I wrote this for the church trying to address some of the common questions asked about the building project, that seems to have been going on for years but never starting……
Why are we doing this?! Couldn’t the money be better used?
I think we need to keep in mind why we’re doing the project so that IPC in future generations long after we’re gone will be able to proclaim Christ in West Ealing. We need to be thinking beyond ourselves. But for us, in this generation, a new building would be used for various ministries and ways to reach out to this community for the gospel. Think of how our current building has served the gospel, and how thankful we are for those in the early 80s who sacrificed and gave to buy 53 Drayton Green! Buildings can serve the gospel.
Why are we considering a new building?
We did consider in the early stages of the project whether as a church we should move — there was nothing that jumped out at us. In the providence of God, English Heritage listed the Chapel part of our building and, although at the time, this was incredibly infuriating it means that we are now locked into this area.
The church has been at its current location since 1979 and has had good links with the community; there’s real strength to that. I also think in a transient area like West Ealing, which will increasingly become more so with Crossrail, it is a great thing for a church to be saying that we want to be in this community proclaiming Christ in the long-term. We also are committed to being a local church — this is quite a rare thing in London and yet it is wonderful so many of us live within a bus ride or a short walk from the church.
Could we move to two services?
Lots of churches do this and there are good arguments for it….after all, if 200 people were converted in the next month, we’d need to think about how to fit them in…..but fundamentally the church is the gathering of God’s people. The church is a community of people redeemed by Christ who know each other and are actively involved in each others’ lives; when you move to two congregations on a Sunday morning the body life of the church is split, the gathering is divided, and relationships are weakened. That’s not to say it is always wrong when God gives remarkable growth, but for the moment we see ourselves staying with one service. The needs of West London mean that church planting should be our priority rather than going to two services.
How about planting again?
We are in total agreement that we need to keep planting. West London is so needy that we need to keep focused on planting out from Ealing. However, to do that, you do need a church to be a training church and strong enough to send people out. We trust that by having a building in which we can grow, we can continue to send out church plants like we’ve done with Immanuel, Brentford. We also mustn’t be naïve in that sending people out is not easy — we miss those relationships and there’s a real financial cost to doing it. To be more established as a church and slightly bigger allows you do more of it.
Can the new building be used for the wider community?
The building is a mixture of very flexible space which can be used by all the ministries of IPC and in various ways. The main auditorium has been designed primarily as a space for the worship of God. We hope that it will be a beautiful home for us as a church to worship God. One of the things we’ve discovered I think in this process is that architecture matters and actually buildings communicate what they are used for: we trust that, as people enter our building, they will understand something of our theology. We will be able to use the rooms in other ways for games and clubs, but it is deliberate in its design as a place of worship rather than a sports hall.
Could we stay at Drayton Manor?
Drayton Manor has been an amazing provision and is a really good venue for us. However, each week we are paying considerable rent which will only increase. The other more serious consideration is that, in renting you are vulnerable to the whims of a premises manager or a headteacher. At the moment, another church in Ealing is looking for a venue and really struggling to find somewhere. How long will public venues like Drayton Manor be open to faith groups is also a realistic concern — our culture is quite hostile in parts to the gospel. To be able to run ministries during the week, and to be a permanent witness in a community, ordinarily means that you need a building that people can identify as being connected with the church.
Will there be accommodation as part of the new build?
We are hoping to build a flat which we would be able to rent out and would bring in some income. Our desire was to have two properties on the site but, in looking at the cost of the project and the planning restrictions placed upon us, we’ve needed to sacrifice one dwelling. This is disappointing but we didn’t want to overstretch ourselves. Longer term the church does need to look at housing needs for future workers in West Ealing, but that’s for another day.
We don’t want to be a bigger church?
At the moment the planned building will seat under 300. As Elders we don’t envisage growing beyond 200/250 and our desire and our plan is to keep planting. I do want to challenge, though, the assumption behind this question — surely we want more people to come under the sound of the Gospel, we want more people to be discipled, we want to see more people growing in their likeness to Jesus? On the other hand, we don’t want relationships to be weak and for there to be a consumer approach that there sometimes can be in larger churches. We need to see God desires his church to grow in Christ-likeness, but also in number. We need to see sometimes our desire to not be a big church isn’t always right.
Why is it so expensive?
Great question! There have been numerous complications from us having to buy out the Coach House and land at the back of the property, to designing a building that is both suitable for both our current and future use, to being acceptable to Council planning and English Heritage, and to tree preservation orders. It’s not been straightforward and God-willing we will have a building that is both accessible and useful, but also has a beauty to it that gives us more prominence on the street. Building a church in West London is hugely expensive…..in comparison with other churches building similar size buildings our costings are probably about average.
Why is it taking so long?
Partly we’ve not had someone full-time working on the project to drive things forward, but also it’s been a complex situation from the start. None of us envisaged this taking as long as it has when we started out, and yet it’s been a good thing for us as a church — we’ve seen God answer many prayers. What I think we should be particularly grateful for is that during this time the church has not been distracted by the building project, and we’ve known great unity throughout this. We are hopefully at a stage where work will begin in the early summer, and so we should be back in the new building by early summer 2018. However, we’ve learnt that dates are flexible in this process!