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Church Histories: South Street

So many of our member churches have an interesting background, we thought it would be a fine idea to create a historical series that can be shared among the Connexion community and beyond. Below is an account of how South Street Free Church in Eastbourne evolved from its 19th century roots in Grove Hall, under the watchful eye of a series of ministers, to the church that exists today, led by David Batchelor.

South Street Free Church

At the turn of the 19th century, there was a growing congregation of Christians meeting in Grove Hall, Eastbourne, who wanted a permanent place to worship. Their Pastor at that time was Rev George Thompson. 

The congregation had previously moved from Pevensey Road Congregational Church in 1897 to Grove Hall, formerly St Peters Church, which they hired from the Council. Whilst in occupation, they designed and built the present church building, which is home to South Street Free Church.

Eastbourne was expanding rapidly at the turn of the century, as did this new Congregational Church. From a nucleus of 5000 Eastbourne grew to a town of 50,000, and before long church membership approached 200. Rev George Thompson, obviously a man of drive and enthusiasm, led his increased congregation into the new building in 1904. He retired in 1907, and in 1914 the Trustees of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion took on responsibility for the building with Rev J. Westbury Jones appointed as the new Minister.

During WW1, 42 church members joined the forces, and seven of these men were killed in action. Following the end of the war in 1918, Rev Frederick Hastings began his period of ministry, which continued until 1937. 

Following the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, the church was closed for five years. When it re-opened Rev Samuel Gardiner was appointed to re-organise the church and attend to the fabric of the building.

Prior to the appointment of Rev W. A. Sinden  in 1957, Pastor John Lewis ministered for a short period, but sadly he died unexpectedly after an evening visit to one of his congregation members. Rev Sinden continued to lead the church until his death in 1970, after which Roger Davies, then Manager of the Eastbourne Christian Bookshop, took over as Pastor, and the church began to grow in numbers again. Roger left the church in order to attend Bible College and he went on to become Pastor of the Countess Free Church in Ely, another of The Connexion churches. Rev Michael Cox was appointed from Victoria Baptist Church to replace him, but his ministry was unfortunately restricted due to ill health.

In 1983 Rev K. P. Morey became the Minister (he had been a missionary in Japan for many years), and under his leadership the church continued to thrive. He left at the end of July 1993 to undertake missionary work in Romania.

After a four-year interregnum, Ewart Helyar, who had recently retired from Lindfield Free Church, took on the role for three years as Pastor. He remained with the church on a part-time basis from April 2000 and continued in office until his final retirement in August 2005.

Philip Laver was inducted as Pastor in September 2005. Philip had previously been Pastor of the Javea International Baptist Church in Spain before taking up the appointment. The current Minister of South Street Free Church is David Batchelor, who was inducted as Assistant Pastor in September 2009, and became Pastor on Philip's departure in October 2010.

 The image shows an early print of the South Street church building. For more information about South Street Free Church, visit their website http://www.southstreetfreechurch.org

Supporting The Connexion

The support we give to our UK Connexion churches is to enable them to flourish and continue The Countess of Huntingdon’s mission. The Connexion’s funds help to preserve the church buildings, many of which have historic value, provide sponsorship for theological education, financial and legal assistance for our chapels, and resources and pastoral support for our ministers. With limited funds, we rely on donations, both large and small, to fulfil our purpose. 

If you are able to help by making a gift or regular donation, please click on the Connexion Mission in Donations. We are extremely thankful to all of our donors, both past and present, who help us to continue the Countess of Huntingdon’s legacy.

Back to school Sierra Leone

Brama School, Sierra Leone, received a new coat of paint over the summer and was made secure for the school holiday period. The children returned for the new school year in September, and thanks are given for the children at Bethesda Centre, who all passed their June exams and have been able to move up into the next class. 

In October, Sunday School teacher training has also begun for between 50 and 60 participants. The trainees, who will be committing 49 hours of study over eight weekends, come from various backgrounds and have different educational levels, including some with few or no literacy skills. Prayers are requested for their successful completion of the training and that they prove to be of great value to the children they instruct.

During the rainy season in Sierra Leone, which extended into September, there was much flooding in Freetown. Many people lost their homes and belongings and some tragically lost their lives.

Prayers continue for the safety of the communities and a halt to the problematic mudslides. In particular for the Government to act wisely concerning the deforestation on the mountains and legislation to prevent people from building near waterways that are liable to flooding

sl painting securing building   sl sundayschool training

Pictures feature a group of children coming back to school for the new year (main), repainting and securing the school building (above left), and the new class of Sunday School teaching trainees (above right).

We continue to support the work of our churches in Sierra Leone through contributing to ministers’ wages, providing funding for ministerial training, and building and maintaining churches. We also support care and education through the Bethesda Orphanage and The Connexion’s schools, helping with teachers’ salaries and teacher training. When necessary, we help to restore homes damaged during unrest, and can assist in times of emergency or urgent need. Should you wish to donate to this ongoing work, please click on Donations and go to the Sierra Leone fundraising section.

Turning the Tide

Turning the tide is a vision to see Zion Community Church renewed and revitalised in the next three years. This means expanding our membership for long-term growth, supporting a full-time pastor and becoming financially self-supporting. 

Our intention is to grow the life of the church in order to make an impact with the gospel in West Cornwall.

We are focusing our energies on prayer, evangelism and training of gospel workers. 

 We have identified five areas to focus on:

To build and establish our membership 

  • From local churches with sending capacity
  • By asking people intentionally to join us
  • Through the 'Friends of Zion' group

To re-focus and commit to prayer 

  • To pray all together as a church
  • To pray intentionally and specifically
  • Commit to weekly prayer

 To renew our approach to evangelism

  • To study the book of Acts together
  • To pursue the 'who's your one?' initiative
  • To ensure evangelism is a key ongoing aspect to church life

To engage an apprentice/trainee each year 

  • To pray and plan for the person, accommodation and financial provision
  • To support, train and send people to further gospel ministry
  • To seek to equip workers for reaching Cornwall and beyond

To further our work with the Peninsula Gospel Partnership (PGP)

  • Key links with churches around Cornwall
  • Invite help from other leaders
  • To enjoy full support from the PGP

Pop up Cinema

Wormley Free Church has been opening its doors to the local community and families for a Pop up Cinema once a month on a Friday. 

The initiative has been launched in partnership with Wormley and Turnford Big Local and the Pavillion Cinema to help to improve life for local residents and bring the community together.

The films are shown on a professional quality screen and guests can enjoy popcorn and cups of tea whilst they are watching the movies. Tickets are reasonably priced at £3 each or £10 for a group of four people.

The film for Friday 30 September was the popular Mary Poppins Returns (U) which features the now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, who receive another welcoming and magical visit from everyone’s favourite nanny, Mary Poppins.

Theological Training for Ministry - Henry

Having received financial assistance from the Cheshunt Foundation, Henry Fay, from Goring Free Church, was able to complete a Certificate in Theological Studies at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford to aid his position as a Lay Preacher. 

Continuing the legacy invested by the Countess of Huntingdon, the Cheshunt Foundation makes grants available to enable ministers and lay people to train and then continue with their theological education.

Henry’s story

"For the past 10 years I have been involved in church leadership as an elder at Goring Free Church. During this time, I have started to explore preaching as one of my gifts and have continued to take on other teaching and pastoral responsibilities such as small group leadership. 

In 2015 ill health forced me to retire from my full-time job as a GP and I found myself with much more time on my hands.  I saw this is as an opportunity to serve my local church in new ways, and felt led to pursue some theological study to equip me better for this. 

My aims in doing the Certificate in Theological Studies were to fill in the gaps in my theological knowledge, to stimulate my mind and spirit through studying scripture, and to equip me better for the lay pastoral ministry in which I am already involved. 

I was very blessed to receive financial assistance from The Connexion through the Cheshunt Foundation towards the cost of the course fees, for which I am most grateful.  

The course involved attending lectures for one day a week during term time and writing six essays a year. I really appreciated meeting other students from a wide variety of church and professional backgrounds, and discussing what we were learning together. In fact I enjoyed the course so much that I stayed on for a further year so I could get to grips with a biblical language.

Looking back on my studies I feel that it was a very valuable opportunity to become familiar with the theological ‘landscape’ – learning more about the Bible, and also what has been said and thought about God and his word throughout the ages.  I’ve come away with a long mental list of books I’d still like to read, ideas that I’d like to explore further and more hunger to keep studying God’s word.”  

Henry Fay

The support we give to our UK churches is to enable them to flourish and continue The Countess of Huntingdon’s mission, which includes sponsored theological education for ministers and lay people. All donations, no matter how small, are gratefully received to help us to continue this important work among our churches and fulfil the legacy we have inherited from the Countess of Huntingdon.

Hailsham Shoe Bags

Church members at Hailsham Gospel Mission have been busy putting together 150 'Shoe Bags' ready for shipment and distribution to the children in Sierra Leone.

The size of the task is evident with the generosity of donations received for the bags, including clothing, books and a lovely collection of toys.

Hailsham would also like to express how grateful they are to God for the renovation of the roof of their church hall, and extend special thanks to The Connexion Trustees for helping to make this possible. Had the work not been completed, this important mission work would have been very difficult to manage.

Christine Stone

Hailsham Gospel Mission


Surfing the Wave

Celebrating mums' bible studies at Rosedale

Nervously I paced up and down our church lounge. The sofa and chairs were arranged in a nice horseshoe shape around the baby mat. In the corner the kettle was freshly boiled and the fruit loaf spread with butter. Another playmat had a scattering of toddler toys and the little wooden kitchen was accessorised with a small selection of toy fruit and veg. Piled up next to the coffee table was the stack of Bibles. I was all ready for our very first Mum’s Bible Study. But would anyone come?

The success of that first Butterfly Babes parent and toddler group at the beginning of January 2019 had continued. After a few weeks we realised that for safety reasons we were going to have to limit number to the first 25 families that came through the door, although turning people away was heartbreaking. There was no doubt that the Lord was guiding us to be more accessible to the families in our community and we felt that this was a current ‘wave’ that God intended us to catch*. Our Easter Workshop was full, our Sunday School numbers had increased. And now, at the beginning of the new summer term, I was about to offer a Monday morning Bible study and prayer for mums. They could bring their pre-school aged children, have coffee and cake and we would look at scripture together and pray. This had been a dream of mine since my children were toddlers, but was it God’s plan? Was this really His wave? And was this the way we were to surf it? 

The minute hand ticked on… 9.23, 9.24, 9.25… and Laura walked through the door with baby Summer. Followed by Christina and young Theo a minute later! I breathed a “Thank you, Lord!” and began serving coffee and cake. 

The group has now been running for three months and for the regular eight of us who gather it is the highlight of our week. The discussions range high and low. Scriptures are considered, debated and applied. Prayer requests are shared and answers noted in our little green prayer diary. The cake is incredibly important, but even more valuable are the friendships that are forming. Between us we have mums, grandma’s, and a nanny. Occasionally sisters or teenage daughters join us. Not all those who come on a Monday attend Sunday worship and, as is common at Rosedale, we have Greek, Italian, Caribbean, Brazilian, Zimbabwe and English ethnic backgrounds. We have formed a WhatsApp group and support each other through the week in prayer and encouragement. 

It is hard to put into words what the group has come to mean to us. It is a safe place where our real troubles and heartache can be shared and joys celebrated. Yes, it is chaos and the one time we tried a Bible meditation it failed because of chasing after the toddlers! But we are growing in Christ together, encountering the Lord and discovering more about ourselves. In September Laura returns to work, but she has changed her days so that she can continue to attend the Bible study. Our prayer is that more women (men are welcome too!) will join us.

Perhaps Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14 is most applicable. “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom his whole family in have and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heard through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep it the love of Christ.” 

Bethany Green

Rosedale Community Church


*A term Rick Warren from Saddleback Church coined to identify a local move of God

Prayers for Albania Trip

Please pray for Becky, Esther, Stephanie and Bethany from Rosedale Church in Cheshunt. Suggested prayers are featured on the illustrated Albania Prayer Diary.

The girls will be travelling to Albania from Saturday 27 July to Saturday 10 August to support the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base in their summer mission to Durres, a port city on the Adriatic Sea, west of the capital, Tirana.


News from Sierra Leone visit

Janet O’Shea, from Zion Community Church in St Ives, returned from her trip to Sierra Leone in July. During her visit to support schools and the local communities, Janet was accompanied by her 14 year-old granddaughter Nina and Tino, aged 19, who has previously done an amazing job working with children and teenagers at Zion.

Short report from Janet

We had an amazing visit!

At first, the teaching was an uphill struggle at Brama School, but by the end of the stay we had finally reached the mountaintop. We taught the Brama children for eight days from 8am until 2pm, before taking a rest, then returned to the school to paint and decorate the classrooms from 4pm until 7pm.

During the evening Magnus Bendu often took us to meet folk from the local communities, and one night we helped to feed the street children. 

I led a Sunday School training course on the first Saturday morning of our trip and also attended a ministers fraternal on the following Saturday. 

Life at Bethesda Orphanage continues to flourish and the children there are a true testimony of the Saving Grace of Jesus. Bethesda supports a large number of children who live on the streets of Sierra Leone and provides a home for orphans whose family cannot be traced.


The main picture shows Janet decorating one of the newly painted classrooms, and her teaching one of the classes above. Below features the new reading area where the children can enjoy the many 100s of books that have been donated to the school.


Making a donation to The Connexion, Sierra Leone Mission

If you would like to contribute towards the important work of The Connexion’s Sierra Leone Mission, please click on the Donate button at the top of the Homepage. All donations, no matter how small, are of huge value.

The mission supports the work of our churches in Sierra Leone, contributing to ministers’ wages, providing funding for ministerial training, and building and maintaining churches. It also supports care and education through the Bethesda Orphanage and The Connexion’s schools, helping with teachers’ salaries and teacher training. When necessary the mission can also help in times of emergency or urgent need.

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