A former pub which stood empty for several years has been given a new lease of life as a community church which is to open this weekend.
The site of the Wellington, in Bedford Road, Kempston, purchased by the New Life Christian Fellowship four years ago, has now been renovated to become a church to cater for their congregation of around 150 as well as providing facilities for community groups.
Pastor Piara Bhatti said: “Our builders and volunteers have been working seven days a week to transform a run down building into a place of worship which will eventually cater for 300 people, as well offering facilities to the community - we have put our heart and soul into this project.
“We will be having an official opening on Saturday, August 2. The assistant to the Bishop of Bedford will be there along with the Mayor of Kempston, Carl Meader, two local councillors and lots of pastors from all over the country. We encourage everyone in the local community to come down. We will also be cooking curry to be served afterwards.
“The feedback we have had from the local community has been amazing. Our neighbours are very happy with us - someone said ‘this place was a derelict eyesore where kids hung around but what you’ve done to this building is great. It has lifted this part of Kempston.’ People are so curious they slow down their cars to have a look at us now. We’ve even kept the post the old pub sign used to hang from and will be hanging our own sign there.”
The community church also aims to reach out into the community by helping local elderly residents and will provide a room for mums and tots.
Piara said: “What we do to help the community makes me feel great. Jesus came to serve people - not for the community to serve him. If the Son of God wasn’t asked to serve the community why should we wait to be asked?”
The New Life Christian Fellowship Church will be having an official opening on Saturday, August 2 from 11.30am at 16 Bedford Road, Kempston. All are welcome. Northern Indian food will be served after.
Pastor converted to Christianity after leaving India
Pastor Piara Bhatti, who was born in Northern India but settled in Bedford with his family in the late Sixties, converted to Christianity a decade later.
He said: “My father wore a turban and I wore a turban. In 1979 my best friend asked me what I was doing one night and I said, ‘the usual, going to the pub and having a drink.’ And he asked me if I wanted to go to a meeting in Cardington on the site where Tesco’s is now so I said ok. When I heard we are all sinners before God and He sent his only Son to save us I was filled with joy. One meeting changed my whole life.
“I was a tough cookie when I was younger but that day I cried and from then on it has been my life’s goal to serve people.”
Piara’s father was a soldier in the British Army under the Raj and was a practising Sikh who was initially disappointed with his son’s decision to convert to another religion.
Piara explained: “When I told him of my decision he told people he only had four sons not five. But as time passed it went from one person in my family being in the fellowship to 130! My dad, before he passed away, actually came to a meeting which I was preaching at. When I asked people to hold their hands in the air I saw him lift his hands - it was an amazing moment. He also took four of his elderly friends so we could lay hands on them - showing the change in his attitude. I know he would be very proud of me.”
Piara also has a show on the Glory Channel which is on Sky Channel 823. He said: “I receive correspondence from all over the globe from people who say they have converted to Christianity because they saw me on TV. I’ve had people from India, Pakistan, America, Canada, even South Korea. I was in Bolognia, Italy recently and I met five families who told me they became Christians because of my programme!”