Published: 18:42, 13 October 2021
| Updated: 20:04, 13 October 2021
This time next year, the congregation at St Faith's Church in the centre of Maidstone will be meeting in a new location.
The church community is on the move to a purpose-built centre on the site of the old St Faith's church hall two-and-a-half miles away at Ringlestone.
The historic church building in St Faith's Street, which dates from 1872, is being sold to help fund the new building.
Demolition began this week to tear down Ringlestone Hall and the adjacent vicarage on the corner of Chatham Road and Moncktons Lane.
The hall has been used in the past for informal worship and for activities such as pilates, Rainbows and karate groups, but the building has deteriorated over the years since it was built in 1935.
In its place will arise an exciting new community centre. Construction is expected to take a year.
The Ringlestone Community Centre Development Group (RCCDG) was set up as a charity in 2013 to bring the church and local community together to work towards establishing a new centre, with planning permission finally granted last year.
The new St Faith’s Centre is being constructed by Maidstone-based HB Homes and with fit-out and legal fees will cost £1.6 million.
The project is being financed with £465,000 from housing developers through a planning mitigation measure known as Section 106.
In addition the project is being supported by £120,000 from grant-funding bodies, with £150,000 raised by the congregation and with the bulk of the rest coming from the sale of the old church building and a house that the church owned in Ringlestone.
The Rev Canon Arthur Houston, priest-in-charge at St Faith's, explained: "We've felt the need to move closer to the community that we serve for a number of years.
"We feared that if we stayed in our present location, with our dwindling congregation numbers, within 10 years we wouldn't be able to carry on."
He added: "In contrast, events at Ringlestone have always been well supported, even though the hall was past its best.
"The new centre will allow us to fully engage with the community and provide a centre for local people."
The new building will include a main hall to accommodate 110 people, a smaller hall, meeting rooms, a cafe and garden area and will open next summer.
There will be parking for 15 cars, with one electric charging point.
Rose Henn-Macrae, chairman of the RCCDG, said: "This is not a building project, but a community project that involves a building."
However, worship will continue at St Faith's.
Mr Houston said: "We are in the final stages of selling the building to another faith group. They are a new multi-cultural pentecostal church, who have already been using our building and are keen to move in as they have no building of their own."
Mr Houston declined to name the new church, but it is believed to be the Lighthouse Church, who currently hold their services online.
Although the vicarage is being demolished to make way for the new centre, Mr Houston, who has been at St Faith's since 2015, is not losing his home. He lives in Lenham.