History about the church


The following is an adapted version of a look back on the history of the Abbey Centre composed in January 2012 by the minister Gareth Shepherd on the occasion of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Centre’s opening by HRH Princess Diana.

Born in 1893 the church community that met in the building you see here was a vibrant congregation for many years. But, a little over 25 years ago, with the maintenance bills soaring, coupled with the fact that the South Northampton area was increasing in population – between 1981 and 2000 from 7,000 to 30,000+ residents, it was decided to relocate the building to a new site in the developing area of East Hunsbury .

It wasn’t all plain sailing – In 1983, there was an unsuccessfully appeal to raise funds for the move but in 1984, it was re-launched as The Abbey Centre Appeal with The Rt. Hon. Earl Spencer as president, and Stan James (Mayor) and Michael Morris (MP) as vice-presidents. This time, with much more success monies were raised and later that year Barker, Hammond and Cox as the Architects, and Barry Hobbs as Quantity Surveyor and Professional adviser were appointed. Subsequently, Redman Construction were appointed as builders for the original Abbey Centre building and site works.

In 1986 the “first sod was cut” on site by Cllr. Stan James. The building was completed so that Abbey Centre Baptist Church held its first services in the new premises for Christmas that same year.

Momentously in January 1987 HRH Princess of Wales opened the Abbey Centre Baptist Church – and for those that were there that day – that occasion will be indelibly inked on their memories.

Within three months of opening, the building was fully used, seven days per week, day time and evenings, for a wide range of community purposes. Therefore the building had to grow and over the next few years the multi use games area, youth wing, upper room, IT suite and chapel were added to the site.

The building was always intended to be a gift to the community and it is always a privilege to witness the amount of life that goes on in this place, each day of each week, throughout the year from drama, music, and dance – to pre-school, luncheon club and Princes Trust – from uniformed youth groups, indoor bowls, slimmer’s world to support groups for society’s more vulnerable – they are all welcomed and affirmed here in our building.

The Abbey Centre is also used for events from weddings to funerals – parties to fundraising – social events to even the odd night sleeping as we see the Make Poverty History cyclists staying here. The Abbey Centre is about life in all its facets and in its fullness.

The welcome and hospitality the Abbey Centre has become known for extends also to food, all good social events must include food. From breakfasts, wedding receptions and birthday parties to social events, Luncheon Club (formerly Age Concern) to the Christmas Lunch – many volunteers over the years have cooked, baked, prepared food, set out tables and chairs and washed up in the Abbey Centre kitchen – providing food for thousands of people. All this work and effort in the kitchen wore it out and in 2010 we installed the new kitchen with the help of local funding and money raising exercises. The new and shiny kitchen is even more well used than the old one.

People and groups have used the building, but of course the church is still active and present here – during the past 25 years there has been many celebrations and events in this place – alongside the regular worship events you’d expect in the life of any church community – from Sunday worship services to Baptisms, weddings to funerals, infant dedications to communion – the breadth of the Christian faith is celebrated here weekly. We do this in covenant partnership with Towcester Road Methodist Church and St Benedict’s and also partnership with other communities of faith in South Northampton – notably St Frances and Theresa.

Special times in the life of the church are always marking the Christian year – like Harvest, Christmas and Easter.

We have already mentioned the many volunteers that support the running of the Abbey Centre – but we must also mention the Deacons/Trustees who are elected by the church members to coordinate the practicalities of the running of the building – their roles run from coordinating finances, organising music and the minister to buildings and maintenance – they too are all volunteers dedicating their time to the upkeep of this place and its aim to Serve the Spiritual and Social needs of South Northampton.

Chairing the deaconate and also ministering in many other ways is the minister. Churches need a minister and from the inception of the Abbey Centre until 2007 Rev. Dr. Ted Hale was the called minister of this church, he was also responsible for guiding the church from Abbey Road to the place we are celebrating 25 years of today.

The current minister, the Abbey Centre and the church here all need constant helpers and workers, and as I’ve said it is almost exclusively volunteer help – often though help comes from the most unusual of places. Finally we are left with the question about what the future holds: there will be more Abbey Centre, there will be more people, users and church, but what it will look like is really open…..it has been a good 25 years but we eagerly anticipate the next 25 years!