One question that often comes up with the closure of the Garrison is what happens to the Army buildings that the wider community makes use of, buildings like the Community Centre, and the Garrison Church.
The Community Centre continues to operate, albeit with differences in how it is managed, however the MoD decided they had no further need of the Garrison Church as a new REME chapel was being built on their new base in Wiltshire. The MoD took the REME stained glass, many of the plaques and memorials along with the war memorial that stood outside the church, but that left a congregation of retired military personnel who weren’t going to move to Wiltshire, personnel who are still housed in the remaining military houses around Arborfield, along with civilians who had joined the congregation at the Garrison Church over the years all of whom wanted to continue to hold services here. The congregation petitioned the local Church of England Bishop, Andrew Proud, the Bishop of Reading who agreed to take responsibility for the congregation and the building.
The Bishop of Reading visited in the summer for a special service to mark formally the church moving from being the Garrison Church of St Eligius, to a new role as St Eligius Arborfield Green, which you may have seen reported in the Wokingham Paper. The Parish of Finchampstead and California are providing help with running the services, but St Eligius retains a separate identity in the new role serving both the former Garrison community and the new residents starting to move into the houses in the Arborfield Green development.
As we approach Christmas the church has a series of special services for the festive season, and are introducing new services aimed at families starting in 2017. The church is extending a warm welcome to everybody in the former Garrison area to join them over the festive season and beyond.
On Sunday 4th December at 11am they have a special service to mark St Eligius day, so come along to hear about St Eligius who is not only the patron saint of REME, but is also the patron saint of horses and the people who work with them.
The next week on Sunday 11th December at 11am the church is holding a Family Christingle Service. Many churches hold a Christingle service at this time of year supporting the work of the Children’s Society, telling the Christmas Story, and each child gets a Christingle to take home with them.
On Thursday 15th December at 6:30pm the church is holding their traditional Carols by Candlelight, which many locals will have attended previously. This is a great opportunity to come along and sing your favourite Christmas Carols and also hear music from the Arborfield Military Wives Choir.
Christmas Day itself is celebrated both at 11:30pm on Saturday 24th December, with a traditional Midnight Mass, and there is also a special service for on 25th December at 11am on Sunday 25th December.
On the 8th January, the church launches a new monthly service at 9:30am aimed at families that will subsequently run on the first Sunday of every month. The church also holds services every Sunday at 11am, and 12:15pm on Tuesdays.
The church continues to honour its military heritage, and for many will always be remembered as the Garrison Church, enquiries about baptisms, weddings and other special services can be directed to the Parish of Finchampstead and California office on 0118 973 0133.
Also published on Medium.