Last Saturday was a special day for Welcome church, and not just because of the amazing Fun Day we had …
It was also our 140th birthday as a church!
In the 1870’s Woking was a fast growing town with a railway station and a canal – remember this was before cars existed and that homes did not yet have electricity. In terms of the church in Woking there was a small Methodist chapel, and a tin hut for the Anglicans to meet in. This tin hut was on the spot where Christ Church has now been built in Jubilee Square.
In 1879 Rev. Edward Tarbox, from Addlestone Baptist Church, wanted to plant a new Baptist Church in Woking. Forty people attended an exploratory meeting in a house in Goldsworth Road on Thursday 18th September where it was agreed to go ahead.
The first Sunday morning and evening services of ‘Woking Baptist Congregational Church’ were held in a house in Goldsworth Road on Sunday 28th September, 1879. The Rev. Tarbox preached at both services, communion was celebrated and eight people were welcomed into church membership.
It was agreed on that first Sunday that Rev. Tarbox would become the Pastor and that Henry William Gloster would become the first Deacon. Henry was the Great Grandfather of John Gloster who is in our church today, and you really can see the family resemblance under that beard – they have the same cheeky smile. Sadly I have no photos of Edward, but if you do please let me have them!
Building No. 2: Goldsworth Road Baptist Church, 1906
At that first meeting it was also agreed to put together a committee to oversee buying some land and constructing a building for the church. It seems that God has been inspiring us to build and to expand since day one.
That building was completed within two years and the debt paid off a year later, which was impressive to have achieved from a standing start!
Sadly that building was found to be far too small, so the church immediately started work on a second building, which opened in 1886: Goldsworth Road Baptist Church.
Once again we outgrew the building, so in the 1920’s the church bought some more land, this time in Percy Street (which no longer exists) and built a third building: Percy Street Baptist Church.
There are people in our church who still remember that building with affection, having been saved there, baptised there, married there and more.
There is a great photo that was taken during the last ever service held in the Percy Street building, on the evening of 31st December 1976. As you can see, there is some great seventies fashion going on in that photo, and if you zoom in close you may spot one or two faces you recognise …
Building No. 3: Percy Street Baptist Church
Last meeting at Percy Street Baptist Church, 31st Dec 1976
In October 1977 our church moved into its fourth building, called The Coign. We renamed this building The Welcome Centre when we became Welcome Church.
This building is now being redeveloped to provide us with new offices and to serve our children’s work, our youth work, our social action ministries and the wider community. On the land behind it we are also building a completely new 675 seat chapel. THERE IS MORE INFO ON THAT HERE.
We plan to start meeting in the new chapel from January 2020.
Building No. 4: The Welcome Centre (formerly The Coign)
Telling our story
Some of us love history, some are less interested. Either way let me encourage you to buy and read John Gloster’s book: Church On The Move.
John wrote this for us. It tells our history from 1879 – 1999. It’s the story of our church, so if you want to know where we come from, read it. It’s available from us for £7.00 (or £8.00 on Amazon). Any profits will go into the Building Fund.
John has written another book too, Welcome Church Story, which brings the story all the way up to date; that’s available for £5. These books are a great resource and I am personally grateful to John for putting them together for us; they are precious. If you want to get hold of a copy of either or both, please email email@example.com
I’m so grateful to all the people who have gone before us. I thank God that in 1879 He sent Edward Tarbox to Woking with a courageous plan to plant a new church. That took faith, risk, money, personal sacrifice, travel, tears, prayers and hard work … and here we are today. Over the years thousands of people’s lives have been transformed by this church and I am in faith for that to continue into the future.
And it’s so much bigger than just our church. New Life Church in Old Woking celebrated their 90th birthday this weekend. Our church planted that church on our 50th birthday – a great way to celebrate! And there have been other church plants along the way too, such as those in Guildford, Camberley and Chertsey. And many leaders have been sent out to serve in different places around the UK and across the world too.
But why do it? Why plant churches? Why send people? Why go to all that trouble? Why pay the price?
Because we have hope in a God who saves.
Jesus gave his people a mission to take the gospel to all nations, and that includes here in the UK. We are not a social club, here to look after ourselves; we’re on a mission from God! We have a message to share with our town. We want to introduce people to Jesus. We want to see lives change and our community impacted for good through God’s grace in action.
Our new building is part of that mission and soon we’ll move in. We should be meeting there from Sunday 5th January, with our big launch Sunday on Jan 19th.
I believe we could see hundreds of people coming to our big launch; it’s our God given opportunity to create the most exciting Sunday morning we’ve had for years. This season of church life, is all about that; let’s do all we can to maximise this moment in our history; let’s maximise the opportunity this new start creates for the gospel in our town.