St John’s Church, Shirley, was packed for an historic handover celebration as former owners of the church, St James’ by the Park, handed over the building to its new owners, Church of Pentecost UK.
Visitors from around the region and country were shown a newspaper report from 1959 when the then Bishop of Winchester (Rt Rev Dr Alwyn Williams) laid the foundation stone of the building, saying that the church was to be “a powerhouse for the gospel.”
In a symbolic gesture, Revd Dan Clark, vicar of St James by the Park, handed a baton over to Apostle Lord Elorm Donkor, national head of Church of Pentecost UK. It is only the second time that the Church of England has sold a building to Church of Pentecost, a movement with 150 branches across the UK and 20,000 around the world.
Worshippers heard stories from local resident and PCC member, Rosie Brooks, who had had links to the church since it was built over 60 years ago. “I discovered the joy of serving God here,” she told the assembled crowd, “that the more you put in to faith and church, the more you get out of it.”
Bands from both St James’ by the Park and Church of Pentecost Southampton led the congregation in a wonderful time of praise and worship, in one of the first services to be held in the building since the Church of Pentecost transformed the previously tired interior and installed sound-proofing for the benefit of local residents.
“When the foundation stone was laid 63 years ago, the Bishop prayed that those who worked and worshipped at St John’s in the future would make the power and love of Christ felt here. That’s our prayer, too. Jesus Christ has been transforming lives here for the last 60 years, and we know he will carry on doing that. We want to share his good news with the local community and with all who want to join us.”District Pastor for Church of Pentecost, Rev Godfred Boadi
In his sermon, Revd Dan explained how when the Church Council put St John’s on the market, they thought it most likely it would be bought by a developer and turned into housing. “When we received the bids, we were so relieved and delighted to accept the Church of Pentecost’s bid, knowing the building would carry on being used for worship, discipleship and mission,” he said. “In God’s providence and goodness, you were an answer to our prayers, and we were an answer to yours.”