The History of St Andrews United Presbyterian Congregational Church and URC

The origins of this church can be read in the histories of Northam Congregational Church, Above Bar Congregational Church, and St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Because of the destruction of Northam and Above Bar during the war, their congregations met for worship together with St Andrew’s congregation in the St Andrew’s building. For financial and administrative purposes their records were kept separate, as initially there was a hope that in the near future they would be able to rebuild their churches. The young Presbyterian minister, Rev. Kite, succeeded Maxwell Janes, who had done much to cement the closer fellowship and joint worship of the two congregations. Kite, was also pastor of the two congregations. He brought the two congregations even closer, but he died tragically on Whit Sunday 1947. He was followed by Rev. Hinsley. Under his leadership a scheme for the closer unity of the constituent churches was sanctified by the Presbytery and the Congregational Union. The United Church was inaugurated at a service on 4.1.1948, as a joint Presbyterian, Congregational church. Also under Hinsley a Junior Church was formed, and the reconstruction of the church interior was commenced. Most of the work was done by church members themselves to save costs. They demolished the gallery at the rear of the church, and fitted a false ceiling. On 11th November 1950 a service was held for the stone laying of the new chancel arch with the wrought iron church, symbolising the union of the churches. A stone at each side of the arch were laid by members of each of the two constituent congregations. During the reconstruction, services were held again in the Lamb Hall. A dedication service was held on 2nd June 1951. Three weeks later Rev. David Geddes, the first minister called to minister to the United Church, was inducted on 20th June 1951. Under him the constitution of the United Church was finalised, and as the years went on this venture ceased to be seen as an experiment, but an accomplished fact. The United church managed to accommodate both of its parent church’s different ways of being a church, with much giving and taking. Anniversaries of both churches were celebrated with the centenary of St Andrews in 1953 and the Tercentenary of Above Bar in 1962. By the time of the 21st anniversary of the United Church in 1969 its days as a United Church were numbered. The United Reformed Church was founded nationally on 5th October 1972, after most Presbyterian and Congregational Churches in England voted to join together. The result of the United Church’s vote was a foregone conclusion as it was already a united Presbyterian and Congregational church, but changed its name to St. Andrew’s United Reformed Church. During its years as a United Reformed Church its ministers were Derek Gill and Derek Cole. In this period it became apparent that a lot of money was needed to be spent on the fabric of the church. With declining membership, difficult decisions had to be faced about the future of the congregation. Avenue URC was about a mile away and these two congregations held discussions about a possible merger. It took place on 5th October 1986, and the new congregation, Avenue St Andrew’s URC, worshipped in the Avenue building, under the pastoral leadership of the ministers of both the former churches, Derek Cole and Tony Spring.

Ministers of the United Presbyterian Congregational Church (URC from 1972)

1942-1945 Rev. Maxwell O. Janes

1946-1947 Rev. W. G. Kite

1948-1950 William Thomas Hinsley

1951-1955 David Peter Cyril Geddes M.A.

1956-1966 Dudley Allon Smith B.Sc.

1966-1973 Michael Dunford

1973-1980 Derek Gill

1980-1986 Derek Cole