'Our hopes have been exceeded'
Around 20 years ago Westbourne Park Baptist Church in north London dreamt of a new building. Well, that dream has now become reality, pastor Jem Sewell reports
Our vision as Westbourne Park Baptist Church is to bring God Glory by helping to build His Kingdom, wherever we are, by loving God and loving People. Just about 20 years ago the church realised that our building* got in the way of us working out our vision. Pastors Paul Jackson and Steve Latham dreamed and thought and planned and now their vision has become reality.
Our old building was demolished in early 2016, and nearly four years later we now have a new facility ready for the 21st century.
A partnership with a housing charity means that together with Westminster City Council we are providing 33 “affordable” units of accommodation for rent, a children’s library, a 250 seater sanctuary, hall, kitchen, smaller meeting rooms and offices, as well as a welcome area and a dedicated prayer room.
We have been open for just over two months and in that very brief time, we feel as though our hopes have been exceeded.
We have had more people through our doors as a church, and in our family centre. Some have come to particular events, others out of sheer curiosity. We now have a single entrance and some fabulous volunteers on reception has meant that a warm smile and a genuine welcome is available to all. We were delighted to welcome around 250 people to our thanksgiving and dedication service.
This has already opened up some spectacular conversations…
Right at the beginning of the project, we identified 11 ways we hoped the facilities would help us with our mission (see below).
11 ways we hope our facilities will help us with our mission
Welcoming: lots of glass allows people to see in, this helps them feel that they are entering a safe place. People can see the buzz that is already going on inside.
Accessible: we have step free access, four accessible toilets and a lift that ensures easy access to all parts of the building, other accessibility items are being added.
Visible as a church, a 10-meter-high tower with a cross that, towers over the building and is lit up at night, the building is clearly marked.
Our capacity has increased both in the sanctuary and in all other areas.
We particularly wanted those who do not share our faith to feel comfortable in the building and so far. We have had some amazing positive responses from our local community including those who are of other faiths.
Our own congregations have been inspired in our light airy and generous sanctuary.
The building is well designed to be safe and comfortable clear entrances and locks help, the heating and ventilation is yet to be severely tested but so far provides a very pleasant atmosphere.
Our sound system is just installed and alongside careful design and engineering means that our neighbours are not disturbed.
The building was to financially sustainable and the model that we have adopted should provide this over the first full financial year.
The building has flexible rooms that can be used for a huge variety of activities; parties, conferences, NHS clinics and worship services!
We are conscious that we are not just here for ourselves and so offer significant discounts to not for profit, Christian and community organisations that wish to hire the building.
To watch a video charting the church's transformation, click this link.
Jem Sewell is the pastor of Westbourne Park Baptist Church.
* Westbourne Park Chapel had the largest congregation in the Paddington area in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Its pastor was one of the most well known Baptists in this era, John Clifford, who ministered at Westbourne for nearly 40 years.
The church grew to around 1200 members, before being damaged in a bombing raid in World War II. A replacement building was built in 1962, and from then on was known as Westbourne Park Baptist Church. That building was demolished in early 2016 to allow for a building to be built ready for the 21st century.