Thank you to everyone who prayed and fasted for our Church Council meeting recently. We started off with coffee and croissants at St John’s Centre, hearing about some of the gospel ministry that’s happened there over the decades – from breakfasts for homeless people to discipleship groups for young mums to a recording studio to Guides groups and parent and toddler groups. Not to forget the church services and Sunday schools, baptisms and funerals. And so so much more! We were reminded that “God is in this place” and we gave thanks for all that had happened there in Jesus’ name.
The decision in principle to sell St John’s had been made a few years ago, and the marketing itself had been delayed by covid. Now, having received a number of offers (from churches, another religious group and a property developer), it was time to decide which offer to accept. We received legal advice to make sure that as a charity we were fulfilling our legal obligations under church and charity law.
In the end, our unanimous decision was to accept the offer from another Christian church. Their offer wasn’t quite the highest offer, but as their aims and objectives as a church are so similar to ours, we are able to accept that offer, knowing this was the best way to fulfil our obligations as trustees of a Church of England parish, paying “due regard to the furtherance of the mission of the Church of England”. We will announce which church we've accepted the offer from this Sunday.
Dan got quite emotional at that point – it felt such a significant decision. We were so grateful to God that the decision was in the end very straight-forward and unanimous – that felt a real answer to prayer.
After a break, we also heard updates on plans for the Parish Hall and St James’ by the Park. We are awaiting a response from Southampton City Council for their views on our current draft proposal for the Parish Hall. After discussion, we decided that our next steps were to do some community engagement around the needs and requirements of such a revamped community facility, and to do some research on the likely costs and impacts of how ‘green’ a new building could be (especially as we try to work towards being carbon neutral by 2030). That community engagement and environmental-impact research would help shape the next stages of detailed planning. We also agreed that we can’t do more work on the plans for St James’ until we hear back from the City Council about the Parish Hall. There was also a discussion about the possibility of grant funding for some of the development work.
Decisions about what to do with our buildings are long and very complex. It felt good to make some real progress as we work towards making our buildings fit with our purpose of Going deeper with God (by creating spaces where people can encounter God); Growing closer to each other (by creating spaces of hospitality and welcome); Reaching further with the good news of Jesus (by creating spaces that fit our mission and help us be better stewards of the environment).