Dear Upcott Supporter
Since arriving in Minehead 12 years ago, Upcott has continued to develop and bring young people into a relationship with Jesus, in the way it did for the previous 38 years in Seaton. God has been so generous in the blessings he has bestowed on the team, the children and the work of Upcott over these last 50 years. When Upcott began in 1968, the landscape of summer weeks for young people was very different to today. With its vision firmly anchored on the discipleship of young people, the work founded by Jeannie Rookley and Eileen Spiller used the beautiful setting of the cliff top in Seaton to bring young people into a relationship with God, utilising the property (kindly donated by John Perowne) as a summer location for those young people. This type of offering was relatively unique in its day, and Jeannie and Eileen were to some extent pioneers in this model.
The crumbling cliff top in Seaton meant a move from Seaton, and the Lord led us to Minehead. We continued the model upon arrival at The Beacon, in Minehead, catering ostensibly for young people in a dormitory style, again in a beautiful seaside location with sweeping views over the coast and countryside. Upgraded facilities including the swimming pool, woods and grounds made this location very suitable for the young people. However, over recent years the landscape for Christian youth holiday venues has changed significantly.
Firstly in terms of our target audience, there are now many more Christian summer holiday opportunities, including the likes of Soul Survivor, and we are competing more and more against these excellent events for our kids’ attention. Secondly, the layout of our accommodation, dormitory style, catering for kids, has become less and less attractive for weekend groups, which have been a significant contributor to our annual income for many years. These weekend groups, during the year, have heavily subsidised the annual costs of the Upcott property. However, the potential visitors for these weekend events more and more look for smaller rooms, more suitable for couples, still with en-suite facilities etc., and again there are many more locations offering much more suitable accommodation at competitive prices.
These two factors, combined with a reduction in our support base, have significantly reduced our income, and made the running of the property for the whole year too expensive for the Trust. As a result we have been running at a deficit for a number of years now, despite significantly reducing our overheads. We can no longer sustain this.
Having prayerfully considered these facts and the Lord’s will in this matter, the Trustees and Governing Body have decided to put The Beacon up for sale. This process can take as much as two years, for a large house such as The Beacon. It may be quicker than this. However, we felt it important to share this update directly with you all as our supporters.
This step does not change the vision of the Trust and its aim to bring young people into a relationship with Jesus. We are genuinely excited about the future for Upcott and all that the Lord has planned for us. We are currently working through what this means for the long term work of Upcott, of the structure and form for its work with young people, and how this will manifest itself.
At this time we are still planning to run the summer 2019 weeks, and it is our expectation that these will still be provided at The Beacon, taking into consideration that the sale of such a property can take some time. In the event that the property has been sold, we plan to run the weeks in an alternative location. We understand that this puts a little uncertainty into the schedule, but we do our best to minimise any disruption.
During the next 12 months we expect to define more clearly the future structure of Upcott and the Axe Valley Christian Trust, and how the work with young people will be taken forward. There are many details to be considered in this situation, and as Trustees and Governing Body we are working through these with the Team. Of course you may have questions about this matter, and we would be more than happy to answer them. However, as I am sure you will understand, there are many details which have not yet been worked out by us at this early stage, and would therefore respectfully ask that you don’t bombard us with lots of detailed questions. We are stepping out in faith that this is the right decision for Upcott and its future growth, and we would ask for your prayers, support and understanding at this time. The focus for us is continuing the vision of bringing young people into a relationship with Jesus, in a financially sustainable way, which is our responsibility as good stewards of what the Lord has provided.
If you do wish to ask a question on this matter, please feel free to email me at email@example.com, and, on behalf of the Trustees and Governing Body, and the Team, I will attempt to answer them.
We will keep you informed as matters progress and when there is news that we can update you with.
Chair of Trustees and Governing Body