A FORMER railway workshop in Swindon has held its first church service after the decaying building was bought by the diocese of Bristol.
The Pattern Church — inside the old Pattern Store, in which workers on the Great Western Railway built the moulds for locomotives and wagons up until 1986 — opened this month; renovation work will begin in January.
The Bishop of Swindon, Dr Lee Rayfield, said that the decision to buy the premises was a “visionary step, and one not taken lightly” by the diocese. “This is part of our vision to bless the town of Swindon; part of our vision to transform communities to make lives different and better.
“The Pattern Church is a significant example of the way in which we are developing our commitment to introduce more people to the Christian faith, engage younger generations, and connect with the communities of our changing town.”
The diocese refers to the Pattern Church as a “resourcing church”; it is part of the Holy Trinity, Brompton, network of churches, but is funded by the diocese with a £1.69-million strategic-development grant from the Church Commissioners (News, 10 August). The whole project is costing about £6.45 million, although the diocese will let out a floor of the building for office space to generate some income.
Another large resource church opened in Bristol earlier this year (News, 2 November), but the diocese is also encouraging smaller existing churches to sign covenants to resource each other — something that is “going brilliantly”, Dr Rayfield said.
The Pattern Church is led by the Revd Joel Sales. Mr Sales has worked in churches in London, Bath, and South Africa, and has experience of church-planting.
Many of the new so-called resource churches, such as St Luke’s, Birmingham, and St Matthias’s, Plymouth, have been built in university towns and cities; but Swindon is an exception. Dr Rayfield said that the Pattern Church would connect with younger generations, whether on further-education courses or in their early working life, and would reach out to those who had had no contact with church or had drifted away.
The diocese of Bristol is also opening a new secondary school.