Almost every day for the past 25 years, St Bryce Kirk (formerly St Brycedale Church) has opened its doors to the public, and from Sunday it is holding a week of celebrations to mark its silver anniversary.
It took two years of construction work, using mainly unemployed workers, to transform the inside of the large, traditional Victorian church into a modern multi-purpose facility for church and community use.
In the mid-1980s there was recognition that the imposing landmark was used for little more than one morning a week and gave little return for its running and maintenance costs.
The car park, level access and good central location lent itself to far more than the congregation required and a bold and imaginative project was born.
It caused quite a stir, with some church members and others in the community vigorously opposed to the change. However, the vast majority of members followed the Kirk Session’s lead that action had to be taken to preserve the future of the church. The last service took place in August 1987.
Managed through Kirkcaldy District Council, the community programme was funded by the government’s Manpower Services Commission. Construction and renovation work took two years, with the congregation worshipping in the Boys’ Brigade halls in Victoria Road.
Inside the building was gutted – the pews, pulpit, choir stalls and floorboards taken out, and a huge hole knocked through the wall to create what is now the double glass doors into the foyer.
A new steel structure was erected inside, with steel sheeting and poured concrete for the new floor at what was gallery level. This meant the church itself would be upstairs and a whole new set of rooms and a coffee bar would be created on the ground floor.
At the end of August 1989, the building was reopened. An open day was held and hundreds of people came to see the end result.
With a busy college directly opposite the centre, many staff and students came in to use the new facilities, initially for lectures, but pretty soon discovering the coffee bar offering good quality, reasonably priced food and snacks. Beryl Luke, the former centre manager, helped it to flourish, and soon the number of staff had to be increased, both in the office and the kitchen.
A popular playgroup and the Youth Training Scheme, run by the congregation, moved into the new centre, quickly followed by many other groups from the church and local community. The upstairs space was soon being used for concerts, conferences, meetings, exhibitions, dance displays and lots more.
And the Sunday morning congregation benefited from more comfortable seats, flexibility and a warm sense of community in a building that could seat 450 people.
Fair Isle Primary School were regular visitors while their new school was being built.
Today, over 50 organisations continue to use the facilities, while a team of around 30 volunteers staff the coffee bar and catering staff provide snacks, lunches and catering for conferences, and around 150 cooked lunches once a week for the elderly.
Rev. Ken Froude, minister of St Bryce Kirk, said: “Many thousands of people have come through the doors of the centre in the last 25 years. Some will ask as they come in ‘Is it still a church?’ The answer is an emphatic ‘YES’ and we aim to provide a very warm welcome to all.”
Week of special events
To celebrate the centre’s 25 years, a programme with a special week of events has been organised.
It will kick off on Sunday, August 31, with a special Thanksgiving Service, which will be held in the Church at 11.00 a.m. with a particular emphasis on making the change. This will be followed by a Silver Soup Lunch.
On Monday, September 1, there is an Open Evening for with displays from the various groups which use the centre.
Tuesday, September 2, is 25 pence day in the coffee bar, when selected items will be priced at 25p. On that day, volunteers past and present have been invited to a special afternoon tea.
On Wednesday, September 3, there is a musical evening in the church at 7.30 p.m. when all visitors will be welcome.
Thursday, September 4, will see user groups of the centre, past and present, invited to a reception to celebrate the anniversary.
And Friday, September 5, at 7.00 p.m. is a 1989 film night featuring ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.’
People of all ages are invited along on Saturday, September 6, from 2–4.00 p.m. when there will be an All Age Church Family Party. Tickets should be bought in advance from reception in the centre.
And the week will culminate on Sunday, September 7 with a Songs of Praise service at 11.00 a.m. All welcome.