A wise person said to me recently, “Church prayer meetings are a good place to share the latest news; people who come to the prayer meetings deserve to be the most in-the-know people in your church!”  So, if you were able to be at our Grace Church prayer meeting a few weeks ago, you would have heard me give an update on the latest progress of our plans to prepare the Grace Centre as a home for Grace Church. It’s been a long road, but I am delighted to say that the building work is ready to begin!

I cannot get over the amazing provision of God: whilst leading us on a roller-coaster faith journey throughout the process to purchase the Grace Centre, he also enabled us to have enough funds left over to embark on an initial phase of building work.

In December of last year, we appointed an architect to produce a design for what the Grace Centre could ultimately look like. This was an important step because as we begin these initial phases of work, we wanted to ensure that we were always working towards the final design and not away from it. I presented these plans at our Vision Focus evening just after Easter.

Since then we have been working out what Phase 1 of the development plans will look like. The priority is to prepare the building so we can use it effectively on a Sunday morning for our Chichester site, use it more widely for whole church events, and, crucially, begin to open our doors to the community for regular and one-off events that serve the people of Chichester and beyond.

The architect came up with a Phase 1 plan and this went out to tender with a number of developers. It has taken a bit of discussion to arrive at a specification that works for a price we can afford, but we have finally got there. Even better, work is able to start immediately, so on Monday 29th July most of the building will be handed over to the chosen developer, a local company named PD Harris, and work will begin!

So, here is the plan in detail: this phase of the building work will include blocking off the unwanted drains and making the floor level throughout the building. We felt it was important to do this in a way that will last well into the future, so the floor will include an insulation layer and be raised to the level of the platform that runs all around the existing space. The floor will then be carpeted throughout.

I am secretly quite fond of the roller-shutter doors at the front and rear of the building, but clearly, they need to go! They will both be replaced with glazed units with double doors. The ground outside the doors will be gently ramped to enable wheelchair and pushchair access.

Internally, some new partition walls will be created: one to separate the main auditorium from the foyer space, and some more to create two classrooms, which will be used by our children’s groups on a Sunday morning. Some of the existing smaller rooms will be reconfigured and fitted out to create gents’ and ladies’ loos, and a serving hatch will be created into a temporary kitchen space. Some work will be done to improve the acoustics in the main auditorium.

Other than those major items, there are a few smaller things to do as well. We need to fix a small leak on one of the ceiling extractor fans, install a new rain-water down pipe, and change the balustrades on the stair wells to make them child friendly. We are also looking at external signage, so people know who we are!

I can’t wait to see it all done!  All this work is expected to be completed by mid-October. An important date for your diary is Saturday 2nd November. The first thing we will do in the revamped Grace Centre is get the whole church together on that day for some kind of celebration/party – details to be confirmed. All being well, we will relocate our Chichester site venue from the High School to the Grace Centre from Sunday 3rd November, and lots of church ministries will be able to relocate to the Grace Church from this date too.

It has taken a long time to get to this point, but I am so glad that we are now able to get underway with the building work. And so grateful that we are all on this journey together.