Abbey Hill Church 1878 -1887
Two minute books of Church meetings for the dates 1878 to 1907 give some indication of the life of the fellowship. The minutes are very brief, mainly recording the new and leaving members with just an occasional hint of other aspects of church life.
The present church building was opened on 9th June 1873. The first minute, on the 16th January 1778, has the word ‘reconstruction’ in the margin and indicates that the purpose of the meeting was ‘to re-form the church.’ (No indication is given as to why the church needs reforming.) There were 34 members on roll and 8 new members who had been regular worshippers were approved at the meeting.
The Pastor, the Rev. J. Hardwick Smith who had been appointed in November 1877, chaired the meeting. There was quite an influx of new members over the next few months which kept the pastor and deacons busy. (Deacons were the equivalent of the present Elders). Every new member was visited by two deacons who recommended to the church meeting whether they should be accepted or not. If they were already members of another church then a letter was written to that church requesting transfer of their membership. The applicant was not made into a member until the reply came. Membership was not to be held lightly. If the Lord’s Supper was not attended for one year the member’s name was removed from the roll.
There were other reasons for removing members. On Dec 29th 1880 the pastor reported that Mrs B had fallen into sin (theft) and action would have to be taken. He reported the following February that she had professed deep penitence for her sin but as she had not attended any services she was suspended. On 21st August it was reported that she had attended services and manifested a penitent spirit and she was restored to the privileges of church membership.
A less successful case was that of Mr S. On 2nd May 1883, it was reported that Mr S had fallen into the sin of intoxication on more than one occasion in the past few months and it was proposed that he be suspended from membership to allow further consideration of his case. On 30th May the spirit in which Mr S had received the resolution encouraged hope of restoration. Alas, By 12th January he had fallen into the sin of intoxication again and was removed from the church roll.
This was a period when temperance movements were active and on 1st November 1882 it was reported to the meeting that many members were absent from the Lord’s Table due to their conscientious objection to the use of fermented wine. A Proposal was passed to investigate the use of unfermented wine. (We still use unfermented wine.)
On 28th February 1879 a resolution was passed thanking the Pastor for ‘ the exertions he has put forth in extinguishing a Debt of upwards of £520 which remained on the chapel when he accepted the pastorate in Nov. 1877’. (Equivalent to £26000 today)
Rev Hardwick Smith left, early in 1880, for Victoria Road, Cambridge. Rev John Naylor started in December 1880.
The chart shows how active the church was in its first few years before settling to a steady growth. There were 34 members in 1878 when the church re-formed. In 1885 there were 65 members living in Kenilworth this being the number of voting papers sent out for an election of deacons that year.
- Church without minister for most of year b. Many people who had not attended for a year were removed from the roll.
It may be expected that with members worshipping in a super new building all would be sweetness and light. Yet on 28th July 1880, the following was minuted. ‘The meeting unanimously adopts a resolution passed by the chapel committee the object of which was to bring certain old and valued friends to worship again with us.’ There is no indication of what was wrong. Obviously there was further trouble as in October 1883 three deacons resigned ‘so that others may be elected who we trust will be the means of building up the church and the cause of our Lord and Master at Abbey Hill, by these means we trust the work my be carried out more successfully in other hands is the desire of your servants in Christ Jesus our common Lord and Master.’ Two of the deacons moved to a Coventry church.
An election of deacons was put off for 6 months presumably to let things settle down. In July 1885 a note says that the resolution of July 1880 was not working so would be rescinded. On 30th September 1885 the Pastor grumbled that the church meeting was not well attended so the election of deacons could not be held. It was proposed to have a tea meeting for the congregation to encourage them to come and a committee was set up to run it. At the tea meeting it was decided to have a postal election and 65 forms were sent out to members living in Kenilworth. 57 were returned with 16 men being voted for. The top five received 48,42,30,24,22 votes respectively, the bottom four 1 each. Evidently only men were eligible to be elders and members could vote for any man without asking their permission. We know this because the two men with the highest vote immediately resigned from the office – no reason given and the one with the third highest vote resigned because he thought that he was too young. Their places were taken by the next in the list.
A Sunday School was in existence because on a church meeting approved the appointment of the Sunday School Superintendent chosen by the Sunday school staff. On 2nd November 1881 a special meeting of Seatholders was held. There is no indication who these were. They met to because the number of trustees of the Arlidges Charity had fallen to three and there should be ten under the terms of the will. The names of six men were put forward.
Some things do not change. On 28th December the pastor mentioned the small attendance at the church meeting and his worry that scarcely 2/3 of the membership attended the Lords Supper at any one time. He asked that they try to improve next year!
How did the pastor know how many attended communion?
On 29th December 1879 the church meeting agreed that communion cards would be used. Each member was given a supply and was supposed to put one in the plate when they took communion. They were still in use in 1887 because Mrs S had ‘declined to receive communion tickets this year stating that she now worshipped with the Plymouth Brethren’. Her name was removed from the roll.
Some other things have perhaps changed since then. How would we deal with this case?
‘Nov. 4th 1885 The Pastor brought before the meeting the case of Elizabeth A. He was reliably informed that she was married on Aug 3/85 and that she gave birth to a child on Oct 19/85. It was his painful duty to propose that her name be removed from the church roll. This on being put to the vote was carried.’
A few Statistics from the minute book.
Between 1878 and 1887, 124 names appeared on the church roll, 39 men and 85 women. What jobs did they have? Many women had no occupation shown.
|Milliner||1||Lodging house keeper||1|
|Cabinet maker||1||Bank agent||1|
Other occupations mentioned in the wedding and baptismal records, mainly of men from the surrounding towns, engineer, watch escapement maker, carpenter, coach maker, artist, postman, master baker, machinist, watch finisher, iron moulder, comb maker, letter carrier, Hay trusser, Traveller, forester.
Twenty funerals took place during the ten years, 6 males, 14 females. Their ages were as follows
16 were interred in St Nicholas Churchyard, 4 in Albion Chapel Churchyard.
There were 71 baptisms during this time, 35 boys and 36 girls.