Emmanuel Church Chippenham (ECC), which has met in a local school since its formation, bought a former Exclusive Brethren building last October. After several months of extensive renovation work, which included levelling the floor, installing windows and repairing the roof, the building was officially opened on Saturday 2 May.
ECC invited neighbours and friends to a community day featuring a bouncy castle, face painting, crafts, cakes, games and other fun activities.
From hirers to owners
Pastor Spencer Shaw said: ‘For us as a church, having our own building after ten years in a school is an attempt to take the next steps to reach people more effectively with the gospel. Hiring premises to do things is always frustrating and somewhat limiting, and we see our new building as a place that our church can operate from as a spiritual lifeboat station – that is the key phrase we’ve used all along!
‘By starting with a community open day, we are starting as we mean to go on – looking outwards first and engaging with the community around us through fun and friendliness; at the same time being very clear that we are all about the gospel.’
Displays of church members’ testimonies, different areas of church life and varied Christian literature were set up for visitors to find out more.
ECC was extremely pleased with the turnout and response from the local community, with many people coming from across the town.
Mr Shaw said: ‘We have received numerous comments about the openness and friendliness of their reception and we have been thrilled to find some of them coming back on Sundays and to our new coffee morning. We have also had enquiries about future activities for children. We are delighted that we can use the building as a vehicle to reach out with the gospel.’
The community open day was followed by a special opening service in the evening to which local dignitaries, the building contractors, neighbouring churches and friends were invited. The evening featured a look back at the history of ECC and the building. It was a time of thanksgiving to the Lord as well as to the builders and contractors who worked so hard to get the building ready in time for the launch weekend. Andy Paterson, Director of Mission for the FIEC, preached, from Matthew 16.13–21, ‘I will build my church’.
On the Sunday, 3 May, ECC celebrated the tenth anniversary of its first meeting, with Andy Paterson speaking, from 1 Corinthians 12.12-31, about the church as one body.
ECC, which is affiliated to the FIEC, was formed from another church in Chippenham in 2005 in an effort to advance the gospel in the growing market town.
It started with a congregation of around 40 adults plus children; today ECC has a regular congregation of over 150, which includes more than 80 adult members and numerous young people.
Mr Shaw said: ‘We were aiming to be a church family that grew together, with the Bible and its regular consecutive exposition as the key approach to preaching; always striving to reach out with the gospel and make disciples of those who respond. We are hugely grateful to the Lord for blessing and encouraging us. We are desperate to see people who don’t know the Lord converted.’
Investing in ministry is a key focus for the church. ECC’s first assistant pastor went on to lead a church in the neighbouring town of Calne, while the current assistant pastor is preparing to move to another Wiltshire town, Marlborough, to plant a church there.
ECC is working with other local FIEC churches on the Marlborough church plant, which it is hoped will start a weekly Sunday service from September.
The church is building on the relationships formed in Chippenham during the open weekend, organising a number of follow-up activities including a Christianity Explored ‘taster’, a weekly coffee morning and kids club. Having raised the required funds for the purchase and renovation of its new building, EEC is now seeking sources of external funding to carry out further work to extend the facility.
ECC’s new address is Goldney Avenue, Chippenham, SN15 1ND. For more information about the church, visit www.emmanuelecc.org