A Service of Praise and Thanksgiving was held in Kilmakee Parish on Sunday January 30 to mark the redevelopment of St Hilda’s Church.
The existing church in Seymour Hill is to be demolished, and a new church and a 76-bed nursing home are to be built on the site.
Mr Gilbert Yates, Managing Director of the Prime Care Group which is behind the development, said the new buildings will act as a catalyst in stimulating new life in the community and will bring much needed employment in both the construction and health care sector.
The Church of Ireland first held services in the new housing estates of Seymour Hill and Conway in Kilmakee Orange Hall on May 20 1956. Two years later, on May 17 1958, a dual purpose church and hall was dedicated to St Hilda. As the area expanded so rapidly, the Parish of Kilmakee was constituted on August 1 1964, and a new church consecrated on December 19 1970. Since then the church has organised a wide range of activities for all ages open to the entire community.
But in recent years it has become apparent that the buildings needed to be upgraded and repaired. “The roof has caused problems and has leaked for many years and we would just have to keep spending money on it,” said the rector of St Hilda’s, the Rev David Boyland.
On the advice of the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, the church made contact with the developer. “It was the answer to our prayers,” said Mr Boyland. “We were praying for a new roof and now we are getting the walls and all!”
He added: “This new building will not only solve our enormous maintenance problems, it will give us a modern, user friendly building that will be much more suitable for the sort of outreach ministries that are emerging.”
The new building will include a church, offices, a prayer room, a cafe, a hall and a minor hall.
Mr Boyland said the development would create around 100 construction jobs and 80 full time care jobs. “This will give a great boost in an area that has very high unemployment,” he said. “The nursing home will provide 76 beds that are greatly needed in an area with an ageing population.”
The inclusion of a cafe is an extra dimension which will make the church building more welcoming for people. “They will not feel like they are coming into a church, the idea of which can be terrifying for some people,” the rector said.
Mr Boyland admitted there was some sadness at the imminent levelling of the old St Hilda’s. “Being a relatively new church there are quite a substantial number of the congregation would have been to the fore in the building of it back in 1969. They put a lot of work into it and have seen their children baptised and married there, and have held the funerals of their loved ones in the church.
“It does have a place in people’s hearts but they see that unless we do something we really won’t have a church building in 10 years time, it would have fallen down around us.”
Some elements of the old church will be included in the design of the new church building, including stained glass windows and church furniture. An appeal has been launched for sponsorship of new church furnishings and anyone interested in making a donation can contact the Kilmakee Parish office on 028 9061 1024.
Looking to the future Mr Boyland said: “Our vision for the new church and hall is that it will be a blessing to the whole community as they come in and experience the love and healing power of Christ as we seek to serve them.”
Preacher at the well attended Service of Praise and Thanksgiving on January 30 was Canon Alex Cheevers. Services will continue to be held in St Hilda’s until work begins later this year.