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A Brief History of Minster
Minster owes its origins to the vision of a few believers from Mackintosh Gospel Hall who lived in Penylan and were exercised about starting a Christian witness in the Penylan area. In 1925 they started meeting in a converted garage in Westville Rd at the home of Mr Edwin Willie, known as the Penylan Assembly Rooms. Edwin Willie went on to finance the building of a fine church on the corner of Minster Rd and Sturminster Rd, which was officially opened as Minster Gospel Hall (a Brethren Assembly) on 15th October 1927.
In May 1928 there were 102 believers in fellowship at Minster, but during the years leading up to the Second World War this number fell considerably. However, it was not uncommon during this time to see the church packed to hear well-known evangelists and Bible teachers preach.
In 1940 Minster Hall became an air raid precaution centre where bunk beds, blankets, stirrup pumps and food were stored. Black-out curtains were fitted to all windows and the baptistery had to be kept filled and open in case of fire. When bombs fell in Sturminster Rd and Newport Rd, Minster Hall was damaged. However, the church continued to meet and witness throughout the war years, though many of the young men in the church were called up for service in the forces.
In 1948 Marston Martin, one of the young men in the church, was commended to missionary work in Zambia and Tanganyika, and he and his wife Betty served the Lord for many years in various African countries, only retiring in the 1990’s.
In the post war years numbers in fellowship revived somewhat and in 1967 there were 82 believers in membership at Minster. In the 60’s and 70’s Minster had a thriving young people’s work associated with the Covenanter movement, and Minster’s Sunday School was also very well attended. However, in the 1980’s and into the 90’s numbers attending the church began to decline, and by 1998 there were about 25 in fellowship, the majority of whom were quite elderly, and funds were getting perilously low, with the possibility of having to shut down the witness at Minster having to be considered.
During the latter half of the 1990’s Minster’s elders invited Peter Phelps to become an unpaid Pastor at Minster (quite a revolutionary step for a Brethren Assembly), and together with the elders Peter began to bring about various changes at Minster which were designed to ensure that in God’s will a viable witness would continue into the 21st Century. Also at this time a relationship with the neighbouring Highfields Church was established, whereby Highfields was able to use Minster’s building for baptisms, weddings and funerals (as at that time Highfields had no church building of their own), and their Minister, Peter Baker shared an office in the balcony of Minster with Minster’s Pastor, Peter Phelps.
Out of this relationship came a scheme to rejuvenate the work at Minster, and in 1999 a group of 20 members of Highfields church (led by John Kendall who became an Elder at Minster) joined Minster to carry forward plans to take Minster into the 21st Century as a free evangelical church, with a vibrant outreach and witness in the community. This injection of mainly younger Christians from Highfields was warmly welcomed by the members at Minster, and following this God blessed the church at Minster with a gradual increase in mainly younger people associating themselves with Minster as their place of worship. In 2001 Minster Christian Centre (as the church was now known) affiliated with the Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches. The church was able to call Alex Collins to be a salaried Pastor at Minster, and Alex’s inaugural service was held in October 2001.
In May 2002 Heulwen Pritchard, one of the believers who had joined Minster from Highfields, was commended to work in Cambodia for two years with OMF.
Many of the believers who joined Minster from Highfields remained at Minster for longer than the two-year commitment that they had originally made, and several remain with us until the present day. The Lord has blessed the church by consistently adding to our congregation since the turn of the century, and we now have over 50 believers in membership, and we regularly see between 70 and 100 people attending our Sunday morning service.
In 2010 we were able to appoint Andy McKenna as Assistant Pastor and he served in this capacity for several years before he was called to become Pastor of another F.I.E.C church in Market Harborough. In 2011 Clare Gatenby was appointed as part-time Youth Leader, and she is still leading the thriving young people’s work in the church to this day. God is continuing to work in the lives of many who attend the church and we have seen many coming to faith, being baptized, and undertaking the Christianity Explored course in recent years.
Looking back over nearly 90 years since Minster was built we can truthfully say with the Psalmist, “This is the Lord’s doing: it is marvellous in our eyes”. (Psalm 118 v 23). And we now look forward to the future knowing that The Lord is with us as we seek to serve Him, until He comes again.
Amended October 2016