Many churches want to reach out into the community, but not too many choose to do so by buying a pub. Holy Trinity in St Austell has done exactly that.

Holy Trinity sits at the centre of St Austell, presiding at the top of Fore Street, circled by a road and its community. The pub, the centuries old Hop and Vine, is on the opposite side of the road, next to the market square. Earlier this year, the church bought the now disused pub, knowing it would be a great way to connect with their community.  But  how would they raise the money to renovate it and make it a workable space?

Like all things at Holy Trinity, buying a pub started with prayer

Prayer is the bedrock of life at Holy Trinity, and the pub venture was something they prayed about consistently. Heather Batho, the church’s Operations Manager, explained the vision. “We have recently become part of Transforming Mission, which has been very exciting, but we knew if we really wanted to make an impact on our town, we had to be more visible. Buying the Hop and Vine means we have the potential to become a genuine community resource – we will be able to offer a community café, space for many groups including parenting, divorce recovery and Christians Against Poverty (CAP), a debt counselling service.”

“We knew if we really wanted to make an impact on our town, we had to be more visible,” Heather Batho, Operations Manager

The historic square that exist between the church, the pub and the market house will be emphasised by taking down some of the railings outside of the church and levelling the ground between them. This opens  the space, creating an events and community space – a vital resource once this pandemic recedes. The space will be called Trinity Square.

But isn’t buying a pub and converting it to a community centre expensive?

Obviously, all of this requires not just the building, but money. The pub is currently arranged over 13 different levels, so converting it to a useful community space means careful planning and investment. The church had hoped to initiate a fundraising drive up to Easter this year, but a global pandemic de-railed that. Instead, the team kept the vision alive by continuing to pray and leading the community in a series of talks about what community could look like and the importance of giving.

This culminated in a gift day at the beginning of October. They knew they had the possibility of a grant for £96,000 from St Austell’s heritage fund, but that relied on them being able to match-fund it. So they had a task ahead. It’s often said that if God is behind something, stand back and watch it set sail. That certainly seems to be the case at Holy Trinity. From their one gift day they raised £200,000!

From one gift day, Holy Trinity raised £200,000!

“It was such a blessing,” says Heather. “We received £200k on the day with an additional £88,000 pledged via longer-term giving. We can also claim £46,000 in tax recovery through Gift-aid. This means we have been able to match-fund and therefore access the £96,000 grant. So together we have raised £420,000 which is absolutely brilliant. So we can begin the work and hopefully open at the end of next summer.”

Work has indeed begun. A team of volunteers are currently in the pub, stripping it out to make way for the substantial works to begin. The project will require further funding, but it’s a great start. The team will be able to approach funders beyond their community, who will hopefully be encouraged by the wealth of local support.

The impact of becoming more visible

As part of the scheme of works, Holy Trinity hopes to complete some re-ordering. It began with installing glass doors making everything within the church visible from the outside, including as you walk up the hill. In addition, they want to put the historic Victorian pews on castors so they can be wheeled around to create more usable space for activities.

“Opening the church with the glass doors has had a huge impact. We have definitely increased footfall to the church and bridged that perceived gap between community and congregation.” Says Heather who believes that keeping the community informed has been key to their success. As the works progress, they plan to have film footage showing from the display window at the front of the pub, keeping everyone invested by keeping the wider community informed.

Huge congratulations to the team at Holy Trinity. It’s a space to watch and a Transforming Mission resource to learn from as they continue to root the church in Jesus’ command to love one another, by making the church community facing and focused.

Holy Trinity in St Austell

Holy Trinity sits at the top of Fore Street, the main shopping street in St Austell