Although initial appearances can be deceptive, the modest Baptist Chapel on Polestub Lane was built nearly 250 years ago. Set back from the main road, it can be somewhat forgotten by villagers in their to and fro of life. However, although the building was recently sold, the church community is far from closing its doors; quite the reverse.
It was in 2003 that the congregation of Cuckfield Baptist Church agreed to investigate the possibility of creating a new building in the area that was their car park. It has taken 12 years, three architects and two planning appeals to get where they are today, which is well into the construction of a brand new and modern church building.
David Sprouse, pastor of the church, explained: “It [the building] has been part of our plan for a long time. Our church has been steadily growing over recent years and we now have very real needs for more space.” With around 100 attending the Sunday morning service, the small chapel is at maximum capacity, especially with fixed pews seating. The church hosts two youth clubs on a Friday night, regularly attracting over 40 young people, which is a practical challenge in the London Lane building.
The new building will comprise of an open central welcome area, two large halls (one with facilities as main space for Sunday meetings), three offices, a kitchen and two smaller meeting rooms. The site will also have the enviable benefit of 29 parking spaces plus a designated overflow area.
“Whilst we have some plans, we don’t yet fully know what we will use the building for. Our primary purpose in building is to help us share the message of Jesus Christ with others around us.” The church hopes it won’t be too long before they employ another full-time member of staff, although the role may change depending on what possibilities the new building provides.
The total cost of the project is estimated at £1.25m, with a significant amount of that coming from the sale of the chapel, which is to be converted into a four bedroom house. However, the church leadership were delighted when they learned that the new owner offered to rent the chapel back to them for the duration of the build. Andrew Symonds, one of the Building Project Committee, commented: “It is a very generous offer and we are extremely grateful to them. Although we had a provisional plan kindly agreed in principle with Warden Park School, this is clearly much easier for us.”
The members of the church are very excited at the prospect of their new building, which promises to be more open, full of light and flexible. “As the congregation has given sacrificially to the project everyone is really looking forward to it becoming reality,” Andrew said. “We would also like to thank the village, and especially our immediate neighbours, for all their support.” Andrew is joined on the committee by Jon Broome and David Guthrie. The building is expected to be completed towards the end of this year.
Also on page 15.