A History of the Assembly
Pensford is a pleasant village situate seven miles south of Bristol, with a population of about 1000. The villagers were formerly engaged mainly in coal mining and agriculture, but mining having ceased, they are now employed variously, chiefly in Bristol or Bath. A Methodist community existed in the village until a few years ago, and, in fact, John Wesley preached there on several occasions. The local Anglican Church is now no longer used.
In the early 1920s the Bristol Saturday Afternoon Village Open- Air Unit visited Pensford more than once. This led to a real spiritual concern for this village, and in 1922 certain brethren from the Bristol assemblies commenced gospel meetings in the village, mainly for children. They were held in the local school, weekly, on Monday evenings from November 1922 to March 1923 and were well attended. It is not known that any were saved at that time, but an early register shows that a number joined a branch of the Scripture Union then formed.
It was then felt that a gospel campaign should be mounted, and just at that time (surely not a mere coincidence!) the late Mr J. H. Brown, who had been conducting fruitful gospel tent campaigns in Gloucestershire, was available for a few weeks prior to going out to central Africa on missionary service. He agreed to bring his tent to Pensford, and pitched it near the viaduct in the centre of the village. During a period of six weeks in the summer of 1923 many attended the gospel meetings, among them the local Anglican vicar who encouraged others to come.
God was working, and the gospel of Christ, faithfully and clearly preached, proved to be ‘the power of God unto salvation’ to about ten, possibly more. Of these, and others, some, including sisters, were to become faithful members of the assembly for years. Notable among them was Maurice Veater, then a lad of 13 years, who from the time of his conversion made rapid progress in his knowledge of the Scriptures and witnessed boldly for Christ in the village. He was also used to point others to the Saviour, and became a competent teacher, and an outstanding pillar in the assembly until his home-call in 1986 at the age of 76 years. Michael McCarthy (‘Uncle Mac’) was another devoted brother and stalwart in the assembly until his death in a road accident in 1954.
For about a year after the campaign, a mixed company (some from denominations) met weekly to break bread and hold a gospel service, but these meetings eventually ceased. However, a little while later, the believers (then better instructed) met together to form an assembly more in accordance with New Testament teaching. They gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone; baptism by immersion was practised; eldership gradually came to be recognized, and there was a continuance in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship and in breaking of bread and prayers, Acts 2. 41-42.
From that time in 1924 to the present day the assembly has continued (in the early years with help from brethren from Bristol) with the blessing of God, and has been a blessing in the lives of many believers and in the salvation of souls.
The assembly’s first meeting place was a sectional wood building, formerly used in evangelistic work in various places, on a rented site very near the spot where Mr Brown’s tent had been pitched originally. It served well for many years, but lacked some amenities and with passing years the structure had deteriorated.
After many unsuccessful efforts to find an alternative meeting place, in a remarkable way, in 1958, the assembly was able to purchase for £20 the site of two derelict cottages in a favourable position, and on this site the present Hall was built. It was actually opened on Saturday, 12th September 1959. It was a time of rejoicing; a large number gathered, and there was thanksgiving, praise and prayer and ministry of God’s word by various brethren, including Mr Alexander Pulleng and Mr Walter Norris.
During the years the number in fellowship has been fairly constant at about 25 to 40 until the last year or so, the number now being just over 20. In these days it is almost inevitable that some young Christians will move away from a country assembly to seek education, employment, etc., and this we have experienced at Pensford. We are thankful for those who are still with us.
The assembly has sought to maintain a lively testimony in the village, and to some extent in the surrounding villages. A Sunday School and a children’s meeting flourished for many years, and there has been frequent tract distribution, and in earlier years open-air preaching. In 1937, following gospel meetings by the late Mr Frank Lawes, a women’s meeting was started by Mrs. Bames, and this still continues. Although Mrs Bames, after many years of devoted service, was called home, aged 90 years, on 6th March, 2002, other faithful sisters are actively engaged in this work. The meeting has been a good testimony in the village, a help to many, and a means of making Christ known. For some years the assembly was able to visit three homes for the elderly in the area once a month and to hold a short service at each, but at only one of these is this now possible.There has been a consistent interest in missionary work, earlier particularly in that of Mr Michael Browne. In more recent years it has been a privilege to have in fellowship Mr and Mrs John Axford (Brazil) and Mr and Mrs John Rutter (Botswana) and so we have a special interest in them and their work.
As we review the past we are bound to give thanks to God for His faithfulness and blessing, and we are encouraged to trust Him for the future. ‘God is able to make all grace abound … that ye … may abound to every good work’, 2 Cor. 9. 8. For this we pray, for His glory, in the needy village of Pensford.