Crowthorne Baptist Church is celebrating 100 years by building for the future. Margaret Kerfoot, who has been part of the church since she was 9, looks at the church’s journey so far … and gets excited at the plans for the future
2014 is a signifcant year for many in different ways. We have been reminded by many TV programmes that this year commemorates 100 years since the beginning of the First World War – the war to end all wars.
But at Crowthorne Baptist Church we have been working towards a great weekend commemorating 100 years since a small group of people decided to start a Baptist fellowship in the, then, small village of Crowthorne.
Crowthorne was originally part of the Royal Forest of Windsor and I suppose many Crowthorners still feel more drawn towards the Bracknell side, being in the same county, but the founders of the Baptist Church were from ‘across the border’ in Camberley.
The first service was held in a hall in the village on 6th September 1914 and our family fun day on Saturday, September 6, held on the Morgan Recreation Ground, will celebrate our centenary.
From these humble beginnings in a hired hall, we have had various buildings of our own on the wonderful site in the middle of the High Street so we can truly call ourselves the Church at the centre of the village.
I have spent most of my life in this small and friendly village, having moved here when I was just nine and now, nearly 60 years later, although looking forward to a new phase in my life, am sad to be facing a move shortly to Erdington in Birmingham to be nearer one of my daughters and grandchildren. During that time, I have seen the church grow, not only in mumbers but also in our buildings.
When I was a little girl I remember being in Sunday School in the old tin hut behind the fairly new church building which had been opened in 1954. Sister Bessie, who was the Deaconess at the time, was a great influence in my life. She ran a Saturday morning children’s club, where I remember, we learnt about missionary work, in which I have since had a lifelong interest.
I was baptised and became a church member in the early sixties with the help of our pastor, Reg Sherman.
Around this time, the church decided to replace the old tin hut for a modern brick hall more in keeping with the church. My father agreed to undertake this project and the official opening was timed to coincide with our fiftieth anniversary.
Goodbye oak doors
I was married in 1968, and I well remember the big old oak doors which made a great backdrop for the wedding photos but, as the church later agreed, they were shut most of the time and gave a closed and unwelcoming image of the church to the village. We modernised the front with a new glass windowed foyer for which we received a local award.
I was a bit upset at the time because they seemed to be part of my own history, but the old oak doors were not forgotten.
A gifted craftsman in our membership turned them into three crosses which has since become our logo. The crosses are graded in size and colour, the smallest and darkest being at the back.
It is interesting to ask visitors what they think these crosses represent. My own interpretation is of the march of a small number of believers into the future getting larger and stronger with the passing years
Biggest challenge yet
And now we face another buildings challenge – our biggest yet.
There are ambitious plans to demolish both the existing church and hall and replace them with a purpose built 21st Century three storey building with a larger sanctuary, a multipurpose hall space and offices and rooms which can be used by and for the community.
This, of course, will cost a lot of money – probably in excess of £2million. The present buildings were financed, in the case of the church, by a generous donor, and the hall by a trust fund set up for building works. Whilst we were grateful for these gifts, it did not require much faith from the church.
Our first significant step of faith was when we needed a new organ but did not have the funds. We were convinced that a new organ was necessary to enhance our worship and the decision was made. Only a few thousand pounds but first steps.
We also decided to tithe our offerings and God has honoured that abundantly so that when we needed to modernise the front of church, we again stepped out in faith – rather more thousands this time!
And now? We have committed ourselves to a seemingly impossible task but we are sure that God is with us. The project has been a long time in planning, with the cost of each new proposal rising all the time. But we worship a great and mighty God to whom all things are possible, even raising £2million! (Of course, if anyone wants to help in God’s work, we won’t say ‘no’!)
We had hoped to be able to complete this in time for our centenary but we still place ourselves in God’s hands rather than glory in our own accomplishments.
I feel privileged to have been a part of this worshipping community who are taking big steps into its next 100 years and look forward in the future to being invited to the opening of the new church.
Join the celebrations
Crowthorne Baptist Church Centenary fun day celebrations take place at Morgan Recreation Ground on Saturday, September 6.
It starts with a Family Fun Day with climbing wall, arts and crafts, live music, ice cream, barbecue and more. Noon-3pm.
In the evening, a special Open Air Thanksgiving Celebration will take place, again on the Morgan Recreation Ground, between 7pm and 8.30pm.