25 January 2023
Wolverton Evangelical Church and
a century-old presence in Wolverton
In my search for churches in Wolverton that I wanted to photograph, I kept on missing out on Wolverton Evangelical Church. I finally found the church last week, in a laneway off Church Street.
The story of the church dates back to January 1917 when a new church was founded by eight people in Wolverton and was named Emmanuel Chapel. These eight people had left other churches in the town in protest at what they saw as liberal theological positions and decided to form what they said would be a ‘Gospel-centred fellowship.’
The new group work was supported both by people involved with the Mission Hall in New Bradwell and the Evangelical Chapel in Stony Stratford, which was part the orphanage run by JWC Fegan.
At first, Emmanuel Chapel met in a rented upstairs room at the rear of a property on Stratford Road. But, in order to acquire a more permanent meeting place, the group bought Nos 106 and 108 Church Street, two adjacent terraced houses in Wolverton. A schoolroom was built across the back gardens of these houses and the initial plan was to convert the two houses into a church building facing onto Church Street.
The foundation stones of the schoolroom were laid at a special service on 17 July 1922. At the ceremony, the desire was expressed that the building would be ‘a place for the Lord’s service where the Gospel would be preached in its simplicity and power.’
JCW Fegan from Fegan’s Home in Stony Stratford was to have laid the first stone but could not attend due to ill-health. However, 18 boys from the orphanage in Stony Stratford lead the singing of the hymns.
Emmanuel Hall was formally opened on 9 November 1922. By then, the number of members of Emmanuel Chapel had grown to 30, several baptisms had taken place, and a Sunday school was up and running.
A sign on the laneway running from Church Street to Stratford Road marks this as the ‘Edge of Town.’ Until the 1890s, this alleyway marked the western edge of Wolverton and still runs all the way to the top of the town. Opposite it were fields, footpaths and in the distance the buildings of Warren Farm, with Stony Stratford beyond.
Emmanuel Chapel continued for a number of years, but it was disbanded at the outbreak of World War II and the remaining members transferred to New Bradwell Mission Hall, near the War Memorial on Caledonian Road.
Wolverton Town Council took over the building for use as a recruitment centre for people called up during the war. After World War I, Emmanuel Hall became Wolverton’s employment exchange. When a job centre was established in the Agora centre in 1979, the trustees put the building on the market.
Meanwhile, a new and independent Baptist church was formed in Wolverton in 1972 under the leadership of Bruce Robinson, a missionary from the US who moved to the area because of the development of Milton Keynes.
The members of the new church first met in the Scout Hall in Furze Way and then in the then disused West End Methodist Church. They became involved in door-to-door visits, evangelistic services and children’s missions.
The New City Baptist Church, as it became, bought the empty Emmanuel Hall in 1981. Later, a manse was bought and Roger March became as a full-time pastor in 1984. A second property was bought in 1988 to provide more space, including Sunday School work.
The church became involved in planting a new church in Buckingham in 1990. At the same time, the church began supporting Toni Hermano, a church planter and Bible teacher in the Philippines.
The church changed its name to Wolverton Evangelical Church in 1999, and became associated with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. Over the years, the church has been involved in door-to-door visiting, open air meetings and handing out leaflets.
A member of the church, Allan Huxtable, was sent study at the London Theological Seminary in 2002, and was appointed pastor in 2008. Soon after this, the morning services moved to Bushfield school. Sunday Services are held at 10:30 am in Bushfield School, Moon Street, Wolverton, with Sunday school, and at 6:30 pm Here at Emmanuel Hall, 108A Church Street.
One of Wolverton’s original off-licences, the Drum and Monkey, once stood in the laneway beside the hall. The building sold beer, cider and soft drinks through a ‘hole in the wall’ where people could bring their own jugs to be filled and taken home to drink off the premises.
Praying through the Week of
Christian Unity and with USPG:
25 January 2023
Christmas is not a season of 12 days, despite the popular Christmas song. Christmas is a 40-day season that lasts from Christmas Day (25 December) to Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation (2 February).
Throughout the 40 days of this Christmas Season, I have been reflecting in these ways:
1, Reflecting on a seasonal or appropriate poem;
2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’
However, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends today (25 January 2023, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul), and since it began last Wednesday my morning reflections look at this year’s readings and prayers.
Churches Together in Milton Keynes concludes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this evening with a ‘Celebration of Justice’ at 7:30 in the Church of Christ the King, Kent’s Hill.
‘The week will finish with a big celebration. We thank God for the rich diversity of our communities and the challenge we are given to make this World a better place. There is so much that is broken and wrong in God’s creation, but we have a great hope in Christ – so this is the time for a big Alleluia!’
The preacher this evening is Bishop Mike Royal, the General Secretary of Churches Together in England. He is the former co-CEO of the Cinnamon Network, helping churches with their community engagement, and he is a former pioneer at the award-winning education charity Transforming Lives for Good (TLG). Bishop Mike has an academic background in urban planning and black theology. He has been in ordained ministry since 1993 and was consecrated a Pentecostal Bishop in 2016. He is also a Forensic Mental Health Chaplain, living in Birmingham.
Day 8: ‘The justice that restores communion’
Psalm 82: 1-4:
Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Luke 18: 1-8:
Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?
The Book of Psalms is a compilation of prayer, praise, lamentation, and instruction from God to us. In Psalm 82, God calls for a justice that upholds the basic human rights to which all people are entitled: freedom, safety, dignity, health, equality and love. The Psalm also calls for the overturning of systems of disparity and oppression, and fixing anything that is unfair, corrupt, or exploitative. This is the justice that we, as Christians, are called to promote. In Christian community we join our wills and actions to God’s, as he works his salvation for creation. Division, including that between Christians, always has sin at its root, and redemption always restores communion.
God calls us to embody our Christian faith to act out of the truth that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institutional structure in society is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of each person. Every person has a right and responsibility to participate in society, seeking together the common good and wellbeing of all, especially the lowly and the destitute.
In Jesus and the Disinherited, Revd Dr Howard Thurman, who was spiritual adviser to the Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr, states that: ‘We must proclaim the truth that all life is one and that we are all of us tied together. Therefore, it is mandatory that we work for a society in which the least person can find refuge and refreshment. You must lay your lives on the altar of social change so that wherever you are, there the Kingdom of God is at hand.’
Jesus tells the parable of the widow and the unjust judge in order to teach the people ‘about their need to pray always and not to lose heart’ (Luke 18: 1). Jesus has won a decisive victory over injustice, sin and division, and as Christians our task is to receive this victory firstly in our own hearts through prayer and secondly in our lives through action. May we never lose heart, but rather continue to ask in prayer for God’s gift of unity and may we manifest this unity in our lives.
As the people of God, how are our churches called to engage in justice that unites us in our actions to love and serve all of God’s family?
God, Creator and Redeemer of all things,
teach us to look inward to be grounded in your loving Spirit,
so that we may go outward in wisdom and courage
to always choose the path of love and justice.
This we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
USPG Prayer Diary:
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to an end today (25 January), and the theme in the USPG Prayer Diary last week was the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme this week is the ‘Myanmar Education Programme.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday with a reflection from a report from the Church of the Province of Myanmar.
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today (the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul) in these words:
Let us pray for the Church in Myanmar as it seeks to witness to its faith. May her members support one another and have courage in the face of oppression.
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