Killamarsh formed part of the North East Derbyshire coalfield and during the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries was a small but significant mining community. During the early part of that period there was a strong evangelical witness in and around Sheffield, but it was not until the late 1920’s that a couple in Killamarsh, Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, began holding meetings in their own home in Green Lane. By 1930 a small group of Christians was meeting in an upstairs room in Bridge Street, and in 1954 land was made available by the local Co-operative Society for a Gospel Hall to be built. This building was wholly financed and, to a large extent built, by the fifteen or so members of the church. Over the next thirty years, numbers, steadily increased to a peak of seventy seven in the late 80’s, most of them as a result of gospel witness in the village. There are at present fifty-two members, the majority living in Killamarsh, in fact, within walking distance of the Hall.
During 2008 the assembly had an exercise to build a larger facility to accommodate the current activities and provide opportunity for future development. The initial plans for an extension to the existing building were approved and work was started in the summer of 2009. Due to subsidence in a neighbouring plot and the discovery of a water course on land adjacent to the building, work had to be halted and remedial work carried out. This exhausted all the assembly funds and the project was temporarily suspended. The Lord provided however, and after a few months the assembly was once more able to press forward.
For a number of reasons the assembly felt that a new build would be more appropriate and were much before the Lord about the matter, concious of the fact that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it’. Encouragement and enablement came from a number of sources, not least from two assemblies who because of age and declining numbers had felt it necessary to close their doors and re-allocate the proceeds from the sale of their buildings; disappointing for the small companies involved, but reassuring for them to know that their closure would help to open other doors for a continuing testimony.
By the summer of 2011 it was felt that the Lord would have us take the next step. A number of quotations for the construction were obtained, planning approval was granted and, having agreed a contract, work commenced in May 2012.
A number of the assembly watched with mixed emotions as the builders moved in and took all of twenty minutes to completely demolish the existing building! Site clearance followed, only to be suspended as asbestos was discovered underneath the concrete raft on which the old hall had been built. Again, the assembly caught its breath, as it faced a substantial cost for the asbestos removal, but having again laid the matter before the Lord within a short time work was able to continue.
Building work was completed toward the end of 2012, and in January 2013 an opening meeting was arranged with invitations to all the craftsmen and labourers who had been involved with the construction and fitting of the Gospel Hall. Many came with their families and a clear gospel message was given based on Matt. 7. 24-27, the wise and foolish builders! Over 100 people attended including the local vicar and representatives from the local council all of whom had also shown interest in the work.
While still referred to as a village, Killamarsh, has expanded to small town size, with over 10,000 inhabitants. The pits have now closed but they have left a legacy of a close-knit community with many ex-miners among the older population. There are two primary/junior schools, two residential care homes, and all the usual amenities and facilities that one would expect to find in a socially-aware community. This gives the assembly ample opportunity to engage in ‘outreach’ work to all sections and ages within the neighbourhood. There are a good number of young families in the assembly and from these there are eighteen children who provide a nucleus for the ‘Footsteps’ (Sunday School) work. A number of students from the Sheffield universities join themselves to the assembly each year and provide much help and encouragement by their involvement in church activities.
Fifteen years ago one of our elders had both the desire and the opportunity to commence a Bible study class in a local prison. This work has developed over the years and now two prisons in the Doncaster area are visited every week; two other members of the church are also involved in this work which provides a regular prayer focus. As a direct result of this outreach an encouraging number of men have made professions of faith and are showing good progress while still in prison. Several have continued in the community without re-offending following their release and this aspect of the outreach work is a real encouragement to all.
From time to time opportunity is given to take assembly in the village schools and assistance with this is given on a regular basis by Philip Kaye of Skelmanthorpe. A recent visit to the Gospel Hall by Jonathan Black with the Bible Exhibition saw some 240 children with teachers and assistants taken through the history and development of the Bible with a sound gospel emphasis. A good number from the village and from other assemblies also attended.
This year the assembly is running a ten-week outreach programme entitled ‘The Open Book’ – a ‘Christianity Explored’ type programme. Initial response from a large volume of invitations was slow but there are now a small number of regular attendees showing real interest. Structured, targeted tract and annual calendar distribution enable the assembly to ensure that most people in this growing community are touched with the gospel on a regular basis.
An annual assembly outing is arranged each summer, with invitations to children and parents who attend the regular church activities. There is also opportunity provided particularly in the summer months for organised barbeques, cycle rides, walks, etc.
As a company of the Lord’s people we are constantly aware that we have an adversary who will do all he can to damage and disrupt the work. Please pray with us and for us that the work will progress, that elders will be given wisdom in ensuring effective use of gift and resources and that ‘the word of the Lord will have free course and be glorified’.