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Transformed on the Inside

Bethesda Church in Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire had two buildings when Gordon Bingham became pastor in 2013. Now they’ve sold one to refurbish the other and Phil Topham’s been finding out more about their plans for the future.

Transformed on the Inside primary image

Bethesda Church meet in an old Primitive Methodist chapel that used to be a big open space with a high ceiling. Now it’s got a two-storey modern interior with kitchen facilities and disabled access. A baptistery has even been dug into the floor.

Designed to be a place where they can hold all their meetings, Bethesda Church can now host Sunday services and fellowship evenings as easily as youth groups or evangelistic curry nights.

a meal in the renovated building

The church sold another building they owned in Hay-on-Wye to help fund this refurbishment and the building has now seen a complete transformation. For Pastor Gordon Bingham, the changes they have made reflect their desire to reach out with the gospel. He said:

“When we had the grand opening of the refurbished building, the place was packed. I used the work we had done as a metaphor for the gospel – the building still looks the same on the outside but it has been transformed on the inside.

“Following the service, the Mayor told me that no other church in Hay-on-Wye had done anything like this and that’s the point: we’re not like any other local church because we’re passionate about the gospel.”

Help from FIEC

With an average congregation of 32, Bethesda is one of our smaller churches, but they have been able to use the expertise of FIEC Practical Services to help them to complete this refurbishment. Legal experts at FIEC were able to help Gordon to navigate some of the more testing elements of project managing a refurbishment like this. He said:

“When it comes to doing a building, you come across difficulties that are legal in nature and for someone who is trained in theology, that can be really difficult!

work in progress

“Practical Services have been very helpful. In a project like this, people think the main difficulty will be doing the work. What I have come to learn is that the building work is the easy part. It is the planning side that is difficult – particularly finding out the location of services like water and gas, and getting those things connected.

“Here we had quite a problem trying to connect the sewerage. The contractors came and set up the temporary traffic lights, dug the hole for the work and then when we asked the water service inspector to inspect the connection, we were told the paperwork was not in place. So they had to fill the hole up and go away again. Practical Services were very helpful in terms of pushing that paperwork forward so that we could finally get the sewerage connection done.”

Evangelistic opportunities

The refurbishment began in March 2015 and was finished in time for Christmas. Gordon confesses he spent most of 2015 focused on the building project without realising that God was at work in so many other ways. New families joined the church because they were encouraged by the ministry and Bethesda is now looking forward to baptising one lady in the newly-plastered baptistery.

part of the renovated building

The church is also excited about using their refurbished facilities to reach out with the gospel even further, particularly among those who visit the town every year for the Hay-on-Wye book festival. This year it takes place in late May and early June and Gordon says they are planning to reach as many people as they can. He added:

“The Festival is the biggest opportunity we have to reach people with more than 80,000 coming into Hay-on-Wye. It’s a huge opportunity to reach those not only from the UK but from around the world.

“To date we have distributed literature which includes Christian books and tracts as well as children’s colouring books. This year we are planning to rent the Cheese Market Stall in the town square, laid out with a café seating area with children’s crafts along with a full bookstall to sell books and give literature away. We hope we can reach people both at the festival and those who live in the town.”

Please pray that lives will be transformed just like the building at Bethesda as the church reach out with the gospel during 2016.


Photo of the outside of the building by John Lord (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Phil Topham photo
Phil Topham - FIEC Executive Director

Phil started working for FIEC in the role of Head of Communication, but then became our Executive Director at the start of 2019. He is married to Kath and they live near Market Harborough and attend Christ Church in the town.