The New Building – Part II
A gift day raised an immediate £50,000 for a new building fund called ‘95 fm’. ‘95′ because the target was a new church in 1995, and ‘fm’ meaning ‘for mission’. Planning began and an architect was engaged but though it was not realised, progress had hardly even begun The old church was in a conservation area with listed buildings on either side. Over the years the attitude of the local authority to demolition had changed and in 1993 the church was now told that the Victorian building had to be preserved. The members knew that this must be wrong. Good money would be thrown after bad and the church would end up with a building from 100 years ago when church life was very different It would return to the days of Charles Dickens. English Heritage backed the planners and a long struggle of attrition began Despite more than a year of preparation and another of negotiation the planning application was rejected The church was back at square one.
Eventually, in October 1996 a preliminary version of the present daring frontage caught the imagination of English Heritage. Demolition was admitted to be a possibility and in February 1997 a new application was put in. Then apparent disaster. The Royal Fine Art Commission became involved and rejected the design entirely. Something far more traditional was called for.
Despite all attempts, it proved impossible to satisfy both English Heritage and the Commission so in October there was nothing else to do but put the design to the planning sub-committee of the Warwick District Council for a decision The press and locate opinion was favourable, but would the plans be accepted? Nobody knew, Some members attended the planning meeting to support the application; others met to pray about it. And then yet another cause for praise. The application was approved unanimously.
The emphasis then shifted to finance. The predicted cost was £650,000. Could it be raised? Giving by the congregation had, by then, reached £150,000 and the trustees of the King Henry VIII Charity promised £100,000 but the bankers sensed a risk. They insisted on £100,000 more being raised before loans would be forthcoming. This was raised in a single day of thanksgiving for progress thus far, and the lending was approved.
One more hurdle remained, Would the best tender exceed the estimated cost, and by how much? Trepidation turned to amazement when the successful tender turned out to be lower than anyone had expected. All the barriers were now down.
A special closing service was held in the old church in April 1998 and demolition began. By the start of August the foundation stone of the new building was in place and the congregation was able to move in on 6 March 1999. ‘This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.”
Although a church is a body of people, not fabric and furniture, physical things convey a message. The message of the new Baptist Church on Castle Hill is that it exists for the community. That is why the design allows you to see and why Meeting Point takes you directly into the heart of the building. The motto is ‘worship’, ‘witness’ and ‘well-being in Christ’, for everyone.