By Rev Canon Dr Neal Barnes, Vicar of Holy Trinity
Step outside the great west doors of Holy Trinity Church and you see a scene of upheaval – workmen, diggers, exposed earth and piles of the first of the new materials that will create a fabulous refurbished Trinity Square.
And, of course, lots of the ubiquitous orange barriers that can be seen all over the city centre as key sites are transformed in readiness for Hull’s year as UK City of Culture. It’s a scene that reflects a city undergoing rejuvenation and investment on a scale not seen for generations.
We are proud that Holy Trinity is symbolic of this regeneration and at the centre of the change.
Eighteen months ago we announced our £4.5m development project which involves significant internal and external changes that amount to no less than a transformation of our magnificent 700-year-old church. Now we can see the transformation taking effect.
Remarkable things are happening in a city which has suffered decades of deprivation and derision. A new Hull is emerging, including the renewal of an amazing place that is as old as Kingston upon Hull itself.
Any change can be difficult and change on such a scale is naturally uncomfortable. Concern has been expressed about the disruption caused by the £25m programme of public realm improvements and, with building work all around us, we certainly appreciate the challenges many people and businesses are experiencing.
But we are hugely encouraged that, after so long in the shadows, our city has the confidence to seize its moment and capitalise on a time of unprecedented opportunity.
We also know regeneration and investment are desperately needed in Hull because our work involves engaging with many of the most disenfranchised and disadvantaged sections of the community. The official statistics tell their own story – Hull is ranked as the third most deprived local authority area in England and our parish is the 26th most deprived of 12,700 in the Church of England.
So Hull faces huge challenges, but we believe in our city, we believe in its exciting future and we believe Holy Trinity will be at the heart of it.
The works currently under way are uniting our churchyard with Trinity Square to create a showpiece events area and gathering place during 2017 and beyond.
The next phase will see the Nave remodelled to create a flexible space for worship and events. Then we will add an extension to provide a kitchen and serving area for a high-quality café, and refurbish the east end of the church, including new displays to showcase Holy Trinity’s extraordinary heritage.
Crucially, the development project will open up new income streams to create a sustainable future for the church and its good work, for generations to come.
The transformation of Holy Trinity is a story of local people doing it for themselves. The clergy, congregation, the wider community and local business leaders have come together to forge an exciting future for the church, breathe new life into Hull’s Old Town and create a catalyst for regeneration in the heritage heart of the city.
We are encouraged that we have raised almost two thirds of the total we need to realise our exciting vision. We want to thank all of those who have donated large sums and others who have made real sacrifices to support the project more modestly. We urge all of those who believe in our vision to help us to raise the remaining amount we need to deliver our plans in full.
We are also so encouraged that, after 700 years, Holy Trinity is as relevant to the life of the city as it has ever been. Our congregations are growing rapidly and we are reaching out to the local community in so many ways.
We support many people who are isolated, lonely and desperate for friendship and affirmation. Mental health problems and associated issues are very common. We have organised meals, gatherings, volunteer programmes and interest groups, but we have a vision to do so much more. We can only do this with the improved facilities that will be delivered through our development project.
Many more people are also coming through our doors. Recently more than 4,000 people came to Holy Trinity for the Hull Real Ale and Cider Festival. Once through the doors, they could see the potential of this amazing place and we could talk to them about our plans, the mission of the church and our excitement that, finally, Hull’s time has come.
Our city is changing for the better and we are proud to be part of it. Amid all the building work across our changing city, it feels to me like a new Holy Trinity and a new Hull is emerging from the rubble outside our doors.
· This article first appeared in the Yorkshire Post.