Vicar amazed at “Generosity of God’s people,” as £2m hall scheme opens
Christ Church Bedford, a central Bedford church, has just opened an extensive new Church Halls development which saw the congregation raise £2m for the works. Bishop Alan cut the ribbon in September as members of the congregation and community gathered.
The parish first thought seriously about a redevelopment of their existing hall facility 7 years ago, when they realised they were turning people away who wanted to use the one-and-a-half halls. “How can we serve our community if we’ve run out of space?” Vicar, Canon Richard Hibbert, asked himself. He continued: “We talked to the church members, we talked to our existing hirers. We talked to our local councillors and we said “What is available? What is happening here?” and we whittled it down that if we were going to do something major, what we really needed to do was to get seven different sized meeting spaces. That was it. And we wanted a new kitchen and we really, really wanted to improve our toilets and we wanted to get our disability and accessibility access correct for everybody and for all ages.” The church’s oldest worshipping member is 90 years’ old and called Stanley. In conversation with Canon Richard, he recenty remarked: “You know Richard, I was involved as Church Warden in building the original two halls that we had. I wasn’t certain about whether we should knock them down,” But as the conversation developed and he saw what was going on he said, “Yes, I get it. We need to change.” Now he’s walked round, just having passed his 90th birthday and he said: “Richard this is wonderful! This is so good for our community, as much as for ourselves as the local church.”
The vision for how the space will be used, apart from hiring it out, is to help the church in its concern to help the poor and the disadvantaged. Richard Hibbert sees the existing foodbank expanding. They want to look at debt management for people, “because we just see this as a huge issue for people in our society.” Caring deeply for those who experience loneliness, they want to reach out to those who just want friendship, and also to serve children, young families and young people in the community and within the church family alike. It sounds like a recipe for success. www.ccbedford.org