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Reclaiming and repurposing an old vicarage

by Michael Ford last modified 03 Feb, 2022 10:52 AM

After driving past an old vicarage being used as a language school during his holidays in the 80s, Joe Hobday, Youthwork Pioneer, has shared his excitement as Radipole and Melcombe Regis Parish has re-acquired the building. It is now to serve the community and the church in countless ways as Hope House, and Joe has come full circle to lead the project.

Sitting grandly on the same land as St John's Church, Weymouth, and almost as impressive as the church building itself, what looks big and overwhelming on the outside, is light, airy, and welcoming on the inside. A perfect place for community, youth, and business – which is exactly how the Parish of Radipole and Melcombe Regis wish Hope House to be used, after having visions of such a ministry well before the building was up for sale. They have even just installed a ramp and accessible toilet, to ensure no one is excluded, and Joe has visions of a community garden to make use of the lush space outside:  

"Where we're based is in the Park District, and it's got a very similar socio economic makeup to Tower Hamlets in London. So, a social garden would be absolutely fantastic - where the community can get involved, and they can also come and pick from what's there.    

"My passion as a youth worker is that we are connected with our community, and work alongside them."   

The operations and financing of the house have been carefully thought out so that the work with the community can have longevity. Upstairs from the airy function rooms on the ground floor are four spaces being rented out by local businesses, including a pottery studio for a member of St John's congregation. There is even a further floor, where a cosy space awaits for the Sunday youth group.  
It wasn't always community hub though, and God certainly intervened in getting the vicarage back into the Parish's possession. Joe tells us more:  
"The guy who owned the building put it up for sale through a local estate agent, who asked if we might be interested, but it was on the market for £600,000. The Parish leaders prayed about it and felt God say "yes," so the next question was "where is the money coming from?"  
"Long story short, they purchased the property with no mortgage. There was a lot of sacrificial giving, and a property sold to a trust. The last pennies came in on deadline day. And so, in 2018, the building was purchased for the sole purpose of serving this community, serving the parish, and serving the people around here."  
Hope House has begun its journey on extremely special foundations, having been bought with the generous giving of members of the community who believe in its purpose. In the words of Joe, it has been "built on God's providence."  
And it seems God also intervened to provide Joe as the Youth Pioneer for Hope House. After a family member proposed that he and his wife move to the area, he found himself looking for a job:  
"On 4 June, we said yes to moving. On 6 June I contacted the vicar, Tom Coopey, because there was an advert for children and families work, but he asked for a Zoom and told me about the role I'm in now. He had been wondering a couple of days beforehand if I'd ever be in the area again, as he could only think of one person who would want the task of running Hope House. We went through the process of application and interview, and it seemed like God opened, moved, provided everything. I began on 1 November. The adventure begins."  

The Revd Tom Coopey adds: "The opportunity to buy the old Vicarage came at time when the Parish had started to talk and pray about developing a new ministry to children and young people in Weymouth. Once we knew the Vicarage was for sale – it became so clear that it would be an ideal base for what we wanted to do. We didn’t have the funds available but knew this was the right thing. We were then amazed by how generous people in the Parish were, and eventually we had what we needed to make the purchase. It is now so exciting to see the vision starting to become a reality!"  
Joe is now overseeing the youth work for five churches in the parish, which includes making the best use of Hope House. From Youth Alpha, to bringing in drugs advisors and the probation service, to parenting courses, as well as simply providing an accessible space that other community groups and schools can use, it is fittingly set to be a hub of activities and courses that will bring hope, and change the lives of those in the local area.   
If you would like to know more about Hope House or support them in their work, click here.  

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