Rev. Donald Elliott
‘OPEN THE DOORS!’
On Saturday 2nd July 1994, the Revd Maggie Hindley was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacraments and inducted to ‘the Missionary Pastorate’ of Trinity. Among those greeting Maggie and her family was Jurgen Zaers from Gronenbach.
Revd Janet Sowerbutts, Synod Moderator (left), presided at Maggie Hindley’s Ordination
Hymns included the roof- raising ‘And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?’, which would also be sung some years later at Maggie’s induction to the twin churches of Regent Square and Camden Town.
In the first Newsletter (August 1994) of the new ministry, there was
A Message from Colin, her husband, which read as follows:
Recently someone, by a slip of the tongue, referred to "the new minister and her wife". Apart from the reversal of the usual roles, perhaps they were confused by the differences of surname. Maggie and the girls are Hindley, though I am Rowbotham. Before you start thinking we're living in sin or Maggie is some sort of virago, let me put you right.When we married, I told Maqqie that I'd rather she kept her own name. Having had jokes about people rowing on their bottoms all through my schooldays, I didn't want to inflict them on her……
Colin Rowbotham (The Minister's Spouse)
Colin took a full part in the congregation. It is his order that is used for House Communions. We were all so sorry for the Manse family when he became very ill and eventually died in 2000. His poetry lives.
After ordination, Maggie Hindley continued theological studies at Kings College, London, and achieved a Master of Arts degree in 1996. Based initially on some work she had done on Hebrew prophetesses, she started seasons of Bible Studies on Monday afternoons. People attending have been drawn from several churches, with founder members including Jean Cunningham and Mary Stapleton. The studies have been progressing through the whole Bible.
Beginning during the ministerial vacancy with the idea of developing ‘Gospel signs’ (one of which was to be a more welcoming entrance), there has been a Church Conference most years at which goals for the future have been drawn up and subsequently reviewed. Thus in 1996, aims included the making of twenty embroidered cushions for the church seating, the holding of lay-led services with training for public Bible reading, and the identifying of an architect to discuss changes to the buildings.
Trinity Church contributed to the widespread and agonising debate on human sexuality and ministry in the United Reformed Church. A statement was drawn up by Jack Huizenga and others and adopted – almost unanimously - by the Church Meeting. It concluded as follows: ‘Candidates for ordination as minister… should be evaluated according to their individual qualifications. The candidate’s sexual orientation – without consideration of individual gifts, talents and merit – should not be grounds for denying… ordination’.
Trinity was pleased to enjoy the excellent services of Iain McDonald, himself a candidate for ministry, on training placement from Mansfield College, Oxford; but was greatly shocked when the denomination effectively blocked his ordination. In 2001, the Church Secretary, Richard Beepat, was moved to write, ‘I feel very much aggrieved that someone whom God has endowed with so many wonderful gifts and fine qualities has been discriminated against in this way’.
In order that fellowship and a wider understanding of ministry might grow, members and friends have been invited from time to time to describe their ‘other hat’ - what they put their energy into outside church events. Thus Jean Luxon spoke of her time when she worked in an amusement arcade, and Peggy Cavallo of her assistance with
Stella Addo and Abigail Former organist Inez Peters with Ildiko Kardos
Simulated wound accident training. Sammy Addo gave vivid descriptions of the church in Ghana.
In 1998, the Metropolitan Community Church of London asked if they could meet in our buildings. This was readily agreed, and so a most significant ecumenical partnership began with this openhearted, evangelical, liturgical and charismatic body. For a while MCC provided the personnel for the caretaking of the premises.
Friendly relations have also continued with Kelly Street Congregational Church with the occasional sharing of services. Another important partnership has been with the Camden Society for people with learning disabilities. Members of the Society have contributed to worship services, especially through their original songs and band.
Also in 1998, the Camden Listening and Counselling Centre opened with grants from the Synod and (later) the Church Urban Fund. It quickly established its significance and identity under the successive leaderships of Maggie Hindley, Bridget Stark and Julia Dohnal. Several church members have contributed to its work.
Guided by the Thames North Moderator, Janet Sowerbutts, an architect – Mr Terry Dacombe - was invited to draw up plans for the re-design and refurbishment of the church interior, including the provision of counselling rooms. The specification was for a beautiful and adaptable worship space, a comfortable café space, a welcoming reception area, rooms for small meetings, and all to be warm and light and with ‘pointers to its spiritual centre’. Exactly at the moment when these plans were reaching the point of decision, London Underground Limited came to tell us that a redevelopment of the Camden Town station would almost certainly mean the demolition of all the Buck Street premises, including the church.
On advice that the process on the station would be prolonged, the church decided to press ahead with the counselling rooms and then the new entrance, but to put the rest of the plans on hold. It was also decided to resist the demolition of the building as unnecessary and driven mainly by commercial considerations.
In January 2001, the church hosted a public meeting following the published plans for the station redevelopment A big crowd gathered on a Saturday morning and was remarkable for its good humour and the unsolicited testimonials to the value of Trinity Church in the community at large. For example, John Crawford of the Camden Society said: ‘Plans to develop work (e.g. a community café) at the church will be stymied by LUL plans. We need to have a place where life and death can be celebrated.’ St Michael’s Church of England was particularly supportive. Eventually, as a result, London Underground came up with a revised scheme with a replacement church building but on a small site and on four floors. In 2003, a Statement of Case was prepared indicating the church’s stance:
The URC is a "dissenting" or "free" church. At its heart is the belief that the church should not just involve worship, but should also be socially involved with the community. It should be a church of the people. This core belief lies at the heart of a number of the objections, particularly to the proposed replacement, ranging from the need for real flexibility of space to the need to be approachable and clearly distinct from a surrounding commercial development. This belief is reflected in the existing church, which was conceived from the outset as a true multi-purpose building, built without pews to enable it to be a place for the community as much as a place for worship.The Church relies on the church building to sustain its continuing and valuable role in the community. In order to perform this role any building must be easily accessible to the public at street level. It is important that the church building should appear approachable and accessible to the community and not some small part of a larger commercial development.(Extracts from the Statement of Case drafted for submission to the Public Enquiry into the proposed London Underground development at Camden Town)
It is always interesting to see what happens when new members come into the fellowship with their particular gifts and personalities. For example, when Sally Bowman joined she brought new ideas, often more than one at a time! One outcome was the formation of the Kidz Club which she, Jean Luxon and Ethel Stuckey ran for over two years.
In September 2000, Maggie Hindley was inducted to serve additionally at Regent Square Church. She said, ‘….I love Camden Town, and King's Cross is interesting in another way. I hope that the church, with the blessing and help of Church House, can develop a role in the community that serves without dominating and that communicates our faith in God without manipulating.’
Partly out of necessity born of sharing the Minister with Regent Square Church, the life of Trinity has been broadened and deepened by increasing participation of members in the leadership of Sunday Worship. Sessions on ‘enriching our worship’ have led to various experimental forms and improved public speaking.
At the end of 1998, Inez Peters announced that she would have to relinquish her post as organist – after 35 years of playing with panache (and wearing wonderful hats!). Since then, the organ itself has been played less, leading regrettably to its deterioration. However, a number of excellent keyboard musicians have kept our music live. In July 2000, Dot Fraser led a Camden and Westminster Churches performance of ‘Jonah Man Jazz’ with the catchiest of tunes. Furthermore, each Christmas the Fraser family has assembled an amazing orchestra for the Carol Service occupying almost half the sanctuary.
For several years, Miriam Rollings – a Guyanese, like Inez Peters, - kept our premises spick and span. The social life of Trinity has been wonderfully maintained by a number of people – apparently often wearing each others’ hats:-
In the year 2001, membership of Trinity stood at 40, and the Elders were Richard Beepat (Secretary), Noel Fraser (Treasurer), Marian Beha, Molly Karamath, Jean Luxon, Elizabeth Frimpong, Odette Elliott and Jack Huizenga. Peggy Cavallo edits the Newsletter. In 2003, John Beha took over as Treasurer, and a Management Committee was formed.
So the story of God’s people in Camden continues, burning – sometimes flickering - but not burnt out (Exodus 3:2).
‘THE DOORS OPEN’
For a large part of 2002, the Buck Street face of Trinity looked like this
while Saxons the builders opened up the north wall to create our spanking new entrance.
The idea for doors that would make for a better welcome for people and more light inside had first been mooted during the vacancy prior to our present minister’s arrival. Then it had seemed like a pipe dream. But over the years the need for a new entrance had increased.
Despite possible demolition and re-siting, the Church Meeting did not wish the church’s mission to stagnate. Following the completion of the Counselling Rooms, the need for a welcoming entrance and cross-building lobby became crucial. So it was decided to seek planning permission for the new entrance and tenders for its construction.
The work created a lot of dust at the time, and led to a massive clear-out of unused items. It also cleared out most of our financial reserves! However, the finished product enhanced the building in an amazing way, and delighted everybody.
The doors are opened (January 2003)
Front L. to R: The Mayor - Councillor Judith Pattison , Revd Maggie Hindley, Ms Elizabeth Addo, Mr Terry Dacombe (Architect), Ms Sandra Bossman (Ghanaian Prayer Fellowship), Shu Pao Lin (Chinese Nursery School), Mr John Bowers (Saxtons Ltd, Builders)Back Right: Mr Desmond Wade (Architect)
ROLL OF MINISTERS
Underneath the arches
- 1869 - William Ewart, elder of Regent Square, started a service in the old building (Ebenezer Chapel, built 1835, bought 1874)
- 1874 - William Ewart, ordained and inducted, died 1878
- 1879 - James Lamont, inducted, resigned 1881
- 1881 - Charles James Fox Whitmore, interim moderator 1881,inducted 1881, died May 1887
- 1887 - David Connan, MA, ordained and inducted October 1887, resigned 1902
- 1903 - A F Munro, from the Free Church of Scotland, inducted 26 November 1903, moved to South Shields June 1907
- 1907 - W F Holt, inducted October 1907, died 19 May 1908
In the present building, opened 1910
- 1909 - David Anderson MA, ordained and inducted 25 October 1909, moved to Falstone Northumberland, 1913
- 1914 - James Fraser MA, inducted April 1914, Moderator of General Assembly, 1938-9, moved to Hammersmith 1939.
- 1938 - Eric Philip MA, from Birmingham, inducted 1938, died 1942
- 1943 - Lewis Maclachlan MA, from Byker, inducted 1943, moved to Crouch Hill 1948
- 1948 - James Fraser MA, from East London, inducted 1948, retired 1961
- 1962 - Michael Quinton BA, from Scunthorpe, inducted, moved to Palmers Green 1965
- 1966 - Patrick Figgis, from Totteridge, inducted 1966, retired 1977, died 1984
- 1977 - Peter Dawes inducted 1977, resigned 1980
- 1981 - Istvan Kardos inducted 1981, died 1992
- 1994 - Maggie Hindley MA, ordained and inducted 1994. Shared with Regent Square Church, 2000.
SOURCES in chronological order of publication
‘EBENEZER CHAPEL, CAMDEN TOWN’ by W.T Gittens, 1853
Royal Institute of British Architects JOURNAL, Volume 31, 1924
Video Recording of film of Nursery, made c.1935
Nursery School Annual Reports, 1935ff.
TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, KENTISH TOWN, 1910-1960
ST. PANCRAS JOURNAL, VOLUME 16, No. 1 MAY 1962
Audio Tape – ‘Trinity Presbyterian Church 1869 to 1969’, compiled by Lila and Hamish Fraser
Audio Tape – ‘Trinity Presbyterian Church 1869 to 1969’, compiled by Lila and Hamish Fraser
Cartoon Posters by Bernard Pike, 1969
‘HAMPSTEAD: THE BUILDING OF A BOROUGH 1650-1904’
by FML Thompson (Routledge & Kegan Hall, 1974)
[Text quoted with permission of the publisher]
‘HERE COMES THE “GOD-MAN”’, A biography of Patrick Figgis,
by his daughter Bridget Harrison, (Churchman Publishing, 1990)
[Text quoted with permission of the author]
‘CAMDEN TOWN & PRIMROSE HILL PAST’ by John Richardson (Historical Publications, 1991)
‘THE GROWTH OF CAMDEN TOWN, AD 1800-2000’ by Jack Whitehead (Jack Whitehead, 1999)
Church Minute Books, Annual Reports, Newsletters
Personal Interviews – especially with Ethel Stuckey
Photographs – especially from Lila and Hamish Fraser