Story of the Building project

This page was prepared shortly after we vacated the site in September 2006. The main Building Project page describes the final phase of the project.

Early warning

As long ago as 1994 a survey warned that the present building had a severely limited future lifespan unless major structural work was carried out.

In response to this, a number of congregational meetings and consultations were held to discuss the various possibilities. Should we invest in the necessary repairs? Move to another site? Manage without a building altogether? The overwhelming view, endorsed many times since, was that a new building was the right way forward. It would secure the future of the church for decades to come, and enable us to fulfil our commitments to God and to the local area.

At that time we were known as the Church Centre, part of the parish of St. Stephen and St. Wulstan. Early in 1996 the PCC (Parochial Church Council) agreed to support an outline plan for developing the site, and this gave us the impetus to move things further forward. St. Stephen's Church was also facing the need for costly modifications and repairs, so we felt we had to proceed with caution and ensure that the commitment among the congregation was strong enough to see the project through.

A further round of consultations confirmed that this was indeed the case. The decision to rebuild received the overwhelming endorsement of the Church Centre congregation, in the full knowledge that we would have to meet the bulk of the rebuilding costs ourselves. The PCC approved this decision in 1997.

Design and delay

In order to move the project forward, Ken Fisher of APEC Architects was engaged to produce a design. This underwent considerable review and modification, but ended up pretty much as it is now. Early in 2000 the cost estimate stood at around 750,000, a figure which has since escalated to around the million pound mark.

When the vicar of St. Stephen's moved on to another post, it was not felt right to make major decisions affecting the future of the parish during the interregnum. After this period the project resumed, a key milestone being reached in April 2002 when planning permission was granted.

There was then a further delay while another "project" took priority: the separation of the Church Centre from the parish of St. Stephen and St. Wulstan to form the new parish of Christ Church. While this process was under way it was not feasible to approach external funding agencies due to the uncertainty over the ownership of the future building.

On the positive side, these delays have helped to keep the building project in its proper place in our thinking and planning. We have always tried to keep our eyes on the wider picture and not lose sight of our purpose in being here. As a church we are here to serve God, and the building is only a means to that end - and a partial means at that.

One of the most striking features of the project is the unwavering conviction among the congregation that a new building is the right way forward. Even though many of our original members have moved on, those who have joined Christ Church more recently are playing a full part in the project. It has to be said that the ever-present cracks in the walls - and the freezing cold of the Scout Hut on a winter's morning - leave little room for doubt.

Time for action

Once the parish of Christ Church was established in June 2004, the way was clear for the "final push". A steering committee was formed to work out what still needed to be done, and a plan was presented at the church's Annual Meeting in April 2005, along with a team to implement it.

A fundraising target was set (see the Funding the building page for details) and some very practical work got underway (outlined in the column on the right). A monthly congregational newsletter was launched to keep everyone informed. The project became an important focus for prayer within the church, in special weekly prayer meetings and in our activities generally. Phoenix Beard, a firm of property consultants, were engaged to manage the project on the church's behalf.

At the end of May 2006, the fundraising target that had been established over a year ago was reached. In June the PCC gave its formal approval for the project to proceed.

Much equipment was moved out of the church and the Scout Hut over the summer, culminating with the final service in the old building at the beginning of September. 78 years of occupation of the site came to a temporary halt so that the rebuilding work could begin.

Down to earth

Some very practical matters have had to be resolved in order for the project to go ahead. As far as the site itself is concerned, Christ Church did not actually own the "front land" - the grassed area at the front of the site - but had to buy it from the City Council after protracted negotiations. We have also had to arrange to move the electricity substation from one corner of the site to another.

The building plans have been subjected to detailed scrutiny by the Diocese of Birmingham, among others, to ensure that they meet the requirements for a Parish centre of worship.

The "Not at home" team took on the task of finding alternative venues for our various activities while building work takes place. After a lot of research and discussion, and thanks to the generous co-operation of neighbouring churches, they succeeded in their task.

In order to keep the public informed we launched a series of public newsletters outlining the plans and explaining why a familiar local landmark was about to be demolished. An exhibition to publicise the plans was held in May 2006.

Isn't it all just a big distraction?

Right from the outset, there has been a real determination not to let the building project take all our time and energy. It would have been easy to have turned inwards and said, "We'll think more about the needs of the world around us... once we have the right building."

If anything, the opposite has happened. We have had to be patient (very!) and to make constructive use of the present building. Above all, it has strengthened our unity and sense of purpose in the face of this enormous challenge.

One side effect has been a flowering of what might loosely be termed "culture" as we have sought to involve as many people as possible in the building project. Visit our Fun and Creativity page to find out more.