Worship group that began with a busker

But he was astonished when she replied: “I’d love to. Me and my friends have just become Christians and didn’t know what to do next.”

They formed a small group, meeting to sing worship songs and study the Bible.

Back in 1992 that first group began to swell. Before long, so many people wanted to attend, a Sunday service was started at Thorpe Bay School.

When the church outgrew that venue, trustees bought a rundown building in Bircham Road and adapted it for their needs.

This building was later sold and the proceeds helped to buy offices in Warrior Square, while Sunday services continued at Garon Leisure Centre in Eastern Avenue. It now meets on Sundays at Southend High School for Boys.

Almost 20 years after its inception, the Southend Vineyard Church has grown from its humble beginnings to become a valued part of the community.

The church has also spearheaded a range of community projects including a scheme to feed the homeless.

It has a congregation in excess of 200 and has plans to take over one of the town’s landmark buildings, the New Empire Theatre.

In 2007 Mr Barber, now 46, his wife Juliet and their two children moved to Leicestershire, where they now run the thriving Leicester City Vineyard.

They handed over the reins of the Southend Vineyard to current pastors Andy and Samantha Vincett.

Speaking about the church’s rise from small beginnings, Mrs Vincett, of Ramuz Drive, Westcliff, said: “It is always exciting to see new people becoming Christians and coming along with all their different gifts and how they are all being put to good use.

“Because Southend is a seaside town, people do tend to come and go. That’s always sad, but its sometimes exciting because they often go on to do good things elsewhere.”

Used with permission: Read he full article online at the Echo News website

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