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'An amazing resource for congregation and wider community'

Solihull church celebrates opening of new £2.1m buildings which link to shopping centre redevelopment 

Shirley balloonsFor many years the people of Shirley in Solihull had seen their High Street diminish and businesses close.  The reverse, however, was being experienced in Shirley Baptist Church where an increasing number of community events were taking place in outdated and tired halls at the rear of the main church.

With the re-development of Shirley shopping centre came the long-awaited opportunity for the congregation of the church to develop its own site.

'We had long been awaiting the right time to take the step of faith and commit to rebuilding our halls,' youth specialist Lizzie Robertson explained. ‘This opportunity arose when Shirley Advance in conjunction with Asda drew up plans for a major redevelopment in ‘the heart of Shirley’ and we were able to work in partnership with them to fulfil our dreams for a building fit for mission in the 21st century.’

The ‘heart of Shirley’ scheme was renamed Parkgate and finally received approval in July 2011. The past 12 months has seen all the back halls demolished and new ones completed, and the official opening took place earlier this month. 

Thanks to the previous alterations to the main sanctuary it was possible to house the majority of community activities without too much disruption.
All the groups which meet in the church are very much looking forward to moving into their new rooms with the spacious and modern facilities they will now enjoy. It will also offer a dedicated home for the Family Support Centre which offers support and advice on a range of family issues for those in need of help, within the area.

Shirley 300The Revd Kevin White, a previous minister at the church, said, ‘What a fabulous suite of buildings.  The building was my vision for the renewal of links into the wider community and for people to be drawn into the orbit of the church. I feel what we have here will fulfil that.’

Sunday, 3 November saw the grand opening of the new church as a whole with many visitors including church members and ministers, both past and present, local dignitaries and representatives from other local churches and businesses joining in the celebration. 

The Deputy Mayor had the honour of ‘cutting the ribbon’ and declaring the building open.  A day of activities followed the celebration worship including tours around the new building, a buffet lunch and the placing of a time capsule which held both items discovered during the demolition of the old halls, contents of a previous time capsule and new items depicting current church life and the redevelopment.

The day was completed with a spectacular balloon release, with each visitor having the opportunity to attach a prayer for the future, before letting their balloon free, flying high over the roof tops of Shirley.

‘I have been coming to the church for 52 years and have long held a vision of what the church could become, but never thought that we would see the day,' commented Joan Hibbs.  'We had to be patient and await the right time, ‘God’s time’. I am glad to still be here to witness the fruition of the project.’
The £2.1m project featured some 'ingenious' fund raising along with a loan from the Baptist Union and increased giving from the congregation.  The church has also appreciated the financial support of The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Allchurches Trust Ltd., The Beatrice Laing Trust, The Joseph Rank Trust and The Norwood and Newton Settlement. It is also very grateful for a contribution from Shirley Advance, the developer responsible for the main Parkgate scheme in Shirley.

Shirley time capsuleChurch treasurer Paul Holland said, 'This is a great investment by members of the church, both past and present and into the future, that we would like the community of Shirley to benefit from.  It is a testament to the church and its community around them that they are willing to invest in new halls.’

The new space will enable the church to link directly into the pedestrian area of Parkgate, and there are plans for a coffee shop to be put in place once the scheme is completed in April 2014. The church is keen to ensure that its rooms are well used with both existing and new users enjoying the excellent new facilities.

The Revd Iain Pope, a previous ministerial intern who joined in the celebrations, was excited for the future. ‘Aside from the spacious community resource, the Church has undergone a great transformation. It is a testament to the community here that they have been patient and dedicated to raising the money.  An amazing resource for both the congregation and the wider community.’

For more information visit website www.shirleybaptist.org.uk
Baptist Times, 11/11/2013
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