Since 1992, I have wanted to run a 24 hour church with special reference to homeless people. I had imagined this would be in an urban setting, but an alternative would be to find a building local to where I live, and invite people to it.
Christ Church Longcross is a beautiful Victorian church, a Grade II listed building, very rural, in a lovely wooded setting, and could make a good centre for people who want to seek God away from the pressures of the city. My idea is for it to be a very simple environment - no mod cons. Just an outside tap.
My aim is to offer no hand-outs; this would be a place where we learn to love people and live by faith in God. Any instruction would be person to person rather than in formal sessions. Everything would be kept simple and basic. There will be little if any heating and no guaranteed meals. The church would be the equivalent of a Swiss mountain hut above the snow line, which keeps its doors open for those caught out after dark in the harsh weather. Anyone staying overnight would only be offered a space on the floor.
Psalm 132 states 'The Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: "This is my resting place for ever and ever; here will I sit enthroned, for I have desired it - I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food."' If God wants this project to happen, and it is not just a bee in my bonnet, then I believe there will be abundant provision, and the poor will be satisfied with food. We will not be seeking funding or provision from human sources, therefore, but expect God to provide. However, Scripture also says, 'He that will not work will not eat,' so those who come will be expected to share in the care and maintenance of the building and the grounds, and the local area. Otherwise there will probably be no lunch.
There is a lot of work to be done! I hope to lift the graveyard to a high standard, making it a garden where people are delighted to come. Local people may have needs we can meet too.
Desperate people bring problems with them, and residents nearby will naturally feel uneasy about this. I plan to make friends with the local people, and help the area as appropriate, with daily litter picking and whatever is wanted. I would like the people of Longcross to see us as caring for the church and the area, and be reassured to the point where they are glad of our presence.
The church is the property of the Diocese of Guildford, who are offering it for sale. Its present status is for non residential use (1987 Act, section D1). I anticipate people being able to stay for a while if they wish, which will require planning permission. However, any changes to the building will be minimal, and on the inside only.
The church was closed in 2004, and despite considerable interest, is proving hard to sell. If it stays as it is, it will deteriorate further, and in due time become a ruin. There is always the risk of squatters. This should be born in mind by those inclined to oppose all schemes for its use.
Our aim would be to be a community of obedience to God's commands: as John write in his second letter, 'I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.' This implies heeding all Jesus' commands, and nothing but his commands (Matthew 28:20). One result of this is that there will be no church services, meaning gatherings for worship. Anyone wanting to attend one of these can visit one of the churches nearby. Our 'services' will be acts of love to people. So local churches need not feel that we are in competition with them in any way.
Thanks for your interest in this project. David Pennant, Woking.
Note. There is a photo archive from 2004. There is urgent restoration required. Click here for the blog.