Freedom Church Jersey was formed by the merger of Jersey Community Church and Abundant Life Church in 2009. Three years ago the members of Freedom Church purchased the former Odeon building in St Helier for one million pounds.
Many people perhaps haven’t a clear idea of what the church were trying to achieve with this purchase, but they have a vision; they want to build a space for the church and the island community to utilise. We spoke to Tim Bond, who has been working as a Pastor for nineteen years, about the work that has been undertaken so far and his work within the local community.
Like many people I am perhaps a little naive as to the work that’s being undertaken within the Freedom Centre and also the motivation behind the purchase of this huge and challenging building, so I asked Tim to explain “As a church we want to build community. We don’t exist for bricks and mortar and we don’t actually put any emphasis on buildings, other than they are tools in our hands, to create useable space and shape the environment to build community. So, the purchase of this building was a massive deal, we didn’t have a huge building fund set up but we knew we had to do it.”
“We’re a Christian church, we work with the other Christian churches in the island, we’re not freaks, we’re not bandits, we’re working with the church in Jersey to proclaim that same message, of Jesus. Ultimately it’s what our project is tied into, but, and it’s an important but, our doors are open to everyone, you don’t have to be a Christian to come here.”
Taking on such a major project means that the building is being completed in phases. The opening date is yet to be confirmed, but is hoped to be later on this year. We were lucky enough to take a look at the completed auditorium, which currently seats 150 people and can be utilised as a performance space as well as a screening room and shows the high quality of the work that is being undertaken. The front foyer area will be a café and youth drop in centre. It’ll be occupied three nights a week, initially, for all of their youth based work and there are many other exciting projects in the pipeline.
“All of the hard work currently being undertaken, other than that requiring specialised skills, is being undertaken by members of the church who are all volunteering their time. They have spent countless hours scraping walls, cleaning floors and helping to make phase one a reality.” Whilst the building remains in the process of being developed the members of Freedom Church continue to conduct events within the community. For example, over the years, thousands have walked through the Freedom Church half way checkpoint on the Collas Crill Island Walk. This has become renowned for its hospitality, live music and a wide variety of cakes. “When we run an event as church, it is our aim to express something of the love of God to our community. “
You may also have seen the Freedom Street Team in their blue jackets on Saturday evenings in St Helier. Sarah Hawthornthwaite oversees the 15 volunteers who make up Freedom Street. They give out bottles of water and lollipops, administer First Aid, and generally do what they can to help to keep young people on the streets informed and safe.
“Jersey Water have helped us with resourcing Freedom Street and we have support from St Helier Youth Committee, Rotary Jersey and also the Association of Jersey Charities for the phase one project of Freedom Centre. It’s brilliant that so many have understood our vision and we are grateful of the help they’ve given so far.”
When the church was set up six years ago, why and how did you choose the name? “Freedom is a statement about our position, more than it is a name. The bible says ‘for whom Jesus sets free, is free indeed’ and that’s a message we carry in us. So, we called the church Freedom, because we believe that the Christian gospel is all about freedom.”
In the fast paced world that we live in, the work being undertaken at Freedom Centre provides a good lesson in the importance of hard work, commitment and the significance of community, the church currently consists of 400 members, many of whom have played a role in getting the centre to this point. Tim concluded by saying “We’re really excited about welcoming everyone into the Freedom Centre later this year. It has taken us a while to get to this point, but we are in this for the long haul and it’s going to be good.”