Church is people … and a community garden … and a public park … and the vision to bring them together

Allchurches Trust recently awarded a grant to Peebles Baptist Church in support of its environmentally sustainable new church and community centre on the ‘south side’ of this Scottish Borders town.

Ian Gray, Pastor of Peebles Baptist Church, said: “The Kings Meadow Project is about creating a home for the church, which has been without a church building for the past 30 years. And it’s about providing a community centre in a community that doesn’t have one, but has a population of around 10,000 and growing.

“The new Kings Meadow building embodies the congregation’s belief that our mission and worship includes stewardship and care of the natural world and its future, just as much as a responsibility to create fellowship, share resources and care for our community and each other. Our vision is to bring our thriving community garden and new building into harmony with the adjoining five-hectare park to create an open, shared, holistic space that is a true community asset.

“The building is not going to look like a traditional church (one might say ‘more like a barn on stilts’), but it is a beautiful building that fits its flood-prone location and opens out on to Victoria Park, which adjoins the site."

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Both the garden and the new building have been designed for sustainability and with care for the environment very much in mind. The building has a large south facing roof and will be powered by solar energy and heated by air and ground source heat pumps. Income from the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentives and Feed-in tariffs will offset the building’s running costs.

The project is low-cost for its scale, fully accessible to everyone (with ramps and changing space toilets) and there will be five meeting spaces and a large hall for use in church worship and by community groups and for other activities. It is hoped the building can also be used by the Peeblesshire foodbank.

Ian continued: “We have worked to organic, composting and recycling principles in the community garden since it was begun in 2013, including the use of recycled timbers and materials wherever possible – and now this development will allow us to harvest rainwater for use and reuse throughout the building and gardens.”

The building’s under-croft incorporates toilets that will be open to park users, a garden and maintenance shed. Car parking will mostly be under the main footprint of the building.

“We will have some parking, plus electric car chargers and a drop-off zone for mini buses, but we want to encourage people to walk and cycle as much as possible,” added Ian.

“The whole site has been designed for good pedestrian and cycle access from every direction and we are really trying to enhance the connection between this site and the park, to enhance the amenities and increase the use of both sites.”

Peter Mojsa, Grants Officer at Allchurches Trust, said: “The thinking and vision behind the Kings Meadow Project is an inspiring example of what churches can do in their community. While not every church has a ‘green field’ site to work with, Peebles Baptist Church has taken every opportunity to plan this project to reflect and protect its environment and its mission. We are delighted to support them in this.”

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