Banbury United Reformed Church is excitedly preparing to hold the first Sunday service in its new independent home this weekend.
The church is moving to the former shop and restaurant space on Calthorpe Street after 26 years of sharing St Mary’s Church with the Church of England.
As well as the church services, there will be a Christian gift shop and space for people to chat over a cup of coffee at ‘The Haven’.
Minister Barrie Cheetham said the independence will make the church more visible in Banbury and allow them to spread their wings.
“We have a vision for using ‘The Haven’ to serve the needs of the community, to support voluntary groups, and to provide a warm and welcoming place for worship,” he said.
“We are very excited by this new venture, and although we are sad to be leaving St Mary’s we are looking forward to this new chapter in the life of the United Reformed Church in Banbury.”
Since 1992, the United Reformed Church shared St Mary’s Church with the Church of England under a sharing agreement made possible by the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969.
In October last year, the Church of England decided to end the agreement and the United Reformed Church had to find alternative accommodation.
The congregation will be moving to new premises at 61-63 Calthorpe Street, which in recent years has been used by Puddingham’s restaurant, and before that by Katharine House Hospice as a furniture shop.
The gift shop, called The Mustard Seed, will be moving with them, while a cafe will be open to all. Church services will be on Sundays at 11am, starting this weekend (November 4), and other activities are planned during the week.
There will be an inauguration and dedication service to be led by ministers Rev Cheetham and Lynda Spokes, and the moderator of the United Reformed Church Wessex Synod, Clare Downing, at 3pm on Saturday, November 24.
St Mary’s vicar Philip Cochrane wished the United Reformed Church every success with its new base, adding there was plenty of space for more churches in Banbury and if one succeeded then they all would.
“From our point of view, we are super excited for the United Reformed Church as they venture in to this new chapter. I hope and pray from the success of The Haven. We want to see it succeed and flourish,” he said.
“It’s really good as they will have their own identity in the town centre, which is something and we hope they flourish and prosper in ways in which they can’t imagine.”