The Emmanuel Centre
There has been a place of worship on South Street in Ditchling since 1904. This was called Emmanuel Chapel and was run by the Brethren denomination. Some of the older residents of the village remember the old ‘Tin Tabernacle’ as the original building was nick-named. That hall was replaced by the present brick building in 1973. Worship services continued there until 2017 when the congregation had reduced to about five ladies. The Church Growth Trust, which manages the building on behalf of the owners, approached the Beacon Parish and The Point church (an Anglican church which worships in a school in Burgess Hill) enquiring if they were interested in using the premises. After discussion between the leadership of both churches, it was felt right to proceed with a Tenancy Agreement whereby the Beacon Parish would be the main tenant and it would sub-let to The Point. Expenditure on the building would be shared equally between the two churches.
The launch of the Emmanuel Centre
28 January 2018
The Tenancy agreement started in October 2017 for a five year term which has now been extended to 2027. The building required considerable work to upgrade and decorate it. Both the Beacon Parish and The Point had special fund-raising appeals and together raised over £30,000 to renovate the premises. The work on the building and garden area was carried out by volunteers from both churches. Although the building was in regular use during the process of renovation, a formal service of blessing and consecration was led by Richard, the Bishop of Lewes on 16 April 2019.
Prior to the Pandemic, the Centre was being used almost every day. Some of this use was for the local community (Children’s Ballet class, Ladies’ Exercise Group, Ditchling Christmas Fair), although priority was always given to the needs of the churches. Beacon Parish used the building for the YODAH Youth Club, ‘Stay and Play’, ‘Good Morning Friday’, Cathedral talks, Film Evenings, Quiz evenings, supper evenings and a New Year’s Eve tea and cake event. The Point held a regular Sunday evening service in the building as well as using it for two youth nights every week, Alpha and other courses and leadership meetings. In an average month it was being used for 42 meetings or events for a total of about 86 hours and the monthly footfall was in excess of 600.
During lockdown the Centre has been closed, although the Point has started to live-stream their Sunday morning service from the centre since the middle of February. We also completed the building’s renovation with repairs to the roof and guttering. We hope to see the use increasing over the next few months with the ballet school returning and the Youth work from both churches restarting.