Englefield Green is situated just west of Egham and Runnymede adjoining the A30. It has a population of slightly more than 11,000, a large proportion of whom are students. There is a diverse mixture of housing: housing association properties, council houses, student accommodation, and private dwellings, both small and large. It is served by infant, primary and junior schools and a small selection of shops, though by only one small supermarket, and there is no bank, post office or cash point except within Royal Holloway.
Although the village may seem affluent, the statistics from the 2001 national census rated it as the second most socially deprived village in Surrey; nevertheless, it has a marked shortage of community facilities. At present, there is no available hall in the centre of the village, and in 2007 the County Council closed the only day centre (the Queen Elizabeth Centre) in Bond Street. (Elderly people now no longer have a place of their own in the village, and have to find their way to the day centre in Egham.) Other community facilities are generally over subscribed.
So quite clearly there is still a need for a venue where the community can meet socially and informally without having to go into a restaurant or pub – a place which is welcoming and friendly, where young and old can meet and feel at home.
BACKGROUND TO THE INITIATIVE
In 2002, the small congregation of the Englefield Green Methodist church made the decision to cease worshipping in the Methodist church and to unite with the local Anglican parish church.
Paradoxically, this allowed a new, clearer vision and purpose for the Methodist church building to be conceived, in the spirit of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesley was responsible for founding orphanages, lending societies, schools and other initiatives concerned with social justice and the welfare of communities.
Many of the Methodists had lived in the village most of their lives and were well aware of the needs of their community. They decided that they wanted to do something to make a difference. Through the new joint Church Council at St. Jude’s United Church, it was decided that the former Methodist building should be kept, that it should be brought under a sharing agreement, and that a major refurbishment of the premises should be embarked on so that a “hub” for the community, in the sense described above, could be developed.