A key approach to Mission at Central is that 'All Are Welcome', whatever their particular Christian emphasis. However, until recently, the premises, state of the art at the time of redevelopment over thirty years ago, have been far from welcoming to many.
Access to the first floor sanctuary was up two flights of steps or an external ramp. Sound quality was not good, and neither were projected images. The digital access was slow: the telephone system was unable to transfer calls, and there was no streaming ability within the building or externally.
Five years ago, Central embarked on a 'Mission and Vision' programme, which included a major scheme of refurbishment and improvements to the Church, costing in the region of £100,000. Prior to lockdown, the church, a Grade two listed building, was busy seven days a week with numerous activities serving church members and the wider community, so the logistics of achieving these improvements with minimum impact on day to day activities was quite challenging.
A list of priorities was drawn up, from which separate projects were defined and costed, and the whole programme formally agreed.
Installation of a lift to give improved access to the sanctuary for wheelchair users, and anyone else with mobility issues, presented a significant technical challenge. Fortunately, some very able engineers in the congregation identified a fundamental modification to the structure, so creating space for the lift shaft. The work required the remodelling of several rooms, creating a more flexible use of spaces on both upper and lower floors; as a result Central now has a new quiet room and a refurbished flexible meeting room.
Also crucial to the updating was the replacement and upgrading of the IT equipment and sound system, including a new telephone system; a new WiFi network; an improved hearing loop and a video system capable of streaming live images within the sanctuary, elsewhere in the building, and externally. In all of these tasks Central has been fortunate that the congregation includes people with specialist IT and project management skills.
A second significant structural alteration involved refurbishment of the 'Cornerstone' Christian coffee bar and bookshop, which had remained largely unchanged since it was originally established.
Fortunately several grants towards these projects were forthcoming. However, the work has been achieved in no small part thanks to the huge generosity of the church community, both in terms of finance and time. Their hard work and determination to achieve the goals set out mean that Central is now even better equipped to serve the community.
More details of the activities taking place in the church outside of lockdown can be found by following this link to Central's page in the 'Your Local Church' section of this website Central Church Information.