In 2014 Church Growth Trust completed its first new church building in Wickford, Essex. Ruth Leigh looks back over the last five years.
Rob and Lissie Purnell, leaders of New Life Church Crouch Valley, composed of Miracle House in Wickford and a church plant in South Woodham Ferrers in Essex have got a wonderful story to tell.
About 16 years ago, their fellowship outgrew their rented office space. Rob takes up the story. “We spoke to Giles Arnold, who was working with Stewardship at the time. Stewardship were looking for a local evangelical church to rent a small redundant church building in Wickford. We were accepted as the tenants and over a period of time extended the building as much as we could. We then realised that we needed a much bigger building.”
“We started looking for a new location in Wickford,” Lissie explains. “This was in 2010, the same year Church Growth Trust became an independent charity. We spotted the ideal piece of land on the Wick Estate and bid on it. Giles chatted to us and told us the good news that Church Growth Trust could now build properties as well as look after them. Talk about God’s perfect timing!”
The previous year, a guest speaker at the church had brought a word to the congregation about working in partnership. “We thought ‘that’s an interesting word’”, Lissie recalls, “but we didn’t know what it was all about. It wasn’t until we found the land and Giles came and spoke to us that we realised that the word was for us to put our future building into God’s hands.”
The decision to partner with Church Growth Trust came after a fairly bumpy ride. “Legally, CGT were going to own the building. For some in our church, that wasn’t what they anticipated. Some considered that we should go it alone. Others felt that going in with CGT was the right thing to do.”
A challenging meeting took place one Friday with some members of the congregation and leadership team. “We had to get back to Giles with an answer quite quickly,” recalls Rob. “On the Saturday of that week, I sat down to do my daily devotion. I accidentally read Sunday’s reading instead of Saturday’s. The message for the Sunday said, ‘It’s OK to partner.’ It couldn’t have been more clear. At church the next day, I shared the story. All the tension of what we should do was dispelled. We gave Giles our answer on Monday. It was ‘We would love to partner.’”
The new project was the first one for Church Growth Trust. “They really stuck their necks out for us. Without God showing up, it wouldn’t have worked and that’s why we called our new building Miracle House. Miracles kept happening.”
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