A History of the Assembly atManor Road Hall, Guildford, England

John Knight

Precious Seed

The earliest memories we have of an assembly in Guildford come from Miss Doreen Mersh, whose parents joined the assembly in 1923. They were commended from the meeting at Camberley, whose premises Mr. Mersh had built himself. In those early days the assembly hired a hall in Ward Street in the town centre and used it for Breaking Bread each Lord’s Day morning and for Bible study and prayer in the week. At times, these meetings were disturbed by other activities taking place in adjacent rooms at the same time. Probably the most distracting was the boxing training being held in the hall next door to where the believers were praying!

In the late 1920’s a group of the believers were travelling in from the north of Guildford and when the Congregational Church moved to new premises they were keen to take over their Chapel in Manor Road. This was made possible in 1932 when Mr. Mersh purchased the Hall for the assembly’s use. Sadly one of the first services held in the Hall was the funeral service of Mr. Warren, the local colporteur, whose role was taken on soon after by Mr. Sidaway. It is perhaps a reflection of the high regard in which the believers were held, that the Congregational Church left their Sunday School children to be taught by us. So, from the outset of the testimony various works with children have been undertaken and we currently run a Sunday School and Friday Bible Club for children.

At its zenith, in the late ’forties, the Sunday School needed six coaches to take children and their parents to the coast for the annual outing. Also the children’s campaigns conducted by Tom Moore (and later George Tryon), would bring in so many children that some had to sit on the windowsills around the Hall. In the ’sixties there were also children’s open-air meetings held in the summer in various parks around the Hall. Holiday clubs have also brought in many children, and often their parents as well, to learn from the word of God.

Mr. Mersh added a number of features to the Hall, not least the baptistry, which has been well used over the years. I guess the most unusual baptism would have been my father’s in the early ’forties, for he responded to the challenge to be baptized given at a baptizmal service and had to use the wet clothes of the person who had just been baptized!

There are three brethren whom I feel I should mark out for special mention in the history of the assembly. My father was noteworthy for his gracious and loving manner and his consistent testimony. Mr. Lamdin was outstanding for his consistency in serving in the assembly for sixty years, (remarkably he was the treasurer and an elder for over fifty years), he would never miss a meeting and was still taking his turn hall cleaning in his eighty-eighth year when he was called home. Mr. Millidge I remember for his love of sharing the gospel with everyone, particularly children and young people and his great encouragement in seeking to bring on young Christians in their service for the Lord.

For the last thirty years we have had a monthly tea to which we invite every one in the community. Mainly elderly folk attend this tea and gospel service and we have had the joy of seeing a few of these saved, baptized and added to the fellowship.

With a University and colleges of Law, Technology and Agricultural in the immediate area we have often been blessed with students joining and we have always valued their involvement in the work. We are thankful that some have stayed on beyond their studies and two are currently upgrading our website, which we hope will bring us into contact with more people.

For as long as I can remember we have been distributing tracts in the locality. During the last ten years a small editorial team have been producing our own Point magazine, twice a year, which all the able-bodied people in the assembly distribute to 6,000 homes in the locality.

Since 1999 the ladies in the meeting have organized and run a Parent and Toddler Group, which has proved extremely popular. Because numbers have had to be restricted to thirty parents for this weekly activity on Tuesday mornings, we now have a substantial waiting list.

Because of the various links we have made into the community, and inspired by the assembly at Maidenhead, we decided to run a ‘Christianity Explored’ course in the autumn of 2003. This exercise has really made us depend on the Lord and one year later we still have regular contact with all seven who signed up for the course. Of the seven, two have been saved and are coming to a monthly nurture group we have introduced and another three are attending a monthly ‘Y’ course to teach them more about the way of salvation. We value prayer, as we will start another ‘Christianity Explored’ course in the autumn of 2004, God willing. We are very conscious that we must obey the Lord’s commission to preach the gospel and make disciples, with the assurance of His presence with us, until He comes.