Hope Church in Ipswich opens in derelict Odeon cinema

  • Published
Hope ChurchImage source, Tuuli Platner
Image caption,
Hope Church opened its doors in a former cinema

A cinema that closed its doors to film fans 16 years ago has reopened them to Christian worshippers having been transformed into a church.

The art-deco style former Odeon in Ipswich was constructed in 1991 but shut in 2005.

Hope Church acquired planning permission for its new centre in 2018.

It finally opened the Hope Centre on Sunday, which includes a large area for church services and there are plans for a cafe, expected to open in January.

When Hope Church was granted permission to convert the cinema, most of the old fittings and decor were still in place.

There was even some popcorn in an old dispenser, said lead pastor Tom Scrivens.

Image source, Tuuli Platner
Image caption,
The church held its first service for members on Sunday
Image source, Tuuli Platner
Image caption,
A large area for worship, rooms for community use and a cafe are all part of the centre

The cinema had 29,900 sq ft (2,870 sq m) of floor space, allowing for a large area for worship, but work to turn it into a church centre took longer than anticipated because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Image caption,
The Odeon sign could still be seen on the building before renovation
Image caption,
Mr Scrivens, pictured here before the renovation, said there was popcorn still in a dispenser when the church took over the building

The decision to move into the Odeon building, on St Margaret's Street next to the Regent Theatre, was based mainly on a lack of space, Mr Scrivens said.

"We've outgrown our current building [the church used to be based in Fore Hamlet]... and we wanted a place where our family - as a church - could grow," he added.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's first service, Mr Scrivens said everyone was "really, really excited... at the culmination of this journey".

Image source, Tuuli Platner
Image caption,
The church centre now boasts light, open spaces for its visitors
Image source, Tuuli Platner
Image caption,
An official public launch of the new church centre will take place next month

"We really have a big heart to serve our town - we're doing lots of things within the community but we know that in a more central venue like the former Odeon, there are going to be a lot more people that we can help and serve," Mr Scrivens said.

"We wanted to make it good. It's a building that matters to a lot of people."

Image source, Tuuli Platner
Image caption,
The new venue will help the church serve more of the community, its pastor said

The relocation project cost about £2m.

Mr Scrivens said funding came from grants, loans and the sale of the former building, but "mainly from the giving of our church congregation - which is staggering, really".

"I wouldn't say that we have any particularly rich individuals - it's been a team effort," he added.

An official public launch of the new church centre will be on 17 October.

Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email eastofenglandnews@bbc.co.uk

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.