1939-59

THE REVD E MURRAY PAGE'S MINISTRY

The Revd Murray Page's arrival coincided with the outbreak of the 2nd World War. Although the Ellis Fund for the new church building had reached £836, all thought of building had to be put on one side for the time being.

Many people moved into the area during the war, some of whom became associate members while, on the other hand, many church members were away serving with the armed forces. They were kept in touch by quarterly newsletters and Christmas parcels.

Sycamore Hall was converted into the Sycamore Club Canteen for soldiers stationed nearby. It was run by all the local churches and, in its first 18 weeks, it served 28,600 meals and arranged 4,000 baths. Copies of the New Testament were given to any of the soldiers who asked for one. By the end of the war over 200 volunteers were involved in running it.

By 1943 40 church members were serving away from home but church business continued as normal. A year earlier, discussions had started about the work of the church after the war. The Rules were changed the same year to prevent any Deacon from serving more than six consecutive years and, despite the war, the congregation pledged to increase the Building Fund to £5,000 within five years.

When the war ended in 1945 a Reception Committee was set up, as it had been after the 1st World War, to welcome home returning soldiers. It was a new world they came back to, with the Regent Cinema proposing to open on Sundays which was vehemently opposed by the Church.

The future of Sycamore Hall was discussed once again. The canteen was kept open for a while after the war for a substantial number of Polish troops who arrived in the area and then its future was decided in January 1947 when it was completely destroyed by fire. The cause was unknown but the insurance was paid out promptly leaving a decision to be made about whether to rebuild it. The debate continued for two years by which time the five year drive for the Memorial Fund had ended with the target of £5,000 being reached and exceeded. Dr Donald Soper was invited to speak at the celebration.

In 1954 a decision was finally reached. Sycamore Hall would be rebuilt and the rest of the Woodside Road site would be filled with tennis courts. The existing church buildings would be repaired and extended, heating put in and a new organ purchased.

Local and world issues were still being discussed. Resolutions were brought to the Church meeting about the apartheid policy in South Africa and the British government's research into the atom bomb.

In 1949 Norman Renshaw suggested a membership campaign targetting the 21-31 age range and the Over 21 Group was started and continued for about 10 years. In 1957 a Sunday morning creche was set up, as was the church bookstall.

Rev Murray Page asked in 1958 if a successor could be found as his health had been failing over the previous few years. His wife, long time organist and choirmaster, also requested a successor and trained Peter Townsend who took over in 1959.

Towards the end of 1958 another Memorial Fund was begun by acquaintances of one of the very early church members, AJ Nunn. The trustees advised the church that a substantial sum of money would be available on condition that the new buildings were started within three years. This concentrated the minds of the members on what they really wanted to do with the Woodside Road site. The decision was finally made to build a new church on the site and also to purchase a manse for the new minister.