MREC from 1923 to 2011
by John Knight, Guildford
The earliest memories we have of our local church meeting in Guildford come from Miss Doreen Mersh, whose parents joined the fellowship in 1923. They were commended from the meeting at Camberley, whose premises Mr Mersh had built himself. In those early days our church hired a hall in Ward Street in the town centre and used it for the Lord’s Supper each Sunday morning and for Bible Study and a prayer meeting in the week. At times, these meetings were disturbed, by other activities taking place in adjacent rooms at the same time, probably the most distracting was the boxing training being held in the hall next door to where we were praying in the week.
In the late 1920’s a group of the folk in the church were travelling in from the North of Guildford and when the Congregational Church moved to new premises they were keen to take over their Chapel in the Manor Road. This was made possible in 1932 when Mr Mersh purchased the Hall for our use. The two dozen or so Christians in fellowship at the time included Mr & Mrs Mersh, Mr & Mrs Prouten, Mr & Mrs Warren, Mr & Mrs Phillips, Mr & Mrs Lamdin, Mr Sidaway, Mr Baverstock, Mr & Mrs Burr, Mr & Mrs Gilmore and Mr & Mrs L Smith. Sadly one of the first services held in the Hall was the funeral service of Mr Warren, the local colporteur (Home Evangelist), whose role was taken on soon after by Mr Sidaway. It is perhaps a reflection of the high regard in which we were held, that the Congregational church left their Sunday school children to be taught by us. So from the outset of the testimony various works with children have been undertaken and we currently run a Sunday school and Friday Bible Club for children.
At its zenith, in the late forties, the Sunday school could boast of 6 coaches taking children and their parents to the Coast for their annual outing. Also the children’s campaigns conducted by Tom Moore (and later George Tryon) would bring in so many children that they had to sit on the windowsills around the Hall. In the sixties there were also children’s open air meetings held in the summer in various parks and other locations around the Hall. Holiday clubs have also brought in many children, and often their parents as well, to learn from the Word of God. The most successful in terms of numbers was in February 1994, when 140 different children attended during the week and over 20 of us were dealing with about 100 children each of the five mornings of the Holiday Bible Club. I suppose the fact that about 70 were in fellowship at that time helped to draw in such a large crowd.
Mr Mersh added a number of features to the Hall, not least the baptistery, which has been well used over the years. I guess the most unusual baptism would have been my father’s in the early forties, for he responded to the challenge given at a baptismal service and borrowed the wet clothes of the person who had just been baptised.
There are three men who I feel I should mark out for special mention in the history of this local church. My father was noteworthy for his gracious and loving manner and his consistent testimony. Mr Lamdin was outstanding for his consistency in serving in the church for 60 years, (remarkably he was the treasurer and an elder for over 50 years), he would never miss a meeting and was still taking his turn hall cleaning in his eighty eighth year when he was called into God’s presence in heaven. Mr Millidge I remember for his love of sharing the gospel with everyone, particularly children and young people and his great encouragement in seeking to bring on young Christians in their service for the Lord.
For the last thirty-six years we have had a monthly tea to which we invite any one in the community. Mainly elderly folk attend this tea and gospel service and we have had the joy of seeing a few elderly people saved, baptised and added to the church.
With a University and colleges of Law, Technology and Agricultural in the immediate area we have often been blessed with students joining us for shorter or longer periods and we have always valued their involvement in the work. We are thankful that some have stayed on beyond their studies and two of these are responsible for the upgrading of our website, which is bringing us into contact with more people.
For as long as I can remember we have been distributing leaflets in the locality. During the last ten years a small editorial team have been producing our own ‘Point’ magazine, twice a year, which all the able-bodied people in the church distribute to 6 000 homes in the locality.
Since 1999 the ladies in the church have organised and run a Parent and Toddler Group, which has proved extremely popular. Because numbers have had to be restricted to thirty parents for this weekly activity on Tuesday mornings, we now have a long waiting list.
Because of the various links we have made into the community, and inspired by a local church in Maidenhead, we decided to run a ‘Christianity Explored’ course in the autumn of 2003. This exercise has really made us depend on the Lord and over a year later we still have regular contact with all seven who signed up for the first course. In the autumn of 2004 we ran a similar course and it is likely that we will run similar courses on an annual basis. We have also run a monthly ‘Y’ course that proved very challenging to those who wanted to find out more about Christianity and a ‘Foot Prints’ course is being run at the moment for young Christians.
We are very conscious that we must obey the Lord’s commission to preach the gospel and make disciples, with the assurance of His presence with us, until He comes.