Our investment in the new centre embodies our mission to put across the Christian message of love and service in a very practical way. It has helped to create a new awareness of our Church amongst the local community and daily brings new people to appreciate the peace and beauty of our site
Completed last November, the new community centre at Christ Church Swindon is proving its worth by drawing in large numbers of users from all walks of life, ages and ethnic backgrounds. Here we share some of the lessons learned during the planning and building process...
As part of Christ Church's Development &Renewal plan, which followed a number of years of consulting and fundraising, a scheme plan was evolved to put Christ Church at the heart of the local community by improving the church's facilities, making it more accessible and flexible for community use and, by doing so, bringing it to the attention of local people as a valuable resource worth supporting and looking after.
Anumber of substantial grant applications were made to improve theexisting community centre, which was over 40 years old and in need of expensive maintenance. Grants totalling over 300,000 were securedand these, together with donations and the proceeds from sales of theold church hall and parish office, gave the team the green light.
Building workstarted in March 2013 with the demolition of the old community centre and was completed in late November.
The new centre houses theparish office, a large hall, a garden room, store, well-equipped kitchen, toilets and large and small meeting rooms. The hall and garden room are divided by a movable screen which can be removed to create a larger single space for weddings of big functions. Two garden areas were created to improve the area immediately around the centre and to provide a place of calm and reflection for visitors to the burial ground.
Development Manager Chris Smith and the children from King William Street School with Revd Daphne Hardwick, preparing to bury a time capsule in the foundations of the new Community Centre
The design stressed building insulation efficiency, renewable technology and the use of sustainable materials where practical, and has a carbon negative energy efficiency certificate. The building featuresa mono-pitched roof of Corus steel panels and carries a 20Kwh array of photo voltaic panels. It has zoned underfloor heating driven by a ground source heat pump operated by 3x90 metre deep cores. Both renewable features will deliver a valuable capital repayment element via the Feed in Tariff Renewable Heat incentive schemes respectively, as well as cheaper and more efficient energy costs.
Stephen Grosvenor of Christ Church says the new centre is having a wonderful impact on the mission of the Church in Swindon: "Although we previously had an old leisure centre on our site, the new one gives us much more flexible space and better and more modern facilities. This gives us the opportunity to interact with a wider section of our community.
"Our investment in the new centre embodies our mission to put across the Christian message of love and service in a very practical way. It has helped to create a new awareness of our Church amongst the local community and daily brings new people to appreciate the peace and beauty of our site."
The team at Christ Church learned a number of lessons during the project as Stephen explains:
"Probably the biggest lesson we learnt was that God provides. We had spent a number of years evaluating different options and many people had worked hard to realise the vision of a new centre at Christ Church. The challenge was keeping going when money was difficult to raise and staying positive about our own abilities to complete such a large project.
"In the end, we successfully applied for a major local development grant and a couple of other community based grants which set us on our way. The actual building work was quite a juggling act as the extent of the works meant that access to the church was sometimes compromised and everything had to be managed carefully so as not to disturb services.
"The other main lesson was to keep everyone in touch and involved with the building - it was important for our congregation and the rest of the local community to feel ownership for and pride in it."
Whatadvice does Stephen have for other churches embarking on similar projects?
"It's important to talk to your communities to find out what is needed in the area. We did a local survey and spent some time communicating with local resident associations and the council to gain their support and advice.
"It is also vital to have a clear picture of what you want to end up with, how the facility will be run and by whom. You need a plan that covers, not only the building, but also its operation. This is also essential when you are submitting grant applications and communicating more widely about the project.
"Don't be afraid of paying for good professional help and advice, our architect not only provided us with an excellent design but also helped us to conduct a tender process to select our building partner and advised us at various stages of the build.
"Also, talk to other churches or groups in your area who have undertaken similar building projects, we found many people willing to share their experience andknowledge and gained not only good practical information but also inspiration, ideas and great moral support."