Cirencester Baptist Church opens brand new building
A bumper crowd was in attendance to mark the official opening of the new Cirencester Baptist Church building on Saturday (28 January)
But though the new facility is the talk of the town, it’s not the main focus of the church, said senior minister the Revd Matt Frost.
‘Yes, it’s fantastic and we’re really pleased with it. It’s new and a novelty, there is no other spacious facility like it in the town and we are all chatting about it.
‘But it’s secondary. The heart of life is the church and its mission, not the building. Our aim is to be a loving community of disciples of Jesus, following him, growing in him and witnessing to him through words, works and wonders.
‘The building is giving us better facilities to do what we do, and already we are benefitting.’
The church was previously based in the centre of Cirencester, and had had a space problem for several years as its activities grew. It has a thriving toddlers group and youth club, and had already moved its main Sunday service to a school.
In September 2014 it bought the Chesterton Suite building from Cotswold District Council at auction, a 1960s building that had been a sports and social club.
Initially the plan was to refurbish, but it was soon discovered there was little difference between doing this and knocking down and starting again.
Following detailed design work, construction began and the new building was completed by December 2016. It has a 500-seat auditorium, a café space and many rooms available for use by the local community. It also has plenty of parking space, in contrast to its former home.
The £3.8m facility has been funded by a combination congregation giving, grants and a loan from the Baptist Union Loan fund.
‘All along the vision has been about having a space that serves as a church and community building, a place that’s really flexible for everything we do, and for all sorts of community groups,’ explained Matt.
‘We’ve moved from a building that was very central but hidden – it was a back street in the town centre. Now we’re less central, but much more visible, and accessible, on the edge of housing area. It’s a more pleasant and welcoming environment.
‘And of course the parking is so, so useful, making it much more inclusive.’
Already new relationships are beginning to form. Cirencester and Tetbury Foodbank will be moving its warehouse to the basement of the building.
And with more than 1,000 people there for the official opening, which featured craft sessions, bouncy castles and lots of cake, many more contacts were made.
‘People just kept coming in and getting involved and asking questions – we had lots of conversations and opportunities to share. It was a great day,’ said Matt.
He added, ‘One thing we said from the outset was that we didn’t want this project to take over. There was a danger that that’s all you talk about.
‘The building is great – but it’s a bridge, and I’m really pleased it hasn’t taken over the church life of prayer, evangelism and mission.’