27 March 2023

Is the Gospel Hall in
New Bradwell the least
welcoming church
in Milton Keynes?

The Gospel Hall on Caledonian Road, New Bradwell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Tucked away in small cul-de-sac near the War Memorial in New Bradwell, the Gospel Hall on Caledonian Road is a like a surviving relic from a time long ago.

The Gospel Hall is a tin hut of the type that would be familiar to many people in Northern Ireland. Its style is typical of the many ‘tin hut’ churches, chapels and mission halls that were raised hurriedly as railway times expanded rapidly in Victorian England.

A plain sign behind the grim railings gives no other name than ‘The Gospel Hall’ and the regular events: ‘Sunday 10.30 am Breaking of Bread 12.15 pm Sunday School 6.30 pm Gospel Meeting Wednesdays 8.00 pm Bible Study Other meetings as arranged.’

Simple posters with scripture passages on each side of the door partly block the windows. There are no contact details, no words of welcome, and no signs of outreach to the neighbouring or wider communities. The letter box on the front door is overflowing with leaflets and post that has not been collected.

The closed-up appearance and the disconsonant place it occupies, squeezed in between the red-brick Victorian terraced houses in this quiet street makes the Gospel Hall look like an isolated anachronism and a cold and forbidding place for anyone needing to hear the God News of the Gospel.

This claims to be ‘the only Gospel Hall within the city of Milton Keynes.’ But could this be the least welcoming church in Milton Keynes?

As well as the Gospel Hall offering no contact details, it is difficult to find any online presence that would indicate a presence in New Bradwell or an eagerness to reach out in mission.

When, eventually, I found an obscure blog posting that proclaims five points firmly:

‘We are not ecumenical.

‘We hold to the Authorized Version of the Bible.

‘We reject all forms of Reformed Theology.

‘We are an independent church.

‘We are not associated with the Brethren movement.’

The hall also complains that ‘the fire escape route … is being persistently and wilfully obstructed with the knowledge of the trustees.’ I wondered whether this indicates a problem with neighbour or a dispute with former members.

The possibility of disputes with former members is hinted at in the declaration that ‘a member of the Gideons, and an alleged trustee, has left us now and we are therefore no longer associated with the MK Ecumenical Mission. No trustee is a member of this assembly.’

In the past, New Bradwell Gospel Hall was linked with the Brethren and was involved with the Evangelical Chapel in Stony Stratford, part the orphanage run by JWC Fegan, in the formation in 1917 of Emmanuel Chapel in Wolverton, now Wolverton Evangelical Church.

But in recent years, the hall has isolated itself from the Brethren, other evangelical and fundamentalist groups. I never expected them to be ecumenical. But I wondered who they maintained contact with when I realised they dissociate themselves from the Brethren, the Gideons, and ‘Reformed Theology.’

They have cast their net so wide in finding groups to isolate themselves from that one posting even condemns Rathmines Gospel Hall in Dublin, which I passed by twice last week. Despite the origins of the Gospel Hall in New Bradwell, they now declare: ‘The Brethren gospel does not relate to the Gospel of the New Testament in any case.’

If you are thinking of visiting New Bradwell Gospel Hall some Sunday and expecting a warm welcome, they let you know: ‘A letter of commendation may be of little value. If we neither know you nor the church from which you come then a letter is meaningless. We need to establish that we walk by the same rule. We cannot walk together if we are not agreed.’

And they continue: ‘So come in time to introduce yourself. If you are in the area and you are likeminded with us, you are welcome to have fellowship with us. That is, you have had a conversion you can speak of. You have experienced believer’s baptism. You have not been divorced and remarried. You follow the apostle’s doctrine.’

If you are thinking of visiting New Bradwell Gospel Hall some Sunday morning and actually receive a warm welcome, I’m sure you are not going to find it difficult to find a choice of seats all for yourself.

The Gospel Hall on Caledonian Road, New Bradwell … hardly a welcoming sign (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)


Anonymous said...

Somehow I imagine that behind closed door is a candidate for one of those ‘Hoarder’ shows on television.

Anonymous said...

You pose an intriguing question and the only real way to answer it is to visit the Gospel Hall and see for yourself how welcoming they are. Therefore your blog may well result in them getting lots more visitors than they otherwise would have done.

Philip Surridge said...

I UNDERSTAND THAT THERE WAS ONCE A PLACE OF WORSHIP IN NEW BRADWELL WAY BACK IN LATE THIRTIES KNOWN AS THE IRON ROOM . CAN ANYONE TELL ME IF.? THIS WAS BEFORE THE GOSPEL HALL WAS ESTABLISHD. THE REASON I ask is because a lovely gentleman EDward Geary who was responsible for my conversation himself went to The iron Room and as a result found salvation.