Tuesday, November 29, 2005

FBC Today

FBC has a small but active congregation who meet for Worship at 10.30 am each Sunday and on Thursdays at 6.00 pm for Bible study with the Pastor, Rev Ray Richardson who joined the church on 1st September 2001.The Church is also open 10.00 till 3.30 each Tuesday for you to enjoy a cuppa and chat.


The Foundation of Ferryhill Baptist Church
In 1902 Bolchow and Vaughan Co. Ltd. opened Dean and Chapter Colliery and in 1903 they started building Dean Bank in order to house the workers they had employed. On 21 October 1903 a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of founding a new Baptist church to serve the area of Dean Bank. The following day the Secretary of the Southern Division of the Northern Baptist Association wrote a letter to the mineowners. He told them that they 'wished to undertake religious training of young people at your new village at Deanbank, also to provide Public Worship for the workmen' He passed on the committee's request for 'land for a chapel, Sunday School and Minister's house'. The committee even wanted a specific site 'at the east end of St Cuthbert's Terrace near the bridge over the cutting'.
This deep cut still physically separates Dean Bank from the rest of the village. The road that goes through the cut was not opened until 30 June 1923 but the cut was started in the 1830s during the coaching era. It was completed due to the growth of traffic on the roads. This exacerbated the feeling of this being a separate community, hence the name Dean Bank Baptist church. Right from the beginning it has been there to serve Dean Bank first and the rest ofFerryhil1 second. Another reason for the focus on Dean Bank was the huge influx of population that it bought about. The census returns show that the population of Ferryhill grew fourfold between 1901 and 1911 from 2,500 to 10,000. A large proportion of these extra 7,500 people would have been housed in the 800 plus houses that were built at Dean Bank. The rapid population growth at this time can be seen in the fact that since 1911 the population has grown to 15,000 so in the remaining 90 years of the 19th century the population increased by 5,000. The Edwardian era was economic boom time in Ferryhill as another mineowner opened Mainsforth Colliery at the opposite end of Ferryhill a year or two after Dean and Chapter was opened and the railways expanded to enable the coal to be transported.
The first meeting there are surviving minutes of show that about half those who attended were ministers. Interestingly though the first person listed was A R Doggart who had a number of large stores in Co Durham including one in Spennymoor and was known for his financial support of churches in the area. The ministers on the list included Rev Curwood (Tower Street Baptist church West Hartlepool), Rev Graham Barton (Crook Baptist Church), Rev Ogilvie, Rev Hamilton (Grange Road Baptist church Darlington) Rev Westwood (Waldron Street Baptist Church Bishop Auckland), and Rev C W Vaughan (Hartlepool Baptist church). It did not prove possible to find out what church, if any Rev Ogilvie was connected to from this source i.e. Kelly's Directory of Durham and Northumberland for 1902. It was not Spennymoor, Wolsingham, Thornaby or Stockton. It is surprising that the Rev Kelly was not present as he was the minister of the nearest existing Baptist church i.e. Spennymoor which was also the location of this first meeting. A number of other men were listed as John Raw, Jas Robson, C W Kent, Messrs Bell, James Inchcoup, Johnson and John Bennet. Mr Bell from West Hartlepool was later to draw up the plans for the church as an architect so his specialist knowledge would have been useful even at this early stage. A later entry in the minutes says that Jas Robson came from Waterhouses.
The reply to this letter was sent the following day and it was basically to wait a while because the company did not know if it was going to build any more than the hundred or so houses that it had already built. This letter was formally minuted at the next meeting at Kirby Stephen six months later. Six months after that a further meeting was held in conjunction with the 9th District meeting at Bishop Auckland which makes it seem quite possible that the timing of the first meeting had something to do with the timing of a previous district meeting the October before.
It was this third meeting that set the scene for the future of the church. This was where it was decided that the time was right to go forwards with the idea. The idea of building the school room first came from this meeting. They also agreed that the minister of the church in Spennymoor was to work 2 days a week in Dean Bank visiting the cottages and holding an evening service. He was also to preach there four Sundays in each quarter. The work was to be under the control of the minister of Spennymoor together with a committee.
The request for the particular plot of land was accepted. They set certain conditions one being that the company was able to mine underneath without being liable for compensation and another was 'no intoxicating liquors shall at any time be sold nor any noxious or offensive trade or business be carried on upon the premises which shall be used only for the erection of a Baptist Church, Sunday School and minister's house'. The final condition was that the church had to be completed within five years of the date of the letter i.e. 5th November 1909.
From the beginning of 1906 they were able to use Dean Bank School Infant School on a Sunday. They could have services or one service and Sunday School for 3 shillings or one service for 1/6. Weeknight services cost 1 shilling. There is a report in the minutes that this room proved too small for the forty or so regular attenders at the Sunday meetings. These forty people included children. The foundation document (covenant) was signed by twelve men and eight ladies. Looking at the rules which follow the rewritten copy of this document all of these people would have been over 21. They moved into the church building in 1908 and were recognised as a Baptist church in 1909.
The original estimate for the building was £870. The eventual cost was just over £1170.00. There was something of a struggle to raise this money. Some of the required money was raised from gifts, some from a loan from Baptist building fund and some from various fundraising activities arranged at both Spennymoor and Ferryhill. This proved to be something of a struggle. Various problems arose while the loan was paid off including the start of the Great War.
This financial struggle is a theme that repeats itself to the present day e.g. paying off the debt incurred in building the church, carrying out essential repairs, and paying a full-time minister. There have never been the numbers or the money to build the church itself. What is now the church was supposed to be the Sunday school and presumably the church itself was to be on the land left at the side of the vestry .The Sunday school had a baptistry added at the beginning although it was to be done as cheaply as possible unfortunately there was a leak reported in 1909 and it still leaks. The minister's house has not been built but there has never been the need to have a house for a minister as there has never been a full-time paid minister at Dean Bank Baptist Church.
Decision making in the church in relation to ministers
As already mentioned the minister of Spennymoor had oversight over the church planted at
Ferryhill. This set the pattern of sharing ministers that has been followed for the majority of the last 95 years. When the church opened they were offered the chance of sharing a minister with Spennymoor. The desire was there but the finances were weak. The new minister was to be paid £120 a year with £60 coming from the church at Spennymoor, £20 from Dean Bank church and £40 from Home Mission. Even this proved to be beyond the resources of the church and they sadly had to decline this offer. A similar situation arose in both 1921 and 1929.
The dream was always to have a minister but somehow there was always the obstacle of finance. This was why it was so surprising to come across a mention of Pastor Pearson in the early 1920s. Reading the minutes he seemed to be the pastor of that church until he left to go to Blackpool. This was very puzzling until one of the elderly ladies who attends the church today mentioned that her uncle Harry Pearson was the pastor of the church at Ferryhill and a number of other churches at the same time, possibly including Spennymoor, Crook and Bishop Auckland.
One of the problems when Pastor Pearson left was paying him what he was owed. The church was struggling so much financially in 1925 that they had to approach the association and say if you don't help us we will have to close. In 1926 the situation was not much better as they had a debit balance of just over £26. Meetings were normally held quarterly but this time two meetings were held 5 weeks apart and a report at the second one was that they had not managed to meet their expenses and were even more in debt than they were 5 weeks earlier. An anonymous person agreed to stand as guarantor for an overdraft at the bank and the church was able to pay Pastor Pearson the money that he was owed before he left. Actually there was mention of how well their offerings had kept up considering the problems in the mining industry at the time. The 1926 strike would have affected all sections of a community which was largely dependant on mining.
They struggled on and managed to keep the dream of having a minister alive. Various approaches have been made to the church as regards wanting to become a minister at the church. One came from a Mr Prechous of Stockton whose request to take charge for six months was accepted. Another request came some years later from the widow of a minister who had served in Stockton. She had asked two ladies from the church to present her request to the church. The letter as copied into the minutes suggested that she would be in demand once it was known that she was willing to come to a church. Various checks were made as to this lady's suitability for the post, presumably including verbal references from the church in Stockton. After these checks were made she was not considered suitable for the position.
Another way oversight has been achieved at Ferryhill has been by sharing a minister. This has been achieved at least twice. First with Spennymoor and later once Spennymoor had closed with Crook and Bishop Auckland. This has also involved the home mission fund. This situation requires working together with the other churches and abiding by their decisions to start or end the partnership. The partnership with Crook and Bishop Auckland was ended due to the fact that Bishop Auckland wanted to have a minister of their own and with the help of home mission they were able to arrange this. This lifted a weight off the treasurer at Dean Bank because she knew that it would not be long before Dean Bank church would struggle to pay their share of the minister's salary.
Dean Bank church has also benefited from student ministers who have spent some time there learning the ropes. This has happened at least twice, once in the 1950s and once in the 1980s. The church has been so desirous of a minister that when someone of a reasonable calibre has been available they have accepted them as ministers. The proposal has come before the church meeting and once checks were made into the character and ability of the prospective student minister they have been accepted as student minister for as long as they were able to stay.
The last pastor of the church was David Hudson (Ray Richardson from 1/09/2001). He was introduced to the church as a student minister who lived within 15 miles of the church who had a heart for small churches. He came to speak on a number of occasions before he finished working at Darlington College. He spent quite a bit of time with folk from Dean Bank. When he finished work he took the opportunity to become the pastor of the church. This was on an expenses only basis as he could live on the settlement he had from the college. He left some years ago as he had decided to take on the same role at another church. It was during his time that the church formally changed its name from Dean Bank Baptist Church to Ferryhill Baptist Church. This was an item on the agenda and as with Mr Hudson's appointment it was fairly quickly discussed and seen to be a good idea and passed without argument.
There have been various forms of pastoral oversight in the church at Ferryhill. There have been two main influences on the decisions made firstly the financial situation and secondly the character of the person involved. The financial situation has limited the sort of oversight that could be afforded. On more than one occasion an offer to share a minister has had to be turned down simply through lack of funds. The other influence has been the character of the person involved. Reading between the lines there was some considerable discussion over the possibility of appointing the widow of the minister from Stockton with some being quite in favour and some set against. This is one of few occasions where the vote is recorded as not being unanimous. This issue of character is one covered by the rules as given on page 2 of the appendix.
The question is where do things go from here. There is no way the church could afford to pay a minister. The average attendance at the Sunday service is eight, most of whom are retired. Of the rest one has a husband who is unemployed and another works part-time and has a husband who has a job. The situation has not changed. The dream is still there for a minister but there is catch 22 style situation that arises of how can the church grow spiritually and numerically without pastoral oversight but how can the church afford to pay for that pastoral oversight so it can grow.
Description of the church's current practise regarding baptism membership and communion
There is a deliberate attempt to make sure that people are not pressurised into baptism. This possibly has gone so far that people don't hear much about baptism and about what its significance is. It is left to individuals to approach the leadership to ask for baptism but unfortunately it can be the case that how do they know what to do if no one tells them. In their efforts not to pressurise people some may either put it off or not even be baptised because they do not want to raise the issue themselves. The idea of not pressurising is good but it is necessary to explain the situation and gently give people the opportunity to come forwards if they wish. If nothing is said about baptism being desirable then those who recently started coming to the church do not know anything about it. It common for there to be a two year gap between becoming a regular attender and being baptised mainly because neither party want to raise the issue first.
Once people have come forwards for baptism there are a few practical details to deal with such as the baptistry that has leaked since the church was built and who actually does the baptism. Previously the bapistry has been lined with a plastic sheet before adding the water and taking extra care with the immersion heater. If there was a pastor then they would automatically do the honours but at the moment there isn't one so alternative arrangements would have to be made. This person would also be responsible for the extra instruction that the rulebook says should be given to candidates for baptism.
Appendix 1 is a copy of the rules(these have been updated on 27th March 2003) that are referred to when in doubt about what the normal practise should be. The name has been changed from being called after the part of Ferryhill it was built to serve, to the name of the larger community. The focus of the work of the church is still this local area but it was decided some time ago to change the name to make it easier for people outside of the local area to know where the church is. These rules are followed quite closely in regards to the baptism and membership of the church (see under the section headed membership on page 1 and ordinances on page 2).
The rules also state that the Lord's Supper should also be observed at least once a month. This allows for communion more than once a month but it is normal to partake in the Lord's Supper one morning a month. There are no evening services at the moment. Communion is laid out on a table with castors which is wheeled to in front of the table used by the speaker. The normal policy is to have this at the end of the meeting and allow a gap so that anyone who does not wish to partake can take their leave without embarrassment. This is carefully done with an announcement earlier in the meeting that there will be an extra part at the end for all who love the Lord. The rules drawn up over 40 years ago state that it should be open communion table and it still is.
The speaker normally presides over the service and when there were four deacons they used to take it in turns to say the prayer of blessing over the bread and wine before taking it around. At the moment there are two deacons, in other words just a secretary and treasurer with no supporting deacons. One of these two is not happy about taking part in the communion service so it has been arranged that the other one takes both roles. The bread is normal sliced bread already cut up into squares and the wine is blackcurrant in little cups. The bread is eaten separately and the wine together to emphasise fellowship.
Church meetings minutes re foundation of the church 1903-1909 Church meetings minutes 1926-61
Deacons meetings minutes 1910-1949
(all the above accessed via Durham County Record Office, County Hall, Durham)
Kelly's Directory of Durham and Northumberland for 1902 (accessed via Durham City library reference section. Additional information has come from oral sources. This is possible as the last church organist who died in 2005 in her 80's was the daughter of one of the founders of the church and her niece is now the church treasurer. There have been at least two members of that family attending the church ever since its foundation. Another lady who has recently moved back to Ferryhill also has strong family links to the church.