Windsor. The name is redolent of the upper echelons of British society, the town dominated by Windsor Castle and with Eton College just down the road.
However, the reality is that there is as much poverty and deprivation in the town as there is privilege. Two people who know this first hand are John Duffield, Property Manager at Church Growth Trust, and Leon Johnson, one of the leadership team at Kerith Community Church in Dedworth, the most westerly part of Windsor and a place which knows all about social deprivation.
Kerith Community Church rents the Windsor Gospel Hall from Church Growth Trust (CGT), as John explains: “We had been letting the property since 2007 to River Church, who were mainly using the site for weekly activities in support of their other locations. In 2016, they felt it was time to move on, so we started to look around for another church who would benefit from the site. Kerith Church, who were already doing work on the local estate, have a history of church planting and were keen to move in. It was the ideal handover as River Church made it so straightforward for us both. They did everything they said they would with regard to redecoration and repairs, and behaved in a most sympathetic, helpful and godly manner throughout.”
Leon Johnson from Kerith Church states: “We moved in at the beginning of the summer last year. We’ve wanted to reach out to the area for a while now, and the hall was the ideal place for us to do that. We are involved in lots of social justice work and Dedworth is the right place for our next church plant.
“I grew up in Bracknell, and like most people, I thought that Windsor was really posh! When we moved to Dedworth, we were surprised at the level of deprivation. There are a lot of council estates and a big Army barracks, plus all the usual social issues around unemployment, debt, addiction and so on.”
The Windsor Gospel Hall sits on the main road into the town on the edge of a housing estate built by Laings in the late 1960s. The hall was an integral part of the development, with the site reserved by the company, who were a Brethren family. Now comprising a mixed residential and industrial area, Dedworth is one of the most deprived suburbs in Windsor.
Over the years, many churches have come and gone in Dedworth. There have been lots of plans which never came to fruition. Kerith Church were delighted to take the opportunity of a five-year lease with CGT, as their vision for the area is long term and sustainable.
“We are planning to start running a CAP centre at the hall, we hold core group and vision meetings and the women’s ministry meets there monthly. We are also planning to run Alpha and to start a toddler group.”
As Leon explains, Kerith’s core group at the hall are embedded locally. “We have a number of teachers in the congregation who teach at local schools and who know the community well. Our women’s group are very outward focused, visiting old people’s homes, challenging and encouraging each other and making good, lasting relationships with people in Dedworth.”
As Kerith Church look forward to 2018, another partnership between Church Growth Trust and a local church is helping to show the love of Christ through its practical support for the people who need it most while developing a long term and sustainable plan for the local community.
Photos Copyright Andrew Williams.