Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Church of the Year Project

We were recently made one of the EBA's churches of the year for 2014-15.    We have produced an information sheet about it and it's reproduced here.   But first, check out the introductory video.


Maidstone Road Baptist Church is situated in the Walton Area of Felixstowe, the oldest part of the town.  The church dates from 1808 and the present church buildings date from 1811, although they have been altered and extended considerably over the years.


 Back in 1811, MRBC was the first non-conformist chapel in the area and was sited amongst the fields on a quiet back lane.   Today the whole area has been absorbed into Felixstowe, a thriving town, dominated by the Port of Felixstowe, Britain's largest container port.   Indeed, Walton is primarily a working class area with most of the local inhabitants working in port-related industries.  Felixstowe is also a traditional resort town and has been a focus for retiring incomers.

The church currently has some 80 members, around half being drawn from Walton; the rest being from the wider town of Felixstowe and the Trimley villages to the north of town.     MRBC is the only EBA church on the Felixstowe peninsula.   Walton has two other local churches, Anglican and Methodist with whom we have excellent relations.

Over the past few years, the church has seen shifts in its age pattern towards the more senior age groups, which is part of a general trend towards ageing church populations both nationally and locally, and for much the same reasons.     Therefore the church has been challenged towards re-evaluating its mission, with a view to seeing how it can be more relevant to the community it is a part of, and communicate with it more effectively.    This is against the background of it being situated in a mixed-generation community.  There are numerous opportunities to engage the community.   The street has three schools on it, and will be the closest church to a new development of 90 homes, with the possibility of 400 more on an adjacent site.

In order to help us explore our mission strategy, we called on the services of Mission Consultant, Tim Lovejoy in 2012.    In his report, Tim helped us identify our current strengths in mission and made recommendations as to how we could be more effective.   We are very much committed to Walton in our mission.  One of our success stories in recent years has been the starting of a Parish Nursing ministry, which has recently embraced our neighbouring local churches in Walton to develop an innovative joint ministry.

Tim made a number of recommendations that the church has enthusiastically adopted.  One was that the church make much more of the front of the building.  This would be to make it more obvious (it is set back from the street), accessible and welcoming.      The area in front of the building was once part of the burial ground surrounding the church but the headstones were removed some time ago, and the present garden and access paths laid.  

Carols around the Christmas Tree
Open Air Worship

In recent years we have used the space for open-air services, family events and Christmas events, but the walls and shrubbery limit usable space and the grassed area is too soft to rest equipment on.  Three of these events are pictured above.    We would love to be able to use the area for a much wider variety of mission and community activities as well as improving overall accessibility and visibility.

We are also replacing our rather dull noticeboard with something more conspicuous.

Planned Works

We see this primarily as a mission project – to make the building feel more accessible to the community and to create a useful outdoor space.  The idea is to make us “part of the street” by taking down most of the front wall, removing the shrubbery and laying down a much larger paved area.   It will also give us the opportunity to widen the entrance to the car park which is narrow, and make a drop-off space for the elderly and disabled.  A diagram is below. 

The new paved areas will generally follow the present "flow" but will cover a much greater proportion of the area in the front of the buildings to give an "open" appearance.  Levels will be adjusted with surfaces sloping  gently to eliminate all steps including at doorways therefore making access easier.

As the front of the building is quite dark in colour (red brick mostly) the new paving will be as light as possible in colour in order to brighten the area.

Small areas of grass and planting are to b
e retained to provide some colour at the front of the church and also simplify and improve surface water drainage. Retaining some areas of garden should also reduce the likelihood of residents driving over the open areas as parking in Maidstone Road can be a problem.

At present all of the windows and most of the doors at the front of the building are glazed in obscure glass making it almost impossible for anyone to see people inside the church. Part of the scheme includes re-glazing the windows and doors with clear glass making it possible for people coming to the church or just passing to see inside .

The cost of the work is estimated at £14,000.    The church plan to cover the cost from the giving of its own membership, but invites churches in the EBA family to give towards this project as one of its Churches of the Year.

More information can be obtained by contacting Mark Reid - details on the church website.  Cheques should be made out to Maidstone Road Baptist Church.

For your information, the other Church of the Year is Gunton Baptist Church in Lowestoft.