Church life is about serving the community,” said the Reverend Phillip Borkett of Highfield Trinity Church. “It always has been, but maybe we’ve lost that focus over the years.”
The community focus at Highfield Trinity off London Road was in the public eye as Lord Mayor Vickie Priestley, local MP Paul Blomfield, local councillor Jillian Creasy and Bishop of Hallam John Rawsthorne joined local congregations and community groups to celebrate the opening of the church’s new community rooms.
“Providing this kind of community space is one of the biggest things that churches do,” said Coun Creasy.
“It’s the legacy of community spirited good hearted people from the last two centuries, and it’s there for all of us. The trick is, it needs people to keep it going and Highfield Trinity have taken on that challenge.”
The Highfield Community Space has been taking shape in a £195,000 project to transform the church ground floor into larger, warmer and more accessible rooms with a kitchen, now one of the biggest community spaces in Sharrow, hosting cooking and recipe classes, Surestart, theatre, Zumba classes, health and welfare conferences, and art festivals.
“Our themes in the church and the community space are sanctuary, creativity and well-being,” said Phillip Borkett.
The work was funded by the Trusthouses Charitable Foundation, The Veolia Environmental Trust (via the Landfill Communities Fund), regional and local church trusts and by fundraising events by church congregations.
The Methodist Highfield Trinity church houses four congregations, with roots in Africa, Asia and the UK, and is full every Sunday from 10.30am to 6.30pm, said Phillip Borkett, but he sees the community work as equally important.
“To us it’s not just about going to church on Sunday, you’ve got to move out to where people are, and where people are hurting,” he said, “not because the government says so, but because that’s what the church is about: the old fashioned word ‘love’ in literal terms.”
Paul Blomfield MP said: “We need strong communities more than ever in these difficult times, with families facing reduced living standards and local groups having funds cut.
“Strong communities need good facilities and Highfield Trinity Church have done a great job developing this great new community space.”
The refurbishment includes a new office for the 48-year- old local charity providing help and care services for older Sheffielders, Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care, who are moving from their previous home at St Matthews church in Carver Street in the city centre.
“It’s been great to be in the city centre, but for us moving into a wonderful neighbourhood in Sharrow gives us an opportunity to work with new partners,” said SCCCC director Briony Broome. “There are all sorts of organisations here, and I think this will shine a light on what we do, and help us face out into the world in a new way.”
Briony added that the original aims were to work in partnership with other organisations, as well as churches, and the new home fits well with the Highfield Trinity ethos of forging partnerships to help people in need.
Last year SCCCC’s eight staff and 90 volunteers helped over 2,000 older people with simple tasks like shopping, moving furniture, and helping carers and patients when coming out of hospital.
Briony noted that the charity now helps much older people on average than when she started working for the organisation 15 years ago, with many in their late 80s and early 90s.
“We work with a staggering range of people, and in Sheffield there’s a really vibrant older population, lots of older people do lots of things, but there are also a lot of people to care about.”
There is a dilemma nowadays for churches and voluntary groups, added Phillip Borkett.
“We want to serve people, and we also have to stand up and say what’s wrong. Churches have to say: ‘This is not just’ when you see cutbacks from people who’ve got the least, where the poorest in society are having to pay the cost, financially and emotionally.
“We support a food bank, and it’s great that churches are doing their bit, but we also need to say there’s something wrong in a 21st century system that means people need handouts to survive.”