On Sunday 13th November, Bradley Stoke Evangelical Church is celebrating 25 years since the church first met together. There will be an afternoon tea at 4.30pm and a special celebration at 6pm, when Reverend Dr Steve Brady, Principal of Moorlands Bible College, will be speaking. All are welcome to join the occasion.
Church member Alan Sully has kindly written this short history for the Bradley Stoke Journal.
In the beginning
When the new town of Bradley Stoke was being planned, one of the farmers who sold his land for development, Mr David Ashman, was a Christian who lived in Stoke Gifford. He negotiated with the developers to retain a portion of land on the south east corner of Bradley Stoke, obtained planning permission for a church building and erected Portakabins on the property.
He then agreed with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) to take on the challenge of founding a church on the site. The FIEC appointed two ‘church planters’: Eric Olsen from the USA and Mike Hawkins who commenced following an inauguration in November 1991.
The attendance at Sunday services slowly increased until by the time that the Portakabins were superseded by the permanent church building in 1999, there were 70 attending on a Sunday morning, and up to 50 at an evening service.
And so it came to pass, in November 1999, that a new permanent building was opened. The building began with Phase 1; Phase 2 following with replacement of the Portakabins in the mid-2000s.
The congregation was originally made up of local Christians who had been attracted from other churches or were committed to establishing the church. Waves of new members came along over time, for example, in the mid-1990s, the Ministry of Defence established a procurement centre at Abbey Wood. A number of Christians transferred with their work and they proved to be very committed to the church. Later in the 1990s, there was an influx of Afrikaans-speaking South Africans, many of whom came to work in the local aircraft industry.
Subsequently, we have integrated groupings from other African nations and Southeast Asia as well – all of which shows the cosmopolitan nature of the Bradley Stoke catchment. All these overseas members have contributed greatly to church life – especially with regard to culinary skills.
Meeting the community
Throughout the existence of the church, a number of opportunities have been taken to engage with the community.
A mums and tinies’ group, known as Busy Bees, has existed throughout the time – it has always been well run, well received and over-subscribed!
Work among young people has had various incarnations, and has generally attracted large numbers. It has been known as: Kabin Klub, Club T1, and lately Boing and Chill+. They have always been organised with enthusiasm. Champions was the name of the summer holiday Bible club which gained a superb reputation with the community. We now have periodic events which focus around major times in the calendar and are called: Love Easter, Love Harvest, etc. We have also met with the community through our work in assemblies within the local schools.
In recent times a weekly coffee morning has been provided which has given opportunity for members of the local area to come into the church building and to interact socially with church members.
Above: Official opening of the Portakabin for church services in November 1991. L-r: Eric Olsen; Fred Goodger (representative of FIEC) and Mike Hawkins.
Above: The present day church community at worship.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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