Hope Church, Oswestry celebrated the opening of its brand-new building in July 2023 with an Opening Dedication Service.
The building, located in the centre of the market town of Oswestry, had been 8 years in planning. The church had purchased land on the English Walls site in the town and following an extensive planning permission process had obtained permission to build a new church building on the site. To assist with the completion of the church building development, Hope Church made use of loan funding from Stewardship to help the completion of the development, plus funding from various grant funders that the church reached out to. The church also managed to significantly raise funds from gift days held throughout the course of the development, with members giving generously to the cause.
The dedication service which was packed to capacity, was presided over by Hope Church Senior Pastor Chris Shaw and included contributions from members across the demographic of the church, including members both young and old from all ministry groups, representing the large ministry reach that the church has.
The building is now the hub for the church’s Sunday services, and extensive ministry and community outreach. They also hope to attract local businesses to hire some of the space they have created as well.
At the dedication service, Emma Bebb read out a prayer which was taken from the original dedication of the first church building owned by the church in the 1960s, which she said showed the heart they have for their church ministry today.
“Make the door of this house we raised be wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship and the Fatherly care”.
Building Hope Church, Oswestry
Malcolm (MB) and Emma Bebb (EB) are long time members of Hope Church Oswestry's leadership team. They took some back in December 2021 whilst their building was under construction to talk with Chris Perkins about their church, its history, its life, and what God is doing with them as the church took the bold step of moving from their suburban town location and moving to a purpose-built new church site in the town centre of Oswestry.
Q: How was Hope Church, Oswestry started?
EB: Hope Church was started in the 1960s in a couple's home based in Oswestry. At the time, Hope Church was called 'Carreg Llwyd Church'. After meeting in the home for a number of years, they asked God to provide them with a plot of land; somewhere in Oswestry where they could build a church, as their heart was for the community and its people. After praying and approaching the council about a plot of land they were guided towards Laburnham Drive. In the 1960s, they bought the plot and built a church there. That is where Hope Church still lives today. Although the church has grown, some of those who attended that small house group in the 1960s are still a part of today's Hope Church congregation.
Q: Tell us about your congregation?
EB: I am going to tell you about our congregation and how they’ve got behind our building project. Our congregation is a mixed bunch of people, a mixed bunch of ages, backgrounds and demographics. All sorts of people come to Hope Church. Our congregation on a Sunday morning is probably 100+ people and we have different people connect with us on our live stream as well. So we reach quite a broad base of people. We have people from our community form part of our congregation because in our culture and DNA as a church right from the very beginning, we’ve always sought to reach out and be part of our community. That is our heart as a church - to reach out to the local people in Oswestry. So that’s our congregation, and they’ve been behind our church build in so many ways.
You could put their support under three headings:
Prayer. Our church has met for several years, talking and giving to this project. Praying and seeking God’s heart as to where He wants us to be. Where He wanted us to move to, and what He wants us to be doing. We've set up a specific prayer group for our building project and people have really got behind it with their prayers and their support in this way.
Time. This project is run mainly by volunteers. We have professionals that come in and give guidance, but it’s mainly been run by volunteers, and we’ve set up a building team built around people who have different gifts. Some people can find funding for us, some are good project managers and know building contractors, and some have been dealing with the council. So these people have given up their time for our building project.
Financial giving. We've had gift days where people have given lots of money and we have regular giving where people give regularly into our building fund. Our congregation is completely behind this project. They are very excited and their enthusiasm really is great and amazing. Even through COVID 19, all these things carried on and it's really encouraging as a leader of our church to have a congregation who is so behind this building move.
Q: What is the community like that you serve?
EB: We are based in a town called Oswestry in Shropshire, UK. We are very close to the Welsh border and that is reflected in the community we serve in our church. In the church we have a number of people that come from the central Oswestry area, but we also have a number of people that live in the surrounding villages that come through. We are quite a spread out congregation. I would say there is about a 15-mile radius that people travel in from to get to our church. This is the type of town we live in and it is reflected in who comes to our church. Oswestry is a lovely place; it has cafes, lovely independent shops. It's really lively and still has a market every Wednesday and Saturday. It has an animal market outside of the town as well and that is a tradition that carries on. But like many other towns in our nation, it has been hit by economic problems and also by the impact of COVID. A number of the shops have shut and parts of the town are looking a bit tired because of the economic problems that they’ve faced. How we serve our church is reflected by this. What we do and how we act in our community is reflected in what we see around us.
We have different projects that reach out into our community, and one of those projects is called 'Compass', a homeless project that is linked to Green Pastures. We house four homeless men in a house in Oswestry and we have a staff member who looks after the Compass house and monitors. We have many volunteers from our church who are support workers. They come alongside individuals in the house and support them and look after them. These guys have come to church on a Sunday and some of them help out on the refreshment rota. We are slowly getting a better relationship with the homeless men who live in Compass House. It’s a really new project that has been going for about a year, but it's really having an impact on how we see our community.
We also have lots of other groups that happen on Sundays and in the week, and one of these groups is a group called 'Sticky Fingers Mums and Tots' group. Parents bring their children to this group and it really builds relationships for our church as young mums, dads and grandparents come along and we get to know them as they bring along their children. We also have kids and youth activities on a Sunday and in the week as well.
Another project that we do which is interesting is called the 'Dorcas Project' and it's run by a lady in our church who is very creative; she sews and does amazing things with fabric and she’s got a small group of people who meet together to learn how to sew. Some people we’ve met we’ve connected via our Compass House and also through another project that we do called 'OsBless'. OsBless happens once a year in May where church people sign up and donate certain hours for one week in the year for different projects. We have different projects on a notice board that we have heard need help in our community and people sign up to help. For example, perhaps a family needs help decorating their home and volunteers will sign up and give up, say, three hours of their day to go round and paint a bedroom. Or perhaps it’s a gardening project that needs to be done in peoples' houses for people who can't manage their garden. Or even in our town, tidying up an alleyway or washing graffiti from a wall. So that’s another way we serve our community.
We also have groups for our older people and one of them is called 'Lunch Club' reaching out to the older generation not just across our church, but other churches and across the community in Oswestry. So there are so many things we have got going on. I want to encourage you that if you want to have a look at our website, you’ll see all the different things we do to serve our community.
Q: Why do [did] you need a new building?
EB: We have been in our current building since the 1960s, and it has served us well. We've had many different groups that met there, and it has been amazing. Our church has grown and it has reached into our community and done amazing things. But seasons change and churches must change alongside those seasons to reach the communities that they are in. Oswestry is a small town and a lot of the focus is on the centre of the town. People come here to do their shopping, they come here to socialise, they come here to be together and as a church we’ve really felt God saying to us that we need to be more visible. Our pastor Derek Hughes, said he thought we were Oswestry’s 'best kept secret' and what he meant by that was that we had so much to offer and as a church we did so many things and loved our community so much, but things were being missed and the community didn’t know about us. People couldn’t find us because we are a church that is based in quite a built-up residential area. We were difficult to find and that was inhibiting how we could work and reach people as a church. So we decided that the best way to change that would be to move our location and become more visible in Oswestry.
Q: How has Stewardship helped you?
MB: The the whole site was purchased by donations kindly from the church members which was wonderful and the whole site was paid for, but we needed to raise funds to build this new church unit and we contacted various Banks, High-Street-type Banks. Some of them were interested, some weren't so helpful, but then we came across Stewardship's services and they were really useful in understanding our needs. They obviously specialise in churches and charities and we worked with the team and they understood that we had other buildings that we could use as security for the new building and we found them really helpful.
Q: Can you tell us about the building development?
MB: Originally, we were hoping to buy a building that was across the road; an old cinema. We had a feasibility study done on that but the owners decided not to sell it but instead, to lease it. So then we looked at this other new site which had some old stable buildings and garage buildings on it. We contacted the owners and made them an offer to buy which they accepted, so we went through the planning process. The site is in a conservation zone which made things quite complicated as we had to be careful with the architecture that was on-site. When we designed the new building it had to take into account the old buildings that have been replaced.
Site purchased for new church build
Photo reference: Hope Church, Oswestry
Q: How have you seen God at work during the building project?
EB: There are two ways I can speak about this. The first story I can tell is through the giving we have experienced from our congregation. Our congregation is not a rich congregation. They come from various working backgrounds, but the amount of money they have given to the project regularly over the years, the amounts they have pledged and given on gift days, I think has been amazing. It's been quite shocking how much people have sacrificially given to this project. As a leader who has been on the leadership team for a number of years, I am constantly encouraged by the amount that people give to this building project and how much they support it financially. The second story I would say is the actual location. The land behind me that you can see there [on the video] - this is our plot of land. There is a big tractor with a trailer which has been flattening the site. You can also see behind me what we bought; two big units that we are going to be able to rent out to different groups and different clubs, and also the church can use them. Then above that there is office space that we call the 'work space' and that is already rented out to a company. Our staff are also going to use that space. Not only do we have space for a new church, but we have three shops that we rent out. We have units and rooms we can use to rent out and use on a Sunday, and we have workspace rooms. So God didn’t just say, 'move to town, be more visible'. God said 'move there and look how I am going to bless you abundantly with the plot of land and the site I am giving you'. Those are two stories which really demonstrate just how much God has been at the centre and has been using us and moving in this building project.
Q: Tell us an encouraging story about recent church life?
EB: For me, one of the most encouraging stories from church life is our 'Compass House' project. A few years ago we got in touch with a charity called 'Green Pastures' and they deal with how to re-home homeless people. They came to see us and we spoke through our vision as a church. We now home four homeless people. There was a long process between meeting them and us doing this. Recently they did a gardening project and they posted a lot of pictures on our Facebook community group which was really lovely to see. Volunteers from our church work alongside these men. It is really exciting, not just because you’re involved in a really needy area of our community in our society, but also these people are connecting with us as a church. Recently a couple of them have been along to our church and been helping with the refreshments. We had a prayer meeting a few weeks ago and they provided refreshments for us and it was lovely to see them as part of our church community.
Q: Tell us about bible verses that have been at the centre of the project?
EB: Like with any project a church does, they really want Jesus to be at the centre of that project, to have a real heart that listens to the spirit of God in the directions that they take. So bible verses that have come out of prayer meetings have been really important to us as leadership as we headed into this building project. I got some from this book that I dug out, and in this book, there are notes from 2014 and I remember being on leadership team in those early days and writing down all of those bible verses that were mentioned because they were so important for us as a team and as a church for the direction for where God wanted to take us.
I’m just going to read a couple of them that have stayed with me about our building project:
One is from Hebrews 11:4 ("People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.") and it talks about faith and when you have faith in something, God shows His approval to you and it says this, "We might feel we have been asked the impossible, but we look forward to something greater than we have now. Since that time when the verse was given, there have been moments when circumstances have seemed so impossible, but God has got greater things than we can ever imagine or believe. He has greater things in store for us."
Another story was from Nehemiah. It was when Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. The person that gave this verse, said this, "God was with him still even in the opposition that they faced, they got the job done". When you are building a church in the centre of a busy town, some people don’t like that. Some people really don’t like the idea of a church being built right in the middle of a commercial district. It can rub people up the wrong way. Some people are quite negative, perhaps they just don’t like the idea of church generally. We have faced opposition, and that’s spiritual isn’t it? You’ve got to pray through that and you’ve got to expect that. Those verses from Nehemiah show us that throughout history, people who try and do something that God wants them to do face opposition, but do you know what? You can still get the job done.
In Psalm 37 ("The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand." v23-24), the words that were given for the church were that 'we could relax in God’s presence'. God is with us; we need to commit our ways to God. Sometimes we feel that there is an army heading towards us, there is an army of confusion, an army of blockages to stop projects, but do you know what? God has got it, and I’ve felt this throughout our project. God has got this project in His hands; He goes before us. He really knows and guides our path with His light.
These are just a couple of verses that have stayed with me right from the beginning of this building project.
Drawing plans for the new church building
Photo reference: Hope Church, Oswestry
Q: What are the current challenges you face as a church?
EB: Like many churches at this time, regrouping as a community of believers after COVID in the 18 months we were in and out of meeting due to lockdown. We met online as a church, we did our livestreams, we were on YouTube, we set up Facebook communities and really tried to group together and show love to one another by just being part of a family in church. But like many other churches it wasn’t quite the same as when you meet physically on a Sunday or in the week at home groups. It wasn't quite the same seeing someone’s face on a Zoom call as opposed to sitting in a lounge having a cup of coffee with them. The challenge for us as a church is to regain that sense of community, regain that sense of friendship with each other and just start building up again and stepping out, being motivated again as a church. As a leader, I am already really encouraged as to what is happening, but there is still time for us to regroup as a church which is a challenge. On top of that, our challenge is also our building move, so not only did we have COVID, we also have a building move as well. Our challenge is just to get that done! For things to fall into place, like contracts and legal things that take time which is part of the process and part of the challenge is to love the process. People say the word 'journey' a lot, but it's true. As we build we need to love the process that we are going through. Yes we want the end, we want the church built, we want to have meetings in the centre of town and press the pedal to get on with stuff, but I think God teaches us patience and I know it’s a challenge for some of us in church to have patience, but to also enjoy the process of this new build. To stand back and look at what is happening and say, ‘that is amazing!’ To just appreciate the diggers that are on site, to appreciate how the site changes and to appreciate how God is moving and working in the process and not just in the end product.
Building works in progress
Photo reference: Hope Church, Oswestry
Q: What are the hopes and dreams for Hope Church, Oswestry?
EB: What are our hopes for the future of Hope Church’s ministry as we do this building project and generally as we move into a new place as a church? It falls into two areas; discipleship and evangelism in the community around us. My hopes and thoughts for the future of our discipleship are that we could grow and transform to be more like Jesus, that our Sunday services continue to reach a number of people, that our kids' and youth programmes will be relevant for our church families as well as for the families in our community. Also, that we continue to springboard the discipleship we do such as Alpha right up to discipleship groups that take on heavier material from the Bible. That we can have fingers into all different sorts of discipleship like stepping stones from when you first come through the door to when you reach more maturity in your Christian life. My hope is that we can have stepping stones of discipleship through our church community. My hopes for evangelism is that we continue to look out into our community, that being in the centre of town brings a stronger light to our little town of Oswestry, that the things we put on, the things that we do will be a real good example to those around us of Jesus’ love for them, and that as a church we can fulfil our mission to be real hope to real lives in the future.
The completed church building
Photo Reference: Chris Perkins, Stewardship
Stewardship is thrilled to have been able to partner with Hope Church Oswestry in seeing the outworking of their vision to build a church from the ground up in the centre of Oswestry. Our prayer is that the building will be a blessing to the people and enable the church to outwork their vision and ministry.
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