A Brief History: How it all began.
Part of our ’80 years’ celebration.
A personal recollection by Leslie Hardwick, of conversations with some of the very early members of Hasbury Gospel Hall, now Hasbury Christian Fellowship..
In the early 1930’s, two or three men from Halesowen working for the Austin Car Company at Longbridge began to meet with some others who belonged to the Assembly of Open Brethren in Cotteridge. One of these men was Mr Jim Basterfield, another Mr Pritchard. There was also a Mr Good. All were active members of the Church of England in Halesowen. As a result of these lunch time discussions they became convinced of the need to be baptised by immersion as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another important step in their walk of faith was the call to preach the Gospel to the people of Halesowen by means of open air witness, tract distribution and holding bible readings in their homes.
This led them to establish an Assembly of Open Brethren in the town centre commended by the Assemblies at Bearwood and Cotteridge. Meeting in an upper room over the Co-operative Society (now shops) in Peckingham Street this new church began on 24th June 1934 with just 7 members, helped by both Bearwood and Cotteridge. At that time Halesowen was still only a small town and attitudes between churches very different to today there was considerable opposition to this venture.
Gospel Hall Albert Road 1962A short time later they were given an orchard in Albert Road, Hasbury. Here, in 1938, they started to build a Gospel Hall. In spite of a state of national emergency and with building restrictions imposed, the building was completed. The Gospel Hall was officially opened on 13 May 1939. All this represented a great step of faith as they overcame many difficulties.
There were still only about seven actual members and a few others who attended the meetings. As war was declared on September 3rd 1939 they lost some of the younger men to the army. For a time they were joined by a few civil servants who had been evacuated from London, and were members of brethren assemblies there. These new arrivals were undoubtedly a great help to the struggling assembly but (I was told by Mrs Pritchard) they also introduced teaching into the church restricting the participation of women in the prayer meetings and Bible readings.
Although only a small church there was a fruitful Sunday School with children coming to Christ, some of whom are still going on with the Lord today.
The end of the war meant that some, though not all, of the young men returned and the civil servants went home. Among those who had served in the forces was Fred Basterfeild, now married to Philipa. They threw themselves into the work of the small church. Fred learnt to play the piano and organ so that not all the singing was unaccompanied.
The early 1950’s saw a housing boom in Hasbury and Hayley Green which made a big difference to the church, but more about that to follow……