After renovation: Church in London Central shines in new splendour

At almost 150 years of age, the New Apostolic church building in the heart of London was already getting on in years. Now that it has undergone some extensive renovations, it is shining like new again!

The congregation of London-Central is not just any congregation. It lies at the heart of one of the largest and liveliest cities in the world: London, the capital of the United Kingdom. In the prestigious area of Kensington, where many millions of tourists come to see the queen, the Tower Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament, the venerable church building houses an international congregation comprised of brothers and sisters from many countries around the world.

Since the beginning of February, the new church building has been shining with a whole new splendour. Bright colours, shiny lights, large windows—the church building comes across as though transformed. And now it fits in more than ever with its surroundings, as Warwick Gardens is a typically English quarter: knightly, sublime, and ornately decorated. After all, this area has always been famous for its fine gables. One hundred fifty years ago, the house that now belongs to the New Apostolic Church was still called “St. Barnabas Church House”, and it was home to a Christian congregation that was bursting at the seams—and thus in need of an addition. And as was so often the case in days of old: wherever a church sprang up, other houses were quick to follow. A few decades later, the pretty little church was part of a whole complex of chic apartment buildings. Locals referred to this residential area as “The Edwards Estate”. Homeowners of the noble classes had built homes here, and to this day, the residents, as well as a prestigious new development, have kept the memory of this place alive.

A number of hurdles

Since our church is the last property in a historic setting now designated as a conservation area, it became impossible to change any of the external walls despite the attempts of specialist architects and other consultants to obtain planning approval. The final works were left to the Church administration with the help of members working in the building industry, who were able to support with useful advice.

High costs

Naturally a building renovation in the heart of London costs quite a lot of money. In order to keep the necessary expenditures somewhat under control, the advisory team of brothers and our Deacon Derek Schluter, who was the principle contractor, pressed on to deliver this remarkable project.

The focus was to pay particular attention to the intricacies of the interior design, starting with the ornate wooden beams in the church auditorium. The successful result is a very modern yet stylish symbiosis of old and new. For example, the ornate graphite church radiators take into account the elegance and age of the building. Aluminium printed graphics incorporating text that touches the heart with its emotionality were created on the walls. Overall, the building is now airier and brighter, and boasts a fine style that matches its surroundings.

Of love and charity

The rededication service took place on 2 February 2020. The rector of the congregation, Shepherd Neil Woodman, conducted the festive divine service with a Bible passage from Jude 20. The following Sunday the text for the divine service was from 1 Corinthians 13: 13: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love”—and these are precisely the words that can be admired on the large graphics inside the church chosen long before the Bible text was known.

On Saturday, 15 February 2020 the congregation organised an open house, for which occasion they distributed roughly 500 invitations. Here the congregation’s current and former members, neighbouring Christians, and neighbourhood residents were given the opportunity to see the results of the renovation work for themselves. And the next day—the Sunday—the sermon was based on a passage from Galatians 5: 14: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” How true!

Positive response

And what does the responsible Bishop David Middleton have to say about the newly renovated property? “All the feedback I received was exceptionally positive.” For him it is very important to keep an eye on maintaining the positive image of the Church. The whole area has been brightened and cleaned up, so our Church can remain contemporary in this stylish area.

Every Sunday morning, some 90 to 110 members of the congregation gather in the church to worship. Many tourists come to visit during the holidays, which means that attendance on a Sunday can at times easily exceed 200. For all those who would like to visit, the address is as follows: 48 Warwick Gardens, Kensington, London, W14 8PP.

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