HOME & HUB
Who are we & what do we do...
Connect Church UK is now some 80 years young, having been founded by a small group of Brummies during the 2nd World War in Sparkhill, Birmingham. A part of the Assemblies of God denomination, the church has been known by several names over the years: Glad Tidings Assembly, Calvary Temple and Kings Christian Centre. Since 2009 the church has been led by Senior Pastors Kirk & Tracee McAtear.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, approximately 300 adults and children regularly participated in the church’s Sunday services held in St Andrews Football stadium, ranging in age from 0 to 90s, and originating from over 20 countries worldwide. In March 2020 the church moved its services online, streaming worship services on Youtube and Facebook. The church restarted in-person worship services in January 2021 at Holy Trinity School and now meets there weekly in accordance with the Place of Worship Covid guidance, as well as streaming its services live for the online congregation.
Connect Church has always made a priority of serving its local community. During the pandemic we have partnered with Oasis to provide cooked meals and foodbank support. Community Connectors have provided practical support to the nearby residents of Small Heath for many years, and the church has supported appeals to help meet needs of local families and school children. Pastor Kirk is also the chaplain to the Birmingham City Football club.
Responding to Growth...
When Kirk and Tracee arrived in 2009 the church was operating out of a facility in Balsall Heath that was no longer fit for purpose. However, the church attendance grew steadily in the first 3-4 years as they began encouraging the people that they all had a purpose and something to contribute to their families, workplaces, schools and the wider community. Extra services started running on a Sunday, and quickly it became apparent that the church would need to relocate if they were to continue to grow and expand their engagement with their neighbours.
Discussions with the Trustees/Directors about possible sites that could be developed kept circling back to a piece of land that the church had purchased in 2000. The previous leadership had recognised that the church was becoming limited by its location in Balsall Heath and through a series of events had fundraised enough money to purchase the site of the former Kingston Cinema on Coventry Road, right next to St Andrews Football Stadium.
The original plan had been to refurbish the old cinema. However, discovery of asbestos in the building resulted in a decision to demolish it and construct a new purpose-built church and community centre.
Unfortunately, although architects were appointed, plans designed and builders engaged, the project never happened, leading to much disappointment and frustration amongst the donors and supporters.
The site ended up being mortgaged to pay for some of the costs incurred during that time and revenue from match day carparking and billboard advertising covered the repayments while the site sat empty.
So, faced with the current urgent need for more space, the Trustees, spiritual leadership and congregation reached a place of agreement that the church needed to start taking steps to build a ‘Home and Hub’ on this inheritance from the previous generation.
The first step taken was for the church to move into its new neighbourhood and start running services there. It rebranded as Connect Church and began holding Sunday services at St Andrews Football stadium in March 2014. A year later the church building in Balsall Heath was sold to release funds for the design and planning of the new facility as well as to pay off the existing mortgage. Research began for architects and builders, and RJR Corporation were selected for its design and build service of 21st century church buildings.
RJR Corporation were engaged and began the design process consultation with Birmingham City Council. Two designs were rejected after which the church was instructed to withdraw the project in full. After some divine intervention and visionary discussion, the third design revision was approved in January 2016. The resulting design included lots of additional glazed features and had 32 planning conditions attached to it, all of which pushed the building cost up significantly to the sum of £1,385,000.
Although the proposed building cost appeared reasonable for what the church was getting, Connect Church was still required to borrow £1.2 million, at a LTV rate of 80%. This borrowing has been provided by the Charity Bank (70%) and the remaining 10% by Big Issue Invest. These two loans are secured in the form of charges over the land and buildings, bank account and debenture over all other net assets of Connect Church. Other than these loans and the sale of the previous church facility, the remaining funds for the project have come from donations from the congregation and ministry partners, including Trinity Christian Centre in Singapore. In the last six years there have been donations of £742,000 to the ‘Home and Hub’ project.
A fixed price JCT contract was signed with RJR Corporation on 5 July 2017. The Charity Bank loan facility was drawn down to make stage payments to the builder when authorised by a joint Quantity Surveyor appointed on behalf of Connect Church and the Charity Bank.
The Home and Hub is now a secure building shell but is unfinished internally and major works are still required to the external parking areas and grounds. Like a ‘Grand Design’, it has cost more money than was initially anticipated and taken much longer than the original 10 months planned. Freak freezing weather, Brexit, the frenzy of building activity in Birmingham following the announcement of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and Covid have all contributed to the delay. However, the main reason for the current unfinished state of the project has been changes within RJR Corporation that have resulted in it no longer being able to deliver the project within the terms of the contract agreed. Consequently, after a long period of inactivity on the site, the Trustees of Connect Church terminated the contract with them in March 2021.
The Current Challenge...
Connect Church is now in the process of seeking a new building contractor to complete the project. While the church currently has £300K available towards the final cost, it now looks like there will be a shortfall in funding. Multiple strategies are being considered to overcome this, in addition to which the church would welcome the support of major donors and grantmakers to bring the Home and Hub building into service as soon as possible, so that the real work of making a difference to the Eastside of Birmingham can begin.
To this end we would value your prayerful support. We would be happy to meet and discuss the details of the project with you in detail if you have the interest, capacity and resources to contribute to this great project at any level whatsoever.