ON 3rd November a new hall was opened in a housing estate at Canley, near Coventry, when about 200 friends from neighbouring assemblies enjoyed apt messages from J. W. Laing and H. Bell. The next day 49 members of the newly-formed assembly met to remember the Lord, and in the evening nearly 100 folk, including many unconverted, attended the gospel-meeting.
The establishment of this assembly in such a commodious home was the culmination of six years of work in a rented room in the local school.
The work commenced in the winter of 1949/50 when young people of the Church Street Assembly in Coventry, who had been in the habit of cycling out to the Warwickshire villages for open-air witness, became exercised about the new housing estate at Canley. Regular open-air meetings were commenced on a vacant site between two dwelling-huts of a hostel, and the response was so encour¬aging that a Sunday School was started. Parents and children welcomed the idea and the attendance grew from 93 on the first Sunday to 150 on the next Sunday, and to 250 the following week.
The need for an experienced leader prompted earnest prayer, and it was a great encouragement when a Sunday School worker of long experience came to reside in the district just before the school was opened. A gospel-meeting was commenced shortly afterwards, followed by a week-night gathering and a meeting for women.
The Lord’s evident blessing on the venture suggested the desirability of a permanent hall and, here again, there was a striking example of the Lord’s overruling. Although there was no sense of urgency a brother was appointed to investigate the possibilities, and one afternoon he felt prompted to visit the City Architect’s office to make inquiries. The official concerned was engaged with a caller but, when the latter left, this brother was called in, only to be told in answer to his inquiry that there was no land available for a Gospel Hall. Our brother’s obvious disappointment prompted the official to offer a plot on the fringe of the estate by a railway line, but this site was declined as quite unsuitable. Emboldened by this more favourable turn of events, our brother ventured to say, “ We really want a small piece of land in Charter Avenue near Mitchell Avenue.” The mention of this place stimulated the architect’s
interest and he exclaimed “ How remarkable, all that land had been taken up months ago but, just before you came in, the brewer’s representative called to give up a small part of the land.” Pointing to a spot on the map he added, “ This is it.” It was ideal for size and situation, fronting the main road, on the bus route – in fact on the exact spot on which the open-air meetings had been held.
The only disadvantage was that the land was leasehold but, seeing the Lord had so evidently guided, the assembly decided to go ahead with the purchase.
At this time, unknown to the brethren, the Bishop of Coventry told the Council that as he could not “ consecrate “ leasehold land it would be necessary for the plot allocated to the Anglican Church to be freehold.
Understanding his position the Council not only granted him the freehold on very favourable terms but also decided that, in fairness, the same terms would be offered to the assembly !
After special prayer-meetings the offering on the next Lord’s Day was devoted to the Building Fund and amounted to the splendid figure of £771 5s. Od. The fund steadily increased and, in January, 1956, a contract for the hall was signed.
A Christian architect gave his valuable services free, and so the work went on.
The workers were disappointed when they learned that R. E. Pettifer would not be free to conduct a gospel campaign upon which they hoped to embark with the opening of the new hall, but here again the Lord overruled. As it turned out the period they intended to arrange would have proved too early, because of delay in getting the hall ready. They then learned that a cancellation of an engagement left Mr. Pettifer free for the fortnight commencing November 11th, which suited admirably.
The campaign met with a most encouraging response and when we received news a day or two before the fort¬night ended, about 20 had already made a profession of faith in Christ.