The Grace Centre
In 1900 a mission hall was planted in nearby Mornington Road by the St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Bolton, initially to teach children. With the success of the mission, a church and hall were built on Somerset Road, and in 1910 Somerset Road Presbyterian Church was opened. The congregation grew, apparently attracting people of mainly Scottish origin until the congregation was able to support its own minister independently of St Andrew's Church. All the children's uniformed organisations flourished and there were meetings for men, young wives and women, and a drama society.
Decline in the cotton industry led some of the families that attended the church to move away, and then later Muslim and Hindu families began moving into the area around the building. Concern grew about the cost of ministry and maintaining the buildings with lack of income and declining attendances. The church (by now Somerset Road United Reformed Church) joined the Bolton North Group of ten churches in 1974, but this was not felt to be a satisfactory arrangement and so after much debate a group of three churches was formed with one minister.
In 1992-93 it was decided to refurbish the church and hall, which was achieved through much fund raising and effort and completed by 2001. There was now a warm, comfortable church with new kitchens, and toilets with disabled facilities. However, with the congregation noticeably ageing, increasing levels of dampness and dry rot forced a decision to close because of the cost of repairs. The final service was held in August 2002.
Meanwhile in November 2001 the congregation of Grace Church had begun meeting in the adjacent Devonshire Road School. With the desire to see their building continue to be used as a place of Christian worship, the congregation of Somerset Road URC asked if they would like to buy their building. The offer was gratefully accepted and in June 2003 the purchase was completed and Grace Church moved in, renaming the building as 'The Grace Centre'.
A prophetic word given to Grace Church around the time of purchasing the building was: "The building is like a flagpole; the wind of the Spirit is blowing us (the congregation) out like a flag for the people around to see. This is what will attract people to us." This word has strengthened our belief, in line with Biblical principles, that the physical building is just a meeting place and a 'mission station', and that the people are God's true church.
In March 2016 we changed our name from Bolton Family Church to Grace Church. This was to reflect the name by which a number of people in the local community already know us as (due to the name of The Grace Centre)
When Grace Church purchased the building in 2003 a professional survey showed that there were numerous structural problems affecting the building due to poor maintenance over a long period of time. In particular there were severe problems with dampness and dry rot which, if left unchecked, would soon render the building unsafe.
Short-term measures were taken to control the spread of the dry rot, while a longer-term strategy was put in place to remedy the cause of the problems. Church members have generously given their time to do some of the more basic & labour-intensive jobs, and their money to raise funds for the bigger jobs requiring professional expertise. Funds have been supplemented by grants from bodies such as English Heritage and Veolia Environmental Trust.
In July 2007 the first phase of major restoration work was commenced with a budget of around £200,000, which was completed in February 2008. The chief elements of this were to renew the roof, guttering and drainage to the main church building.
In 2010 further restoration works were undertaken to the lounge, small hall and toilets, costing around £20,000. This completed the more urgent works, especially the eradication of dry rot from the entire building.
In 2017/18 we re-roofed and refurbished the small hall, making it a far more comfortable and versatile meeting room. A grant from Viridor Credits helped us raise the £90,000 required for this.
There is also another dimension to the restoration works that inspires us all the more. In 2003 a prophetic word was given to the church that, "The physical restoration of the Grace Centre is to be prophetic of the restoration that God wants to bring to the community around us." This is helping us to have faith that as we pray for and serve the community, God is at work restoring people's very lives through the power of the gospel.