THERE were many needy people in late Victorian England, and Edmonton had its fair share. Earlier in the century the Industrial Revolution had brought the railways to what was then a semi-rural community, and thus transformed it into part of the capital city. The railways brought industry, and with industry came workers – labourers and their families – thousands desperately needing to hear and experience the Gospel of God’s saving love, grace and mercy.
In 1888 one Christopher King set aside a year for mission work among the working people of Edmonton. He hired a hall for meetings and within a matter of weeks crowds were coming in. At the end of twelve months Mr. King moved on, but the foundation of what would become Edmonton Baptist Chapel was laid. Within a year the mission secured a site and built a meeting hall alongside the railway. The conditions were very basic and each Lord’s Day they had to borrow gas lamps to light the services! Vigorous outreach was carried out among all age groups. In addition to the crowded indoor services open-air meetings were held attracting hundreds of people. It was not easy. The people had no religious background and were rough and hard. They often gave the speakers a hard time with their jeering and heckling. The missioners visited the lodging houses (the Victorian equivalent of bed and breakfast establishments) to tell the men and women of the love of the Lord Jesus. Hundreds of boys and girls crowded into the Sunday School each week. But the social needs of the people could not be ignored. There was no Welfare State and the harsh winters, slum housing, and large families contributed to a level of poverty and hunger that we find hard to comprehend today. In such times of crisis the mission brought relief by setting up food centres. It served up to two hundred breakfasts each morning and the same amount of hot dinners for children. With little money and very basic cooking facilities, this was no mean feat.
During this pioneering time various men led the work. They often came from other churches, some only staying for a short period of time. Numbers continued to increase and in 1910 the mission was formally constituted into a church, known as “The People’s Tabernacle”.
The hall which had been built in 1889 eventually reached the end of its life expectancy and so in 1913 the church erected two new buildings, a place for the services of worship and a separate hall. Services continued there for the next seventy-five years. While numbers were maintained, sadly the church was in grave spiritual decline, which only increased as the years passed.
In His Sovereign providence and mercy God intervened and in 1979 the church called a Pastor, Rev. Roger Brazier, to full time work and ministry. As a Reformed Baptist man the task of establishing and building the church on a Biblical foundation begun. Regular (every Sunday) Gospel preaching, evangelistic outreach and children’s work were swiftly established and with an expositional teaching ministry many of the members were introduced, and subsequently came to appreciate, the Doctrines of Grace. However, some were unprepared to submit to the Word of God and removed themselves, leaving the church once again in a pioneering situation.
The buildings were now ageing and in need of much costly repair. This, coupled with the noise of the now high-speed trains thundering past every ten minutes, meant there were many distractions and hindrances when the church met for worship.
Once again the Lord graciously undertook for the needs of His people, providing, within the same locality, a different site and chapel in 1989. With the move the church was now meeting in a smaller and more comfortable building, away from the trains but not the people. Having moved the building was registered as “Edmonton Baptist Chapel”.
The Lord continues to bless and sustain His work. The people of Edmonton still need the gospel as much as their great grandfathers did. The church now reaches out to a community of many cultures and false religions. While material prosperity has improved, spiritually they are deeply impoverished; in many ways more hardened to the things of God than their predecessors were.