Meet the Ipswich couple who opened a church...on their driveway
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Most churches are grand, historic buildings which are magnificent focal points for their communities.
Yet while the Reverend Ian Daniels' church in a gazebo on the driveway of his Ipswich home might seem a little less grandiose, it is certainly no less impressive.
Having lived in Lindbergh Road for 26 years, the Rev Daniels and his wife Julie felt they needed to start a new church to serve their neighbourhood and give people a new place of worship.
Naturally, they thought long and hard about where would be the best and most convenient place for people to join in community events.
Yet after mulling it over, the Rev Daniels said: "We suddenly came to the conclusion that the best place to do it was right on the doorstep."
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So instead of looking to find permanent premises, the couple set up a big blue gazebo on their driveway - and brought Lindbergh Road Community Church directly to the people
Starting in June 2020, they had to be careful to observe the "rule of six" on outdoor gatherings for their regular coffee and chat events on Sunday mornings during the coronavirus crisis.
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They had to take events online on their Facebook page during the national lockdown.
But with restrictions now being eased, the pair held their first socially-distanced event outside their home on Easter Sunday - again observing the rule of six.
The Rev Daniels said: "We are in amongst the people we see every day. They see who we are and what we get up to.
"We are in the middle of an area with huge needs, so we thought about what we could do for people on their doorsteps.
"It became a bit of a landmark on the estate, especially when we bought the gazebo. It became something that people got used to seeing.
"It's very much about relationship-building, in order that we can build that sense of community and then explore what faith is.
"However, we are there for anybody on the estate. We are happy to engage with anyone, whatever their background.
"Normally, we would have got a building or a room somewhere and invited people to come. Instead, we have to do it right there out in the open.
"There are about 1,500 people on the estate. We want to try and be here for all of them, in whatever form they need."
The Rev Daniels said the church's work had been as varied as helping people to clear their gardens, to delivering Happy Easter cards around the estate.
Members also sung carols on people's doorsteps at Christmas, with hot chocolate and mince pies.
"For me, it's about following the model that Jesus had in the first place," he said.
"He went to where the people were and had conversations with them. That is what we're doing as well.
"We've got to be able to speak to and engage with people who aren't inside a church.
"It seems like a really stupid thing to do in the middle of a pandemic, but the reality has been quite the opposite. People are more open to other people in the neighbourhood."
When the church holds bigger events, it is looking at using some space in the nearby Inspire Suffolk building, also in Lindbergh Road.
However, the Rev Daniels said: "I don't see the gazebo disappearing off the drive for a long time.
"We love the idea of people being able to see openly whatever you're doing."
Earlier this year, the church was given a balloon version of its logo made by Don't Pop Me Now! as a gift from the wider Church of England in Ipswich.
Mrs Daniels added: "We wanted to create a church which is rooted in our local community and responding to the needs of everyone in the area – making a difference where we are."