Sunday 3 September 2023 was a day of celebration for the Emmanuel congregation in Eastbourne as they entered their new building for the first acts of worship. This was a journey that began back in 2014 when four churches – Central and Greenfield Methodist and St. Andrews and Upperton United Reformed Churches – decided to come together. At the time all the congregations were facing challenges but they had a shared discernment that God was calling them together to share the love of God in Eastbourne in new ways. Since joining together and embracing the future as Emmanuel Church there has been a growing sense of new life emerging.
The team at Emmanuel, led by their ministers Rev Paul Tabraham and Rev Memona Shahbaz, have worked tirelessly in overseeing the coming together of the congregations, selling and demolishing buildings, fundraising and constructing a building fit for the 21st century. This has all been done with the support of the Central Sussex United Area (a collection of Methodist and URC churches and LEPs), the Southern Synod of the URC, and the South-East District of the Methodist Church.
Mission has been at the heart of the project. From the planning stage, the Emmanuel team were focused on how this building might be a resource to serve the community. On the ground floor, a shower has been installed so that the building can be used as part of the Winter Night Shelter project. There’s also a welcome space which will become a place for refreshment and could make an excellent ‘warm space’. There is room on the second floor for the Jenny Wren Nursery which is part of the church’s outreach, including a roof garden. Throughout the construction, there were regular visits to the building site, including prayer meetings, tours for locals, and even a primary school visit!
The project has not been without its difficulties, including spiralling costs and inflation, various grants becoming unobtainable, and delays due to the pandemic and economic climate. Rev Paul Tabraham said, “Given the challenges, it is surely by God’s grace alone that we have reached the point of opening, and God’s grace that will help us embrace new possibilities in the years ahead”.
There are a number of events planned for the coming year to mark its completion, including various services, concerts and events. Emmanuel will also welcome the Methodist Modern Art Collection in May/June 2024 for an exhibition entitled ‘New Vision’.
Rev Will Fletcher is the minister of Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, and Hurstpierpoint Methodist Churches within the Central Sussex United Area. He is also one of the Denominational Ecumenical Officers in the South-East Methodist District.