When did it all begin?
Some say that it started in 1989, but actually the idea of a church on the Cavendish Park Estate was born as soon as the estate was planned in the mid 1970s. The final location becoming fixed when Safeways were finally granted planning permission in the early 1990s. So did nothing really happen for nearly 20 years? No, as soon as people began living on the estate a group of Christians from different churches met on a regular basis to pray for the estate, and for the proposed church. This bed of prayer was the real foundation on which the church was eventually built.
When did the worshipping congregation start?
In 1989 the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (then John Dennis) made a bold - and to inhabitants of Cavendish Park totally unexpected - move of appointing a Priest to Cavendish Park. This was an interesting appointment, the Priest was appointed to a locality where there was no building, no current worshipping congregation, and no money to build anything! That this appointment was a piece of stupendous spiritual foresight was to unfold later, at the time it was quite novel
Almost as soon as the Revd Graham Archer was appointed in the summer of 1989, a worshipping congregation began in his house. This was formed by interested locals, the Archer family, and some of the congregations from St Mary's, Walton and Maidstone Road Baptist Church, who lived on the estate. As the church began in the home of Graham and Diana Archer, we have been unable to escape the essential truth that the church is people not building. Therefore when people gather together, that is the church. The story of this can be read in a book by Diana Archer called 'Who'd plant a church?'. This is published by Christina Press and is available from Christ Church at a price of £5.99 + postage
How did the congregation grow?
Speedily. You would expect the church to have grown rapidly by all the Christians who lived on the estate joining the church. But this did not happen, maybe their task of praying for the church was over, and only one or two Christians came to the church this way. The vast majority of the growth was from people who lived on and around the estate coming to the church and becoming Christians. This led to a sort of nuclear explosion - every person who came that became a Christian told two more people (or three, or four or....) so more people came and the growth cycle expanded. In all this time the Revd Graham Archer worked tirelessly, talking to people, visiting houses, visiting schools and generally working as an evangelist. One of the interesting points about CCC (now called Christ Church) is its growth from nowhere and the amount of people who joined and became believers. At one time the church was probably 90% composed of people who had been Christians for less than two years. This can really only be attributed to that 'bed of prayer' and the bishop's foresight to appoint the right person at the right time.
So where did the congregation meet as it grew?
It wasn't long before the congregation outgrew Graham's house. We then moved to the lounge of a nearby senior citizen's retirement complex. We stayed there for some time, then as the congregation continued to grow we moved into a local school. This itinerant life had its interesting side - every Sunday there were a team of dedicated workers who would arrive early, put out the chairs, wire up a complete sound system, and generally get the place ready for worship. And then when the service was over reverse the process. Most of the equipment being packed into a box trailer - a symbol of a church on the move!
Just down the road, on a nearby estate there was also a small Church of England mission church called St Philips, part of St Mary’s parish. St Mary's council offered the building to Revd Graham Archer for use by CCC; so we moved into our first 'permanent' home.
Once established at St Philips, we turned our eyes towards the nebulous plot of land, which now had a 'fixed' location next to the Owl and Pussycat pub, near Safeways, and in the centre of the housing development, which now boasted three estates - Cavendish Park, Orwell Green and Cricket Hill.
What did the church do in the early days?
We had a vision to be the heart of the community. So we had at least two activity weeks for children. Evening youth work began. The Sunday school (Den Gangs we called it after its humble origins in Graham's garage) began, and grew very rapidly. We had social activities like hiring the local swimming pool, so that people could get to know us in an environment they were used to. Basically we were a people motivated by God the share the good news.
The Building, how did it arrive?
Once we felt God pointing us towards a new church building on the estate we contacted a few building firms. Eventually we signed contracts with Ingram Smith for building the church, and with a local Quantity Surveying firm called Castons to manage the project on our behalf. God was at work here too; they made Charlie Clarke their link person - he too was a Christian, and took special care over the project to ensure that the church had exactly what they needed.
In May 1994 the building was opened
How did we pay for the building?
The building cost around a third of a million pounds. For a young congregation this was a tremendous step of faith. But God is faithful, and owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
The Diocese gave £100,000 pounds towards the project. This was at a time of severe financial hardship in the diocese, and represented a tremendous belief in what God was doing at Cavendish, and in the future of the church.
Trinity college, Cambridge also gave us £100,000. Trinity College had originally owned the land on which the estates were built and were willing to put their money behind their insistence that there should be a church on the estates.
The church raised £100,000, not from raffles and jumble sales, but from within the congregation and by taking out some low interest loans from Christian sources (including our supportive Diocese).
That left a shortfall of £30,000, and you've guessed it, our Diocese found that money too.
So what happened to St Philips?
For a time after the congregation left for its new building there was no Sunday worship at St Philips, but the links had not ceased. The weekday community activities continued, and for several years part of the building was leased to the Orthodox Church. St Mary’s have now re-taken ownership of St Philips
What happened after Graham Archer moved?
In 1999, Graham & Di Archer and their children left Felixstowe. Graham became vicar of a large church in Southampton. In 2000 we were very pleased to welcome Rev. Phillip Garbett to become vicar of CCC. During the time of Phillip’s leadership the church became a parish in its own right and its name was subsequently changed to Christ Church. In February 2009 Phillip left Christ Church to become Team Rector of the Blackbourne team ministry near Bury St Edmunds.
In September 2010 we welcomed the Rev’d Mark Kichenside and his wife Philippa who have encouraged us to think about our Mission Statement “To Know Christ More and Make Him Known,” and how we can seek to live that out more and more in our community. One of the main things that has happened as a result of that was the starting of “Messy Church” on the 3rd Sunday of the month in the afternoon, which has been very popular, and encouraged us to think about how we can serve and share our faith in new and practical ways.
Then in September 2014 we Celebrated our 25th Anniversary as a church. The wonderful weekend including a community event on the green, a concert on the Friday evening and a Special Celebration on the Saturday evening with special guests Graham and Diana Archer. Graham gave us a celebratory address encouraging us to be thankful for 25 years of Christ Church/Cavendish Community Church and our life together and courageously seek God’s will and move on into the future.