“We felt that God was calling us to take this step, but we wanted to make sure that it was his will that we should go ahead with it. And it was encouraging to know that so many Christian brethren were remembering us.
“We are very conscious of the fact that the Devil will never be immobile. He will always be doing what he can, and now that the church has come into being we shall have problems.
“Continue to pray for us, that the word of God may have free course here; that everything that is done may be done to His glory; that we may see the blessing of God upon it, saving the lost and edifying, building up, the believers in this neighbourhood, that we may become balanced Christians.”
[From remarks he made at the meeting held on Saturday, October 7th, 1967 , to mark the beginning of the new church]
THE JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING
Rugby Evangelical Free Church began in 1967, but it was no sudden impulse. In fact, like stepping-stones down the years, the providences of God which led to the eventual opening of an evangelical church in Railway Terrace can be traced back 35 years.
Until 1932 the Morgan family farmed near the Welsh village of Caio, just off the Llandovery-Lampeter road. The Morgan parents were believers and godly in character, and could remember the 1904 revival. But the effects of the depression necessitated, for the well-being of the family, a move to the Midlands, and in March, 1932 the whole family arrived to take on a new farm at Newbold.
Four years later, in January 1936, a remarkably fruitful evangelistic mission was conducted at Dunchurch Methodist Church by two former Cliff College students, Bob Smith and Bob Hudspith. Bob Smith, a confectioner before studying at Cliff from September 1933 to June 1934, left to become an evangelist, based in Stoke-on-Trent. His Mission partner, Bob Hudspith, was a draper in Haltwhistle before enrolling at Cliff College from April 1934 to June 1935.
At the Mission, about 20 people, most of them young, were saved, and among them were David Morgan, then aged 15, and David Cox, then 16. Most of these converts became active in Methodism in Rugby, and were concerned for spiritual fellowship and evangelism.
At about this time, evangelical Christians within Methodism started a Saturday evening meeting at Market Place Methodist Church which later became known as the Cliff Fellowship.
Visiting speakers included evangelists such as Roy Hession, Joe Blinco and others from the National Young Life Campaign.
Besides providing spiritual fellowship for young believers in Rugby, the Cliff Fellowship was also the focus for regular evangelistic work in the town. Open air witness was conducted in North Street, Church Street and Market Place, and student teams from Cliff College, known as Cliff Treckers, were often invited to conduct campaigns and missions.
In addition, many of the young men associated with the Fellowship became local preachers in the Rugby Circuit.
Answer to Prayer
It was at that time the constant prayer of Evangelicals within Methodism in Rugby that evangelical ministers might be called to the town. In 1952 their prayers were answered by the arrival in the Rugby Circuit of the Rev Sidney Lawrence to be minister of Cambridge Street Methodist Church. Trained at Handsworth Methodist College in Birmingham, Mr Lawrence had begun his ministry in Pontypool, South Wales, where he stayed five years.
But after seven years in Rugby, Mr Lawrence left the town, and Methodism, becoming in 1959 Pastor of the newly-formed Knighton Evangelical Free Church in Leicester. Knighton was a work planted by Melbourne Hall to serve the growing suburban districts in the southern part of the city.
During the 1950s, David Morgan’s involvements had been with the NYLC, the Cliff Fellowship and Methodist local preaching. By the end of the decade, his links with Methodism were loosening. He had gained an appetite for the expository ministry of men such as Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the Rev Leslie Land, Minister at Melbourne Hall, and a concern for the right means and methods to be used in the presentation of the Gospel.
As the person responsible for arranging an annual Welsh Service in the Rugby area, David Morgan invited Dr Lloyd-Jones to preach at one of these, at Lutterworth. The Doctor accepted, and thus began a link between the two men which continued until the death of the Doctor in 1981.
Fridays at Westminster
As often as they could, David Morgan journeyed to London with his first wife Edna, and frequently with Sid Lawrence or with other friends, to hear the Friday evening Bible Studies given by Dr Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel. It was on one of these visits that he noticed the name of the Rev Leslie Land as the Sunday preacher at the Chapel during the Doctor’s Summer vacation.
By this time farming at Cotesbach, near Lutterworth, David Morgan lived only 17 miles from Leicester, and so on occasional Sundays, with his wife and family, he began to travel to Melbourne Hall to sit under the ministry of Mr Land, an Oxbridge scholar and former headmaster of a public school in East Sussex, Seaford College. Entering the Christian ministry at the age of 41, initially at a Baptist Church in Bognor Regis, Mr Land had taken up his notable work at Melbourne Hall in 1947.
“Such was the blessing we received in consistent ministry under Leslie Land, I distinctly remember sitting there and thinking that we ought to bring such a church to Rugby,” David Morgan said later.
Mr Land’s ministry at Melbourne Hall ended through ill-health in 1961. He moved to Worthing, and continued to preach until more serious illness curtailed his ministry. Eventually he and his wife returned to be cared for at the Melbourne Home, a Christian home for the elderly run by Melbourne Hall. In November 1986, Mr Land received his final homecall there, at the age of 83.
In 1963, two years after Mr Land’s departure from Leicester, David Morgan left Cotesbach to take on the tenancy of a farm at Priors Marston in Warwickshire.
It was too far from there to attend any of the evangelical churches in Leicester, and soon a decisive step was taken in the direction of setting-up a new evangelical church in Rugby. A Thursday evening meeting was started at Cawston Farm.
At first this was a gathering for prayer and fellowship, but among the 15-20 meeting regularly the feeling grew that an evangelical church should begin, and the Lord’s leading was sought.
The issue was not a foregone conclusion, and there were several disappointments along the way. Even when the group was clear in its vision to start a new church, there were considerable frustrations over the search for a suitable building.
THE QUEST FOR A BUILDING
One prominent building which became available in 1965 was the former Methodist Chapel in Railway Terrace, built in 1877 for a Primitive Methodist congregation, founded in 1841, which had outgrown premises at the junction of Russell Street and Queen Street.
When Primitive Methodism reunited with mainstream Methodism in 1932, the chapel at Railway Terrace became part of the Rugby Methodist Circuit. But it was closed in 1965 as “the first step towards re-shaping activities in Rugby,” the congregation joining with the church then at Market Place.
The complexities of the Methodist property structure demanded that any proposal for the sale of the building would need the approval of its Trustees, the Circuit, the District and the National Property Committee in Manchester.
Although they had had approaches, the Rugby Trustees and Circuit steadfastly resisted proposals to turn the chapel into a Social Club, with dancing and a bar. Another possible purchaser, the tyre company next to the chapel, wanted to use the building as a store, but could not get planning permission.
A non-evangelical religious group in the town became interested, but withdrew when it dawned on them they would not be obtaining the building free of charge. –
It was then that interest was shown by the group of evangelicals meeting at Cawston Farm.
The responsibility for the sale of the property had fallen to the Rev Will Harrison, who in 1965 had just arrived in Rugby from Port Essie on the Moray Firth, to become superintendent of the Rugby Methodist Circuit. He was no stranger to Rugby, having been a predecessor of the Rev Sid Lawrence at Cambridge Street from 1947-49, between two periods of missionary service in Africa.
Towards the end of 1966 David Morgan and the Rev Will Harrison met for what the latter described as “a long talk.”
What follows is Mr Harrison’s own summary, given in November, 1983, of how the chapel in Railway Terrace came to be sold to the group of evangelicals.
“Mr Morgan approached me again early in 1967. and asked me if the Trustees would be willing to sell them the church. 1 consulted the Trustees and this set the machinery going.
“From the Trustees it had to go to Circuit, and from there to District, and from there to the National Property Committee in Manchester. The correspondence kept me on the go all the time.
“1 was able to persuade the Trustees that I would much rather sell the property to a company of Christian believers who could continue the witness of the Christian Church in Rugby, even though it meant they separated from the Methodist Church. I was able to persuade them to do so.
“It was accepted and approved, and I can record that there was no ill-feeling on any account. I gave it my blessing and was very pleased about it. It was better to sell the church building to Christians who wished to use it as a church, rather than to someone else who wished to use it as a warehouse or club. I have not had occasion to regret it. It is like giving birth to a child and the child grows up in its own way.”
Even though Mr Harrison could speak sympathetically about the new work, there was nonetheless a time early in 1967 when it had looked almost certain that the building would be sold to a commercial interest after all.
A firm involved with photography offered £5,500 for the premises, and the building seemed as good as sold to them. But the deal was never completed, and after three months, the Methodist Trustees approached David Morgan again, and the building was sold to the evangelical group for a lower figure in August, 1967.
Between August and October, £2,000 was spent on repairs and refurbishment. Decoration and cleaning was undertaken by voluntary labour to make the chapel ready for regular worship and witness activities from October, 1967.
THE EARLY YEARS
Opening meetings were held during the week-end of October 7th and 8th, and the two preachers were the men who had had most influence on the events leading up to the formation of the new church. The Rev Sidney Lawrence preached on the Saturday, and the Rev Leslie Land, by this time living in Worthing, was the preacher at the opening Sunday services. –
During the first six months, visiting preachers included a number of men already well-known in evangelical circles – for instance, the Rev Omri Jenkins and the Rev Hywel Jones.
But the majority of preachers in that period were laymen, the most frequent visitors being Mr John Manton, a modem languages lecturer from Loughborough, and Mr Charles Lawrence, brother of the Rev Sid Lawrence. Mr Charles Lawrence later became the Pastor of Harrold Evangelical Church in Bedfordshire.
The Thursday evening meetings were continued, and the leadership of these was shared between David Morgan, Alan Mutter, David Trotman and Anton Van den Broek. For a while there was also a meeting on Tuesday evening.
Although the premises were fully open for worship, the church was not officially constituted until October 1968. Prior to this, the leadership was in the hands of three Trustees, David Morgan, David Cox and Ted Cox.
Even before the start of regular services, the Trustees had given consideration to the calling of a full-time Pastor, and had held discussions with the Rev Kenneth Howard, who was at the time the Pastor of Bow Baptist Church in London. On 30th July, 1968, most of the friends meeting at Cawston went to Slapton to hear Mr Howard with a view to considering him as Pastor.
The Chapel in Railway Terrace, built in 1877 by Rugby’s Primitive Methodist Congregation at a cost of £1,767.10s, was already 90 years old when bought for Rugby Evangelical Free Church. It was built to replace a chapel at the junction of Queen Street and Russell Street, near the former Co-op store in Chapel Street. The building was almost destroyed on the last Sunday of 1901, when fire broke out in the early hours. An overheated flue started a blaze in the schoolroom and classroom area. An obstinate horse delayed the fire brigade, but two neighbours helped in the fire-fighting, and although the schoolroom was badly damaged, the fire did not reach the chapel.
Later, Mr Howard preached at Railway Terrace on the evenings of Sunday and Monday, October 22nd and 23rd, and again at the two Sunday services on December 17th. He was eventually given a unanimous call to be the first Pastor of the new church.
Mr Howard accepted the call and took up his duties from April 1st, 1968. After a Welcome Prayer Meeting on Thursday, April 4th, he began his ministry on Sunday, April 7th.
A Manse was rented at 225 Clifton Road, a property owned by a member of the church, for Mr Howard and his wife Margaret. One of the first decisions of the congregation was to open a Special Fund for the purchase of a Manse.
Between April and October, 1968, much time was spent by the Pastor and the Trustees formulating the Church Covenant, a provisional draft Constitution, and the main provisions of the Trust Deed. Initially, the Church Statement of Faith was proposed to be the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in its entirety.
The church was formally constituted at a Covenant Service on Thursday, October 3rd, 1968, when 37 members publicly signed the Church Covenant. Three more members who could not be present on October 3rd signed the Covenant, and became members, in November. Of these 40 original members, seven – Jennie Cox, Sylvia Everett, Karl and Audrey Faulkner, Ray and Eileen Walker, and Arthur Willis – were still in membership at the time of the 25th anniversary in September 1992.
A draft Constitution had been presented to a Church Meeting on October 8th, but until it could be discussed and agreed, David Morgan, David Cox, Dr Alan Mutter, Anton Van den Broek and Arthur Willis were appointed interim elders in November, 1968.
(David Trotman was added to this list early in 1969).
A few weeks later, Ted Cox, Karl Faulkner, and Harold Harris were appointed interim deacons, along with David Morgan (Church Secretary) and Arthur Willis (Church Treasurer).
In March, 1969, a Women’s Prayer Meeting was commenced, which usually followed a session of church cleaning, and in April the Sunday School began, with Anton Van den Broek as its superintendent. In February 1970 a Wednesday evening youth meeting was started for children aged eight to 12, led by Peter Everett. A monthly Ladies Circle commenced in September 1970, which Mrs Howard led. The Evangelical Library branch was opened early in 1971 with 809 books.
Mr Howard was an able Bible teacher and expositor, and, aware that the founding members came from a range of backgrounds, desired to bring a common understanding to all, by biblical exposition, as the foundation for all church life and witness.
However, Mr Howard’s ministry at Railway Terrace came to an end in December, 1971, and he subsequently took up a Pastorate in Kent, before retiring to Norfolk. He was called home suddenly on August 1st, 1992.
THE CALL OF A NEW PASTOR
In the first half of 1972, the membership dropped to below the 40 with which the church had begun.
At about this time, a 34-year-old Pastor was resigning as Pastor of a Congregational Church in Cwmbran, owing to the insistence of local Trustees that he should uphold the provisions of the Trust Deed in favour of the practice of Infant Baptism. He was on the verge of leaving the ministry, and had obtained an educational place in Birmingham from September of that year to study for a career in a branch of social work.
Hearing of his circumstances, the Elders at Railway Terrace invited him to preach at the church on June 18th, 1972.
On the following Sunday, two elders from Rugby, David Morgan and Ray Walker, visited Cwmbran to hear him preach in the morning the 32nd in a series of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount, on the subject of “False Teachers.” ,In the evening he preached on “The Mercy of God” from Ephesians 2:4. Said one. “We were captivated by the richness of God’s mercy towards us.”
Mr Jeffery came to Rugby twice more on Thursday, June 29th and Friday, July 7th, before the church members gathered for a Special Church Meeting on Saturday, July 15th, and decided to call Mr Jeffery as Pastor.
He was strongly recommended by the Rev Derek Swann, a former Pastor of the church at Cwmbran, and by Dr Lloyd-Jones.
Accepting the call, Pastor Jeffery cancelled his place at Birmingham, and he and his wife Lorna moved to Rugby to
begin a 14-year ministry.
For the first three months they lodged with David and Jennie Cox at Station Farm while the Clifton Road Manse was renovated, following the church’s decision in June to buy the property on mortgage. Once settled in the Manse, the family remained there until 1977, when the house was sold and a new Manse purchased in Haswell Close.
At the first Church Meeting chaired by Mr Jeffery, in October 1972, members approved the first five sections of the Constitution, accepted nine membership applications, appointed two new Trustees – Ray Walker and Peter Everett – and concluded with a time of prayer.
The remainder of the Constitution was approved in January 1973, and a month later, more than five years after the work began, the church appointed its first full Elders and Deacons. David Cox, David Morgan, Peter Everett and Ray Walker were appointed Elders, and Ted Cox, Eddie Cotton, Les Whybrow and Michael Chester were elected Deacons. A service of recognition took place on March 4th.
GROWTH AND EVANGELISM
From then on the church began to grow quite rapidly. Within two years of Pastor Jeffery’s arrival, membership of the church had risen from 42 to 76, along with an increasing concern for evangelism, both within the church through the preaching ministry, and by taking the Gospel message into the town.
From this time, the church’s evangelism developed in a number of different ways.
In a programme of door-to-door visitation in 1973, 32 Christians visited 750 homes. Most years since then, some door-to-door work has taken place in different areas of Rugby. In more recent years this has concentrated on the streets nearest to Railway Terrace.
Work among the senior citizens began with a Senior Citizens Carol Service in December, 1973. This was attended by 120 people, 55 of whom responded to a free offer of large print New Testaments.
In view of the good response to the carol service, a regular monthly Saturday afternoon meeting for senior citizens was commenced in March 1974, and was still continuing in 1992. The first few of these were attended by an average of 75 elderly folk.
The Senior Citizens Holiday Week, another event still in the church calendar in 1992, began in 1975, more than 30 making the journey to Bryntirion in September. It was commented about that first week’s holiday that “some thought that they were Christians before the holiday, but afterwards were not so sure.”
In 1982, the work among the many senior citizens linked with the church was
strengthened by the appointment of Gordon Shaw as the church’s pastoral worker.
Gordon took on the organisation of the senior citizens’ monthly meeting and holiday, and an extensive visitation of the elderly.
He was appointed to relieve Pastor Jeffery of some of his pastoral work, and to extend the scope of the church’s ministry and contacts.
Since 1973 many hundreds of elderly folk have come within the scope of the church’s witness among senior citizens, and some of these have been saved by the Lord’s grace.
The first open air witness took place among Christmas shoppers on Saturday, December 20th, 1975. From 1976, open air witness took place occasionally in the market area of the town centre.
The venue most frequently used was at the bottom of Castle Street, outside Rugby Borough Council’s old Planning Department offices, now demolished.
With the completion of the town centre covered shopping precinct, this venue was no longer the focus of town centre shopping, and in 1982 the occasional open air witness ceased.
Open Air Witness
However it was immediately replaced by a more regular preaching witness which began in November 1982 in the now-pedestrianised Market Place.
This new witness started on the initiative of John Borrajo, a vet who came to Rugby in 1980 to join a veterinary practice. John led the witness until he went to Bible College in September, 1985. He was succeeded by Trevor Thomas, and when Trevor went to Bible College in September, 1988, Mike Iliff took over as leader.
The children’s work which had begun in 1969 developed into a considerable evangelistic work among the families of the Brownsover and Overslade estates. To support this work, the church purchased its first minibus in October, 1974. It was used to bring the children to Sunday School and to the weeknight Bible Clubs started in the 1970s.
As with the Senior Citizens, hundreds of children have been through Sunday School and Bible Clubs over the last 23 years. Some of them have been barely controllable, but all have heard something of the Gospel message and of the truths of the Bible, and have learnt memory verses.
In recent years several of these, some now grown up with
families of their own, have been encountered again during the door-to-door witness.
Also in 1974, a Saturday night YPF was started once a month, and a Summer young people’s holiday week was begun at Bryntirion in 1980. This later was broadened in scope to become a Church Holiday Week, and was held every year between 1980 and 1992.
Parallel with all the regular outreach activities, the preaching ministry on Sunday evenings at Railway Terrace had a constant evangelistic emphasis, and members and other Christians attending the church were encouraged to bring their non-Christian friends and contacts.
From time to time special preaching week-ends were arranged, with meetings on Saturday and Monday evenings, and an evangelistic emphasis at both services on Sunday. Visiting preachers were invited for these meetings, and for a few years the Church Anniversary in October became a regular evangelistic opportunity.
On other occasions a special series of preaching meetings was arranged in the Summer.
In successive years in the 1980s, the church produced two testimony booklets and four newspaper-format evangelistic broadsheets – all six of these publications were entitled The Faith for Rugby – and distributed them to nearly 15,000 homes in the town. Often the distribution of the literature led up to a special preaching week-end.
The most fruitful period of Pastor Jeffery’s ministry followed his return from the Bala Ministers’ Conference in June, 1979. In July,
he shared with the church on a Thursday evening his burden that the church was lifeless and that few were being converted, because there were few unconverted people at the services. He urged upon the church the message of Isaiah 62:6-7: “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest …”
In response to this challenge, a letter was sent out to every member by the Elders and Deacons, and the prayer meetings were stirred to a spirit of prayer for the lost.
Within a very short time, people started arriving at Railway Terrace through all kinds of circumstances and from every sort of background, and over the next 15 months God graciously gave to the church the encouragement of many conversions.
Baptistry and Baptisms
The provision of a baptistry had been an item at Church Meetings since June 1969, and eventually plans were drawn up and the baptistry constructed, at a cost of £1,000, early in 1975. It was first used on March 23rd, 1975, when eight baptisms took place.
Prior to this, baptismal services were held at Knighton Evangelical Free Church, in Leicester, a total of 18 candidates from Railway Terrace having been baptised there at three services.
Throughout the 25 years, many baptisms have taken place within the fellowship of the church, and many of the candidates subsequently became, or were already, members of the church. A number of those baptised have sadly backslidden over the years, and in a few cases there was a lack of discernment regarding their testimony. However, the vast majority are still going on with the Lord.
As well as a number of converts from a period of fruitful preaching and evangelism, those baptised in 1980 included seven Chinese students from Hong Kong, most of whom studied at the East Warwickshire College. A total of 15 Hong Kong Chinese students were baptised at Railway Terrace between 1978 and 1983.
No new students from Hong Kong came to Rugby after 1983, when the Government withdrew subsidised education for overseas students, and few could afford the full fees.
SOME CHRISTIAN “CHARACTERS”
Among the 279 members who have been part of the church’s first 25 years, there have been many whose conversions were illustrations of God’s providence, as well as of his special grace.
Much could be written about every life, and there would still be more as yet unrevealed. We have chosen the lives of three, all of them now with the Lord, as examples of the Lord’s gracious dealings with those upon whom he set his love.
Paul Readwin was admitted to hospital at the age of eight with a brain tumour which left him partially paralysed. His subsequent years were marked by many further periods in hospital, sometimes for many months at a time.
Until he became too unwell to work, Paul, a single man living with his parents in Butlin Road, worked as a porter at St Luke’s Hospital in Rugby, where he met a Christian colleague who was a maintenance engineer. Paul commented about this: “I was critical towards him because every time I went for my lunch he was reading the Bible.”
But the engineer’s witness was not in vain. Among the Bible verses he read to Paul was John 3:18, and Paul heard this verse again when at his colleague’s suggestion he tuned in to Trans-World Radio. The speaker on TWR told him that he would not find fellowship merely by tuning in to the radio. This led to his asking his colleague to take him to Railway Terrace, where he had seen a good number of people leaving the church after services.
At the church he heard the Gospel, and realised that he was a sinner, and that sins could be forgiven by the death of Jesus at Calvary. Paul believed that Gospel, and was baptised in June 1980.
He became a member of the church in that same year, but his illness overtook him again, and he went to be with the Lord in May, 1984, at the age of 36.
From the age of eight, Paul’s infirmities had affected his sight and his ability to walk, but as a believer he had these disadvantages in perspective: “I know I have disabilities, but if you have got the Lord, you have got everything.
“If you have worldly possessions or health in this world, what are they? Isn’t it better by far to have true health in eternity, and I know I have that,” he added.
Elsie Smith, in contrast to Paul Readwin, was one of the church’s oldest members when she died at Wellsborough Pilgrim Home, at the age of 95, in December 1991.
Her earlier life had been full of adventure. In the First World War she had joined the WAAC in 1914, and served at Pont-deLerche near Rouen. In that War, her father and a brother were killed in action.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Elsie was in Gibraltar with her first husband, a staff sergeant in the REME, and shortly afterwards had to embark on a hazardous night journey in a rowing boat from Gibraltar to Cape Finisterre when the Rock was evacuated. Later she was twice widowed.
Everywhere she went, Elsie had been a church-goer, but it meant nothing to her, except to confirm her in the belief that as far as God was concerned, she was “all right.”
But at 80 years of age, Elsie Smith, then living in Newbold, Rugby, realised that all her decades of church-going, and her home-made “righteousness” had not saved her.
“I had got the feeling that life was not all roses, and that there was nothing to live for and that I had got no future. I was alone. A neighbour invited me to Railway Terrace, and I continued to go.
“I was impressed by the preacher. In July, 1976, in my own home, I remember a moment when everything suddenly seemed to go quiet, and I was conscious of my sin and then of the peace of conversion,” Elsie said.
Elsie was baptised at Railway Terrace, at the age of 80, in November 1976, and became a member of the church in February, 1977. In 1981 she said: “I look to the future day by day. One day I shall die and be with Him. At present I admit I do not know much about what that life will be. But it will be glory.”
In 1981 Elsie Smith moved from her home in Newbold to live at the Pilgrim Home at Wellsborough, but she returned as often as possible to join in the worship of God, and to enjoy the hospitality of her friends and fellow-Christians at Railway Terrace.
Confined to Wellsborough in more recent years through failing health, she looked forward to the visits of friends from Railway Terrace, and to the annual visit of friends from the church for the Annual Carol Service.
On Tuesday, December 10th, 1991, a group from the church gathered at Wellsborough for that Carol Service, and sang a carol in Elsie Smith’s room. Over the next few days, her health gradually faded, and she went to be with the Lord on December 23rd. She was buried at Whinfield Cemetery on New Year’s Eve.
Ailsa Meyer was one of the founder members of the church at Railway Terrace when membership was constituted in 1968. She had previously attended the Elim Church, and lived at 10 Railway Terrace, a home she shared with a friend, Miss Renee Lamin. Since the deaths of these two ladies, the house has been taken over for shop premises.
Ailsa was one whose ministry was behind the scenes, and to this day it is not known exactly how much she accomplished in the interests of the church. Some of the tasks were mundane and regular – for example, arranging rooms for meetings, providing the church flowers, and preparing the Lord’s Table.
As early as January 1974, it was being recognised that Ailsa’s contribution was significant. There is a special word of appreciation to her in the Minutes of the Church Meeting in recognition of “the 1001 things that she continually does for the Lord in our church.”
Ailsa continued to do all those things for the next 13 years, but her main ministry was probably not in those tasks at all. She was constantly to be seen in the centre of Rugby, either pushing or riding her bicycle.
Most often she would be on foot, holding her bicycle upright, talking to one or another of the, seemingly endless numbers of people she knew in Rugby. She was a prolific visitor, calling especially on her many contacts living in or near the town centre.
An avid reader, Ailsa had read the works of John Flavell and numerous other Puritan volumes. Her one fixed point every day was the time she spent with the Lord. Everything stopped for that. She was also an ever-present at the Saturday morning prayer meeting.
When she first went into hospital for surgery, her condition had not seemed too serious, but she remained in hospital, and her health failed to improve. Ailsa went home to be with the Lord on 30th November, 1986, at the age of 71. Her passing left a great gap in the church.
A WIDER MINISTRY
After Pastor Jeffery had been Pastor at Railway Terrace for four years, the influence of his ministry began to extend beyond Rugby, in two particular ways.
In 1976, the first of a number of books, especially aimed at young people, was published by the Evangelical Press of Wales.
It was called All Things New and explained the meaning of salvation, the responsibilities and personal spiritual growth of believers, spiritual warfare and the importance of preaching, witness and the local church.
This book had a wide circulation, and was followed by other titles, Walk Worthy, Seeking God, Stand Firm, and Firm Foundations. Walk Worthy is a handbook for Christian growth providing biblical guidance for the practical Christian life.
More recently further titles such as Our Present Sufferings, The Young Spurgeon. The Christian Handbook, I’ll Never Become a Christian. Stepping-Stones and Windows of Truth have been produced by various publishers.
From the mid-1970s, there was a steady expansion of Pastor Jeffery’s preaching ministry into other parts of the UK. These included mid-week preaching visits at evangelistic missions in other churches, and at regional preaching rallies.
On a number of occasions he preached at the Evangelical Movement of Wales Conference at Aberystwyth.
In 1981, he was invited to undertake an extended preaching visit to Australia – his first preaching commitments overseas. This two-month visit was based at a small church at Tullamarine, a district 10 miles north of Melbourne, but also included some ministry in Sydney.
In May, 1983, Pastor Jeffery visited Ciudad Real in Spain to preach at a series of meetings, and early in 1986 he again went to Australia, from February to April, giving ministry in Sydney, Tamworth, Inverell, Newcastle and Melbourne.
Prior to Mission England in the UK in 1984, Pastor Jeffery gave a Bible Study at Railway Terrace entitled Co-operation in Evangelism. In this study he examined New Testament teaching on the criteria for evangelistic cooperation from six passages in the epistles.
As was the case with a number of his sermon series, this Bible Study was reproduced in print by the church. A cassette was also made available. The impact of these simple tools was widespread. Many printed copies and cassettes were requested, and as a result a number of churches withdrew from involvement in the forthcoming crusade.
Towards the end of the 1970s, as an extension of its evangelistic work, the church was concerned to encourage young men within the church who might have a call to the ministry. From November 1977, useful preaching experience was regularly available, as the church was responsible for the supply of preachers at the two Sunday services at Hillmorton Mission.
In 1979, a young Welshman from Haverfordwest, Roger Coole, who was a student at the London Theological Seminary, accepted the church’s invitation to spend his summer vacation in Rugby assisting Pastor Jeffery. This was a successful arrangement, and it fueled a desire to appoint a full-time Assistant Pastor at Rugby.
This desire was fulfilled in November of the following year when Clive Goulden, an engineer who had completed the four-year external theological course run by the Evangelical Theological College of Wales, was appointed Assistant Pastor.
In addition to encouraging preachers and potential pastors, the church believed that it would be right to be involved in planting new churches, should the opportunity arise.
At first the church wondered whether the Hillmorton link would develop into a newly-planted evangelical church, but this turned out not to be the case. In October 1979, because of complicated legal and practical problems, the decision was taken to withdraw from involvement.
Interest in Long Buckby
In the Spring of 1980, a number of Christians living in Long Buckby began to attend services at Railway Terrace. Within a very short time consideration was being given to the question of whether God was leading the church to plant a new work in Long Buckby.
Three months after the first of the Long Buckby families had started to worship at Railway Terrace, the Long Buckby group sent to the Elders at Rugby what became known as the “Macedonian Letter,” asking the Rugby church to help to establish an evangelical church in Long Buckby.
The church responded with enthusiasm, and after several more months of discussion and preparation, the church-planting project was approved, and a 15-year lease taken on a disused shoe factory building.
Even before he was appointed Assistant Pastor at Rugby, Clive Goulden had led a series of midweek Bible Studies held in Long Buckby. This link grew stronger, and from the time of the opening services at Long Buckby at Easter, 1981, Clive devoted most of his working time to the church at Long Buckby, though he also remained the Assistant Pastor at Railway Terrace.
Not long after the work began, a number of problems arose which were later traced to decisions made in Rugby. The work continued until April, 1990, when all meetings finally ceased, and the building was surrendered to the landlord.
A new work at Leamington
Later, some of the lessons learned at Long Buckby were helpful in the period leading up to the formation of Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Leamington Spa.
Interest in the Leamington area was not new. For some years the congregation at Rugby had included families living in or near Leamington Spa. In 1977, the church at Railway Terrace had participated in door-to-door witness at Radford Semele, a village on the eastern edge of Leamington, in the desire to build up a small work of which David Arnold was then the lay pastor.
The first tangible step towards a new evangelical church in Leamington Spa was made in the Autumn of 1982, when three men from Railway Terrace, all of them with connections in or near the town, met together to pray about the possibility of a new work beginning. This grew in the New Year to a regular fortnightly Bible Study and Prayer Meeting.
In April, 1983, a series of weekly Friday evening public preaching meetings was commenced at the Spa centre, a prominent civic building in the town centre, under the title of Leamington Bible Witness. Pastor Jeffery preached at many of these, attendances varying from 25 to 60.
By the end of the year, the Leamington Spa believers were not yet convinced that it was time to start a church, and so in January, 1984, home meetings were resumed, with Bible studies in the book of Acts. For three months, the group shared some precious times of fellowship, and then on one Wednesday in April they felt a particular expectation, without knowing why.
Shortly afterwards the redundant St Mark’s Church Hall in Heath Terrace was put up for sale. The group met again to pray and to consider the possible purchase of the building, and felt it important to find out how much money they could raise among themselves.
They were surprised to discover that in gifts and interest-free loans they had enough money to buy the building. They also had the sympathy of St Mark’s Church, who preferred to sell the hall for use as a church, rather than to a builder for new housing.
Following these developments, fourteen believers from Leamington Spa sent a letter to Railway Terrace in May, 1984, indicating their conviction that now was the time to proceed towards the start of a church, and asking for prayer.
It took until February, 1985, for the sale to be completed, but on March 23rd, 1985, the Rev Peter Jeffery preached at the Saturday evening launch meeting.
On the following day, the first Sunday services were held of Emmanuel Evangelical Church, and in February, 1986 it was formally constituted as an independent church.
Two months later, the Rev Selwyn Morgan, who had accepted a call to Leamington Spa after 18 years at Carey Baptist Church, Reading, was inducted as the church’s first Pastor.
In August, 1990, Mr Morgan left the Midlands to take up a pastorate at Barry, in South Wales, and the church called a former industrial chemist, Bill James, from Darlington, as its new Pastor, the induction taking place in December, 1991.
On Wednesday, September 26th, 1984, a Covenant Service held at Banbury School brought the new Banbury Evangelical Free Church into being.
For a number of years prior to that, two couples from Banbury had regularly made the 50-mile round trip to Rugby to attend Sunday worship at Railway Terrace.
With a third couple, they prayed and prepared for the formation of a new church, and the Rev Peter Jeffery preached at the Covenant Service. The church grew, and four years later the church inducted the Rev Tony Seager as its first Pastor.
There had been a missionary interest in the church at Railway Terrace from the beginning. Early in the life of the church, Mrs Jennie Cox had been appointed Missionary Secretary, and during the ministry of the Rev Kenneth Howard, there had been a few missionary meetings each year.
Later, the church agreed to give two-and-a-half per cent of its income towards various missionary causes, decided annually. This was increased to five per cent in 1973.
The first overseas work to be the subject of a meeting was the European Missionary Fellowship, two of whose missionaries had addressed a Thursday evening meeting in April, 1969.
A number of missionary meetings linked with the work of EMF had been held since, and the church had sent gifts from time to time to support this work. But there had been no personal involvement or commitment to particular missionaries.
Church-Planting in Ciudad Real
By the early 1970s, however, a deeper interest in EMF developed, and by 1974 twenty-six friends in the church had collecting boxes, and a map of Europe was purchased for the schoolroom. But a desire for closer involvement with a specific missionary situation led to the church’s approaching EMF to ask if it could “adopt” a missionary family, and be involved in their financial and prayer support.
This was welcomed by EMF, and Paco and Esther Farrugia, who were due to begin a church-planting work at Ciudad Real in Central Spain in January, 1975, were introduced to the church at Railway Terrace, spending a fortnight in Rugby at the end of their training at Welwyn.
From November 3rd, 1974, the offerings on every tenth Sunday were given to EMF for the work of Paco and Esther, and this continued until Paco resigned his pastorate in the Spring of 1988, and was replaced by the Rev Andrew Birch.
While this arrangement worked extremely well, and both churches benefited, some in the church at Railway. Terrace were praying that God would raise up from within the fellowship at Rugby those whom he would call to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as missionaries.
This prayer was answered when Ian and Brenda Darke and their two children, Catherine and Christopher, were valedicted in September, 1985, to work in Peru under the auspices of EUSA, primarily to work among students.
Ian and Brenda had joined the church at Railway Terrace in February, 1976, and their gifts and experience were ideally suited to the work they were about to begin. Both were trained teachers, Ian having lectured in maths education at a London college, and Brenda having taught at the Brooke Special School in Rugby.
Regular Summer Missions
In September 1980, Ian gave up lecturing and commuting in order to work full-time as a UCCF Travelling Secretary among students in Midland Universities.
For the next four years he encouraged hundreds of Christian students and CUs in their campus evangelism, and led teams on special outreach projects, including regular summer missions among overseas students in Oxford.
After a year’s training at All Nations Christian College, near Hertford, Ian and Brenda set off with Catherine and Christopher in October, 1985, for life in Lima, a city even then becoming more dangerous by the month.
The work there has involved Ian in travels across Peru for student conferences, and in increasing responsibility first for the management of the El Inca bookshop, a well-established distribution centre for Christian books and literature to the whole of Latin America, and then for the wider development of Christian publishing in Peru.
For a while he lectured in the University of San Marcos in Lima, and more recently he became a member of the International Council of Latin Link, the name given in 1991 to the amalgamation of the South American work formerly carried out by EUSA and the Regions Beyond Missionary Union.
In addition to church involvements and the demands of family and hospitality, Brenda has organised the teaching programme for a Children’s Club held in one of Lima’s shanty towns.
By 1991 the terror campaign of Sendero Luminoso had reached the streets of Lima, and Brenda was prevented from travelling to the shanty town in the evening, but she continued to plan and prepare materials, and train the Peruvian leaders of the Club activities.
Ian and Brenda returned to Lima for a second term of service after a six-month furlough from December 1989 to July 1990.
The Road to Cuenca
Trevor Thomas worked as a carpenter for a building firm, and spent his evenings at pubs, clubs and discos. He was surprised, but not greatly impressed, when his father David Thomas started to travel the eight miles from Weston under Wetherley to Rugby every Sunday to listen to a preacher.
But his father’s subsequent conversion gradually affected all the members of the family, and Trevor was the first to be challenged by it. He too started attending services at Railway Terrace, and was saved, by God’s grace, through the message he heard.
Trevor was baptised, on the same evening as his father, in October 1980, and becoming a member of the church in May, 1982, quickly immersed himself in its evangelistic and young people’s activities.
In May, 1983, with Mike Iliff, Trevor accompanied Pastor Jeffery on a preaching visit to Ciudad Real in Spain. He went for a break, and for something a bit different to do, and there he met Manuela. A friendship developed which led to their marriage in August, 1986.
Manuela became a member at Railway Terrace in May, 1987, and both of them were committed to the church’s evangelism, Trevor leading the Open Air Witness from 1985 to 1988.
Gradually, their general missionary and evangelistic interest crystallised into a concern for the spiritual needs of Spain’s 700 towns with no evangelical witness.
Commended by the church, they embarked in September 1988 on a two-year theological course at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales at Bridgend, and this was followed in 1990-91 by a short missionary training course with EMF at Welwyn.
In May, 1991, the – church confirmed Trevor and Manuela’s call to serve God in Spain, and in July, with baby David, and with the help of Gary Woodward and Mike Iliff, they travelled 7, overland by minibus to join Luis and Pilar Cano and Jean Pleasence, in a pioneer EMF church-planting work at Cuenca, in the La Mancha region of Central Spain.
Entrenched in superstition
The EMF work at Cuenca, a town of 45,000 people deeply entrenched in Roman Catholic tradition and superstition, had been begun by Luis and Pilar in March, 1986.
Now, for the second time in eight years, Mike Riff was travelling with Trevor Thomas to Spain. Back in 1983, the circumstances of the 1991 journey would have seemed astonishing and unbelievable. But the providence of God had brought it unerringly about.
A CALL TO SANDFIELDS
Although they were years of many new developments, the early 1980s were also years of change.
With sadness the church had been parted from its founders. David Morgan, who had handed over the role of Church Secretary to Peter Everett in 1978, was called home after a long illness in February, 1983, and Ted Cox passed away suddenly in March, 1984.
The other original trustee, David Cox, was unwell for some years before he received his homecall in September, 1988.
In 1984 and 1985 Pastor Jeffery had several stays in hospital to be treated for a variety of complaints. These experiences were disrupting and unsettling, but, cutting back his preaching engagements elsewhere, Pastor Jeffery continued to shoulder the burden of the ministry in Rugby.
Praying about the Future
This difficult period culminated in a mild heart attack which occurred at the Evangelical Movement of Wales Conference in Aberystwyth in August, 1985, necessitating a 10-week rest from the ministry and work at Railway Terrace.
Once again, the future was uncertain, at one time a question-mark existing over whether he would be fit enough to begin his Australia visit in February, 1986.
Pastor Jeffery had spent the time of enforced rest praying about his own future ministry, and when an invitation came for him to consider a call to the vacant pastorate at Bethlehem Evangelical Church, Sandfields, not far from the seafront at Aberavon, he took it seriously.
He visited the church at Aberavon on two occasions prior to the Australia trip, and it was while he was in Australia that he made his final decision, returning to inform the church at Railway Terrace, on a Sunday morning in April, that he was accepting the call to Aberavon, and to the church where Dr Marlyn Lloyd Jones had begun his ministry in 1927.
His 14-year ministry at Railway Terrace came to an end on the last Sunday in August, 1986, and the induction took place at Sandfields on Saturday, September 6th, when the preachers were the Rev Hywel Jones and the Rev Neville Rees.
During the 14 years, a considerable number of people had been brought to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through hearing the Gospel preached. There had been disappointments, sorrows and some regrets, but there had been no doubting the reality of the work of grace which had taken place in many lives.
A NEW CHAPTER
The church was exactly three years without a Pastor, during which a wide range of preachers, including Pastors from other churches, retired Pastors, itinerant preachers, students and laymen, were invited to give ministry at Railway Terrace.
It is a matter for gratitude to God that between Pastor Jeffery’s departure in September 1986, and the decision in June 1989 to appoint his successor, members at Railway Terrace remained loyal to the fellowship. Only two families left during this period, work having taken them to other parts of the country.
Early in 1989, the Rev John Grindell, of Bethel Evangelical Church, Coventry, came to Railway Terrace to give a well-attended series of Bible studies on Thursday evenings,
As a result of this, Pastor Grindell, who had been at Bethel for 13 years after beginning his ministry on a housing estate in Hull, was invited to meet the Elders, and in April the church was informed that he would be coming to preach with a view.
After that preaching visit, and a question-and-answer session with the members a few days later, the church at Railway Terrace took the decision at a Special Church Meeting on Saturday, June 10th, to issue a call to Pastor Grindell, which he accepted.
The induction took place on Saturday, September 16th, at which the preacher was the Rev Mike Stringer from Oadby, Leicester. Tea was served at the Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School in Clifton Road, and at the evening meeting, the Rev David Norman Jones from Camberwell preached on Revelation 21. Pastor Grindell began his ministry the following day, having moved to Rugby with his wife Fran and daughter Anna to live in the Manse in Haswell Close.
In the first three years of Pastor Grindell’s ministry, a number of newcomers, including several elderly friends and young adults, have become regulars at the Sunday services. Many of the longstanding activities of the church have continued, and several new ventures introduced, including a Discipleship Foundation Course, a Leadership Training Course, the first Children’s Camp in the Summer of 1992, and a new Children’s Bible Club on Wednesday evenings.
What has been written in this booklet is not a testimony to our adequacy as a church, but to the goodness and faithfulness of God. Anything that has been of lasting worth has been his work alone, and he alone can measure its value.
But as a church we may praise God that the basis on which the church was founded – the preaching of the Gospel of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, the authority of God’s word, and our dependence upon his grace and providence – has been preserved.
In that same dependence upon our Sovereign Lord, and submission to his word, we shall persist, by the grace of God, in declaring God’s unerring message to the people of Rugby, and “praise him for all that is past, and trust him for all that’s to come.”
“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Saviour, and
my hope is in you all day long.”
Psalm 25: 4-5