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Ciudad Real, Spain - A happy problem in church growth


‘The path of true love never does run smooth’, they say. Is that also true for church buildings? A church (Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica) was founded forty-five years ago in Ciudad Real (pronounced Th-ee-ew-dath Ray-al, meaning Royal City), central Spain, a town with about 75,000 inhabitants.

(Legend has it that the ‘th’ sound in Spanish happened because one of its kingshad a lisp)! When the church started, Catholicism reigned supreme and to be Spanish was deemed to be Roman Catholic. There was therefore strong cultural and practical opposition to Protestantism. Earlier generations of Spanish reformers had been all but obliterated by the Spanish Inquisition. Today’s European background is more secular and atheistic, although Catholicism still retains a considerable hold.

The church started immediately after the days of the dictator General Franco, in the home of Paco and Esther Farrugia with only three believers, and eventually grew and acquired a building in the town. It is now pastored by one of the first young people to have been converted, Luis Cano, together with his wife Pilar Herrera, (a strange thing about Spain is the way wives keep their maiden names on marriage!) and has matured into a church with elders and deacons as well as Luis, who is no longer in the first bloom of youth! The church has continued to grow, and two years ago the decision was taken to find new premises that could accommodate the numbers more easily and provide space for the various other church functions. On a typical Sunday morning there are a hundred worshippers and children. A number of these are immigrants or refugees, mainly from South American countries.

Three properties were looked at seriously. One needed little work, but was not much bigger and was expensive. One was gaudily painted with graffiti, which gave it great street cred, and was enormous, but needed masses of work and was also too expensive. The third was some kind of warehouse on a rather pleasant road with a grassed central verge, and in March 2020 this was purchased by the church for a knockdown price of €100,000. That this has been paid is thanks to the sacrificial giving of the church, (which already fully supports its pastor, unusually for Spain), and to other benefactors. That is particularly noteworthy as Covid and unemployment have made their mark. As the previous owner had reduced the price of the building to meet what the church could afford, this was seen as God’s provision.  

Architects were engaged, and eventually plans were put into the Council for approval in February. In mid-May 2021 the Council rejected the application, to everyone’s surprise. It seems that the work must be considered as a new building, rather than as a refurbishment. As a result, more stringent rules have been applied. For example, a large patio has to be included and two entrances. These measures will reduce the space available for services and require completely new plans and will, of course, incur greater expense.

The building which the church uses now has 160m2 space, of which 116m2 is the main meeting room, which has already been extended. The Sunday School meets off this space in a tiny kitchen and adjacent room in what seems like the ‘Black hole of Calcutta’, especially in hot weather; there is no scope for exit in event of a fire, or room for a crèche!  (And central Spain is blisteringly hot in the summer months, with temperatures often hitting 40C, whilst in the winter months there can be several degrees of frost). The new building, which is more than double the size of their present one, must now have a patio taking up 20% of the available space. The mezzanine floor does not occupy the whole building, but apart from the main meeting room, the church wants two Sunday School rooms, a crèche, a YP room and a kitchen/café. The church provides a humanitarian aid initiative called Manos Extendidas (Extended Hands). The new building will not now be able to accommodate the supplies for this as had been hoped. There will be toilets and facilities for the needs of disability, and an upstairs toilet.  All these things will not come free.

The church has provisional mortgage approval for doing what they wish, but the lender wants financial security rather than the use of their present building as collateral, although, the old building will of course be sold at a later date. The new building is situated at Calle Caballero Rámon Froilaz 4, if anyone wants to hunt it down on the internet! So now you can go visiting. The food is good and the natives are friendly!

Please pray for this needy development. It is an exciting initiative and should carry the church through into a new phase. Covid is still quite prevalent in Spain, but churches are allowed to congregate and worship, and they do so. This church is having an impact on its community for good, and has been around long enough to have quite a measure of credibility in the town. It is so refreshing to hear of works that are growing rather than shrinking, but growth increases the need for space!

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