Striking out for the Kingdom

By Ruth Leigh | 2 July 2010

Massive press coverage of a church and its activities isn’t always a particularly good thing. Too often the headlines seem to do more harm than good. However, Carmarthen based Towy Community Church’s (TCC) plan to build and run a bowling alley in a disused cheese factory has caught the imagination of the press and resulted in very positive media coverage. Ruth Leigh found out more.

Rewinding nine years, Senior Leader Mark Bennett recalls planting the church in Johnstown. “We stepped out in faith,” he explains. “We didn’t have a penny in our bank account, but we had a heart for connecting with our community.” The town was affluent but had pockets of poverty. TCC began to engage with the community’s practical needs by running a debt centre, a Christmas hamper scheme and a centre for performing arts for young people.

All this needed sound support. Mark already had a longstanding relationship with Stewardship. “They’d helped us with insurance and building projects at our previous church. I would often ring for advice.” When the church decided to set up a Trust, Stewardship was the obvious place to go. “We have received fantastic pearls of wisdom from Stewardship,” recalls Mark. “They have been a key part of our endeavours over the years, always generous with their time and advice.”

TCC was aware that Johnstown had a long-held desire for a bowling alley, so after prayerful consideration, they took the bold step of applying for funding to build an alley for the use of the entire community. Mark had already spotted an old factory site which he thought would make the ideal base for community projects. The church had an excellent relationship with Carmarthenshire County Council, so Mark approached them to discuss his idea. The Council bought the 2.7 acre site and in a remarkable act of generosity transferred it to the church free of charge.

“We’re in the spotlight,” says Mark. “People are intrigued about the concept of a church operating as we do.” This attitude extends to members of Carmarthenshire County Council. “This is a hugely encouraging and bold venture by the church to help the economic and social development of the community,” enthuses Councillor Clive Scourfield. Mark has been encouraged by the Council’s enthusiastic support of TCC’s work. “They believe in us, and really think we can do a good job.”

Working in partnership with the Council, the church is planning a £2 million first phase of the bowling alley development which is innovative, exciting and crucially, sustainable. A projected annual income of £200,000 will help to support community projects on site and pay salaries for the 20 jobs being created. The site will house a conference venue, a café, a lunch club for senior citizens, a Foodbank, performing arts centre and furniture recycling facility. The doors will open towards the end of this year.

Towy Community Church’s vision has always been to serve others in a relevant and practical way. In modelling generous and transformational service to their community, they will no doubt continue to make the papers for all the right reasons.



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