1959-75

THE REVD NEVILLE CLARK'S MINISTRY

The Rev Neville Clark of Rochester was invited to be the new minister in 1959. The invitation had a sanction that he would not be leave until the plans for the new building were fulfilled.

So finally, 42 years after the land had been purchased, the new buildings were designed and built. The large wooden cross was a gift from the builder and a chalice was given by the architects. Everything was designed for functionality and to keep future maintenance costs low. Wheelchair access to all important areas was included. There were a series of rooms named after representative figures from the church's history to be used during the Sunday morning service for the newly formed Junior Church which replaced the afternoon Sunday School. Everyone joined together for worship with the children leaving at a suitable point. A practice that continues to this day.

On Sunday 30th September 1962, morning worship was held in the old building led by Rev Murray Page, Miss Cole, T Collins & A Sykes, all very long-time church members, for the final time.

 


At 4.00pm, the congregation gathered there once again to walk together to the new church.

 


The General Secretary of the Baptist Union opened the doors and dedicated the Memorial Stones to Alfred Ellis and AJ Nunn. There was an address by the General Secretary of the Congregational Union. Tea was served after which Peter Townsend introduced the new organ. Neville Clark led the evening worship and Dr Lovell Cocks, a member of Amersham Free Church and also Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council, conducted an act of dedication. The following Sunday there were services of infant baptism during morning worship and believers' baptism in evening worship.

In September 1964 the church magazine, Crossroads, first appeared. It was not to be merely a report of events but was to include articles to strengthen faith and encourage service.

The Free Church had always meant to be for all nonconformists, but a new Methodist Church was built just up the road so there was no point in having official links with Methodism. However there was no Presbyterian Church in Amersham so, after various negotiations, a redrafting of the Constitution and the assent of the Baptist and Congregational Unions, the Church was accepted into membership of the Presbyterian Church at a service on 2nd July 1965. As a result of this, the annual Church Meeting in 1966 had the first elections for a Session rather than a Diaconate. Session consisted of eight Deacons and four Elders. Elders were to serve for ten years and Deacons for a maximum of six.

Local relations were improving too. In 1965 the Free Church worshipped with St Michael's during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and presented them with a chalice when their new buildings opened. Early in 1967 house groups started consisting of representatives from the four churches on the hill (St Michael's, St Leonard's, St John's and AFC). At the end of the series, a local inter-church committee was set up to suggest future united activities. There were many obstacles and most of the proposed suggestions were vetoed by one or other of the churches. In May 1968 there was a united Communion service with an Anglican celebrant and the committee evolved into the Churches Committee of Amersham and Chesham Bois.

In the tradition of the church, national and international causes weren't forgotten either. In 1969 Mr Clark introduced the 1% appeal which was a national call to Christians to give 1% of their net income or one day's gross pay to the Third World. This has continued ever since and is the current Good Friday collection which is sent to Christian Aid. The Church also started to support the Corrymeela Community, a ministry of reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The YPF had links to Moss Side Baptist Church in a rundown area of Manchester and a week-long visit took place. International Hospitality weekends took place (and still do) to entertain overseas students.

In 1972 the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches united nationally becoming the United Reformed Church.

1974 brought a special appeal to Church members to start a fund to help ministers in their retirement. From the money raised, the outstanding mortgage on the manse was paid and the sum in the budget that had gone towards the mortgage was to be used by the minister to make provision for his retirement.

In 1975, Neville Clark accepted an invitation to join the staff of the South Wales Baptist College and a year later, on 10th September 1976, Rev Maurice Williams arriveD as the fourth minister of the church.