The First World War and Decline

The controversy between the Rev. T.W. Freckleton mentioned above, resulted in a substantial number of members leaving in favour of the Congregational Church in Abington Avenue. (Now the United Reformed Church). Mrs. Mary Weiss now in her nineties, recalls hearing about this loss from her mother. The First World War took its toll: the Roll of Honour in the present Worship Room records fifty six killed in action.
After the war members felt the beginning of decline, but it was still an active and lively Church.

The Rev. H. Bernard Hannah was inducted in 1930 and continued his ministry until 1946, becoming the longest serving minister in our history. It was described by Nora Patenall, in a short account of the first 150 years of our existence, as “an inspiring ministry”. He continued for another ten years as a member of the congregation and on his death, left £500 to the Church and his library to the General Assembly. After the Second World War, changing social patterns carried the process of decline ever further. As increasing numbers of women became employed, the numbers available for active church work were inevitably reduced. Like many churches, strength came from women, who through Harvest and other Sales, provided much needed funds to meet the ever growing maintenance costs of the building. The Rev. A.E. Mobbs, the last full-time minister, resigned in 1950.

After twenty years of services conducted by supply ministers and lay preachers, the Avon Group of four churches (Banbury, Coventry, Northampton and Warwick) was formed in 1970, with the Rev. John Clifford as District Minister. He was followed as District Minister by the Rev. Frank Clabburn, who in turn left in 1977. Martin Weiss tells me that for the next four years, the key figure was E.R. (Bill) Steiner, who kept the small congregation of five to seven members, together. “Without him” said Martin “we would have come to an end”. The other memory of him was his interest in Inter-Faith dialogue. Peter Galbraith was officially in Lay Charge from 1981 to 2000, though the congregation regarded him as their minister. The next nearly twenty years brought the congregation close to extinction. The burden of maintenance became overwhelming, with vanishing hopes of ever being able to put the building in order. In 1999 negotiations began for the sale of the Church, which was completed early in the year 2000. 31, Hazelwood Road was purchased, and the final stage of our move took place on Tuesday 7th March 2000. On the evening of the same day, our first committee meeting was held in the new building. The first service was held on the following Sunday, 12th March. Peter Galbraith, who had guided the congregation through a most difficult period, and had seen us into our new home, retired in July. Apart from a financial presentation, he was given a framed picture of the old church in cross-stitch, worked by Sue Woolley and framed by Jon Small, both members of the congregation. He will be remembered as a dedicated and spiritual man who left outstanding hymns including “All are welcome here”, “Goodnight Hymn” and probably his best, “As the sun rises”.