St Mary’s parish church, based in the heart of Ballybeen estate in East Belfast, has invested over a half million pounds as part of a major refurbishment programme with support from Ulster Bank.
The investment enables St Mary’s to better meet the needs of the church and wider community through the many outreach programmes it facilitates and comes as it continues its vital work as council-sponsored Covid-19 Response Relief Centre for the Dundonald and Ballygowan communities.
Phase One of the works included the construction of a new welcome foyer and office space as well as the refurbishment of the main church hall, essential electrical and heating upgrades, and improving accessibility through the provision of disabled access ramps, accessible toilets and baby changing facilities.
Church Treasurer David Manning says: “Essential to the delivery of church and community services in a modern ministry is modern facilities that can adequately support our vision and work. Our existing church and hall have served us and the wider community well over the years, but our outreach work continues to grow and so too does our congregation.
“The pandemic has also shown us the importance of having access to services and support networks within our communities. We have long recognised the need to upgrade our facilities, but the past year highlighted the urgency of the works and just how vital church services are for many of our neighbours.”
David says the church received approval for the development several years ago, but access to finance had delayed the project.
“Thanks to the support of Ulster Bank and our Business Development Manager, Keith, whose expert guidance and receptiveness to our vision was hugely encouraging, we’ve now completed phase one of the project.”
Keith Thompson, Business Development Manager at Ulster Banks, says: “We’re very pleased to deliver a funding package that has enabled the team at St Mary’s, Ballybeen to progress with its redevelopment works. These upgrades will ensure the church’s facilities are fit for purpose for a modern ministry and will provide a solid foundation for the church to continue to grow and deliver its services in the community for many years to come.”
St Mary’s, Ballybeen runs a range of support and outreach ministries and programmes for the local community, including an Over 60s lunch club, Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, a Parent & Toddler Group and Junior Youth Club.
During the Covid-19 pandemic it became the area Covid-19 Response Relief Centre and to date has facilitated the delivery of almost 1,400 food parcels, 700 meals and 500 meat parcels to vulnerable members of the community. It has also been involved in helping to deliver prescriptions and facilitating payment of essential utilities for those who either cannot get out or who find themselves in financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. In addition, at Easter it distributed 107 Afternoon Tea boxes to seniors and the most vulnerable in the church community and 180 Pizza boxes to children and young people.
Keith, who has dedicated his career to banking, is set to retire from Ulster Bank this month after 40 years of service supporting hundreds of SMEs across Northern Ireland to invest and grow. His colleague, Lee White, Business Development Manager, will take up the post.