Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, Birmingham, 25 March 22

We were delighted to play a fundraiser for Christian Aid’s Ukrainian Appeal at the Three Trees Community Centre in Birmingham on Friday evening 25 March. Formerly known as the Baptist Church, the centre is a vibrant place of worship and has been an integral part of community life since 1970 when it began providing facilities for local residents, including a nursery, coffee bar, lunch clubs and the area’s first shop. More recently, £1.2m was raised to repair, refurbish and extend the building and in 2018, Chelmund’s Fish & Chips – the UK’s first community owned chip shop began trading. Today, the Centre is alive with activity, from parent and toddler groups to a wide array of clubs – fusing the Christian message of hope and peace with community life.

Gospel Bell’s Donald and Richard were joined by Omar and Glen, performing an evening of American Gospel, that drew on the fascinating story of key figures in the Gospel blues tradition (the foundations of rock n’ roll!) narrated by Donald. Offered as a free of charge event to coincide with Lent, the main hall was filled with people from the community and they sang with us and gave generously.

Donald told the story of American Gospel music – explaining the background to the songs we all sang

We would especially like to thank the Reverend Neil Roberts who conceived and organised the evening. Neil has lived and worked in Chelmsley Wood for more than 20 years. He has been a key figure in the development of the centre from a leaky shed to a vibrant centre for the community. Neil says that he loves seeing grass roots ideas flourish as real life projects and has been involved in setting-up and running a range of community initiatives, from festival seasons to arts organisations to that local community owned chippy! His day job is the minister of the Baptist Church, which has its home at Three Trees. Thank you Neil – we are looking forward to coming back!

Our thanks to the Reverend Neil Roberts (left) pictured with Donald McCombie