Assets or Liabilities?

By John Ellis

I have been thinking about buildings a good deal lately. Most of the wealth of the United Reformed Church is tied up in buildings. Some of them are undoubtedly hard-working assets, enabling all sorts of Christian witness that would be harder without a physical base fully under the local church’s control. Others seem to be an exhausting distraction from effective mission.

I hope that there is a strong response to the series of roadshows that our Joint Property Strategy Group is taking around Britain, from Edinburgh to Plymouth, between May and July. These will stimulate fresh thinking on how to use buildings creatively, with plenty of good news stories of what can be done. More details are available from Kim Medford-Vassell at or 020 7467 5183.


Castle Hill Church, Ipswich

I found an interesting building when sharing in a service for the Ipswich and East Suffolk Area Partnership. The Castle Hill church was erected by the local Congregationalists in 1956 to serve as the church for what became three large Ipswich estates. Its striking architecture meant it became the youngest church building of any denomination to be listed. It also meant it is a prominent landmark on its excellent site. The main space can face one way for worship and all the furniture, including the pulpit, can easily be removed and the seating face the opposite way to use a well-equipped stage. It is a busy building through the week and supplemented by a 1970s hall. This adjoins a kitchen and is suitable for sports, not least by the church’s Girls’ Brigade company.


Derek Pledger at the organ

An unusual sharing with the local community was that the organ was a former cinema organ. The local Ipswich Light Organ Music Society have a suitably large hall for their regular recitals on the historic 1930s instrument, while the church has use of the less exotic features of the organ for accompanying worship. It was a reminder that fruitful partnerships with our communities can take many forms.


1 thought on “Assets or Liabilities?

  1. Andrew Kleissner

    Indeed it is an interesting building which still looks modern today – although it can get rather warm inside on summer days. Might I somewhat cheekily suggest that many young people (and even some older ones!) may have whiled away services by counting the number of small panes of glass in the walls (not that I would dare suggest that the worship at Castle Hill have ever been dull!)

    You are right in suggesting that the church’s founders showed vision by selecting an ideal site, which has placed the church at the very heart of the community and serves it well. For more information on the building go to the Suffolk churches website:

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