Pentecost – 1988

 1 June 2021 |

Last month we celebrated Pentecost, the birth of the church, so I thought it would be interesting to reflect on Pentecost, 33 years ago when the 2 churches of Christ Church URC, Chapel Road and St. Paul’s URC, Shaw’s Corner joined together to form Redhill URC at Shaw’s Corner at the inaugural Service on 22nd May 1988 under the Ministry of Revd. Kenneth Lynch with the address being given by the Revd Cyril Franks, the retiring Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church.

As the following items, referring to the Service, were found when clearing the house of Mary’s late father and mother – Derek and Betty Ford. So I hope these items and the relevant articles below will bring back happy memories for those of us that were there on the day.

The occasion was marked by the publication of a special edition of the Surrey Mirror on the 26th May 1988, whose front and back pages were given over to the Service with the headline ‘CHURCHES UNITED IN REDHILL’. The front page reporting the article mentioned below written by Bob Mclean and the back page gave brief histories of the formation of the 2 churches – St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in 1900 and Christ Church Congregational Church in 1862.

The inaugural edition of Redhill URC ‘News’ in June 1988 included an article written by St. Paul’s Church Secretary, R D ‘Bob’ Mclean, headed ‘No small venture’. The following are extracts from the article. Bob began by saying “There could be no better way than Pentecost for the inaugural service of Redhill URC. The service was an opening to the Spirit; the same Spirit which rushed like a wind on the birth of the Christian Church itself….The genesis of the United Reformed Church as well as of the new Redhill church was symbolised by those who led the service. The Revd Cyril Franks comes from the Congregational element of the URC, while the Revd Kenneth Lynch is from the Presbyterian tradition.

“There were also immediate reminders of the wider church when Mrs Pam Pavitt, the incoming chairman of the District Council brought greetings and the Rev Dr Kao, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan gave his greeting in the name of a church that has long associations with Christians in this country….The lessons in the Service were read by senior Elders, Mr Flight ex St.Paul’s and Mr Finlayson ex Christ Church. The reading from the first book of Kings was the account of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple, looking forward to the progress which would have to be made and asking God to hear and to forgive. (The second lesson) From Paul’s letter to the tiny, struggling, persecuted church in Ephesus in what must have seemed at times an untenable position in a thriving and jealously pagan city, we heard the familiar words on the whole armour of God and in particular the text of the sermon ‘be strong in the Lord and the power of His might’

“I would not presume to summarise Mr. Frank’s sermon. It was a profound statement from the immediate-past Moderator of the United Reformed Church challenging us to put away our fears and doubts, to stop being apologetic about the faith we have inherited. Paul’s letter and all that came from the struggling early church are living reminders that we do not act – indeed cannot act – on our own….Recalling that it had been on this very day, May 22nd, almost 500 years ago that Vasco de Gama had first sighted the West Coast of India after the perilous voyage with his little ships around what we call the Cape of Good Hope, Mr Franks reminded us of the great explorer’s exhortation to his captains on sailing from Portugal for the unknown ‘I beg to remind you that ours is no small venture’. No-one would could tell where Redhill United Reformed Church was being led, but theirs was no small venture either”. RDM

It was also recorded that “The service being at an end, food for thought was supplemented by food for the body, when 150 people sat down to a delicious buffet lunch, provided and served by the ladies of both churches, some of whom had unselfishly foregone attendance at the service in order to have everything in readiness for us… To the many people from both churches, who worked so hard behind the scenes to make Whitsunday 1988, an unforgettable day, one can only say a heartfelt – Thank you”. L. Hopkins

Also included in the inaugural Magazine was the Address by Revd. Kenneth Lynch at the closing service of Christ Church on 15.5.1988. The following is a synopsis of Mr Lynch’s sermon: “Today by its very nature is a sad day, although in saying that I am aware that I am stating the obvious, for while we may see our course as the right one and be convinced that the Spirit of God is leading us in a certain direction, yet for many this building has many associations; not only have you laboured in this place with talents and minds but with your heart also. But the pain of today would be even harder to bear if it were seen as a defeat: if we see it as necessary church carpentry that has been forced on us by circumstances.

“Today rather let us first look back and give thanks. Give thanks for those who in the early days of this town established here a Congregational Church who cherished the Free Church tradition and sought to establish a place of worship for themselves and a place of witness to the community, to give thanks for those who through the generations since then have ministered and witnessed here…We give thanks for those who through the years have worked to bring our two congregations closer together, to increase understanding between them and to overcome old differences… We look forward to the joy of next Sunday but that expectation does not make any less real the pain of today…. Perhaps we can get an ever closer likeness if we look at the story of Ruth, as a young widow but at least living in the country she knew. All that changes with the decision of Naomi to go home. But Ruth is determined that she too will also go, that she will leave all that is familiar to her to go – she knows what where, because she will not leave Naomi.

“Ruth says to Naomi as she expresses her determination to go with her ‘Your people will be my people’ Today is not just about Christ Church closing and us all going to St. Paul’s (though many will continue to call it that) today in a way, we are all in the position of Ruth; for all of us there is no going back. May each of us say then ‘Your people will be my people’”.

The final edition in May 1988 of the Christ Church magazine had an article written by the magazine editor Jim Finlayson. Jim wrote “This is the last Christ Church Magazine. From June onwards we shall be issuing the Redhill URC Magazine and for the time being Mrs Hopkins (Laura Hopkins – Editor of St. Paul’s Magazine) and I will be joint Editors….May is going to be a very busy month and the main event of course, is the Service on 22nd May which will inaugurate the Redhill URC. We are very glad that we shall have Revd Cyril Franks with us on this important and historic occasion.”

There was also a ‘Post Script’ from Godfrey Nicholls who printed the magazine. It read “The poor quality of this magazine is regretted, but as the duplicator broke down, this issue was only produced with the aid of two elastic bands” !! – GJN

So 33 years on from that particular Pentecost, for those of us that remember that special day, what can we reflect on since then, as we now begin to re-open the church after lockdown and hopefully, restrictions permitting, look at the possibility of a post-covid era. What does the future hold for Redhill URC?

Keith Ramsay