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Seven years of planning and five years of fundraising culminated in 'The Centre at St Thomas' Church' in Lancaster city centre throwing open its doors officially for the first time at the weekend. 

The centre is a major step forward for the mission of the Church of England in the Lancashire city and the team there were delighted to welcome four Bishops, the Mayor and Mayoress of Lancaster, Lancaster MP, Cat Smith ... and around 300 local residents through the doors on the big day. 

The open day on Saturday offered an opportunity to see exhibitions of some of the community activities running in the new Centre; with guided tours every half hour. 

The amazing variety of activities on offer include the church's own children and families provision; their Asylum Seeker and Refugee Support Network; the St Thomas' pre-school centre; ‘Extra Time’ activities for older people; the Lyrics and Lunch group for those living with dementia and the Family Life Centre supporting parents and children.  

The Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, blessed the work of the new centre; announcing it officially open when he cut the ribbon with an extra-large pair of scissors! 

Bishop Julian praised the foresight and the vision of the church saying: "In bringing this exciting new parish centre to life I know the congregation of St Thomas' will make it a focus of faith and discipleship in Lancaster for many years to come. 

"It is real and tangible example of our work across the whole Diocese to have 'healthy churches transforming communities' in Lancashire supporting our Vision 2026 aims of making disciples, being witnesses and growing leaders for Jesus Christ."

St Thomas' Vicar, Rev Jon Scamman said: “We are delighted to see this seven-year project reach a successful outcome with the opening of the new centre today. This could not have been achieved without the hard work and dedication of many volunteers within the congregation; donations from various grant funders; generous congregation pledges and - most importantly - constant prayer as we navigated our way to this point.”

This generous giving of the congregation even extended to pledges of an additional £436,000 at the height of the pandemic; crucial to finishing the work on the new centre. 

MP Cat Smith added: “I want to congratulate our vicar, Jon Scamman, for stewarding this project through a pandemic to see the impressive three storey structure we have opened today. Churches aren't buildings, and, without an active Christian community, it would be merely bricks and mortar with solar panels on top!

"It's the congregation and the community together who have built this fantastic facility and will fill it with all the community outreach and activities that mean St Tees will play a vibrant, engaging role in the City of Lancaster for generations to come." 

  • The Centre at St. Thomas’ Church took 18 months to construct. Fundraising, congregation pledges and grant donations mean that the cost of the £2.5m centre will be met in full. Rooms are available to hire. More information is available via the church website (www.st.tees.org.uk) or by calling the church office on 01524 590410.

Captions for the above photos

  • Pic A - Cut above: The moment when the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, cut the ribbon to declare the parish centre at St Thomas’ open.
  • Pic B - All Smiles (l to r): The Mayoress of Lancaster Mrs Margaret Greenall; the Mayor Coun Mike Greenall; Council Chief Executive Caroline Jackson; Archdeacon of Lancaster the Venerable David Picken; Cat Smith, Lancaster MP; Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley; Rev Jon Scamman, Vicar of St Thomas’; Bishop Cyril Ashton, retired Bishop of Doncaster; Rev Helen Scamman, Associate Vicar at St Thomas’; Bishop Sam Corley, Bishop of Stockport; Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn and Tony Grimshaw, Duchy of Lancaster.
  • Pic C - Dreaming spire: The Vicar, Rev Jon Scamman and his wife and the Associate Vicar, Rev Helen Scamman, in front of the new parish centre and with the church spire behind.
  • Pic D - Top priority: At the top of the house; young members of St Thomas’ church family relaxing in their dedicated space on the top floor.
  • Pic E - All aboard: Members of the various church and community organisations who took part in the opening day.