A church that has become an integral part of a Bury St Edmunds community will celebrate its 40th anniversary this weekend.
Southgate Church began life as a Sunday School in April 1970 but was ‘born’ on Whitsunday in 1974 when it held its first morning service in the hall of Hardwick Primary School.
It currently has around 80 members, with more than a hundred regular Sunday worshippers, and is due to celebrate its birthday with a barn dance tomorrow and special service on Sunday, both to be held at its Caie Walk base.
Of the church’s success, Bob Jones, worshipper of 38 years and secretary to its trustees, said: “It’s a family, I think, and it’s a very friendly, welcoming church - it becomes part of you, part of your life really, and it has always had very close links with the community, which is important.”
Known as a local ecumenical partnership, the church welcomes people from all denominations, and none at all, and has been based at the Southgate Community Centre since the building opened in January 1976, having raised almost £15,000 towards its build costs.
Its services have been held in the main community centre hall since 1980 and, when St Edmundsbury Borough Council decided to sell the centre three years ago, the church took the lead in establishing the Southgate Community Partnership to take on the ownership and running of the building, which it continues to do, in partnership with the local community.
Sarah Stamp, borough Councillor for the Southgate Ward, said: “Southgate Church is an excellent example of a church being a driving force in bringing people together to build a stronger and safer community.
“They were absolutely instrumental in the success of the community centre transfer from St Edmundsbury to the local residents and we have worked closely on a number of projects, including the hugely successful fun day we held recently.
“I am very much looking forward to joining them for their birthday celebrations.”
BUT DID YOU KNOW THIS?
Three churches formally support Southgate - Anglican, Baptist and United Reformed - but for most of its life it has been financially self-supporting.
It has had three Anglican ministers, two Baptists and two Church Army Captains leading it over its 40 years.
Its current minister, Rev Peter Gibson, took over in 2008.
The church hosts four groups for children and young people, a friendship club for older people, a monthly women’s group and an annual summer holiday club.