Although up and running for only a few weeks, the new Open Door Centre – created inside what was once Christ Church School – is already proving highly popular with the elderly and the wider community.
The prospect of buying back the flint-faced former schoolhouse, last used by the Red Cross, and re-opening it as a drop-in facility for the elderly and resource centre for the community, has been a long-cherished ambition, dating back to 2008.
In the intervening years, Christ Church raised £800,000 in individual donations, obtained £230,000 in grants and secured the remainder through a bank loan – an achievement that the Bishop said was an exemplary example of the determination to make the life and work of the church as open and inclusive as possible.
At a packed service to celebrate the dedication of the new centre (13.5.2017), David Parry, chair of the John Trotter trustees, thanked all those who had made donations, organised fund-raising event, and the 18 trusts and charities that had made contributions.
Christ Church’s decision to invest so much effort into establishing the Open Door Centre reflected the needs of a rapidly ageing population.
More people aged over 65 lived in Barnet than any other the London borough bar Bromley. Barnet had more residents over 95 than any other London borough, and High Barnet had more older residents than the rest of the borough.
The Bishop praised Christ Church’s initiative in recognising the need to create greater opportunities for the elderly within the London area.
“The massive population increase across London has come from younger people, and there are not many boroughs like Barnet that are seeing an increase in older people.
“The urban church must organise itself to meet these challenges, and we are in danger of neglecting the needs of the elderly, especially when London is being driven by a younger demographic. Your very name, Open Door, creates something that is inter-generational.”
In his opening remarks, the Bishop paid tribute to Christ Church for installing glass doors at its entrances.
“Sometimes people find it difficult to enter church buildings. People find it hard to cross our threshold for the first time. Churches are not always welcoming and our entrances need to say come in, not keep out.”
During the restoration of the schoolhouse, builders uncovered the original 1844 foundation stone for Christ Church School.
After the Bishop had cut the ribbon to the entrance to the Open Door Centre, and unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit, a celebratory tea party was held inside the church.
The cake was cut by two former Christ Church School pupils, Pat Barnham (nee Manceni) who was a pupil in 1945, and Nora Thorburn (nee Stevens) who attended in 1933.