Stewardship recently helped Kerith Community Church to buy a former soft play centre for their growing congregation with the aim to become a place where all people in the community are welcomed. We spoke to Pastor Heather Pocock about the church and their vision for the new building.
Tell us a bit about your church
Kerith Community Church was established in 1881, originally meeting as Bracknell Baptist Church. It has grown to become a church of multiple congregations in Bracknell, Farnborough, Windsor and the Isle of Wight. We have a diverse congregation and children and young people are a growing part of the church community. On Sundays we have a modern style of contemporary music and a relaxed, inclusive approach.
Can you tell us about your mission and your involvement in the local area?
Our mission is to help people find their way back to God through communities that grow in their love for God and their love for people. We do this through firstly inviting people to encounter God in our Sunday gatherings. We then encourage people to find community in small groups, and to grow in their relationship with God through our discipleship track and life skills track. We believe God put us in the world to be the light and make a difference so we run our Revive ministries which offer a range of services to support, encourage, and empower those who find themselves living on the margins.
Tell us about the community you serve
Farnborough is an urban area popular with families and London commuters, with a strong history of aviation and military connections. The population is very diverse so we aim to be accessible to all. We have a mixture of ages, backgrounds, cultures and abilities within our church. We provide a broad range of ministries including a debt counselling service, additional needs support, foodbank, employment support, BSL signers, an early intervention programme in schools, as well as Alpha for those exploring the Christian faith.
Are there any stories about how the church has impacted your community that you could tell us?
In 2014, we received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest possible accolade for a voluntary group. We were nominated by the local council in recognition for the support we provide, reflecting the positive impact the local area felt we were having on the community. It’s part of our vision that we would be missed in the local community if the church were to cease to exist, so this award was particularly meaningful.
Tell us about the building and why you chose to purchase it
In 2013, we outgrew our Bracknell building and launched another congregation in the Blackwater Valley area. Over the past 8 years, the Blackwater Valley congregation have grown to a size where we now struggle to find rented facilities that can host us. We also wanted to launch a lot of the same midweek ministries that our other congregations were able to do because of having permanent facilities.
Over the pandemic, we heard about an old soft play building that was up for auction, perfectly positioned off the main arterial road into the centre of Farnborough and walking distance from the shops, so we placed a bid in the auction to become the new owners.
What made you choose Stewardship as a lending partner for the property?
Many of our friends at other churches have partnered with Stewardship for lending on building projects and other services. It was important for us to work with an organisation that understood our unique needs as a church and charity and who shared our common goals and vision. We also have networking relationships with some of the guys on the Stewardship team.
How were Stewardship able to work with you to achieve the purchase of the building?
Natasha, our relationship manager, was fantastic in reacting to the needs we initially brought to her – which included a decision on whether Stewardship could partner with us within a two week timescale (as we were buying at auction), and then making sure the funds were available within the 12 week window after the auction, before completion. The Stewardship team were amazing in understanding the time pressures we were under and responding accordingly to help us get solutions whilst maintaining a friendly, understanding and supportive process.
How will the building help serve your church and your community?
We have a vision that the building will be two things: a house of God and a house of the people.
We want to build a house of the people: a warm, accessible, welcoming space where people can experience authentic community; an open-door 24/7 community environment to offer practical, spiritual and relational support and share the gospel; a café and 1-1 counselling rooms to host outreach ministries and care for the community. We intend for every space to be accessible and to have provision for all ages and abilities – so the building can be a fun, joyful and colour-filled environment for making life-long memories and life-changing decisions. (We’ve also kept a portion of the existing soft play which we intend to incorporate into our children’s spaces!)
We also want to build a house of God: a sacred space between heaven and earth where people experience the presence of God and encounter his transforming and healing power. We dream that it will be a beautiful building saturated with the arts – speaking of his beauty, majesty and creativity. We want the space to be eco-friendly, reflecting God’s care for creation. And we intend for it to be a house of prayer, with prayer fuelling every activity seeding transformation.