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Christ Church
Billericay, Essex

 

Registered Charity No: 1131650

Church History

 

Introduction

The history included in this project has come largely from the information collected for the 30th Birthday events held in our church in 1995. As we approached our 40th birthday, we again became more aware of our history. This project as originally produced for the “Course in Christian Studies” in 2003, and has been updated during 2005, and 2006

 

The Church Building

In 1932 the St. Albans and Chelmsford Church Trust purchased a plot of land in Perry Street, on the northern outskirts of Billericay, for 300. The plot extended 420ft from the road. A mission hut was built the following year, to cater for those who lived in the new housing that was being built in the area. The area was then part of the parish of Ingatestone with Buttsbury. In 1965 the mission hut had served for 32 years but was no longer suitable for the regular use of the congregation, the foundations having deteriorated, and a church was built. The consecration service was held on 11 December 1965
Mission Hut
The Mission Hut
Mission Hut
A wider view of the Mission Hut

The picture shows Peter Sandberg at the time of the building of the new hall.
Inside the new church the choir process. There are moveable chairs at the front and pews from the old church at the back
Choir
The fund for the new church opened in 1961. In order to keep the cost of the building down to 32,000, in 1964, the building plan was simplified. 12,000 was provided by the diocese, to use this money a survey was required, to count the local Anglicans, and determine their support for a new church. After the occupation of the new building, the hut was used as a Church Hall until 1982.


Occupation does not mean stagnation, and the church has continued to develop. Originally, the font was fixed, but was mounted on wheels when the carpet was laid. The pews were replaced with chairs, and the wooden and metal chairs were replaced with upholstered ones. The heating was changed, and then upgraded. Amplification was added, and later a loop installed for people with hearing difficulties. The sound system has been adjusted and upgraded a number of times

 

 

Hall building PlansThe Hall

By 1980 it had become apparent that the hall (the old Mission Hut) in its present form also required replacing. Plans were drawn up, and fund raising began. The plan for the site can be seen here, but is no longer to the scale indicated. The new hall opened in 1982, with some severe restrictions on its use, as once again cost cutting had taken its toll. The ‘plan’ to the right is not entirely accurate, and in 2004 we completed the next phase, by joining the two buildings

Sanctuary

 

The inside of Christ Church around this time has changed very little since 1965

 

Buildings Today and Plans for the Future

Church Exterior
Church Exterior
Church Exterior
Above: Three pictures show the outside of our building, avoiding trees and notice boards

Below: New blinds to make use of the OHP easier, bannes to improve decoration and eliminate some of the ‘strobe’ effects on the screen and new artwork by a member of the congregation.

Church Members
Cross
Pictures

After a period of relative quiet, shortly after the millennium serious consideration is given to filling the awkward gap left between the church and the hall.  Following new regulation our kitchen and toilets do not meet the standards required, so further changes to our buildings are planned

An atrium now fills the gap between the church and the hall. Along with the Atrium, the hall kitchen, and toilet facilities were re-appoint, an additional fire escape provided at the back of the church, and the storage area at the back of the hall can be accessed from the church or the hall.

The Atrium was built as a community project.  Some funding was provided by Landfill Trusts

The computer simulation is very realistic, although we do have a better taste in colour schemes

Atrium Plans
Aitrium

 

Community Events

Christ Church, Billericay is part of a team ministry, with Emmanuel, Billericay, St. Johns, Outward Common, and St Mary the Virgin, Little Burstead. We are also members of “Churches Together in Billericay” (CTB). It is through CTB that our most notable community events have occurred. As part of mission ’84, in July, CTB produced “The Christ” – The story of Jesus’ life performed throughout the town, starting in Lake Meadows Park, with his Baptism, and working through the High Street, and finally to Sun Corner, where the crucifixion and resurrection were staged

Sermon on the Mount
Procession

Crusifixtion

The town has become used to the Christians and their “Walk of witness” blocking the High Street on Good Fridays, but there has been nothing like this. On a blazing hot Saturday in July, the Christians re-enact the life of Christ. A huge number of people who came to watch, and followed the scenes as they moved through the town. As almost everyone in the churches seemed to be involved in some way, the majority of them must have been interested in seeing what we were up to

 

Mission ‘89

Also organised by CTB, but largely driven by Christ Church, because Rob, our vicar was chairman at the time. Mission ’89 invited J. John, to come and speak to the town. This was a serious mission, and the Christians in the town were organised into local areas to pray for their street. There was a tent on Sun Corner, and we invited those we knew to come along to one or more of the evenings

 

ChristingleChristingle

This idea is promoted by the Children’s Society and is used by them as a fund raiser.  It has proved enormously popular since being move to Christmas eve.  Christ church now runs three Christingle services in Christmas eve, catering for the very young in the afternoon through to the older and adult in the early evening.  The Christinge is a symbol, helping us remember the truth of the gospel:

  • The orange reminds us of  world.
  • The candle stands tall and straight and gives light in the dark like the love of God.
  • The red ribbon goes all around the 'world' and is a symbol of the blood Jesus shed when he died for us.
  • The four sticks point in all directions and symbolise North, South, East and West - they also represent the four seasons
  • The fruit, nuts, sweets represent the fruits of the earth, God’s gift to and for all of us, nurtured by the sunshine and the rain

 

EastinglesEastingle

Launched in 2008, Eastingle is intended to pick up on the popularity of Christingle.  It was developed at Christ Church by the youth worker and several of the Children’s team.  Instead of an orange, a hot cross bun is used to remind us of the Easter story

 

Dambusters

A Saturday morning event for Dads and small children.  Breakfast and fun are available.

 

Major Events Summary

11th December 1965

Consecration of Christ Church

1969

Debt for church cleared

1970

Purchased organ from St Johns Mountnessing

1971

A scout hut was built of the Christ Church site

1973

Land was sold to build a vicarage next door to the church

1974

A parish mission was lead by Peter Ashton, who would later be Rector

1975

Christ Church Financial Times first published. Amplification added

1978

Billericay Parish becomes a team ministry - and is joined to the Basildon Deanery

1981

The heating was replaced with electric infrared units

12th June 1982

The hall opens
The BBC Songs of Praise comes to Christ Church. This is a youth event


1984

Mission ‘84: The Christ

1985

Christ Church office openned
Christ Church has its first weekend away

November 1987

The resurfacing of the car park was completed.
Much of this work was done by the congregation and as a result of an estimated 36,000 was saved

1988

The Church Urban Fund target allocated to Christ Church was exceeded

1989

Billericay wide prayer cells

1995

30th birthday year. Arts Festival

1996

Flower Festival

1998

Appointment of first youth worker

2000

Christ Church web site launched

2001

Chairs replaced

2002

First visit to Tanzania

2003

The original 1965 lighting is finally replaced

2004

Atrium completed
Appointment of second youth worker

2005

40th birthday year - various outreach events - most notably the ‘Murder Mystery’

2006

Christ Church has a Reader (Jane) for the first time in many years

May 2006

Church weekend away led by Stephen Dinsmore

2007

Second Reader is Licensed (Pete)

2008

Eastingle Service launched
Church Weekend Away
Third Reader licensed (Margaret)

2010

A new projector was installed in the early part of the year, making it possible to show video properly for the first time.
Christ Church TV – a youtube channel was launched.
The remainder of the projection equipment was installed in time for Christmas, with fold-back monitor, professional screen and remote control

 

Staff at Christ Church

Dec 1962 - 1968

Barry Williamson

1968 - 1972

Edward Pilkington

1972 - 1983

Peter Sandberg, Curate and Team Vicar

1984 - 1991

Rob Richards, Team Vicar

1985 - 1991

Ron Bradford, Church Army Captain

1991 - 1998

Gavin Wakefield, Team Vicar

1997 - 2001

Martin Howard, Curate

Feb 1999 - Mar 2006

Paul Hinkley, Team Vicar

Sep 2000 - Jul 2004

Carrie Leslie, Youth Worker

Sep 2004 - Jul 2008

Mark Pape, Youth Worker

Jun 2006 - 2014

Warner Pidgeon, Team Vicar

Jul 2008 -

Liz Fisher, Youth Worker

May 2015 -

Margaret Fowler, Team Vicar

 

Reflections

The need for building?

Some of the decisions taken in 1965 still affect us today. The heating system was inadequate, and cause cracking of the walls. The proposed gallery at the rear of the church changed the nature of the space entirely. It would have prevented us from doing many of our current activities. However, the vision of building a church of this size in the ‘God is dead’ decade of the 1960’s is truly inspired.

The question we must address time and again is “To build, or not to build?” and “What are our buildings for?”. Are we, as the bishop says in the consecration service, building to show Gods glory and somehow expecting Him to stay in the building, or are our buildings merely a tool? In the 30th birthday video 1 Kings 8:22-61 is shown, (see Appendix 1). This seems like a useful passage; it reminds us that God cannot be contained in a building (v27), but concentrates on the use of the building as a focus for the people. So that, for example they may pray towards the building and God will hear them. This does not mean that the building itself is prayed to. In a society such as ours, where not everyone is convinced even of the existence of God, building to His glory provides a focal point in the community. It has to be noticeable in its own right to achieve this. In our case this is the illuminated cross on the top of our building. It also has to be used, and available, and we have a number of events that do this … both regular youth outreach, and various one off’s, like the 30th Birthday arts festival.

The church (and its people), is also a place people can turn to, to encounter God and experience his forgiveness (v33 & 34). In Samuel’s case, this was for the nation, in our case it applies to the individual. This is because our building is not of national importance, but it does have an importance to the local community.

Gods Promises

The 1 Kings passage also reminds us that God has kept his promise, something that we have seen many times in our life at Christ church. The vision of David to build for God, is paralleled by the vision of those who purchased the land, in the 1930’s (it was much too large for the hut, or even the current church), and the people who built the church in 1965. Even in a growing area the church was enormous, but God has fulfilled his promises to us also. Christ church provides a reasonably flexible worship space. However many compromises had been made from the original design, enabling us to do things that would never have been dreamt of like the art exhibition, a 3D obstacle course for a youth event, and various concerts. All easily fit in. The building has been useful in gathering the congregation in a developing area, and attracting people to see who God is (we hope), through the people who worship there. There were 400 baptisms in one year, in the late 60’s.

Christ’s Church

Throughout the building process, the fund raising and the difficulties and disagreements, the things that people remember the most are the fellowship. God has built His community around the church, just as He had in Samuel’s time. Hopefully we are easier to join than the Jews turned out to be. Indeed, we have a reputation for being friendly and ‘adopting’ people, at least that is what some of our visitors tell us. An example of this occurred during the 1980s when a local independent Christian community broke up. Most of them joined our church, and many of them are still with us.

Outreach

Not everything we do is covered by one Old Testament passage. We must also consider the New Testament commands of Jesus. Particularly the command in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples. We have been obedient to this in a number of different ways:

  • Supporting ordination candidates
  • Regular events for Mothers and Toddlers, Children after school, and the early teens
  • Supporting missionaries, both from other areas and our own church

Love

Our congregation is organised into Home Groups, for mutual support, and mutual study, in this way we are obeying Jesus command in John 13:34 to love one another. Not everyone will join a Home Group, but those that do not are asked regularly as the Home groups change and new ones form. Special provision is always made for them when Home Groups run events, such as the Maundy Thursday Agape meal.

There is also an opportunity to ask for and receive prayer in the services. Practical help is also available, some of it happens naturally and without formal organisation. Other help is coordinated by our pastoral coordinators.

 

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