The Church in Great Notley began to take shape some 13 years ago, when a number of our founder members began to meet for Christian activity in the new Great Notley village. The official founding of the Church can be dated to the first meeting of our Church's Steering Group, when ecumenical representatives of all our partner denominations first met and agreed to go forward together. This meeting took place on 13th January 1998.
“St Portacabin’s” (now pulled down and the space used as a car park for the Cricketers!) became the focal point for our Sunday worship. Dodging the leaks in the roof, and occasional damage inflicted by vandals, we shared wonderful times of fellowship in the rabbit warren that was the portacabin. Mrs. Val Spouge was appointed as the church's first Lay Leader and she, together with the other church members, helped guide the church forward in many different ways.
On 29th September 2002 we held our last Service in St Portacabin’s. The younger members in particular were sad when the time came to leave and to make the short move over to our next temporary home in the Community Centre. Of course, it didn’t take long for that joyous spirit to return and fill the side room in the Community Centre which served as our place of worship.
In August 2005 Revd Mike Shrubsole was appointed as our first stipendiary minister, an appointment we shared with Christ Church, Coggeshall, another nearby ecumenical church. We soon outgrew the Small Hall at the Community Centre and moved into the Main Hall.
On 13thJanuary 2008, The Church in Great Notley marked its 10th anniversary with a service of Holy Communion. This special service was celebrated at the Community Centre, where our minister, the Revd Mike Shrubsole was joined by the Ven. Annette Cooper, Archdeacon of Colchester and the Revd Bernard Arnold the Methodist Circuit Superintendant. This photograph shows Mike, Annette & Bernard joined by some of our founding members, around a beautiful ‘birthday’ cake specially prepared for the celebration.
In September 2009 our Ministry Team doubled in size when Revd Beth Bendrey was appointed as Priest-in-Charge for both the Church in Great Notley and for St. Peter and St. Paul in Black Notley.
Throughout all this time the congregation has been looking forward to the time when they would have a church to call their own in the village. This has involved much planning, and fundraising, and patience! The vision has always been for a new purpose-built church, not only for worship but also to serve the needs of our thriving local community – a base from which we can show the love of Jesus in word and action so that others may come to know him as Lord and Saviour.
The land for the new church building was set aside as part of the village development plan. In 2009 we announced that we finally had the funds and the planning permission necessary to begin construction. Building work was commenced by our contractors T.J. Evers in November 2009. The building was completed and opened for worship in August 2010. It was with great joy and enormous relief that we held our first act of worship in the new building on Sunday 22ndAugust 2010.
On Sunday 17th October we held our special opening ceremony with friends and dignitaries and representatives of the community and the five church denominations which have helped to make this possible. The church was packed with well-wishers on a glorious hot and sunny autumn day. The Ven. Annette Cooper preached the sermon and summarised in words the joy which she and every one of us felt now that this special milestone in the life of the church had been reached.
As 2010 and 2011 have continued, each week we are still saying to each other: “This is our first Christmas/New Year/Easter/etc. in our new building.” The excitement won’t end until that first full year of occupation has been completed. And then we will still have all that the future holds to look forward to. God has been good to us as we worked to bring this new church into being. We go forward in the secure faith that God will continue to be good to us into the future years.
The last thirteen years have seen many changes, not only in the venue for our times of worship but also in the family of the Church. Inevitably, over the years many of our good friends have moved away or are now with the Lord. But always there is a strong sense of fellowship, love and community which has guided us through the ups and downs of each year.