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Planted in the past as a lasting witness for the future

BOTLEY BAPTIST CHURCH has been at the heart of the community in Botley and North Hinksey since 1882.

The chapel on Botley Road/West Way stood witness to the transforming work of Jesus the Christ for several generations since 1913. In 1967, responding to the needs of a growing church, a new building on the corner of Chapel Way and Westminster Way was commissioned, which has been a great blessing to Church and community.

This was home to us and our children. Our children were dedicated here, grew up in Sunday school, were active in youth groups, some were baptised, others married, and with sadness, but much gratitude, we bade farewell to many of our stalwart elderly.

Today, we host youth groups, cubs, scouts and beavers, convene Bible studies, fellowship meetings and reach out to the elderly and the disabled.

Former Minister, The Revd. Hedley Feast remembers when, “In 2004, as we approached our 125th anniversary as a New Road Church plant in Botley, members wanted the Church to be of greater service to the communities of Botley, North Hinksey, Cumnor and neighbouring areas”.

Botley is an attractive, fast-growing suburb of Oxford, appealing to young and old, conveniently accessible to the city, rail links and motorways; a few minutes drive out, leading to idyllic, quintessentially English, countryside.

THE BOTLEY CENTRE is Botley Baptist Church’s aspiration to make available, resources which address the needs of the city, the University, various businesses and the residents of this community.

Under the leadership of Graham Ansell and Alan Woodward, Woodfield Brady Architects, working in conjunction with planning consultant Nik Lyzba of JPPC, was appointed and given the brief to develop a scheme “that it is community-centered, responding to the needs of the local area”.

Woodfield Brady Architects followed the brief to design an energy-efficient, multi-purpose, high quality, landmark building offering accommodation for long-term resident mature students, several function/meeting rooms, a cafe and a worship space, all served by a spacious entrance lobby/vestibule accessed through an open landscaped garden, and serviced by a commercial-grade kitchen, toilets, dedicated lifts, secure stairwells and parking for cars and bicycles.

A comprehensive multi-use development was approved by the Vale of White Horse District Council in November 2010.

Anticipating the needs of our growing and changing community,  the provision of several meeting rooms, a coffee shop, student housing, community library and facilities for worship, spiritual nurture and fellowship, offer open and inviting places to meet and socialise.

Regent’s Park College, a Permanent Private Hall of Oxford University, are in advanced discussions about taking two floors of residential accommodation for long-term student use.  Principal, Dr. Robert Ellis said, “The Botley Centre offers us the opportunity of extending our provision for students, and in such a way as to create a small self-contained community away from our main college site. It’s an exciting development.”

Organisations currently using the premises for meetings and activities have expressed interest in continuing to use the new facilities when ready; various others have made serious inquiries.

“We have enjoyed an excellent relationship with Woodfield Brady Architects” says Graham, Chairman of the Building Committee.  “Through regular meetings with us, potential stakeholders and statutory planning authorities, they produced a landmark, mixed development scheme which I, as a long time resident of Botley, can look upon with pride”, he added.  Following the recent article in Oxford Times outlining the Vale’s plans to update and develop the commercial amenities in Botley, Graham summed up members’ optimism, confirming “our proposal is completely in line with the Vale’s emerging plans for this part of Botley.”

When asked if there are lessons to be heeded by other churches, The Revd. Feast said, “It is never too early or too late for a church to review its membership and attendance trends and seek help for being relevant to the community in which it is situated. Church leaders are caretakers of the church’s journey into its future. Neglecting or ignoring trends or shifts in demographics has costly repercussions.”