In March 1991, the doors of Bethesda Evangelical Church opened, under the leadership of David Farley, and his wife Irene. The Brethren fellowship meeting there had closed some three months earlier. Following a distribution of invitations to homes in the streets around Bethesda, over forty people gathered for the first Sunday afternoon gospel service. The majority of those present had responded to the invitations – they were not Christians and some had no church background at all.
As Mr and Mrs Farley began to get to know the people who had started coming to Bethesda they realised that many of them were in very great need, not merely financially, but in every way. They were not alone in their assessment of the great needs of the people on the doorstep of Bethesda.
In 2004 two sub divisions of the local ward, both in close proximity to the Church were said to be within the most deprived 5% nationally, according to Government figures. Statistics also tell us that areas in and around the Bournville have the highest proportion of adults with no qualifications in North Somerset, and that 24.8% of the population are described as having a limiting long term illness (2001 Census).
Faced with such need it was impossible for Mr and Mrs Farley to lead the Church without also seeking to help these people in practical ways. They began helping people in their own homes and set up a group for parents and toddlers at Bethesda where children could be taught how to play and parents given practical advice. God prompted many Christian people to donate goods to them for distribution to those who had need.
In the course of time it became clear that there were many more opportunities to give practical support than they could manage themselves, and that the premises at Bethesda were severely limiting the kind of help that could be provided. Mr and Mrs Farley felt that God was telling them to set up a Centre for providing this practical care, and to house it in a building designed for the purpose on the land alongside the existing building at Bethesda.
They gathered a group of Christian friends committed to the project and formed a charitable trust, the Bournville Evangelical Care Centre. Also after 3 years of praying for workers to join them, Paul and Tracy Shortman, from Kensington Baptist, Bristol, came to join the work full-time.
Following the example of George Müller, they sought to raise funds by seeking God rather than man so that a building could be erected solely to the glory of God.
In 1998 the Care Centre was established as a charitable limited company distinctly Christian in nature. The trustees and all involved with running and operating the Care Centre are required to give annual assent to an evangelical statement of faith.