Builders are getting ready to start laying the foundations of a Neighbourhood Centre at Emmanuel Church, Woodley, Reading.

The £336,000 church extension will replace two portable buildings. It will provide a kitchen, extra meeting space and storage. The extension will provide a permanent home for the foodbank and improved facilities that will improve local social cohesion and engagement.

The Diocesan Development Fund is providing £25,000 for the work. The development fund is providing £1m each year for Christ-like Church projects across our Diocese. Eight other trusts have offered grants to Emmanuel Woodley, and the church has raised £160,000.

Over two decades Emmanuel Church has worked in Woodley, an area of relative deprivation. The new building will enable the church to support community priorities; young people and their families, job training, the needs of the elderly, budgeting advice, and responses to food poverty, intergenerational opportunities and former residents of a nearby drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

“We have enough funding to go ahead in faith but are still praying and acting for the remainder to come through,” says the Revd Sean Riordan, the Vicar. “We hope the centre be finished by Easter next year.”

Despite delaying the start of the work, the pandemic has helped as lockdown meant the existing cabins could be moved while they were not in use.

Since then, the cabins have provided entertainment for children and others who were ‘onlined out’ and wanted to do real-life things to keep their faith a priority.

The cabins were painted by four people aged 14-22. Households produced cardboard templates of flowers and sea creatures which the team used to spray paint on to the basic design, with names alongside each one. There is also an outdoor labyrinth, a prayer tree and a cut-out family at the church.