Newbury Baptist Church reaches international audience during coronavirus pandemic
Online services prove popular but plans for new building shelved
A NEWBURY church has seen its congregation soar during the coronavirus pandemic, which has also resulted in plans to expand being shelved.
People from around the world have been tuning in to Newbury Baptist Church services throughout the pandemic since they started a year ago.
The Cheap Street church has been running services, meetings and social get-togethers online, with the first pre-recorded message from minister Rev Richard Littledale loaded on to YouTube via his phone.
Livestreamed services are broadcast from the church at 10am every Sunday, followed by a social catch-up on Zoom at 11.30am.
And for the last year Rev Littledale has been leading BBC Radio Four services once a month.
The online and radio activity is drawing in people from far and wide.
One participant sent a message to the church website, saying: “I have been ‘attending’ NBC virtually every Sunday morning since March 2020.
“I would like to send my sincere gratitude for such wonderful and encouraging Sunday mornings which helped me so much during this time.”
Another person said: “I live in the south of France and found the whole service brought tears to my eye. Thank you.”
Newbury Baptist Church had been preparing for a major redevelopment after plans for a £5m state-of-the-art community hub were approved last April.
More than £1m had been raised through donations and the sale of a property, but further financial support did not come through as expected, and the scheme had to be shelved.
Instead, the church invested in cameras and technology to allow for high-quality livestreaming from the building.
Regular live broadcasts were up and running from the end of 2020, and since then a team of five people have been delivering Sunday services every week.
With the redevelopment scheme at an end, the church said it was now considering other ways to engage with people and support much-needed services.
Rev Littledale said: “Knowing what we know now, it seems as if 2020-21 was not the time to invest in a significant building project.
“Instead, we have built our online community – and we’ve broadened and grown our reach both locally and further afield.
“The building may be closed, but the church is very much still open.
“I’m so pleased that people have found hope and comfort by being part of our online services over the past year.
“We’ll be livestreaming for the foreseeable future, and I’d love more people to join us at 10am on Sundays.
“Simply visit www.newburybaptistchurch.org and follow the links.”