The Driftwood, Lyme Regis Baptist Church
The Driftwood is a new café at Lyme Regis Baptist Church: fashioned from many recycled materials, it's a place to explore life’s deeper questions – and where the love of God is manifest
“What a beautiful, peaceful space The Driftwood is! It has an air of calm serenity, undoubtedly enhanced by all the reclaimed wood that has been used to create it – quite the perfect place for a convivial community event!”
This recent Facebook review is music to the ears of the congregation at Lyme Regis Baptist Church. In early 2016 the congregation embarked on a project to renovate a well-used but dated hall. Driven by one of its younger members, 25-year-old Megan Woodman, the aim was to create a resource for the church and the wider community: a space to connect and explore life’s deeper questions; a place where the love of God and good news of the Gospel is manifest; all in a contemporary setting that would both reflect something of the character of the West Dorset coastal town and the congregation’s faith-informed commitment to creation care.
The result is The Driftwood, a visually stunning venue captured by the five-star Facebook review quoted above. As befits a part of the country that attracts its fair share of surfers, wood is a strong feature. All of it is recycled, with former factory beams and reclaimed scaffolding boards finding new life there. In a neat link to a previous generation of church members, the Driftwood team even discovered that the panels used to line the walls of the former small hall had themselves been recycled and began life as box pews. These wall panels remain as part of the new space.
“It’s a strong link to our past – our Victorian predecessors were already recycling before recycling became popular,” says Megan.
“And it also made us wonder: how much prayer and worship have come from these pews?”
Indeed, the link to the past is both physical and spiritual, with the story of The Driftwood steeped in prayer and responding to God’s call.
During the last few weeks of her Applied Theology and Children’s and Schools degree at Moorlands Bible College, Megan prayed: “Lord, where do you want me to go?”
A placement at a Christian café and skate park in Wimborne impressed on her the effectiveness of reaching young people in a café setting. Then during an entirely random visit to a skate park in Poole, a piece of graffiti stopped her in her tracks. Scrawled on one of the skate board ramps was the question: “What if God doesn’t care?”
“I just thought “wow”. I knew it was God saying “Meg, there are people out there with really big questions.” She sensed she was being called to create a space where such questions could be addressed and discussed – and vowed to go wherever God called her.
She returned to Lyme Regis Baptist Church, which is pastored by her father, and began to wonder – could the small hall be converted into a café? It was a well-used, but dated-looking space. She shared what was on her heart with the congregation, and the response was an immediate yes – provided Megan led the project. She had initially discounted returning home to Lyme Regis, but now here she was – leading the church into the unknown.
It was a huge step of faith. There were no young people in the congregation, but plenty in the town. Megan prayed that God would bring the right people onto the team, and that there would be enough financial backing.
Doors started to open. An architect and a site manager from the local community were attracted to the project, and both offered their services for free. A little later a carpenter offered his services free of charge to create the tables.
“There were so many miracles along the way,” Megan says. “Amazing people from both within the church and outside of it volunteered to be on the team.
“And right from the start money has just come in. We thought it would be through grants and trusts, but 80 per cent has been from the congregation, visitors and ‘friends of the church'.”
The café opened in Christmas 2017. Already a local surf club has used it (“people who have never previously set foot in the building,” notes Megan). The church has been hosting a new, twice monthly event this year called The Space, an event that aims to encourage “a very contemporary consideration of scripture in the light of modern popular, scientific understanding”. There is also a new Sunday meeting called The Forge providing a more interactive alternative to the more conventional morning meeting.
At the time of writing the congregation is praying through how best to use its new space. They don’t want to rush into something and are waiting on God.
It will not open as a regular café, but be used more as an events venue, including being available for the wider community to hire. Megan is sure there is more to come. She explains that a number of people throughout the project have quite independently found themselves quoting a phrase adapted from the film ‘Field of Dreams’: ‘if you build it they will come’
The phrase has felt God-given, and with everything that’s already happened has given them the confidence that new lives will be reached.
“Through all of this I’ve been reminded of the verse: God can do immeasurably more than you can imagine,” Megan (pictured) says. “It felt like we started with very little but a dream. The way it’s come to fruition had a massive impact on my own faith, and has really empowered and encouraged the congregation too, answering a lot of their prayers over the years.”
“I wanted to create an amazing space for young people to open up these big conversations,” she continues. “I never expected it to look the way it looks.
“And the impact it is already having, it is bucking the stereotypical image of a church. So many people have come in and said: “What’s this doing in this building?”
“We just want to give it back to God – and use it for His glory.”
For more on The Driftwood, visit its Facebook feed
This article appears in the Summer 2018 edition of Baptists Together magazine
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