'Audacious' project to build new church
MEMBERS of a village church with ancient roots are launching a £5.8 million project to build a new multi-purpose church building and community centre.
They have called their campaign the Heart of the Community project and are in the process of raising funds to refurbish St Michael's Church in Stoke Gifford.
They also want to convert the former village school – known as the Old School Rooms – at The Green, and build a 600 seat auditorium with meeting rooms and other facilities on the site of The Barns, in North Road.
The project, which has been described as "audacious" by the Bishop of Bristol, also includes setting aside a tenth of the costs to fund similar building projects overseas.
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And while the number of people in England and Wales recording their religion as Christian dropped by 13 per cent between 2001 and 2011, St Michael's congregation has grown by 70 per cent over the last ten years.
The congregation is now more than 300 strong and has grown too big to fit the church, forcing the main 10.30am service to start in two venues.
Up to 1,000 people a week use the community rooms provided by the church and the Old School Rooms coffee shop serves hundreds of hot meals, snacks and drinks each week.
Meanwhile, the pre-school and nursery – based in the Old Vicarage – is over subscribed.
The church building – a familiar sight to passengers passing through Parkway Station – has a Norman font and was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Records suggest there may have been an earlier Saxon church on the site.
The Rev Simon Jones, Rector of St Michael's, said: "St Michael's has a very long history of serving the local community. We are an ancient church but our aim is to meet the needs of people today.
"There is a real shortage of community facilities in Stoke Gifford. The Heart of the Community project is about continuing to make a difference to the lives of local people every day of the week."
Mr Jones believes that, with more than 3,000 homes due to be built in the parish over the next decade, there will be a pressing need for local amenities. The new centre will provide up-to-date conference facilities for schools, charities and local businesses as well as rooms to hire for wedding receptions and other celebrations.
The congregation held a gift day last summer, which raised £2 million in one-off donations and regular pledges over the next five years.
The church plans to raise the rest of the money from fundraising events, grants and the generosity of individual and corporate donors.
Bishop Mike Hill, the project's patron, said: "I think God loves audacity. I think he loves people to think up projects which mean their only hope of achieving them would be to trust in him. And I think that's what this project is all about."