Emmanuel Church in Eastbourne, A new church to serve the community

After a decade of planning, fundraising and construction, Emmanuel Church in Eastbourne has finally opened. The Methodist-URC Local Ecumenical Partnership Church will cater to the needs of the community with events and activities every day of the week.

04 June 2024

When Revd Paul Tabraham received his first appointment as a probationer in Eastbourne in the South East Methodist District in 2014 he did not expect to be shepherding the merger of four churches and helping oversee the building of a new church.

“The four buildings had been amazing places for worship for many generations but had simply come to an end of their life. The four congregations had the vision to come together, even if it meant leaving places they knew and loved, places they had celebrated weddings, held funerals for loved ones, and where they enjoyed fellowship, friendship, and worship for years,” remembers Revd Paul Tabraham.

The plan originally drawn by the four congregations was to sell all four buildings and construct a new one elsewhere in Eastbourne. However, they soon realised that was not feasible and decided to first sell two of the buildings, demolish another to build Emmanuel Church and worship in the last church whilst the construction was ongoing, selling it later on.

The journey was tough: “The complexities of combining the four while satisfying both denominations’ policies and processes was significant” Revd. Paul says, “We needed a Constitution, a complicated legal Sharing Agreement, and it took time to get planning permission – all the while selling buildings that were in considerable disrepair.”

Fundraising was also a major hurdle, with the pandemic, inflation and Brexit causing construction costs to skyrocket unexpectedly. Costing £3.7 million, the construction was possible thanks to the sale of three premises, many grants and relentless fundraising within the church.

“We have an amazing team of fundraisers in the church, they are very knowledgeable, efficient and committed. Astonishingly, they managed to get us about £500,000 through grant applications,”

praises Paul.

Amongst the grants received, there were some from the Methodist and United Reformed churches, Beatrice Laing Trust, the Melbourne Road Memorial Trust Fund, and many others. Other Circuits and Churches also heard about the scheme and sent donations to support the project.

The building was ready to move in September 2023 (with some fine-tuning happening until spring 2024) and the congregation has been thriving since with a church nursery, a community café space and various groups for all ages – including a Guild, a thriving Messy Church, toddlers and kid’s café.

The church premises are frequently rented out to community groups for activities such as dance, yoga, or Pilates. These groups also include small charities like a young carers group, local residents associations, as well as serving as a polling station.

“We want for the life of the community and the church to be blended together. With all those events, there are hundreds of people coming into the building every week,” adds Paul. “During the pandemic, we were building brand-new premises while at the same learning how to ‘be’ church without needing one!”

Emmanuel Church is a very energy-efficient building with underfloor heating, natural ventilation, high levels of insulation and modern facilities.

The church has also joined the Inclusive Church Network. “It’s not just the building which is more accessible and inclusive through its layout and facilities,” says Paul, “But we also prioritise that all are welcome here regardless of age or gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability. It’s something we can proclaim as Methodist and Reformed people which makes our mission here unique in Eastbourne.”

Looking back on all that has taken place, Revd. Paul feels there is much to be thankful for: “This scheme could have collapsed various times and for different reasons, but by God’s grace every obstacle has been overcome and I believe God will use us in Eastbourne to keep sharing the good news, in a new way”.

Pictures (c) 2024 Ellis Skelton Photography

Exhibition in Emmanuel Church

To celebrate this new beginning, Emmanuel Church hosts the exhibition ‘New Vision’ until 13 June 2024. More information here.

Eastbourne Emmanuel church