London Church Hangs On Amid Opposition

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LONDON - A recent poll shows that most Britons think Christianity will have vanished from the United Kingdom within the next 100 years.

Many of the nation's great churches stand empty or are being sold off, but one congregation is fighting that.

This sanctuary once echoed the sermons of Britain's great abolitionist preachers. In the critical days of World War Two, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower sat in this church and very likely prayed for the success of the D-day invasion. And it's said that British leaders discussed the future state of Israel here.

After being closed down by the Church of England in the 1970s, St. Mark's Church in London's West End was adopted by an evangelical congregation, Commonwealth Church.

Commonwealth Church is led by American Rod Anderson and his British wife, Julie, who discovered the abandoned building as they walked the streets of London with Commonwealth's first pastor, Ed Hornback.

"We had a prayer meeting 17 years ago, walked out on the street and I said what's the matter with that building. Why can't we have church there?" said Julie Anderson. "And through a series of amazing events, God opened up the door all those years ago."

Commonwealth Church has grown considerably, and the Andersons believe it is strategically placed in one of the wealthiest, most influential parts of London, the Mayfair district.

But the congregation of Commonwealth Church is in a race to save this historic building with its rich Christian legacy. The London Diocese of the Church of England, which still owns the property, has told Commonwealth to vacate the premises by August 18th. The Church plans to sell St Marks to a London developer, who wants to convert the building into a ladies spa.

"If there is one thing I could ask for, it's that... our friends in America, if they truly would go to war with us as far as prayer is concerned. We're going to need at least $2 million to buy this place, and we're going to need probably another $2.5 million to bring it up to English heritage standards. (Then) we're going to need another $2 million to bring it up to English heritage requirements," Rod Anderson explained.

But he and his wife think the building is that important.

Despite the decision by the Church of England to turn St. Marks into a women's fitness center, the people of Commonwealth Church believe God's purpose for this magnificent building has not ended.--

"This church literally soaks up worship and praise," Rod Anderson said.

And people of Commonwealth are praying that someone will provide the money to allow them to stay in this building.

*Original broadcast July 11, 2008.

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