Church History

In May 2008 we celebrated our 150th anniversary and the comprehensive history below was written for that occasion (but is due to be updated soon). If you fancy reading it then grab yourself a cuppa and get comfy...

The Church was constituted in 1858 but there are records of Baptists being in Stafford in the 1650’s. A man called Henry D’Anvers, best known as the author of a book called Treatise on Baptism, was a colonel in the Parliamentary army under Oliver Cromwell, and was for some time Governor of Stafford. While holding that office he became a Baptist. In 1675 he was committed to the Tower of London on charges of treason but later released on bail. He eventually fled to Holland, where he died in 1686.

During 1857 some Baptist believers were meeting in a room in Eastgate Street, but they wished to form a church, and on 24th May 1858 they met, under the chairmanship of Rev. J. P. Carey of Wolverhampton, and the following resolution was passed:-

That all the Office Bearers of this Church shall hold the scripturalness of the practice of Adult Baptism by immersion
That its members shall be understood to hold the important doctrines of Three Persons in the Godhead - Eternal and Personal Election - Original Sin - Particular Redemption - Free Justification by the righteousness of Christ imputed - Efficacious Grace in Regeneration - the final Perseverance of the Saints - the Resurrection of the dead - and the Life Everlasting.
That on expression of belief in the above doctrines shall not be essential to Church Membership so long as the fundamental doctrines of religion are believed.
That any person giving evidence of conversion to God shall be eligible to Church membership.
That every member shall be admitted upon the vote of a majority of members at an ordinary Church Meeting or a meeting called especially for the purpose.

There were ten original members in all, and one of the Joint Secretaries was Mr Josiah Lovatt, a name that would be familiar with the fellowship 100 years later. The Church grew in numbers quite quickly, and on the 28th November of that year, the Church had moved to the Lyceum Theatre in Martin Street, for Sunday services, still keeping Eastgate Street for week-day meetings. Very soon, a Sunday School was formed, led by Mr Josiah Lovatt.

At a Church meeting held on the 18th May 1859, it was decided unanimously to call the Rev C. T. Keen of Bridgnorth, to become the first Pastor of the Church. His stipend was ‘£100 to commence with and as much more as the Church can afford up to £120 per annum.’ He took up the position on 26th June.
The first Baptismal service was held on the stage of the Lyceum theatre later on in the year and apparently the building was crowded.
During the next few months the Church continued to grow, and consideration was given to acquiring a place to worship. Sites in Newport Road and Gaol Square were considered, but neither came to fruition.
In December 1861 Rev. Keen told the Church Meeting that he had accepted an invitation to become Pastor of a church in Londonderry, Ireland, and he left in February 1862. On the 18th August of the following year the Rev. W. H. Cornish of Hook Norton was inducted as the second Pastor of the Church.

At a meeting of the Church and congregation on the 21st September 1863 a number of members had offered gifts of money in order to pursue the possibility of owning a building to worship in, and on 28th March 1864 the foundation stone was laid for the Church in Water Street.

In May 1864 the Church wrote to the Association of Baptist Churches of the Midland Counties outlining all that was happening, which included the financial affairs( i.e. how the new building was to be paid for). It was intended that part of the Chapel would be open for use on Monday, 20th June.

At a Church meeting on the 1st January 1866 it was decided to invite the former Minister, Rev. C. T. Keen to preach in July and the collection taken would be put towards the purchase of a harmonium.

An interesting note for the Church meeting in February 1866 states the following :-
Brother Johnson Junior was dismissed for fighting and other disorderly conduct.
Brother Johnson Senior suspended for three months.

At a Special Church Meeting held on 11th April 1866, much concern was expressed at the “dilapidated condition of the church mainly due to Mr. Cornish’s ministrations”. It was carried unanimously that Mr. Cornish be asked to resign “as soon as convenient”. His membership was suspended and he duly left the Church later that year. Rev James Grant took temporary charge of the Church, and in April 1868 he became the third Pastor of the Church, the membership now up to 80.

Part 2 - The next step.

During 1868 a number of things happened which are of interest. At the Church meeting on the 27th January of that year, one of the members stated that “chanting was disliked by many of the congregation and ought to be decided by the Church whether the practice should be continued or not”. The matter was adjourned for six months and never mentioned again.

On 16th February, the services were conducted by Lord Teynham, who, although not a Baptist, was a well-known evangelical preacher.
In April the matter of the appointment of Elders as well as Deacons was discussed at some length. It was adjourned for three months and then rejected.

At the Church Meeting on 3rd June it was proposed that a card be placed over one of the boxes at the door stating that “Every person attending this place of worship is kindly requested to put one penny weekly into this box towards the Chapel debt.”

A footnote to the minutes of the Church Meeting held on 3rd February 1869 reads:-
“A very happy meeting indeed.”

It was resolved at the Church Meeting of 29th September that Brother E.. Williams resignation be accepted. Brother Williams had been obliged to leave the town through dishonesty at his employers.

At the Church Meeting held on the 3rd. November 1869 it was resolved that “a class be formed to read the Pilgrim’s Progress on Wednesday evenings – to be tried for a month or so.”

On the 29th January 1871, eight people were baptised.

It was resolved in March 1871 that one of the members be excluded from Church membership for intemperance.

A Church Meeting was held on the 3rd May 1871 when “The subject of Deacons was then brought forward and after considerable discussion it was decided that we have two Deacons and it was further resolved that this meeting considers it expedient to increase the diaconate by two and that they be elected for life with the distinct understanding that the names of all the Deacons be read over at our Annual Meeting for the purpose of allowing any of them to retire or consider of any other matter in reference to them as the position of the Church may determine.”

In September 1872, visitors were appointed to see a number of members “respecting the sin into which they have fallen in order to ascertain their present state of mind.”

In a letter written on the 26th April 1873, Rev. James Grant submitted his resignation :-

My Dear Brethren

After many months of anxious waiting and as the result of frequent prayer, I have come to the conclusion that it is my duty to resign the Pastorate of the Church.
Please accept this intimation as final.
Your ever faithful Pastor
James Grant.

In July 1874 the Rev. Henry Dolamore of Droitwich became the fourth Pastor of the Church. Sadly, in April 1876, he had to resign the pastorate owing to ill-health, and later that year the Rev. W. B. Haynes of Charlottetown, Nova Scotia, Canada became the fifth pastor of the Church.
It was a good and fruitful ministry and it soon became apparent that the chapel in Water Street was not big enough and larger premises were necessary.

A site was purchased by two members, Mr. Josiah Lovatt and Mr. John Mottram, in Greengate Street in 1887, but there were difficulties with regard to building a Church on that site, and so Mr. John Mottram bought a site on The Green for £1250 on condition that the site in Greengate Street was sold. The transaction was completed in 1893 and it was decided to build a Church on The Green, first of all demolishing some thatched cottages and a malthouse.
However, we are perhaps going too fast, for there are some interesting facts to record during this time.

In August 1885 there is a minute regarding Brother John Turner who was suspended from the fellowship for three months owing to recent misconduct, in the hope that during that time “he would become penitent and seek and obtain God’s pardon”.

At the Church meeting held on 21st October 1885, is an item headed:-

Bible Class - The Pastor mentioned the desirability of holding an evening Bible discussion class - to be opened by a paper from some Brother and to be followed by discussion thereon - many Brothers spoke on this subject - and a vote was taken deciding to hold the class. But upon endeavouring to fix a suitable evening and a convenient time, so many difficulties and objections appeared that another motion was made to rescind the proposition and upon being put, it was carried.
Perhaps times don’t change much.

On Monday, 13th August 1888, the Church gathered to celebrate the Silver Wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Lovatt. You will remember that Mr. Lovatt was a founder member of the Church and held the post of Joint Secretary.

In November 1888, an amount of £7.5.0 was paid for repairing a fence round the Church knocked down by bullocks belonging to Messrs. Dawson and Urwick.

In January 1889, the organist “ called attention to the condition of this instrument which was out of tune - after some discussion it was resolved that the instrument be placed near the stores and that fires be lit to thoroughly dry it out”.

During the Church meeting held on 1st February 1892, the death was announced of Rev C. H. Spurgeon and it was suggested that “the services of the coming Sabbath would be made special and the rostrum should be suitably draped with black”.

At the Church meeting on 11th August 1892, Rev W. B. Haynes announced that he would be leaving at the end of September to take up the pastorate at Camberwell, London.
In January 1893 there was an accident to Mr. Josiah Lovatt. He was the senior partner of the firm of Lovatt and Woodall, drapers, in Greengate Street. There had been heavy snow during the night, and Mr. Lovatt went on to the roof of the shop to clear the snow away. He slipped and fell backwards through the sky-light, a distance of some 25 feet on to stairs leading from the shop. He had fractured his spine, and for the remainder of his life he lay on his back and was unable to speak.

In July 1893 Mr. W. Springthorpe, who was a student at Nottingham Baptist College was invited to become Pastor. His College tutors felt it advisable for him to complete his course, and the Church decided to wait.
He was ordained and inducted as the sixth Pastor on 11th July 1894.

In September 1893 the Trustees of the Church had begun meetings with an architect, Mr Ewan Harper of Birmingham, to draw up plans for a new Church building. Stafford Corporation approved the plans in May 1894.

Many of the members promised gifts of money and loans. It was anticipated that the cost of Church and schoolrooms would be approximately £3500. A number of builders, including local ones, were asked to submit tenders and these ranged from £3879 to £4777. On the recommendation of the architect the tender of Mr.G. H. Marshall of Smethwick of £3879 was accepted.

The Secretary was instructed to write to several Organ builders for specification of an organ they could build for £200. It was decided to accept the one from Messrs. Nicholson and Lord.

At the Church meeting of 3rd April 1895, the membership accepted the recommendation of the Trustees and architect and the work could begin.
On the 10th. July the stone-laying ceremony took place and stones were laid by Alderman C. H. Wright J. P., Mayor, Mr C. E. Shaw, M. P. for the Borough, Mr. E. W. Lewis, of Wolverhampton, representing the Denomination, Mr. T. Salt, and Mr. Josiah Lovatt. In the stone laid by Mr. Lewis was placed a sealed bottle containing a history of the Church, a circular of the late bazaar, the names of the subscribers towards the building fund, a copy of two local papers, a copy of the hymns used at the last anniversary and a circular setting forth the order of the present ceremony.

The final part of the ceremony was when the last stone was laid by Mr. Josiah Lovatt. He was wheeled in a small conveyance up to the stone and he was able to spread the mortar and tap the stone.

It is interesting to note that the Church had Disabled access right from the beginning - there is a door into Bailey Street specifically placed there, directly behind the double doors at the front of the Church which was put there in order that Mr. Lovatt could be wheeled in.

On the 7th June 1896, Rev. W. Springthorpe conducted the farewell services at Water Street Chapel. In the evening service his text was from Ecclesiastes chapter 7 verse 8:-
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof”.
It was the end of an era, but a new beginning was to take place.

Part 3  - A New Beginning.

The date is Wednesday, 10th June 1896 and the new Church opens for business. At 3.30 p.m. the opening Dedicatory service was held, conducted by Rev. Dr. John Clifford of Westbourne Park Chapel, London. But before we go any further, let’s paint a picture of The Green. In the 14th Century, on The Green, had stood the only house of Austin friars in the county. Although the exact site is unknown, what is known is that it extended southwest from The Green and part of their land would almost certainly have been where the Church now stands. In later years there were cottages on the site, and a brewery where PC World now stands. At some point in the past, stocks stood on The Green and an annual fair was held in August of each year; St. Paul’s Church had a Mission Hall in Bailey Street, and Rev. W. Springthorpe resided at 77 Wolverhampton Road.

But back to the opening.
Following the Opening Service, there was a public tea at which about 300 people were present, and then at 7 o’clock there was a meeting in the new Chapel presided over by Rev. John Dowse of Birmingham.
The Secretary gave a short account of the work from its commencement and then the meeting was addressed by Rev. W. B. Haynes, a former minister and pioneer of the work in building a new Church. The choir sang “The Hallelujah Chorus” and the collections taken throughout the day amounted to £71.13.8d. Apparently the weather was “beautifully fine”. The following Sunday, services were again conducted by Rev. W. B. Haynes and the number of people attending necessitated placing chairs down the aisles.

On Wednesday, 21st September the recently installed organ was officially opened by Dr. E. W. Taylor F. R. C. O. and about 240 people were there. At the tea afterwards, Dr. Taylor said, “he desired to congratulate the Baptist community on the choice and possession of an organ, which in quality of tone was not inferior to any instrument in the town”.

At a meeting on the 27th November 1896 a discussion took place concerning Notice Boards for the front of the Chapel and whether it should be Baptist Chapel or Baptist Church. It was carried by a large majority that it be called Baptist Church. At the same meeting, Eli Ellison was appointed Organ Blower at 7/6 per quarter.

The total number of Church members at this time was 136, and by May 1898 had increased to 164.

At the Church meeting held on the 18th May 1898, Mr Jack Heague was appointed Organist, a position he held for 51 years.

A discussion took place at a Church meeting on the 27th September 1899,”as to the manner in which our Sunday services might be improved and various suggestions were made, and it was decided to have two lessons and five hymns at morning and evening services and the Lord’s Prayer sung at evening service only”.

It was reported to the Church meeting in February 1900 that “Mr James Tillet was not baptised because having volunteered and been accepted for active service in South Africa he had gone for necessary training”

On Sunday, 18th August 1901, Mr. Josiah Lovatt was called home. He had lain on his back for nearly nine years since his unfortunate accident. He had been a founder member of the Church, and the first Joint Secretary. By his leadership and by his generosity he had been a true witness for the Lord he loved.

In 1903, Mr. S. G. Lovatt, a nephew of Mr. Josiah Lovatt, was elected as Mayor of Stafford Borough. The following year Mr. John Mottram was elected Mayor, and previously in 1889, Mr. Thomas Amies, another member, had been Mayor. A newspaper article at the time noted “Baptist readers will be glad to have the above information regarding their fellow members who are taking their share in the public service of their country”.

At the Church meeting on the 10th December 1903, it was agreed to let the premises from early 1904 to the Staffordshire County council for a temporary Elementary School at the rental of £70 per annum. This was, of course, St. Leonard’s School, who celebrated their Centenary with us in 2004.

In October 1905 Rev. W. Springthorpe resigned as pastor in order to take up a position with the Church at Mill Street, Bedford. During his ministry much progress had been made, which, of course, included moving to the new Church building. The farewell meeting was held on Monday, the 27th November. During his ministry of eleven years, the membership had increased from 107 to 202.

The Rev. W. G. Branch was invited to preach on the 10th December with a view to the Pastorate, and at a Church meeting the following week, it was unanimously decided to call him. He duly accepted the call, and on the 28th March 1906, he was inducted as the seventh Pastor of the Church.
In July of that year, a request was received from the Girls High School for the use of the premises as a temporary school. This was agreed at a rental of “£35 per annum and that in addition they pay £13 for lighting and heating and £20 for attendance per annum”.

In January 1907 it was decided that Jubilee services take place in November next to celebrate the commencement of the Baptist cause in Stafford.

At the Church meeting on the 11th July 1907 it was decided, after lengthy discussion, to use individual cups at the Communion service, the first time this system had been adopted, and a set was immediately bought by Mr. and Mrs. S. G. Lovatt to commemorate their Silver Wedding.

Approximately eleven miles from Stafford is the village of Croxton, in which there is a small Baptist Church. It was built in 1860 and only ever had one Pastor, the Rev. J. Shelley. He remained as Pastor until his death in 1907 at the age of 81, and is buried in the Church graveyard. According to our Church minutes it would appear that a number of people were willing to help and go and take services from time to time. In 1917 the work was undertaken by the Independent Methodists and in 1931 the Church was sold to them for the sum of £50, but we still retain our links with Croxton.

On the 27th January 1908 Mr. S. G. Lovatt was called home after a short illness. He had been a member for 26 years and served in a number of ways both his Church and his town.

In 1909 a Finance Committee was appointed to look into the financial affairs of the Church. They reported back that there would probably be a deficit at the end of the year, and it was decided to hold a Rummage sale to clear this. So that’s how it was done!

Part 4  - The work continues.

During these early years of the 20th. Century the work continued and Rev. Branch’s ministry flourished. A great number of people were baptised, and some were received into membership by transfer. A number also were transferred to other Churches, which was a little strange at a time when people did not move around the country so much.

In October 1911, the Church was approached by Stafford Corporation to see if they wanted to sell Green End House and land adjacent to the Church. This was purchased when the land for the Church was bought.
The Church meeting approved the sale on certain conditions:-

1.    That the amount to be paid to the Trustees by the Corporation be Eleven Hundred pounds.
2.    That a slip of land, six feet wide, running the whole length of the Lecture room, be retained by the Trustees whenever the house may be demolished, and that they have permission to place windows in the wall of the Lecture Room if at any time they should desire to do so.
3.    That permission be granted to the Corporation to set back the iron fence in front of the Church, from near the gate at the gallery entrance to the point at which it will join the wall or fence that may be built by the Corporation.
4.    That the site thus conveyed to the Corporation shall never be used for any purpose which may be detrimental to the carrying on of the ordinary services of the Church.
The sale was duly completed in January 1912.
In June of the same year, a tender was accepted for the painting and cleaning of the outside of the Church of £12, and the sum was raised by donations from members and friends.

In March 1913, the Pastor stated “the heating of the Baptistry was most unsatisfactory and involved a large amount of manual labour, that it had been thoroughly inspected by Mr. Rudge, and that he recommended the installation of an independent boiler and cylinder  - the cost of which, including all necessary alterations  - would be £14. 17. 0d.” It was resolved that this work be carried out.

At the outbreak of the 1st. World War, the Pastor called attention to “ the fact that a number of young men in connection with our Church had enlisted and gone to uphold the honour and integrity of our King and country, and suggested that a roll of the names of such be compiled and placed in the Church”.

In February 1916 it was resolved that “ The Trustees be requested to insure the Church and schools premises, also the Chapel premises in Water Street, for £5000, against damage from air raids”. It was also resolved “that the services be held at the usual times and that necessary precautions be taken to screen the lights”.

For those with long memories, Fred Buckley was appointed as Organ Blower in February 1917.

In March 1917, the Baptist Women’s League was formed, and ladies were asked to join. (now the Baptist Women’s Fellowship).

During the war, teas had been provided for soldiers, from November 1915 up to June 1919 when it was decided to stop. The number of teas provided during that time was 57,176. It was felt that these teas had answered their purpose, but the rooms were needed again for Sunday School and so they were discontinued.

Special services were held during the year to welcome back the members of the Church and congregation who had served in the war and these were well attended.

In January 1920, the Chapel and land in Water Street were sold for the sum of £700, a condition of the sale being that “the premises shall never be used for the manufacture, sale or storage of intoxicating liquor”.

At a Church meeting in December 1920, it was decided to accept a tender for the painting of the outside and inside of the Church and school premises of £101. 9. 6d.

In March 1921 it was agreed to hold a Communion service in the mornings on alternative Sundays for the first time, and when this was first held in May, 33 people were present.

The question of female members of the Church being eligible for seats on the Diaconate was discussed and deferred at a meeting in March 1922.

In May 1923, Rev. W. G. Branch left to take a position in Bedworth after giving 17 years loyal service to the Church and the town, and the Deacons were requested, “ to communicate with the Area Superintendent for assistance towards the selection and appointment of a new Pastor”.

Before calling another Pastor, it was felt that the Church ought “ to purchase, rent, or lease a house for the minister and that a committee be appointed to take this matter in hand”. Accordingly, in February 1924 the property at 46 Newport Road was purchased for £750.

In December 1924, an invitation was sent to Rev.G. M. Mason, of Spurgeon’s College, and on 25th. January 1925 he was duly inducted as the eighth Pastor of the Church.

Part 5  - Times of change and progress

At a Church meeting on the 7th October 1926 the following resolution was carried: -

We, the members of the Baptist Church in Stafford in Church meeting assembled here, hear with great regret that it is proposed to elect as Chief Magistrate of the Borough, one who is intimately and publicly associated with betting. While casting no reflection on his personal character, we feel that his occupation marks him unsuitable for holding the position of Mayor of the town.
It would appear that the letter sent was acknowledged, but no further communication was received on the matter.

Later on in the year, the Deacons suggested that, due to the scarcity and high cost of fuel, that weeknight meetings be held in the Cutting-up Room (where the toilets are now situated).

A Girl Guide Company was formed early in 1927 and the Captain was Miss Eunice Lovatt, another name that will be remembered by some.

At a Church meeting held on the 17th March 1927, Mr. R. M. Charley was elected as Church Secretary, a position he was to fill with great commitment and loyalty for many years to come.

In 1929 the matter of women becoming Deacons was again raised, and the Pastor said, “that it was usual for women deacons not to perform the more public offices such as assisting at Communion services, but there were some things for which they were more adapted than men”. There was no discussion, it was put to a ballot, and it was decided that women were eligible for election to the Diaconate.

In May of the following year, Mrs. C. E. Stephens became the first women to stand for election, but she was not successful.

In December 1930, Rev. G. M. Mason left to take up a Pastorate in Barrow-in-Furness.

A Boys’ Brigade Company and Life Boy Team began at The Green in April 1931, with Mr. Edward Walker as Captain and Miss M. Sharpe as Leader-in-Charge of the Life Boys. She was, of course, later to become Mrs. Geoff. Philips.

In August 1932 work commenced on re-tiling the roofs of Sunday school and lecture room carried out by a local firm of builders well known to some of us. This was at a total cost of £213. 2. 7d.

The whole of the premises were re-wired later in 1932 and the lighting, which was poor, was modernised. It was further suggested that an electric organ-blowing outfit would be of great benefit, and during the next few months this was done and also the Church interior was decorated.

It is interesting to note that a Church meeting was called specifically to decide on the colour scheme to be used.

After being without a minister for over two years, an invitation to the Pastorate was made in November 1932 to Rev. G. Clifford Batten of Gamlingay, Sandy, Bedfordshire, and on Wednesday, the 1st March 1933 he was inducted as the ninth Pastor of the Church. That day also marked the re-opening of the Church after complete renovation and installation of modern electric lighting. The preacher was Rev. Arthur Dakin, Principal of Bristol Baptist College.
In July of that year a great discussion began as to whether it was possible for someone to become a member of the Church without being baptised. This arose because there had been an application for membership from someone who had previously been confirmed in the Church of England and who did not believe there was a need for any further public witness. This matter took two Church meetings to settle it, and the Pastors recommendation that he would always recommend Baptism, but never enforce it, was carried unanimously.
Friends with long memories again will remember the cycle shed which stood in the courtyard (now the foyer). This was erected in April 1935.
In October 1936 it was recommended that an electric water boiler be put in the kitchen (this was in the cellar then) and this was agreed. Also a new sink was installed there and a sink put into the ladies toilet.
At the same meeting it was announced that handrails would be erected to the steps at the front of the Church and seven members would meet the cost, all of which had been in membership for 50 years or more.

In January 1937 the Church was offered a Grand Piano for the Lecture Room for £15, and this was to do loyal service for many years.

By July 1938 Stafford Corporation had carried out its obligation and demolished Green End House, but this left the premises requiring a large amount of making good. The Corporation generously agreed to meet the cost of any remedial work and proposed that the Lichfield road boundary (as it was then) should be brought back in line with the bay window of the Lecture Room. There were other proposals, all of which would be done without cost to the Church, amongst them, putting new windows into the west wall of the Lecture room in order to make it lighter and more pleasant.

In November 1938, the Church celebrated its 80th Birthday, and the Church Secretary, Mr. R. M. Charley wrote the first of his two histories of the Church. The speaker at a special service to mark the occasion was the Rev. D. J. Hiley.

Part 6  - Another war

When the war broke out on the 3rd. September 1939, it was to have an immediate impact on the Church. A Sale of Work planned for the 24th. September had to be postponed indefinitely, as the School Rooms and Lecture Room had been commandeered by the Military Authorities for the billeting of troops. The amount paid to the Church for this was 2d. per night per man. There would be an additional payment for electric light. It was necessary to keep the premises permanently heated and the Church would be supplied with coke to stoke the boiler.

At a Church meeting held on the 30th. November 1939, “ there was a strong expression of opinion that the Military Authorities, in monopolising the whole of our premises other than the Church were greatly hindering the work of the Church, particularly the young people’s activities, and that urgent representations should be made through any suitable channel that the premises should be restored to us.”

The Secretary was asked to write to the Baptist Union’s solicitor, the local M.P., and the War Minister, such was the strength of feeling.
However, at the Church meeting three weeks later, it was announced that it had proved to be unnecessary to take such action as it was decided that the Church would not be used by the Military Authorities, but would be used by the Medical Board. The Secretary informed the meeting that he had met with staff at the Labour Exchange who said that “we shall have free use of our premises every evening and at the weekends.”

At the Annual Church meeting held on the 14th. March 1940, it was first of all noticed that the attendance was very small due to the war, but in his report, the Secretary said, “The year 1939 will be memorable for the start of the conflict that might engulf our civilisation. The Church was on trial, but it was a great opportunity for the Church and it was essential that all activities should be maintained.”

In July 1940 it was decided to open a Canteen for the forces in the town and this would be run by the Women’s League and opened on Saturdays and Sundays from 4 pm. to 10 pm.

Around this time evacuees were arriving from Ramsgate, and one of them, a Miss J. P. Stone was baptised in October 1940 and welcomed into membership. At the Church meeting later that month, it was agreed that any friends who had been evacuated to Stafford and who did not want their membership transferred, could go onto an Associate Membership roll and that they would be given the right hand of fellowship at a Communion Service.

1941 opened with the country still at war and at the January Church meeting the Secretary reported that as the National Register had been destroyed by enemy action, the Ministry of Works and Buildings would require permanent use of our Junior Room (now the Ministers lounge) for seven days a weeks and 24 hours a day. After discussion with the Ministry, it was agreed that we could use the room on a Sunday. The Church would be paid a rental of £1 per week plus the cost of electricity.

A further announcement was then made that, as per Government instruction, all premises must be guarded against the risk of fire by enemy action. A meeting of all the Churches and schools in the town had been called and an appeal was made for volunteers. A number of names were available but more were needed so that watchers would only be called upon once every two weeks. A number of sand bags had been secured and these were disposed around the building. Watchers would be on duty from 10 pm. until the alert was sounded. Instruction would be given on dealing with incendiary bombs.

The war had an immediate effect on Youth activities. The Brownies met on Saturday mornings during the winter months. The Girl Guides met at 4-30 pm.. The Life Boys met hardly at all, but the Boys’ Brigade carried on as normal. However, it was reported by Captain E. Walker in March 1941 that 6 members were in the Forces, 1 was in the Home Guard, 6 were in A. R. P. or First Aid Services, and 11 were Fire Watchers.

There are many stories about Fire Watching, many of which have been altered and exaggerated over the years. The truth can no doubt be told by Mr W. F. J. Sloman.

In April 1941 it was reported to the Church that the Rev. G. M .Mason, who was Minister from February 1925 to December 1930, was killed while on Fire Guard duty at his Church in Barrow-in-Furness when it was demolished by a German bomb.

In December the Junior Room was returned to the Church after use by Military Training Register staff. It was reported that the Canteen was much appreciated by the Forces and it was agreed to continue with this service, and it was explained that our Church would be used as a Rest Centre in the event of serious Air-Raid leaving people homeless either in Stafford or neighbouring towns. Certain furniture and food was already on the premises in readiness.

The Minister referred to the difficulty of holding meetings in “these dark and difficult days.”

Concern was expressed in early 1942 about the financial position of the Church. Expenditure had risen with gas and electric prices going up considerably, and the fact that congregations had decreased owing to a number of men being in the armed forces, and people not wishing to go out at night.

Because of the health of their daughter, the Minister and his wife had been advised to live on higher ground than the Manse in Newport Road and therefore the Church rented a house in Baswich Crest. In order to help the financial position, there was a proposal to sell the Manse, but after much discussion it was decided not to.

During the year reports of Youth organisations continued to be encouraging despite the difficult conditions. The Brownies met on Saturday mornings, the Life Boys on Saturday afternoons. Many of the Officers and older boys of the Boys’ Brigade had been called up for military service. The Sunday School held their annual “treat” at a farm at Hyde Lea and some friends were asked to provide a loaf of sandwiches. An amount of 1lb of tea, 2 lbs of sugar and 9 pints of milk were allowed as a special ration from the Food Office.
Our Girl Guide Company formed the Guard of Honour when Lady Baden Powell visited the town in 1943.

At the Annual Church Meeting in April 1943, it was noted that five members had been in membership for over 60 years and four had been in membership for 50 years or more and the Secretary was asked to write to them a letter of congratulations.

At a special meeting in May 1943, concern was expressed at the lack of a caretaker and a number of people volunteered to look after the cleaning of the Church and rooms. The biggest problem was someone to stoke the boiler. There was also concern about “the much congestion of bicycles in the yard.” It was agreed that notices should be displayed that bicycles belonging to members of the Forces should be put in the enclosure and that no bicycle should be left in any room or passage.
Later that month, Mrs Saunders was appointed Caretaker, as long as she was not called up for National Service.

During the Communion Service in October 1943, Mr Batten announced that he had accepted an invitation to the Pastorate of the Church at Greek Street, Stockport and would leave at the end of November.
In February 1944 it was announced that the Medical Board were leaving and the Church had all the premises back again.

The Deacons then spent much time in considering the problem of finding a new Minister and a number of names were forwarded, who came to preach. None were felt to be suitable.

In May 1945, however, the Rev. E. A. Thornton from Warrington accepted the invitation to become the tenth Pastor of the Church .The war was over, it was time for a new era to begin.

Part 7  - Post-war Baptists

The Induction Service for the Rev. E. A. Thornton was held on the 8th. September 1945, when he, and his family were welcomed into the Church.

It had earlier been decided that the Manse at 46 Newport Road was unsuitable for a family, and it would eventually be sold and 72 Lichfield Road was rented as a temporary Manse until the Church, in 1953, purchased 12 Rising Brook for £2,575 as a permanent Manse.

In the beginning of Mr. Thornton’s ministry much work was being done in the Church. Organisations could return to normality, and those serving in the Forces were returning home. But some of the biggest changes were taking place outside the Church. Stafford was growing, there was a big industrial expansion, and people were moving into areas such as Rickerscote, Highfields, and Rising Brook. There was an opportunity and a challenge to cater for the spiritual needs of the people, and particularly the children.

But perhaps we are moving too far ahead. Before the Church acted, there was still a lot going on. On the 9th May 1946 a service was held to welcome home members of Church and congregation who had been serving in the Forces during the war, and at the meeting on the 18th July a proposal that a Youth Council be formed was passed unanimously. To form a Youth Council was part of the Baptist Union scheme to co-ordinate all youth work, including missionary work, inside the Church. The importance of this Council will be seen later.

At the same meeting, there was a proposal to run the heating system in the Church by electricity. For some time there had been complaints that there were draughts in the Church and it was decided that the boiler, which had given good service, was now in-efficient and a new one of the same size would be inadequate. After some discussion it was decided to go ahead with the new system.

A meeting was called on the 5th December 1946 to consider a proposal from the Minister for the Church to adopt a Church Covenant. This would be signed by each new member, and, of course, by all existing members. There was “ an interesting discussion” and the Covenant was unanimously adopted. This Covenant is still shown in our Church, on the back wall above the sound-desk.

It is time to return to the Youth Council. They met for the first time on Thursday, 13th March 1947, and it is interesting to note that some of our current membership were at that first meeting. According to the minutes of that meeting “ There was great enthusiasm and much interest shown in the suggestion that it was high time that the subject of extension work should be discussed.” They agreed that Sunday School work should be extended, probably in the Silkmore Estate area. They further agreed that these proposals should be put before the Church at the next Church meeting to be held the following week. The Church meeting endorsed this proposal and commended the Youth Council for their scheme saying that canvassing was the first stage.

It was decided, after canvassing, that there were sufficient children to form a Sunday School, and the Church meeting in June 1947, Mr. Thornton was able to report that “ the Education Authorities had expressed their willingness to let two schoolrooms in the Rickerscote School for use as a Sunday School.” On the 22nd January 1948 he reported that  “the work at Rising Brook continued to exceed all anticipations,” and he further stated that he thought the time might soon come for the Church to consider some further sort of service there, and on the 11th March 1948 a Special Meeting was called to consider the question of the formation of a Church at Rising Brook. There was “a long and enthusiastic discussion from which it became apparent that the Church approved the principle of forming a Church at Rising Brook.”
There was a need, however, to talk to the Methodists who had plans for a Church, and had already been allocated a site. Discussions were conducted on a very friendly basis

The Church met in December 1948 to celebrate its 90th Anniversary and 1948 drew to a close with thanks to God for His many blessings and impending excitement for the future.

1949 opened with the installation of a telephone at the Manse. The matter of a Church at Rising Brook would continue to be a matter for discussion for some time. Meetings were arranged with an Architect and also with the Borough Council, but all this would take a considerable time, and for the moment we will leave it to report other things, which were going on in the Church.

Late in 1949 the Church Secretary “wished to make an appeal for greater respect and care in the maintenance of our premises.” He urged leaders to make sure that the electric was switched off at the end of meetings. He was also concerned about the cleanliness of the building after meetings, and he was rather annoyed with the state of the basement.

In November 1949, the founder of the Boys’ Brigade in Stafford, Edward Walker, died, after 22 years as Captain, and a Memorial Fund was launched to commemorate his life and work.

At the Church meeting in March 1950, it was reported that the Deacons had purchased a Roneo Duplicating Machine for £30, and it was hoped to start a Church Magazine in the near future. The reports at the Annual Meeting of Church and Congregation were printed for the first time, instead of being verbally presented.

On the 27th April 1950 there was an Organ Recital to celebrate the 70th. Birthday of Mr. John Heague, who had been Organist for 52 years. At the end of 1950 it was decided that the Organ need renovation work on it and Mr. Heague requested that a new Oboe stop put in. A quote of £235 for the renovation work, plus £35 for the new stop was accepted, but the Church would be without the Organ for 6/8 weeks.

The year ended with a report from the Church Secretary concerning the extension work at Rising Brook. He stated that the time was not right to make a recommendation to the Church as to a plan for the first stage of building at Rising Brook, but he wished to report on progress. He had had conversations with the Town Clerk, the Borough Engineer, the Chairman of the Housing Committee and others, and the Church had purchased land at the corner of Wolverhampton Road and Burton Manor Road. There were many things to be considered, there were cottages that would have to be demolished, and money raised. The work at Rising Brook was going well, with a Sunday School of about 230, and if this was maintained then a building on the site purchased would not be big enough. There was also the possibility that Stafford Borough Council would not allow us to build a Church on the site .The Church Secretary ended his report by saying “it is our duty to think of the coming generations and of the thousands of people that would be living on the outskirts of our Borough, and to go forward boldly to ensure that in the new area there would be adequate Sunday School and Church accommodation.”

The work may be on hold, but there was a determination that there would one day be a Church and a further witness in Rising Brook.

Part 8  - Great Anticipation

The proposal to build a Church at Rising Brook was very much in the forefront of our Church’s plans during the following months, and in November 1951 it was reported that the Borough Council had agreed that we could buy land at the corner of Wolverhampton Road and Burton Manor Road. A motion was passed as follows: -

The members of the Baptist Church at Stafford, The Green, request the Baptist Union Corporation Ltd to serve as sole trustees acting on behalf of the members of this Church for a piece of land to be purchased from the Stafford Borough Council for the purpose of the erection of Sunday School premises and ultimately a Church at Rising Brook.

The Church Secretary reported that there was a loan promised from the Baptist Fund of £1000, the Edward Walker Memorial Fund had received a gift of £1000 and the Building Fund stood at £250. Another £2000 would need to be raised, which would be a challenge to the Church. A Rising Brook Building Advisory Committee was appointed to serve with the Deacons, and so a real positive step forward had been taken.

On the 20th February 1953 the Church lost one of its oldest and most loyal members, when Mr. John Heague died. He was one of the community who had first worshipped in Water Street and was therefore one of the original number who first worshipped in our present building.
He was Organist for a period of over 50 years and served as a Deacon for many years and as a Life Deacon.

At the Church meeting in March 1953 it was reported that there were problems with the site for the Church at Rising Brook and that we had now been offered another site at the corner of John Amery Drive. It was proposed that we accept this new site on condition of terms being agreed with the Borough Council. By October of that year the site had been purchased, and the Architect was drawing up the plans for the building.
Alongside all these plans was one for the purchase of a Manse, and this was duly completed. 12 Rising Brook would be our Minister’s new home. In June 1954 it was decided to ask the Baptist Union to assist in the appointment of a Deaconess for Rising Brook at the earliest possible date. By September a tender for the new building had been accepted and the Architect was instructed to sign the contract with the builders.
In October an invitation was sent to Sister Grace Hovard to become the Deaconess at Rising Brook and it was hoped that she would be able to start in January 1955.

At the same Church meeting it was announced that the Church at Sandon Road had been received into the West Midlands Baptist Association and therefore into the Baptist Union.

Early in 1955 work began on the building at Rising Brook. Sister Grace was inducted on the 29th January and Foundation Stones were laid in memory of Samuel Robert Lovatt and Edward Walker on Saturday, 12th February.
So much time and energy had gone into the Rising Brook scheme that it would be easy to imagine that at The Green things had been slowing down. This was far from the truth. Annual reports indicate that all organisations were flourishing, Mr. R. Charley completed 25 years service as Church Secretary, Mr. V. A. Smith (Betty Sloman’s father) completed 17 years as Church Treasurer and then stepped down and Mr. C. W. Giles was appointed.
In February 1955 it was decided to have a new Communion suite which would be sited on a new platform and would be comprised of a table, a centre chair and 4 side chairs. A number of members provided the funds for this.
In May 1955 a number of us went by train to London to hear Dr. Billy Graham preach.

The work at Rising Brook continued and flourished under Sister Grace, and uniformed organisations took their own identity. On Saturday, 19th November 1955, Rising Brook Baptist Church Hall was opened by Rev. E. A. Thornton. In the leaflet produced for the occasion is quoted “ From a tiny seed comes a beautiful tree with the promise of abundant fruit .” It had been a little over 8 years since the Youth Council had proposed the need for a Sunday School in the expanding district of Rising Brook and the idea became a reality. At the first Sunday evening service in the new hall 136 people were present.
In May 1956 the West Midlands Baptist Association held their Annual Assembly at The Green when Rev. E. A. Thornton was inducted as President. Amongst the speakers at the Association Youth Rally was Rev. A. W. H. Crowther. Little did he know that he would eventually become the next Minister of the Church.

In January 1957 the Church was asked to consider hiring out our rooms for use by the Technical College and this was agreed. In February it was agreed to extend Sister Grace’s contract for a further 12 months from the end of 1957. Members were asked to think and pray about the Student’s Campaign to be held at Rising Brook in September, and in March 1957 it was felt that there was a need for further extension work there and the Church approved the building of another hall.

The Minister announced in May that the B BC would broadcast a special service from The Green on Sunday, 29th September – the first time there had been a broadcast from the Church.

In June 1957 it was stated that the Deacons “had given consideration to a preliminary programme to celebrate the Church’s Centenary covering a period of about a week with, Sunday 18th May 1958, as the central feature when it was hoped the President of the Baptist Union, Dr. T. G. Dunning would conduct the services. It was decided that a Centenary Fund should commence at once.”

Details were given of the visit of the students to Rising Brook in September and probably no-body knew what the outcome of that would be.

Part 9  - Celebrations

The visit of the students from Oxford was very successful, and a lot of hard work had been put in, both by the students and the folk at Rising Brook. As a result of this, at the Church meeting in October 1957, a proposal was made to appoint a full-time Minister. Sister Grace was in full agreement with this, and the Church was “ to proceed to enter into negotiations for calling a Minister for Rising Brook under the Initial Pastorate Scheme, to effect a settlement, if possible, by the Autumn of 1958.”

By the end of the year a decision had been made to invite Mr. Gwynne Edwards, one of the students, to become the first Minister of Rising Brook Church. He duly accepted and would commence his Ministry in September 1958.

The year 1958 was to be a busy year. On 10th May a new extension to Rising Brook was opened by Sister Grace, just two and a half years after the erection of the Church, and in the opening ceremony she gave an inspiring address, in which she said that “they had not reached an oasis in which they could sit down and enjoy themselves, it was a peak in a mountain range. They were only part way through the building programme and many people were still outside the Church. We must go on and on.”

On the following day the Centenary Celebrations began at The Green with a Parade service. On Saturday, 17th May, there was a pageant depicting Baptist History and the story of the 100 years service of the Church, and on the following day both services were conducted by Rev.T.G. Dunning, President of the Baptist Union.

The celebrations concluded on Sunday, 1st June with a service of Re-dedication led by Rev. E.A. Thornton.

At the Church meeting on the following Thursday, the Minister quoted from a Free Church Chronicle leaflet which said “ that the abiding miracle of the Christian Church is her persistence as a living community through all the changes of the past 2000 years, but still she survives, and not only survives but remains a living witness to God’s reconciling love for man. We have to light the fires of faith. This is the task of the living Church. Without this we die.” Mr. Thornton said that we must remember this and go forward into our second hundred years of service at The Green.
In July, Mr. R. M. Charley resigned as Church Secretary after serving for 31 years. Thanks were expressed to him for his loyal and devoted service during that time, when so much had been done, and there had been difficult times as well. He would later be presented with a Bible in recognition of that service. Mr. C.W.Giles took over as Secretary and Mr. W.K. Gibbons took over from him as Treasurer.

On Thursday, 11th September, Mr R. Gwynne Edwards was Ordained and Inducted as Minister of Rising Brook Baptist Church.

In October 1959 there had been discussion at both Churches about the formation of a separate Church at Rising Brook, and in December proposals were put forward to release members to become Foundation members at Rising Brook. At the end of that Church meeting on 9th December 1959, 40 members were released and all members stood to indicate unanimous acceptance of the proposal.

In June 1960 the outside of the Church and the school room were redecorated at a total cost of £382.10.0 and the “cutting-up room” was given a stainless steel double drain sink unit and converted to a kitchen.

In September 1961 the Teachers Council considered having Sunday Morning Family Worship instead of Sunday School in an afternoon. They agreed to consult the parents and if 60% were in favour then the change would take place in January 1962. The parents gave overwhelming support to this proposal.

In December 1961 it was agreed to invite members to send apologies to the Church meeting if unable to attend, and these were duly recorded.
In January 1962, Rev E. A. Thornton announced at the Communion Service that he had accepted a call to the Ministry at Great Missenden after 17 years at The Green. A Farewell Service would be held on Saturday, 19th May.
On the 9th May a Special Church meeting was called and the following proposal was put to the meeting:-
“That an invitation be extended to the Rev. A.W.H. Crowther of Chichester to become the Pastor of the Church.” This was passed by a substantial majority.
On the 19th May the Church met to bid farewell to the Rev. and Mrs.E. A.Thornton. Tributes were expressed by many people including the Mayor, the West Midland Baptist Association, the Hospital Management Committee as well as local Churches and members at The Green.

In July it was announced that Rev. A.W.H. Crowther had accepted the invitation to the Pastorate and would be inducted on the 1st September.
Mr. Crowther had been at Chichester for 5 years and previously to that had been at Bedworth for 7 years. He had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the war and had served in France and India.

He was duly inducted as the 11th Pastor of the Church in a service lead by Rev. R. Gwynne Edwards, and took his first service on Sunday 2nd September. Another era was beginning.

In March 1963 improvements were made to the lighting in the School room and the Lecture room, and  the Deacons were asked to explore the possibility of a second floor in the School room, in view of the introduction of Morning Family Worship. This was eventually dropped due to costs and the accessibility of a staircase.

In July 1963 it was announced to the Church that Mr. Roger Woodward from Rising Brook had been accepted for the Ministry, and would commence his training at Rawdon College in October.

At the next meeting it was agreed by a majority vote that music would be played, for the first time, during the distribution of the elements at the Communion service.

In January 1964 the transfer was received of Mr. Peter Dwight from Chesham Baptist Church.

At the Church meeting in November the death of Mr. A. G. Osborne was announced. He had given faithful service as Organist for 18 years.
In January 1965 the Church was informed that 19 Kingsley Road had been left to the Baptist Union by Miss Eunice Lovatt as a home for a retired Minister. Miss Lovatt’s family had been associated with the Church since it's beginning in 1858. The Rev. and Mrs. Fereday moved in on 31st March 1965.
In November 1965 the Church meeting was told that 12 dozen knives, forks and spoons had been purchased at a cost of £47.17.0. These would be locked away in a safe place and not loaned out except to Rising Brook or Sandon Road.

In September 1966 Rev. A.W.H. Crowther outlined plans for the Church Mission to take place in October. There was a full for programme for all ages and it was later reported that it had been well attended and the Minister felt that it had been a time of blessing and encouragement.

In April 1967, the Rev. A.W.H. Crowther informed the Church that he had accepted the pastorate of Brunswick Road, Gloucester and would be concluding his Ministry on the 2nd July. At his Farewell meeting he said that “it’s right to go, but I’ve made a lot of friends here and it’s a wrench to leave.”
So began the quest for a Pastor, and we would be without a Minister for two and a half years. During that time a number came to preach. Some were called – but none accepted, until in June 1968, the Rev. J.D.Viccars was invited to the Pastorate, by a very large majority at the Church meeting. He accepted, and his Induction Service was arranged for Saturday, 2nd November 1968.

The waiting was over.

Part 10  - Call me John

The Rev. J. D. Viccars was inducted as the 12th Pastor of the Church on Saturday, 2nd November 1968 and began his ministry the next day. He immediately broke with tradition and insisted that everyone call him John.
Later that month it was announced that Rev. and Mrs. Fereday, who had occupied 19 Kingsley Road for three and a half years, would be moving to the Bournemouth area and the Church expressed its appreciation for all that Rev. Fereday had done during the time we had been without a minister.

In March 1969, Peter Dwight was elected as a Deacon for the first time, and Rev. and Mrs. Hugh Jenkins moved into 19 Kingsley Road. Changes to the election of Deacons was proposed in November 1969 for further consideration, and the Church agreed these changes in March 1970. This meant that the Secretary and Treasurer would now be elected annually and there would be a further 8 Deacons.

In September it was proposed that there would be a Non-Active Supplementary membership list, and 44 names were transferred to this list. This was mainly for members who had moved away, or did not worship regularly at The Green.

In April 1972 proposals were put forward for the development of the premises. These were as follows:-

1.    A new kitchen to be built by using one side classroom on the yard side and the present passage between the schoolroom and the Lecture room.
2.    The transfer of the toilets to the area of the present kitchen.
3.    Demolish the present toilets and the Vestry toilet and cover in the yard from Bailey Street to the Church side entrance.

It was estimated that this work would cost about £5,000, and ways to finance this would now be considered. The Church gave this project the go-ahead, but it was shelved later because of all the road plans in the area.

In January 1973 it was agreed to remove the side pews at the front of the Church. At the Annual General Meeting in 1973, Mr. C. W. Giles said that he felt that this would be his last year as Church Secretary, and suggested that an Assistant be appointed to take over in 12 months time, and so in May, Mr. R. Oakley was appointed as Assistant Secretary.

The idea of saving used postage stamps and sending them to the B.M. S. was brought before the Church in July 1973.

In September there was a proposal to put a false ceiling in the Schoolroom, and a new door to replace the swing doors already there.

In January 1974, Mr. C. W. Giles was appointed as a Life Deacon in recognition of his 27 years as a Deacon and 20 years as Treasurer and then Secretary.

In May 1974 the Girls’ Brigade Company was formed to replace the Guides and Brownies, and the following May they held their first joint Display with the Boys’ Brigade. In July, Mr. R. Oakley resigned as Church Secretary in order to take a new job in Aylesbury and Mr. Peter Dwight was appointed as Church Secretary in his place. In January 1976 Rev. and Mrs. R. Highcock took up residence in 19 Kingsley Road, and in May Rev. John Viccars announced that he would be leaving to take up the Pastorate at Milford-on Sea.

In November an invitation was extended to Rev. M. E. A. Smalley of Sale Baptist church to be the next Pastor of the Church, and at a Special Church meeting in December, it was announced that he had accepted, On the 23rd April 1977 he was inducted as the 13th Pastor of the Church.

Later on in the year, the Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades camped together for the first time.

1978 opened with the decision to take a look at the lighting in Church, and after inspection and discussion, it was agreed to replace all the roof spotlights and side lights at a cost of £578 + VAT. In April a Luncheon Club was started as a form of outreach, and it was later reported that it had got off to a flying start.

Discussions took place at this time on the development of the premises and various schemes were put forward such as improving the toilet facilities, and also improving the cold and draughty entrance at the top of the steps at the front of the Church. Consideration was also given at this time to an entrance with a ramp.

In 1979 the plans for improving the premises, which had been discussed some years earlier, were again raised for further discussion. It was estimated that this work would cost between £10,000 and £12,000, and in September, plans were approved at a cost of £13,657 plus £3000 for contingencies. Monies would need to be borrowed from the West Midlands Baptist Association and the Baptist Building Fund. The matter was again put on hold.
In March 1980 loans were available and the work could begin in stages. There were not sufficient funds for all the work to be done, so the members were asked to consider loaning money to the Church in the short term, and in July the deacons authorised that the work could be done in the four stages indicated: -
1.    Toilets and rear entrance lobby
2.    Construction of kitchen area and stores
3.    Covering of yard area
4.    New front entrance.

The alterations began and in September, Mrs. Nellie Titley, who had been in membership for 63 years, duly opened the renovations.

It is interesting to note that the toilet removed from the Ministers’ vestry, is now on show at the museum at Shugborough for all to see.
The total cost of all the development was £23,176, which exceeded the original estimate, but was all covered by loans and gifts.

In September 1981, there was a request from St. Pauls Play group for the use of the premises for 3 mornings a week. The Deacons agreed to meet with the leaders and at the November meeting, it was agreed to allow the premises to be used in this way.

In January 1982, we invited the fellowship at St. Pauls to join with us for a Communion Service, but sadly their Vicar was not happy about this. However, we invited all Churches to meet with us for Good Friday Communion.
In his Secretarial Report for 1981, the Secretary, Peter Dwight, said “ that there was an area of concern. This was the much smaller attendance at Sunday evening services. The meeting together of the Church family. to offer sincere and joyful worship, is the most important activity of the Church life. The Word of God tells us that worship must not be neglected, it is the source of strength and inspiration of our individual lives and of the mission of the church.”

Church life continued, and much of the Lord’s work was being done inside and outside the church, for example, a Children’s Mission had attracted a large number of children in the summer of 1982.

The ladies of the Women’s Fellowship organised a Thanksgiving Service for the 22nd May 1983 to commemorate the founding of the B. W. L at The Green fifty years before. This seems a little strange as they were formed in March 1917.

By now, the Playgroup were meeting 5 days of the week, an Outreach project had visited every home in the area, and the Luncheon Club was going well. In his Annual Report, the Secretary stated that “the mission of our Church is not only through preaching and projects, but also in the daily round of faithful service.”

In May 1983 the Church telephone was installed.
In January 1984, details were given of Mission England, and that forthcoming events would be held all over the country, which included local venues. Part of this would be a visit by Billy Graham to Villa Park in June and two coaches were booked. As a result of this a number of people met to discuss Nurture groups and it was hoped that 5 would be formed.

In 1985 the inside and outside of the Church was decorated at a cost of £1,943, and it was hoped that the Thank offering would cover this cost.
In November 1985 Radio Stoke recorded a Service from The Green for their “In Thy Name” series. This was recorded on Wednesday 20th November for transmission on the following Sunday.

In March 1986, consideration was given to the re-building of the Organ, which had previously been overhauled 35 years before. Nicholson & Co of Worcester, who had built the Organ, recommended the work to be done, which included the re-siting of the Swell pedal, the total cost being £8,851. The Organ then would greatly increase in value, and would need no further major work doing for 35 – 50 years. It was agreed to go ahead with the work.
In 1986 consideration was given to changing the time of Morning Worship from 11 a.m. to 10-30 a.m. Questionnaires were sent out to everyone, and there was a mixture of replies. After a series of proposals and amendments it was decided to leave things as they were. In September  Malcolm said that he wished to purchase his own property, and that the future of the Manse would be dealt with at a future meeting.

For some time concern had been expressed about Sandon Road Baptist Church, and following the death of Rev. David Roberts, meetings were held with the Area Superintendent, who suggested that The Green should appoint an Associate Minister with particular responsibility for Sandon Road. In January 1987, Andrew Millns, who was in his final year at Northern Baptist College, was invited to preach at Sandon Road. If they were in favour, then he would be invited to The Green. At a Special Church Meeting on the 25th February, it was proposed and agreed that Andrew Millns be invited to be Associate Minister, a call he later accepted. A house in Sandon Road became available, and was purchased on 3-way basis by Andrew and the two Churches. An Induction Service was arranged for the afternoon of 12th September, which would be at Sandon Road, with a Recognition Service in the evening at The Green. Andrew was previously ordained at Warrington Baptist Church in July.

In September also, the Church said farewell to Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Giles who were moving to Market Drayton. They had given many years of faithful service to the Church.

And so 1987 ended with a welcome and a good-bye. The work would continue.

Part 11  - More Changes

The year 1988 opened with the Church moving swiftly into the 20th Century with consideration given to the purchase of a Photocopier. However, the Church meeting couldn’t make up its mind and the matter was referred back to a committee for further consideration. Meanwhile the old duplicating machine continued to give a rather inadequate service. By the next Church meeting progress had been made and the Photocopier was purchased and the “Messenger” in its present format was produced for the first time in March 1988.

At a meeting in April it was decided to move the time of the Morning service to 10-30 a.m. A decision as to moving the Evening service to 6 p.m. was referred back to the Deacons.

During the year consideration was still being given to improving the premises, and the Deacons visited other Churches to see for themselves what improvements had been made. A Special Church meeting in September suggested plans and costs for the work to be done and in October the meeting could not make up its mind which parts of the plan to proceed with. A further meeting held in November held a very lengthy discussion and despite some opposition, the proposal that the scheme should go ahead was passed.

In March 1989, Rev. Malcolm Smalley announced that he would be leaving at the end of June to become Pastor of the Church at Wells, Somerset. He had been Pastor for a little over 12 years. His last service was on the 18th June and there was a Farewell Gathering on 16th June.
A Moderator was appointed at the July Church meeting and the process of seeking a new Pastor began.

In November, work was completed on the refurbishment of the kitchen and the new entrance in Bailey Street. It was also announced that a new hall was to be built at Sandon Road.

During 1990 and 1991 the main schoolroom was refurbished with the removal of the stage and the fitting of new windows, flooring and suspended ceiling.

At a Special Church meeting in July 1990, an invitation was given to the Rev. Michael Collis to the Pastorate of the Church. This invitation was accepted by Rev. Collis but would need to be delayed in order that his son could complete his ‘A’ levels. He expressed a wish to purchase a property and it was agreed that a plot of land, soon to be known as 41 Montville Drive, would be owned on a 50/50 basis by the Church and Rev. Collis.

On the 6th July 1991, Rev. Michael Collis was duly inducted as the 14th Pastor of the Church.

On Wednesday 5th February 1992 a recording was made for a broadcast on Radio Stoke the following Sunday.

A meeting took place at this time between the Officers of The Green and the Officers of Sandon Road regarding the financial position of Sandon Road. It was agreed that the 1992 Thank Offering should be allocated to Sandon Road.

June 1992 saw the opening of the Body and Soul Café. The Café would open three days a week, with the aim of mission to the community and of raising money for the Third World needs.

In October 1992 the Rev. Andrew Millns concluded his ministry at Sandon Road when he accepted a call to the Pastorate of the Baptist/URC Church at Nantwich.

In April 1993 Rev. and Mrs. Dennis Weller moved into 19 Kingsley Road. Later that year the Church started a Good News Library of Christian videos and books for children and young people, and in March 1994 it was reported how well this project was going with a membership of 44 children.

The work of the Church continued under Michael’s leadership during 1993 and 1994, but in March 1995 proposals were put by a Youth Forum for changes in the youth work of the Church. The Boys’ Brigade Company would close and youth work would be affiliated to the Covenanters. The Church would also seek a student placement for three years to help with the youth work. The changes to Covenanters would be launched in September 1995.

For some time preparations were being made for the Centenary celebrations of the Church building in 1996. Events throughout the year included a reunion dinner, a flower festival and a mission with students from Regent’s Park College, Oxford.

In March 1996 the Safe to Grow policy was implemented, committing the Church to the implementation of good practice guidelines and procedures regarding children and young people. The policy statement was approved and would be read out at all future Annual General Meetings of the Church. A Children’s Advocate was also appointed.
In May 1996 the Church called Nigel Ford to be Student minister for one year to be followed by a period of up to three years as Assistant minister.

In September the Church commended Sue Timmins for ministerial training, and agreed to pay one third of her college fees for her three-year course at Regent’s Park College, Oxford.

In February 1997 at a Special Church meeting, it was agreed that from 1st October 1997 Nigel Ford would be Assistant minister and then, following the retirement of Rev. Michael Collis, he would become Minister with responsibility under the normal terms of agreement for the appointment of ministers.

At the Deacon’s Autumn Retreat Day in November, concern was expressed that Rev. Nigel Ford would be unable to continue coordinating the children’s and youth work when he became minister, following Michael Collis’s retirement. It was agreed to investigate fully the appointment of a Ministry Assistant with special responsibility for the Church’s mission to children and young people.

In January 1998 the Baptistry was improved with a new base, flush fitting floor covers and removable railings installed.

In May candidates were interviewed for the position of Ministry Assistant, and on the 10th June Mark Kedian was invited to the post. In July it was announced that he had accepted and would commence his Ministry in October.

July also saw Rev. Michael Collis complete his ministry at The Green and take up a part-time pastorate at Sarn Baptist Church in Powys. On the 13th September the Rev. Nigel Ford succeeded him and at a Recognition Service, became the 15th Pastor of the Church.

Part 12 - Back to the future

In October 1998, Mark Kedian took up his position as Ministry Assistant with special responsibility for children and young people. Consideration was being given to the redesigning of the Worship area at the front of the Church, and in March 1999 the work was commenced.

The choir stalls and front side pews were removed resulting in a new extended and carpeted platform area. New Baptistry covers were fitted and the front, side areas and aisles carpeted. At a Special Church meeting in May a motion was passed “That we should not always retain an open baptistery”.
In practical terms this meant that the Baptistry should be covered for most of the time and be opened up for Baptismal services and for other specified reasons.

In September the Church decided to extend Mark’s contract beyond its original date for a further three years and Mark would apply for a place on a three year Youth Ministries Degree Course.

About this time there was concern that the lighting in the Church did not conform to safety regulations, and in October 1999 a new lighting system was installed by Church members. At a meeting in October it was decided to mount a “Cross and Sign” on the wall of the Church facing up the Wolverhampton Road, and planning permission was obtained.
This was done and the new Millennium was celebrated with a New Year’s Eve party and special service outside the Church at midnight when the new illuminated “Cross and Sign” was switched on together with the Tower and Church window illuminations.

In January 2000 there were proposals before the Church regarding the amalgamation of the West Midlands Association with Herefordshire, to be known as the Heart of England Baptist Association.

Alpha courses had begun around this time with a number of the fellowship and outside people also taking part.

Mark Kedian began his studies in Nottingham in September with the purpose of becoming an Accredited Youth Specialist of the Baptist Union, and in November Nigel Ford became a fully accredited Minister of the BUGB.
In January 2001 it was with regret that the Church decided to close the Body and Soul café as from Easter 2001.

Later that year, in May, Sue Timmins was inducted to the Pastorate of the Baptist/United Reform Church at Nantwich.

Sadly, in July it was announced that the Girl’s Brigade Company would close and a Decommissioning Service would be held in October.

The Church meeting in November of that year remembered what had happened in the USA on the 11th September.

Discussions took place in November also about the possibility of purchasing a Video projector for the Church and costings were obtained.

In July 2002 Nigel shared with the Church some of the problems and tensions that had happened as a result of the formation of the Heart of England Baptist Association. We were asked to pray that these problems could be sorted out and it was hoped that there would be an effort to bring healing and reconciliation.

In October 2002 Nigel Ford left to take up the Pastorate of Cirencester Baptist Church, and Mark Kedian also left to take up a position of Youth Worker with The Ark, Methodist Church in Colchester.

Rev. Malcolm Thorpe of Newport Baptist Church was appointed as Moderator, and the process of seeking a new Pastor began.

During 2002 Marg Hardcastle had been prayerfully considering a call to Ministry and in May 2003 she secured a place at Regents Park College for September. In the meantime she would be working as Assistant Minister at Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church in North Birningham.

In June 2003 an invitation was given to the Rev. Nick Adams to the Pastorate, which he accepted.

In July the long-awaited Video projector was installed at a cost of approximately £3000.

On the 27th September 2003, Rev Nick Adams was inducted as the 16th Pastor of the Church.

For some time a group known as “Sticky Fingers” had been meeting on Thursday mornings for babies, little children and their Mums and Dads. This was growing and in October a request was made for more help in running the group.

In May 2004 consideration was given to improving the Lecture Room, and proposals were put to the meeting regarding the lighting, ventilation, and storage space at a cost of approximately £2500. It was agreed that the Thank-Offering be used for that purpose.

When the Tsunami hit parts of Asia on Boxing Day 2004, the Church were so moved that over £3000 was sent to the BMS Emergency Appeal Fund.
When a lorry knocked the roller shutter off the wall over the Bailey Street entrance, it seemed that the opportunity had arisen for a new door to be fitted and this was done in May 2005.

Rising Book Baptist Church celebrated its 50th Anniversary in October and a number of members with long memories attended a Service of celebration.
Earlier in the year a Stop and Snack café had been started on Thursday lunchtimes. At the Church meeting in November it was reported that this and Sticky Fingers were both going well.

In March 2006 much discussion took place regarding the heating in the Church. It was agreed to install a new system at a cost of approximately £14000, and as the Church would be out of action for a while, it was decided to have it re-decorated. The Church was very much indebted to one of its members, David Summers, for doing this work, and much more.

In September a further improvement to the Bailey Street entrance was made with the installation of a spot lighted cross, clearly visible to passers-by.

A committee had been formed to plan for 2008 when the Church would celebrate its 150th Anniversary, and people were asked to supply any photographs and memorabilia.

In 1973 the first Church Weekend had taken place, but the fall in numbers attending meant that the 2007 weekend would be the last for the time being.
In September 2007, due to the popularity of Sticky Fingers, it was decided to hold this on two mornings a week instead of just one.

In April 2007, at the Deacon’s Half-Day, they had a vision for the Church which would mean taking out the pews and putting in chairs. This was brought to the Church meeting in November for discussion, and as I write this, is still ongoing. Much prayer will be needed with further research before this can be done, but there is a determination to do this.

In December 2007, our Church Secretary, Peter Dwight passed away after a fairly short illness. He had served the Church, a number of Ministers, and his Lord for over 32 years. He will be greatly missed.

The year 2008 begins with encouraging signs, with some new members, and a desire, surely, to extend God’s Kingdom, by working together with Nick, in order to continue the work that has gone on for 150 years. God has looked kindly on us and blessed our work in the past. May He continue to do so in the future.

Living God, in this Church, used to the sound of singing, where there have been baptisms and funerals, where people have come to be married, or to celebrate the birth of a child; in this Church, where some have wept, and some have been filled with joy, where people have struggled with the deep things of life, have prayed urgently, been stirred and changed; in this Church, where you have so often been with your people, be with us now.