The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, stood in the shell of the new church and community centre in Stoke Gifford on Saturday (13th September) to bless the St Michael’s Church Heart of the Community project.
Archbishop Welby, who described the £5.5m project as “wonderful”, “courageous” and “exciting” also dedicated the building, which is still under construction, during his weekend visit to the Bristol Diocese.
The building, which is on the site of old farm barns in North Road, is the centrepiece of the project, which also includes refurbishing the neighbouring Old School Rooms and renovating the 14th century church. A tenth of all money donated or raised by the congregation is being used for mission work to combat poverty and spread the gospel in the UK and overseas.
The Archbishop said:
“This project warms my heart. This is not about a community building: this is about building a community. It is a great example of what the church does best, which is loving and serving and transforming – and it’s about the future.”
“I was stunned to hear what is going on in this area, the number of people who will move into this area, the number of students who are already here, the growth of the parish and the community over the last few years – and the church at the heart of it.”
Archbishop Welby told an audience of nearly 200 members of St Michael’s Church, community representatives and workers on the project, that the church was embedded in serving its community now more than at any time since 1945.
“In the last six or seven years the churches of this land have held the communities together and done the job – not for their own service but out of love for their communities.”
Referring to the Bishop of Bristol’s (Mike Hill’s) description of the project as “audacious”, he said it was also courageous and exciting.
“It is a huge project to undertake and I know there is a lot further to go. It is not audacious simply because it’s bold, daring and big, but because it is one of those projects that depends entirely upon God and God moving people’s hearts.”
“There is a real vision about what this community could be in the future and what is being put together here. The Heart of the Community is happening because it is God’s heart for the community now and over the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years and that is so exciting.”
“It is wonderful to be here. All of us should look around – any thought that God’s church has no future in this land is a complete delusion.”
As he dedicated the building the Archbishop thanked and blessed all those who had worked on the building, the project team and the vision behind the centre.
“May it be a light for its community, may it be a reminder of the love of God at the heart of the community. May you govern and direct the church and people of this area that it may be a place of help for those growing up, a place of safety for those growing old and a place of flourishing for those in work.”
Rev Simon Jones, Rector of St Michael’s said:
“It is a great moment for Justin to be joining us as we are at the end of phase one and we have by God’s grace been able to find the money to start phase two.”
The new centre will provide much needed facilities for conferences and church services, wedding receptions and other celebrations as well as community rooms. It will also serve as a resource for the wider region as it is within easy access of the M4 and M5 and just minutes away from Parkway Railway Station.
The next phase of the project will be to fit out the inside of the building and provide usable space on the ground floor by Easter 2015.
Photo: The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby shares his vision and encouragement for the church and the community. [Credit: Rob Wicks]
Photo: Rev Simon Jones (right) with Archbishop Justin Welby on The Green in North Road. [Credit: Rob Wicks]
Source: Press release from St Michael’s Church.