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A Thousand Voices - The History and story of Community House's picture

About

Community House is an extraordinary building, with little architectural merit but a history that is unique. When the existing Church reached the end of its useful life in the 1960s, the congregation, under the charismatic leadership of the Reverend Cyril Summers decided to create a new building that would be evidence of ‘Faith in Action’, rather than simply replace it with another church.

‘Community House’ was the name in a reference to the Iona Community much admired by Cyril. While the premises would be used for Christian worship, it would also be home to all members of the local community. It was to become a place which existed to demonstrate the ‘ fellowship of Christ’: to be a community centre for all local users, a social and educational hub, an informal meeting place and the location of much work to build community cohesion.

Money was needed even to demolish the building, so a World Council of Churches International Work Camp was set up and young people from 15 countries came and lived alongside members of the congregation for a month. They helped to demolish the old building and recycled some of the bricks to build an extension of the original church hall. After more than 5 years spent in seeking funding, debating liability with the Presbyterian Church and undergoing exile as a congregation; the vision for what should replace the Church was complete. House meetings held throughout the period produced a vision of what the new Church would be.

All Communities need a centre, a place of meeting. And supposing it were a centre of compassion, A centre of understanding, A place of reconciliation, A refuge of comfort, a centre of happiness. A place where people were always treated as people. Supposing in fact, it were a centre of Christian life and witness? – Cyril Summers

The bulk of the funding came from the Department for Education and Science, to create a purpose built youth centre with the provision that it was to be open 5 nights a week. It became an extraordinary place. For the full story you need to read Cyril’s book, ‘A People’s Pilgrimage’ which details the struggle, the problems and successes with complete honesty.

Management of the building has passed to a Board of Trustees to be run as a registered charity, as the denomination is unable to maintain it but the building. Community House continues to build strong and caring community through the wide variety of user groups.

Cyril’s concern for peace making grows through the Gold Level Accreditation of the Peace Mala, annual Peace Days and various inter-faith activities.

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Website: https://www.etonrdch.org