Council property sale to Chelmsford church will ‘enrich lives’

A Chelmsford church is buying a former school as part of its vision to reach out into the community.

Meadgate Church, which has rented the former junior and infant school in the Meadgate Centre since 2014, is soon to buy the property in order to expand its work.

The church’s journey started in 1963 in Meadgate Avenue, where it still has a church, but expanded its operations to the Meadgate Centre in Mascalls Way after taking a lease in 2014.

Activities including a family community event on Thursdays, a homework club, as well as baby weighing health visitor services and counselling sessions for youngsters run by the NHS have grown.

Vicar Tim Ball, who has led the church since September 2015, said the purchase, helped with the contribution of £380,000 from members of the church, will allow further community activities.

Essex County Council (ECC) has said that “it is important to make effective and efficient use of our assets, realising the value for those which are no longer required and are not needed for longer term investments”.

Rev Ball said: “Buying the property gives us security for the future. We will never get what we do here at the church in the parade. That has its own life.

“There are three other classrooms at the back which gives us greater scope for more creative things.

“I want to start pottery classes – we still have the kiln and the vicar at St Augustine’s is a potter.

“Even if it’s just an opportunity for people to do art and make a few pots there are people here where that could bring added value.

“We won’t just let space to anyone. They will have to meet with our vision. It’s about children and families and strengthening community.”

The work to reach out to families and enhance relationships is demonstrated with the work there – 35 children attend on Thursday to do crafts while parents can use the coffee shop.

Homework club is held on Tuesday evenings, while there is a soft play area next to the café where parents can bring children daily.

Rev Ball said: “We took the lease and set up operations here with the vision to strengthen then community by providing community services, particularly in terms of reconciling families and children with their parents.

“In our estate there are quite a few children where partnerships have broken down and they are struggling with which parents to live with.”

The church says it wants the investment to add to its focus on belonging – it has people volunteering in a café who have never had a job before. Some have special needs and learning difficulties.

He said: “We did get some money from the diocese and people have ceded some money and have ceded a lot more money since.

“£380,000 from 108 people who worship here. It suggests that Meadgate Church is deeply engaged in its community.

“What we had to do was show ourselves to be worthy purchasers of this place so we could be honest and show this is what we are doing

“Here we have come to see that just making people’s lives better is the kingdom of God. They may never progress pass that.

“But their lives are enriched. Children are socialised amongst each other, parents are less isolated and older people have got a place to go.

“That is why we are able to do so much good stuff in terms of social engagement because we have made use of the facilities in a way people can access and try to use it as creatively as we can.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter