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Kingdom Faith Church Turns Twenty

In November 1987, Christian rock band Heartbeat appeared on Top of the Pops having reached number 32 in the charts. Their single ‘Tears from Heaven’ was two places higher in the chart than Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’.

Playing on drums for Heartbeat that day was Clive Urquhart, the son of Colin Urquhart, an Anglican vicar who has written many books on religion. Clive is now a senior pastor at Kingdom Faith, a church founded by his father in the late 1970s.

Kingdom Faith has been growing steadily over the years, but in recent years its impact and influence on Horsham has been more evident. Sunday morning services at its centre in Foundry Lane attract in the region of 500 people, whilst several thousand have attended the Church’s free fun days at its headquarters in Roffey Place.
But still, for many outside the church, Kingdom Faith is looked upon with a certain degree of suspicion.

Is it a ‘happy clappy’ church? Is Kingdom Faith a cult? We spoke to those at the heart of the church to get some answers.

Kingdom Faith is not your average church. We walk into Kingdom Faith Church in Foundry Lane on a Sunday morning, to find Clive Urquhart, unshaven but looking casually smart in jeans and a shirt, stood with a microphone in the centre of a stage some 20 metres wide.

Behind him, there are no choirboys in white cassocks, no stained glass windows, no statue of Jesus on the Cross, and no chalk board displaying the numbers of the day’s hymns. Instead, there is a large screen with a swirling display of psychedelic colours, and a live band featuring three guitarists, bassist, drummer, keyboardist and nine singers. Together, they form the Worship Team at Kingdom Faith. There’s no time for any slow-starters to wake up – the band play a lengthy song called ‘No Greater Love’ as the worshippers stand, many singing along with the band and most with their hands in the air.

It doesn’t look much like a church. Other than the Kingdom Faith sign, you wouldn’t guess that the Foundry Lane site was a place of worship. If you visit in the week, you’ll find a burger van sat outside, serving workers at the industrial units located near the church. But anyone working at these nearby businesses on a Sunday knows that they need to get to work early if they want a car park space!

Compared to its unremarkable exterior, the inside of the church is immaculate, and the running and upkeep requires no small amount of effort. At the back of the main worship room is a substantial sound and visual display unit to support all that is seen and heard on the main stage. In the next room four people operate a very good coffee shop in an area called The Hub.

Meanwhile, back on the main stage, church member Phil Pooley has taken over the microphone to talk about forthcoming events, including a Faith Camp and a Girls Connect evening. Corresponding advertisements effortlessly appear on screens situated on either side of the stage. Phil then tells the congregation that the band has recorded an eight-track CD called Studio Tracks that can be downloaded on iTunes.

Many churches may be struggling to get by on the donations collected by a little old lady with a basket, but it would seem that Kingdom Faith doesn’t give their bank manager too many sleepless nights.

The money comes from the congregation. Sat on a leather sofa located under a huge flat screen TV mounted on the wall, drinking a cappuccino made at the church coffee shop which is so spacious it can encompass a £35,000 children’s play centre, you can assume Kingdom Faith is doing okay for money. People donate 10% of their income in ‘tithes’ and that pays for the upkeep of the church as well as the many clubs and events that Kingdom Faith runs.

Clive said: “If we can do something which is for the benefit of people then people don’t mind giving money to that. If people see a vision, cause or reason for it, if they understand the ‘why’ then they don’t mind the ‘what’ including the finances as there is a purpose.We run a course called ‘Jump in’ which is all about what it is to become a Christian, what we believe, how the church is organised and what goes on. It’s around that point that someone gives their life to being a Christian, and because they’ve done that they want to be part of what’s going on."

There’s no membership badge, as such. “We don’t have formal ‘membership’ or subscriptions,” said Clive. “Every week we have an offering like every church does and there are two parts to that. The first is called tithes and the other is offerings. In the Bible it talks about tithes being the first 10th of what you earn, and offerings are anything else you want to give on top of that. But basically the money that comes in goes towards everything we do.

“We run the Bible College and run a big event in the summer called Faith Camp with about 5,000 people coming to that. We have about 40-50 churches across the UK related to Kingdom Faith, some of which we’ve started, others that have connected as they have the same vision and heart as we do, so we help other churches develop their ideas, and there are some others in Europe. So the nature of what we do is perhaps bigger than just a local church. The income we receive covers the running of the church and projects like the college and camp.”

But Kingdom Faith had humble beginnings. Colin Urquhart laid the foundations of what has become Kingdom Faith in the late 1970s, when he moved from being an Anglican vicar to speaking all over the world with the Charismatic Renewal Movement.

The Bethany Fellowship formed as a community to support Colin and his family, based in The Hyde, a private estate in Handcross. Within a few years the Fellowship had grown and changed its name to Kingdom Faith and bought Roffey Place in 1983. The Kingdom Faith College opened a year later. In 1992 Kingdom Faith Church began at Roffey Place but it soon outgrew the premises and moved to Foundry Lane.

Colin is still ever-present at the church, even if it is his son who is now the face, as it were, of Kingdom Faith. Clive and his wife Jane - who have three children together and live in Horsham - started running the youth clubs at the church, before becoming senior pastors.

People think Kingdom Faith is a cult. The word ‘cult’ refers to a new religious movement whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal. The beliefs of Kingdom Faith do not stray from what is written in the Bible, and the text is interpreted in much the same way as it is in Christian churches around the world.

But it’s true that in most churches people do not show their love of God in quite the way they do at Kingdom Faith.

Clive says: “I don’t think it matters if you go to a traditional church or one that is more like Kingdom Faith. It is all foreign to someone who isn’t used to going to church. Part of what we do is breaking down people’s misconceptions. We’ve had people say that they never thought a church would have a play centre, or a mum and toddler group, or understand about parenting and life issues.

“A church is made up of everyday people from all walks of life. I think there is this thought amongst some people that if you’re a Christian you don’t understand life - you just need a crutch to lean on and can’t handle it yourself.
“A lot of people in the church here are professionals and entrepreneurs. We’re normal people that deal with life and have to work through it, but maybe have a different way of looking at it.”

The church is one of several in Horsham with a contemporary outlook. King’s Church, which meets at Tanbridge House School, is another Horsham-based church with a large congregation. It too focuses on families and actively engages with the community.

These modern churches owe little to tradition. For example, Clive Urquhart begins his Sunday morning service by inviting the several hundred people present to stand up and applaud Jesus. He leads the church in a sort of informal prayer, thanking God for an “awesome time” this morning before talking about the church and how they are “spiritually growing together”.

He said: “We’re a friend to the world – we don’t want to be ‘Soapbox Christians’. We don’t want to tell everyone that they’re wrong and we’re right. We’re not coming with that attitude. We want people to see how good God is – we do that practically by the way we serve and love people, but also by sharing the gospel. We come in with a heart to be a friend to the world.” He also prays for the children of Kingdom Faith.

Many of the children, however, are not there. Whilst the parents are singing God’s praises at the church in Foundry Lane, the children are whisked away on a coach to Kingdom Faith’s other centre at Roffey Place. Children under six are looked after in a crèche at the church, but those in Years 3-9 at school go to Roffey Place to learn about life and about God.

Parents are told that, on this given Sunday, the children at the other centre are being encouraged to ‘be bold, be strong’ and to ‘not be distracted from their faith and to stand firm’.

Children are at the heart of much of what Kingdom Faith do. The church is attracting young families and is increasingly opening its doors to the community beyond those who attend church services. Whilst it is inevitably the decision of the parent to take their children along to the church, from a child’s perspective, a visit to Kingdom Faith is certainly not without its perks!

We made a separate visit over half term week. We found Kingdom Faith transformed into one of the best children’s clubs you are likely to find anywhere. It cost just £1 to get in and people with no affiliation to the church were welcome. Hundreds of parents have realised that it’s an option well worth taking up.

As well as the activity centre for the little ones, entertainment included a Fussball table, Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2 games, circus activities, temporary tattoos, giant Jenga and Connect Four, arts and crafts including face painting, children making Viking hats and little dogs out of pipe cleaners, Little Tykes building blocks, Swing Ball, Hula Hoops, a Space Hopper, Table Tennis, and tables full of Lego and Magnetix. Meanwhile, the mums mingled in The Hub, happy to let their children wear themselves out!

Regular clubs run by Kingdom Faith include the Little Builders club which meets twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday, where youngsters can indulge in arts and crafts, as well as singing and story time. The Friday Nite Club is an after-school  activity adventure for children aged up to 11, whilst GRIT sessions are held for teenagers every Sunday evening.

But they don’t all sign up to God. It’s fair to say that if you are taken to the church’s clubs as a young person, then there’s a strong possibility that you will become a member of the congregation.

Dave Hellyer was taken along to Kingdom Faith when he was young by his parents, and recalls there were only a couple of other children for him to play with. Now he says, children can make as many friends as they wish. But Dave says that religion is not forced on young people at the church and that they are encouraged to ask questions about God.

Dave runs the GRIT sessions on a Sunday, and has a lot of experience in talking to teenagers. He said: “At GRIT we get to know each other, learn more about God and what the Bible says and ask if we should trust it. It’s about asking questions – it’s not people telling you this is what you should do. Teenagers ask a lot of questions, and there’s no point fighting it. We do get youngsters that think that’s not the way for them. It has to be their choice – you can’t make it for them and they will resent you if you try to.”

Whilst God may not be forced upon the young people at Kingdom Faith, there’s certainly plenty of opportunity to hear what he has to say!

One of these opportunities is the Bible College. As well as the various weekly clubs, Kingdom Faith runs a Bible College at Roffey Place for students aged from 18. Some students are being trained for a specific ministry whilst others may have spent a gap year at the college before going to university.

One recent attendee is Phil Fawcett, a 27-year-old from Horsham who said he was “saved” 18 months ago.
Phil said: “I was brought into the church and was baptised in February 2011. Some of the students were doing a charity car wash near where I lived. I went along and was pleasantly surprised by how helpful they were. I was invited along to the youth group and that’s how God came into my life. Six months later I came along to the Sunday service for the first time.

“Something was missing from my life. In about six months I went to seven different funerals and I wondered what was going to happen next. When I was saved a weight was lifted off my mind. I don’t know what is going to happen now but I’ll be able to cope with it with God’s help.

“I used to be part of The Salvation Army Sunday School but God never really clicked for me there. Coming here, I felt the energy and the life. There is a misunderstanding about this place. People think it’s happy clappy whatever the circumstances. I think they think we’re nuts, but it is just ordinary people living ordinary lives but in an
extraordinary way.”

Kingdom Faith is also attracting new people to the area. Susan Amaritei moved to Horsham from Croydon having visited the Church with her children. She said: “We came to visit and the kids loved it. It was young, it was
relevant, and we felt we had to come here. The teaching is really good - the word of God is put in a way that is clear and even fun.

“Traditional churches have their place but it doesn’t suit me. I like being free - you’re not frowned upon if you let yourself go. I feel free to worship and enjoy it.”

Susan sings in the band – or the ‘Worship Team’ - which lead the congregation.

The King and Queen lead the Worship Team. During the Sunday service we attended, there was a fifteen minute period when the Worship Team performed, before Clive addressed the congregation. There was more singing/rock-based prayer at the end of the service, with members of the church encouraged to express themselves however they see fit.

The songs that are performed are written by Chad Marriott and Pete Norman, who also perform locally as Mad Chariots. Chad said: “I’m Freddie Mercury and Pete is Elvis, so we’re the King and Queen. We can go out and do that on a Saturday and come here on a Sunday morning.”

Pete was a student of Kingdom Faith in 1998, before joining the Worship Team. He said: “You do feel the mood when you play. There’s no playlist - you are sensing what the spirit is doing and expressing that. You get feedback from the congregation – it’s like a journey and we write songs for different parts of that journey. The songs are tools to encounter God – they just help out.

“There was always a strong dynamic of worship, and that comes from the top down. Pastor Colin is a worshipper, Clive is a worshipper and they give it 100% every week, and it filters down. Our job is to go up there and help inspire something within everyone.”

Another tool that Kingdom Faith is using is the Internet. On the Kingdom Faith website, there’s a very nicely put together video of Clive discussing God, religion and its place in modern society. Clive talks about “turning the tide of a Godless Society” and says that the church is making great strides in the community.

Clive said: “The video makes a statement about things going on in society ultimately because people don’t know God. Maybe it’s because the church hasn’t played the part it should do because of the way Christianity is being expressed. Most people’s perception of church is a service on a Sunday and that becomes irrelevant in people’s
everyday life.

“There are all kinds of issues going on in society and the church has got a role to play in helping people find another way in life. In recent times youth culture has changed. The culture of music, fashion and fame has accelerated.  The message of Christianity doesn’t change but you’ve got to communicate it in a way that is relevant for each generation, and that’s where I think the Church has not been good. I think society has moved on but the way we’ve tried to communicate God’s will has not.

That is what is happening now. There are churches like this one all over the country, meeting in warehouses or converted factories because they’re much more concerned about working with the community and bringing something positive in, than just getting people to church on Sunday for a service.”

There are big plans for the future. Clive said the aim for the past five years has been “turning the church
inside out”. Instead of the church existing primarily for the people who are already part of it, Kingdom Faith is now opening up to a lot of people who aren’t in the church and becoming more a part of the community as a whole, forming partnerships with various organisations in the district.

Clive did request that we keep some of the ideas discussed out of the magazine, as that’s all they are at this point in time – ideas. But briefly, Clive hopes that one day in the not too-distant future, Kingdom Faith can utilise the skills of members of the church to offer extended community facilities at a much larger centre than what they currently have.

He said: “When I read about the government’s idea of Big Society, I thought ‘that’s the church!’ But it’s what the church is supposed to be doing, not necessarily what it is doing. Unless God is at the heart of the community it’s going to go pear-shaped.”

For more information on the church and its clubs visit www.kingdomfaith.com

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