Leigh Beck Baptist Church: Modern Times
'The First Hundred Years'
1990 – again the church was in interregnum, but not for long! In September 1990 the Church called Chris Newton to become Student Pastor, with the task of preparing the Church for full time ministry at the end of his contracted four years. Chris studied at Spurgeon’s College and preached every other Sunday. His Induction took place on 10th November. Chris quite radically, for Leigh Beck Church, modernised our style of worship. The redevelopment of the front of the church began in Chris’s time with us.
At the Church Meeting held on 9th July 1991, Leaders of the Girl Covenanters asked if they could leave the Covenanters and start their own group, run on similar lines. This was agreed and in September 1991 a new girls group called ‘Stepping Stones’ was formed. (Stepping Stones is now known as Pebbles (2003) and is run be Morag Storey. This group attracts many local young girls from Leigh Beck Junior School and is a wonderful point of contact to many families)
30th October 1991 was the date of the 80th anniversary of the Women’s Friendly. This was their last meeting. Following this, the Women’s Friendly joined with the ladies Tuesday Group.
It was during this time in the life of the Church that Chris Newton received a complaint from neighbours that their TV reception was affected by our tall trees on the corner plot. As soon as it was practicable, some of the men formed a work party and hired chain saws and protective clothing and like monkeys climbed the tress and felled them. Although a few minor injuries were sustained the men seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves working together.
Chris Newton’s wife Gill started a Keep Fit class on a Monday morning. Tapes would be brought for the ‘brave and enthusiastic’ to work out to. A fun time of fellowship was had by all. Thankfully in 2003, this Keep Fit class is still running, with Vera Jones and Verena Tellis encouraging various one to take part.
On completion of his 4 year study at Spurgeon’s College, Chris Newton decided to move on to another Church. He was subsequently called to the Pastorate at Lymm, Cheshire. He preached his last sermon on July 31st and moved away on August 3rd 1994.
Work started on the manse once again soon after Chris & Gill Newton moved out. Plaster was taken off the walls 3 foot from the ground on all external walls downstairs. The walls were injected with a damp prove membrane, rendered and finished plastered. New kitchen units were also fitted at this time. Finally the whole house was re-decorated.
On Tuesday 29th November 1994, it was decided to call Rev Charles Radburn to be our full time Pastor. The manse was nowhere near finished. The family wanted to move in on the 28th December. So it was all ‘hands to the deck’ under the guidance of Tim White to get everything ‘ship shape’ and in a liveable condition.
The induction of Rev Charles Radburn took place on 11th February 1995. As usual, for an Induction Service, the Church was packed out and it was a time of great blessing. Charlie (as he preferred to be called) set about his work without trying to copy Chris Newton, but building on his achievements.
During this period of time, many changes took place, both with the buildings and with various functions within the Fellowship. New heating was installed in the Youth Hall during 1996 and in the same year all the old wooden chairs from the main Church were sold. With the ‘Thank Offering’ money new blue padded chairs were purchased.
During Charlie’s ministry, the concept of Home Groups were introduced during 1996 in place of the weekly prayer and Bible study which used to be held in the Church. At one time 4 groups were meeting regularly. This meant about 24 people were meeting during the week, compared to 6 in the Church’s midweek prayer meeting.
During 1997 plans were submitted to the local council and the London Property Board to extend the Kitchen and enlarge the ladies and gents toilets and adding a disabled WC. The kitchen was more than doubled in size with new worktops all around and new floor and wall units. An industrial cooker was obtained free of charge from St. Peters Church, Benfleet. A new serving hatch was built which trebled the size of the original and a great boon to all who work in the kitchen. Under the guidance of Tim White, both men and women from the Fellowship worked tirelessly to complete the work.
One of our long-standing members, Doris Flaherty celebrated her 90th Birthday on 25th September 1997. A special Coffee Morning was held when Bill Ellis presented her with a large bouquet of flowers from the Church. The ladies had a cake made and supplied sandwiches for all who popped into the Church Hall to wish Doris a Happy Birthday.
The Church was involved in the All Island Mission (A.I.M.) during 1998. This was and culminated with a week of evangelical meetings held in the Paddocks. The final meeting was taken by Ishmael (a Christian Pop singer and song-writer).
The Church held an ‘After School Activities’ with the help from Cliff College Students. This was organised by the various Churches on the Island. It took many months of planning from the 23rd – 27th March and was entitled ‘GOING BANANAS’. An Ark made by Tim White and various animals decorated the Church. During the few days of ‘going Bananas’ 99 children attended.
On 15th June 1998 a meeting was held between Rita Kitchen, Irene Tearle and Joan Barrett to start a Fund Raising Committee. This Committee was called the ‘Branch Out Vision’. Various ideas for raising funds such as giving out smarty tubes and asking for them to be returned and filled with £1 coins, Antique Road show, Indian Meal and a show at the Cliffs Pavilion, nearly new sales, and an evening with the Benfleet Operatic Society all brought in funds that were used for the purchase of Church curtains, Youth hall flooring. They also contributed £1000 towards new windows for the Church and many other commodities that have been needed around the Church.
1998 seemed to be a very busy year for the Church as a Holiday Club was also held from 1st – 4th September – the theme being ‘CHATTER BOX’ Holiday Club went very well, but a little disappointing with only 36 children attending.
1999 brought yet another busy year for the church with Kids Klub being held on April 6th – 9th, the theme being Treasure Island. The Rev. Radburn was exceptionally gifted with his work with children, which helped enormously.
The trees on the corner plot were once again becoming very dangerous as they were completely hollow and in danger of falling down. These trees had to be cut down by a Tree Surgeon. Because of the danger of the trees falling against the overhead electric cables, the Electricity Board were contacted and they insisted that this work be carried out on a Sunday morning in order that local shops would not be inconvenienced with having to turn off the main electric supply. This work was carried out early in the morning and by the time the Church Service started at 11.00 am the electricity was back fully working again.
The last meeting of Anchor Boys and Junior Boys Brigade was held on Monday 19th July 1999. Also the Senior Section (under Robert Barrett) did not start their new session in September 1999.
A second Kids Klub in this particular year was held on the 21st – 24th September. This was to be a Kids Klub with a difference! Paul Barrett brought different animals each day – ducks, chickens, sheep, pig and two goats were also brought in by somebody else. Naturally the children absolutely loved it.
Junior Boys Brigade restarted in October 1999 by Ken Storey with the help of Val Griffiths.
The ‘Alpha Courses’ were becoming very popular in England. These courses were devised by Nicky Gumble, who was the minister at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton. Tim White and Ken Storey were eager to find out more about Alpha, not wanting to be left behind, especially when one was reading about the many blessings that various Churches and groups were receiving. As a result of this enquiry, Alpha groups were formed at Leigh Beck. For a couple of years Alpha was quite popular with not only church members attending but also a few newcomers.
During March 2000 the Church was involved with the ‘Jesus Video Project’ with 5 teams of 3 people involved. One person was delivering leaflets into local houses and the other 2 people were following up with a questionnaire and offering the Jesus Video to those who were interested. This did bring in a few enquirers but was a great time of fellowship with those involved.
Robert Barrett decided to retire from being the Captain of Boys Brigade at the end of the session (July 2000). A reunion of old boys and a buffet was arranged for 30th September – A thank-you for all his years of service. Ken Storey took over as Captain of the Boys Brigade.
Ideas for building up the Church were really flowing during this time, and Mary Storey and Joan Barrett felt the need to form a club for teenage girls. Although not great in number, a special bond was formed between them and the girls, and both Mary and Joan were able to testify of their love for the Lord to these girls.
Another special birthday on October 13th 2000 – Florrie Gregory was 90 years old and a birthday Party was held for her on Saturday 14th October. Amongst her many presents, Pastor Radburn presented Florrie with a bouquet of flowers.
Work Parties were the order of the ‘year’ and under the guidance of Ken Shrimpton, the corner plot was tidied up, trees were trimmed, roses were planted and a BBQ area was built. A new fence was also erected around the corner plot. Ken Shrimpton arranged for the small area between the Youth Hall, the Main Church building and the Kitchen to be converted into a ‘Kitchen Garden’. Donations of plants and shrubs were given by various members of the Fellowship.
New Double glazed windows were installed down both sides of the Main Church building and one of the outside walls cladded with UPVC and the other with plywood and coated with a Sandtex product. This took place during 2000 and beginning of 2001. Most of the money for this work was donated by ‘The Branch Out Vision.
The Deacons and Church Meeting had a vision of major renovations for the Church. This vision was given the title of ‘STEPS OF FAITH’ Each step of the plan was punctuated with various ideas for the renovation such as taking down the main wall in the Parlour to open it out as a coffee lounge/reception area – to building a coffee bar – to installing a new ceiling – to making a new Entrance Porch – to new windows in the Youth Hall and new flooring, new doors to the Sanctuary from the lounge area……the work goes on and on and thanks be given to God, most of this work, now in 2003, has been completed. Linda Powell had the idea of punctuating each step of faith with words from the old hymn ‘I walk by faith, each step by faith and it is certainly by faith that this work has been able to continue. With the aroma of the coffee hitting folk as they come out of the Church, what a wonderful way of inviting them to fellowship with one another before going home for their Sunday Lunch.
After a very busy time with the Church, Rev. Radburn and his family in 2001 moved away to Droitwich Spa, where he took up the Ministry in the local Baptist Church.
Saturday July 14th 2001 set the scene for a wonderful day at the Church. A FUN DAY had been organised and everybody contributed to its success. The Church grounds were packed with people of all ages, enjoying the face painting, throw a sponge at the vicar, BBQ, Splat the Rat and oh so many other fun filled games. This proved a great way to bring us and the neighbourhood together.
2001 also saw the starting up of a new Youth club. This was formed from the girls club. The girls wanting boys to attend the same club asked for the change. After a few months this became a great success and attracted many youngsters from all over the Island. Dave McDowell and Jamie Moss helped out and were really keen to be amongst the teenagers.
Yet another Kids Klub during 2001 – this time the theme was ‘Follow the Leader’ . 37 local children attending over the 4 days. This once again was another way of bringing the church and the neighbourhood together as the parents brought their children backwards and forwards.
At a special Church Meeting on 1st November 2001, it was unanimously agreed to invite Rev John & Helen Vinter to be our Ministers. Both John & Helen accepted this calling and moved in on Friday 1st March 2002. Yet again, sleeves were rolled up and the manse was re-decorated. This time – in a big way: New flooring was laid in the hall way – the lounge and dining room floors were sanded and varnished – bathroom was completely gutted which resulted in making the bathroom into a much bigger room, with a complete new suite. The outside windows and doors re-oiled – new back door was installed – facia boards and guttering were replaced……….The Church, under the guidance of Tim White, really worked hard; in some instances working at the manse until the early hours of the morning. But it was all worthwhile, as Leigh Beck now has a manse to be really proud off.
The Revs. John & Helen Vinter were eager to re-commence a group for parents and toddlers/babies. Pearl Reid had previously held a Mothers & Toddlers Group, but owing to the numbers dwindling, decided to close this particular meeting. The new group was named as TODDLALONG and at this present moment of time is slowly but surely building up.
During the month of June, whilst the whole country were celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, Leigh Beck and St Anne’s Church joined together to hold a Jubilee Party. Exceptional effort was put into this to make it a really grand day, but very disappointingly only 19 children turned up. But – be sure on one thing – those 19 children and all the helpers had a great time!