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Inspire Awards 2008 - Weston Baptist Chapel

Why a small village church in Northamptonshire wants to share its building with the local rural community

Faced with a dilapidated 1790s listed building and repair costs of £125,000, the 30-strong fellowship at Weston Baptist Chapel didn’t want to spend that amount of money on a place that was only used on Sundays and for the occasional midweek meeting.

“That’s when the vision of the Weston Community Project came into being,” says its minister Rev Phil Drage, who is also associate pastor of Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship.

Many hours were spent in prayer, planning and filling out grant application forms, “but always from the viewpoint of ‘this is the way God is leading us’,” he explains.

They ended up spending £300,000 and extended the original building so that it could be used for the local village communities.

Church members run – and pray for – the regular activities that go on there including a lunch club, Tuesday church, hobby club, art club, toddler group, speciality dinner parties and a wine club. The church has sole use of the building on Sundays.

“The Weston Community Project is our mission field,” says Phil. “Spiritually, we have seen an emerging church.”

The lunch club has been the main catalyst. “When we started [it] nearly two years ago we had three people attending the Tuesday afternoon service immediately afterwards. Now we regularly have 10 people, some of whom would never go to a conventional church service.

“We have services where we invite people from the activities to come along and share and show what they are doing. All the while we are building ownership within these people. They feel part of the Project and hence the chapel as well.

“One gentleman who attends lunch club, and then subsequently Tuesday church, said to me recently that he has always struggled to understand or love God because he cannot be touched or seen, but since coming to the Project he is more able to understand.

“We will continue to encourage him and many others who are beginning to see Jesus and God revealed through relationship and then simple worship.”

Weston Community Project in Northants was nominated by Anne Drage.

Closing date for entries to the Inspire Awards 2008 is 1 September 08. Entry forms are available in current issues of Inspire.

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