In July 2019, Toll Bar with Prescot URC in St Helens held a special celebration service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of opening their building.
From humble beginnings above a bakery, to a church built by the people themselves, to today, their story is worth celebrating, as minister Revd Diane Barrow explains.
“It is quite a story as the church members built it over a period of more than eight years, with setbacks along the way…
In 1909 a small mission was opened in an upper room above John Brown’s Bakery in Bewsey Street, St Helens. The congregation, who had long requested their own Congregational Church Mission, were delighted when they eagerly gathered there for the first ever service. They were not perturbed in the slightest by sitting on hard benches to hear the Word of God, and the sound of the horses whinnying in John’s stable below only added to their joy!
The Wooden Church on Grange Park
Over the next few years its numbers grew and grew until, in 1921, the fellowship moved across Toll Bar to a new site next to the golf links - on the corner of today’s Freckleton Road and Oliver Road. That wooden building was to sustain the church for well over 40 years. By then, the church members had a new vision - to build a brand new brick building by their own hands.
Building the New Church
During the 1960s, Saturday mornings were given over to building work! Members and friends were confidently led by Revd Fred Thomson, who had worked in the building trade prior to joining the ministry. It took a long, long time. The shell of the building seemed to be there for years and the wider community doubted that it would ever be finished.
On 12 July 1969, however, within a few days of man taking his first steps on the moon, our church was finally and formally opened, to the glory of God, and has been part of the community ever since.
Moving on...into a new century
What a joy it was to have Prescot URC join us early in the new century! We grew together as one fellowship, praying and seeking God’s will for the future, forging strong friendships along the way and enjoying new ventures together. When the amalgamation formally took place in 2004, our new name informed the rest of the world of what we already knew - we were one body...
Toll Bar with Prescot URC.
Today the church members, although small in number, continue in the faith of their predecessors, living out their mission statement: To worship God and be a beacon of hope in the community. The beacon of hope shines out to local families who come to Messy Church once a month, and new families keep on arriving. There is also a growing outreach to older folk and others who feel the need of some company, through the monthly coffee afternoons. The building continues to be well used throughout the week by a variety of community groups. Just as in the 1960s, sometimes the task before us seems huge, but we are so aware of Jesus' parable of the mustard seed. If we have faith, God gives the growth."