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Reform Magazine | August 14, 2022

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The churches that make us: Downing Place, Cambridge

The churches that make us: Downing Place, Cambridge

Jane Bower tells a story of grief and joyful rebirth in Cambridge

I sit in the airy sanctuary of Downing Place United Reformed Church in the centre of Cambridge, light pouring through tall arched windows, beautiful light oak flooring and the sound of a Hauptwerk organ played by one of our musical directors. I hope I never get over the eye-pricking gratitude I feel for being given this place to do God’s work. This overwhelming gratitude is felt by all who have been here since 2016, when this place was inconceivable.

There were two URCs in Cambridge city centre, about 200 yards from each other but supposedly very different. St Columba’s came from the Presbyterian tradition and was seen as more formal and traditional. The church I attended, Emmanuel, had been Congregationalist and was seen as more arts-based and progressive. They shared services from time to time, but many of us, when in the other church, were out of our comfort zone. I admit I was one of them.

In 2014, the minister of Emmanuel left and we needed to take stock. Some felt lost and at sea.

In 2016, there was one of those moments that you hope will never happen. We were told that with Emmanuel’s dwindling congregation and the huge costs of maintaining the historic church, it was becoming clear that options had to be explored. Gloom was exacerbated by a winter meeting in an unheated hall, where members were asked to consider selling the beloved building…

Jane Bower is an elder and buildings committee member at Downing Place United Reformed Church

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This is an extract from an article published in the July/August 2022 edition of Reform

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