New church to be community base

    16 Nov. 2005

    WORSHIPPERS at a Fareham church want to create a new worship centre that will be at the heart of their local community.

    Team vicar the Rev Jeremy Dussek and project co-ordinator David Easton examine the plans outside the current St Columba's Church

    Plans have been drawn up to take down St Columba’s Church, its church hall and the neighbouring vicarage and replace them with a 21st century complex that can be used seven days a week. The new building would be more prominent, more attractive, and would include facilities that can be used by the whole community.

    Local residents will be able to see the plans for themselves at two open days this month – between 2pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm on November 11, and between 10am and 12noon on November 12.

    The existing church and vicarage were both built cheaply in the 1960s and are already starting to suffer from subsidence. The location of the church – behind the existing vicarage – makes it difficult to find, while the wooden frame of the church hall is starting to rot.

    The £1.6m project would involve building a prominent new complex on the corner of Hillson Drive and Highlands Road, where the vicarage is now.

    It would include a semi-circular worship area, three halls, a modern kitchen, an entrance foyer and a small chapel that would be open for quiet reflection during the daytime. The worship area could be expanded into one or more of the halls for larger services.

    Church leaders will hope to work in partnership with the early years centre at Oak Meadow School to provide a pre-school for 24 children on site. They would also invite the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to work in the building to help locals cope with the burden of debt.

    Worshippers would also work in partnership with Portsmouth Housing Association (PHA) to build flats for up to 24 professional workers on the site of the existing church and hall. The land would be leased to PHA for £960,000, which would help to fund the project.

    The church already has £200,000 in the bank, so will only need to raise another £400,000. An appeal will be launched next May, and, if the plans are approved, building work should start in 2007.

    Team vicar the Rev Jeremy Dussek said: “We did think about other options such as extending the existing building, but the walls of the church are already cracking because of the subsidence. Just underpinning the existing building properly would have wiped out our development fund. We put it to the congregation and they overwhelmingly decided on rebuilding.

    “This is actually one of two areas in Fareham of significant deprivation, and the provision of community facilities is very important. Of the 10 aims drawn up by Fareham’s Local Strategic Partnership, we hope to help with three – more housing, helping people cope with debt and provision for pre-school children and facilities for youth.

    “We may or may not call the building a ‘church’, because it will be much more than that. We hope it will be a landmark building with a ‘Wow!’ factor that attracts people in, as churches historically have done. And we want to work in partnership with others so that the building is used seven days a week.”

    The project echoes the thinking behind the bishop’s Kairos initiative, which wanted parishes to think creatively about how to use their buildings and resources to meet the needs of those in the local community. It is one of 277 such projects suggested by parishes, clusters and deaneries across south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.