Lancing Tabernacle has had a wonderful weekend, celebrating the church’s 90th anniversary.
An exhibition, telling the story of the church, went on display on Saturday morning, then on Sunday, John Stevens, the director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches visited to speak at the morning service. The weekend was rounded off with a lovely tea party.
The church, in North Road, Lancing, is flourishing, having been started by Miss Louise Wilson, an Irish woman who had come to live in the village with her mother. She opened up part of her home, in Brighton Road, as a centre for Christian fellowship and gospel preaching.
Miss Wilson had to move to Hove due to ill health but she placed a substantial sum of money under the trusteeship of Worthing Tabernacle and on March 2, 1927, the first Lancing Tabernacle was officially opened.
Haydn Tout, who put together the exhibition, said: “They used to meet in Miss Wilson’s kitchen. Mr H.H. Hall and his wife lived upstairs and later he became the first pastor at the first wooden chapel, in North Road, close to the railway station.
“Worthing Tabernacle was crucial in its development. They looked after the church and arranged for Mr W.F. Willis to be the superintendent in charge when Pastor Hall resigned in 1931.”
Mr Tout, a deacon and part of the treasury team, has been going to the church since he was six weeks old.
He said the current church was built on farmland in 1937, after they decided the chapel was too small.
“They moved the wooden church bit by bit, on horse and cart, to Fittleworth,” he added.
In 1936, the Rev H.C. Wilkins, who had been working with Brighton and Hove Town Mission, was asked to be the pastor and he was there through the war to 1946.
The Rev Eric Dainton came from a church in South Wales in 1947 and stayed until 1954.
Mr Tout said: “At that time, everything went on with the building of the hall for our Sunday school.”
Work on the hall began in June 1954 and the first event was held there in 1955. It was opened as a youth hall, mainly for Sunday School and youth work, and has since been extended.
The Rev Claud Trigger, Mr Tout’s father-in-law, came to the church from Barking in Essex in 1955 and with his arrival, more and more things started to happen.
“There was a men’s group, wives’ group and a male voice choir started,” said Mr Tout.
Mr Trigger left in 1966 and the Rev Rowland Fidge came in 1968, also from South Wales. The church work with young people was extended, including starting Christian uniformed youth organisations.
Mr Fidge left in 1980 and in 1982, the Rev Max Donald came from Tooting with his wife, Ruth.
Mr Tout said: “Music was a big part of the church at that time, as they were very musical. We suddenly found we had people who could play instruments we got a band together.
“The pipe organ purchased in 1939 was getting expensive to maintain so it was removed.
“The church flourished to such an extent that we actually experimented with two Sunday morning services. That didn’t go on for long but it was quite successful at the time.”
Mr Donald left about 1995 and the current pastor, John Woods, came in September 1977.
Mr Tout said: “The church continues to flourish and it is interesting that John will soon celebrate 20 years here as most of the pastors have stayed about 12 years.”
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