Jesus centre opens after years of snags

Chronicle & Echo/November 1, 2004

A congregation of more than 1,000 worshippers from across the UK helped to launch the Jesus Army's long-awaited new home in Northampton.

The worship centre, housed in the former Cannon cinema, was finally unveiled on Saturday following a catalogue of delays and problems which have plagued the multi-million pound project.

Elders from the controversial religious group, which is based in Nether Heyford, had initially predicted the conversion of the historic grade two listed building would be completed by the end of 2001.

But a series of structural problems and strict planning regulations to preserve the art deco interior have seen the opening date pushed back by three years . . . adding £2 million to the overall budget John Campbell, the Jesus Army's communications manager, said: "It's a massive relief to get this far and it is a very rewarding day for everyone who has helped along the way.

"There were times when we came up against massive difficulties, but we have soldiered on and hopefully have something that the people of Northampton can be proud of."

The grand opening saw Jesus Army members from as far afield as Bristol, Belfast and Sheffield descend on Northampton to take part in the launch of only the second Jesus Centre in the country.

The redeveloped building features a 900-seat auditorium, cafe and education centre and will cost £400,000-a-year to run. Centre manager Steve Jones said: "We want to offer something to everyone and make sure that everyone who visits is catered for.

To see the place so full of people and full of life is great. It has been a long road but it has certainly been worth it."

Work on the £4 million project finally began in October last year after cracks in the building's foundations and leaks in the roof delayed building work.

Graham McPherson travelled from Bristol to see the launch and said: "This will undoubtedly be the focal point of the Jesus Army in the UK. We would love more places like this. God is willing but it is up to us to find the money."

The cinema closed in May 1995 and was bought by the Jesus Army in 1999.

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