I spent a couple of hours this morning with my old friend Paul Hanna, who is now the centre manager at the St Barnabas Church Centre, Erdington.
In the early 2000s, St Barnabas was a declining late-Victorian inner city church, its future and purpose uncertain. And just when it seemed things couldn’t get any more difficult, in 2007 it was gutted by fire, probably as a consequence of an arson attack.
It has risen from the ashes in an extraordinary fashion. Gone are the blackened walls and darkly varnished oak of the usual Victorian church interior, replaced by cleaned stone that now has a pale, buttery warmth, slate floors and blonde wood — a serene and composed space that is also airy, modern and elegant.
Added to the original structure is an astonishingly graceful steel and glass extension that now houses a lovely cafe, meeting rooms, and at the top — a semi-circular glass ‘prow’ crowning the whole structure — the Light House events suite. These are amongst St Barnabas’s social enterprise and income-generation activities.
The building has wonderful details. The gorgeous altar-piece and chairs (what I now know is called liturgical furniture), the stunning new stained glass (Pippa Blackall), the beautiful ‘Christus Rex’ statue hanging above the entrance to the church (Peter Eugene Ball), the views afforded of the rest of the church from the upstairs meeting rooms.
Those looking for a great new meeting / conference venue in North Birmingham really ought to take a look at St Barnabas Church Centre — but do actually go there and see it. Nothing else does it justice. Oh, and one other thing, which I don’t think Paul will mind me saying. This morning I saw a man who is happy in his work.