Our History

3rd January 2020 we will be celebrating 50 years as a church on Caversham Park.

Located at Caversham Park Primary School.

Caversham Park is a LEP (Local Ecumenical Partnership) of 4 denominations (United Reformed Church, Anglican, Methodist and Baptist) meeting as a single worshiping congregation.

How it came to be:

The first news that a new housing estate was to be built on the outskirts of Caversham came in a conversation between the Rector, Canon John Grimwade, and Mr Eric Hatch, the Scouts District Commissioner for Reading – He told the Rector that the scouts were to lose their camping ground* as the land in Caversham Park had been sold to a developer for housing.

The Rector brought the matter to the PCC, and it was not long before a conclusion was reached, that with four already in the Parish* it would be difficult to justify the considerable cost of building another church.  It was also resolved that whatever was done, should as far as possible, be done Ecumenically. It also became apparent that however willing the other denominations might be, to take part, they could not be expected to make any financial contribution to this work.

By reading the Parochial Church Council Minutes 1966 1972, we find that on the July 27th, 1966, the PCC proposed to buy house on Caversham Park Village, and that a Church Army Captain, Captain Burkes was to be appointed to care for the residents of Caversham Park.

Later this appointment fell through} and due to the economic situation, the purchase of the house was postponed, it was not until the January 15th 1969, that the Rector reminded the PCC that an agreement had previously been reached to buy a house on the village. A suitable house in Blackwater Close had become available and it was agreed to purchase No.2 for £7,300. The house was used by a member of the clerical staff, The Reva John Crowe one of the curates in Caversham: moved into Blackwater Oose in Februarys 1969.

On March 24th, 1969, the Bishop of Reading, +Eric Knell, came to a Service of Dedication in 2 Blackwater Close, to which members of the Residents Association were invited.  In those first months, houses were used as venues for discussion groups, aimed to encourage a ‘no holds barred’ opportunity for enquirers to ask questions about the Christian Faith.  On Christmas Eve, 1969, a Carol Service at 2 Blackwater Close was attended by 10 adults & 20 children.

In September, 1970, a meeting was held at Blackwater Close for all the Anglicans who showed an interest in the work of the church, to consider the needs of Christian families in Caversham Park, and also to look at the possibility of holding some form of liturgical service on Sunday morning, in the Primary School on the Village.  The School had been opened in September 1970.

70 adults and many children attended a Carol Service in the School in December 1970.

The first Sunday morning service was held in the School on January 3rd, 1971, attended by 13 adults & 10 children. It was a day of Freezing Fog!  The collection amounted to £1 -17 – 5d (£1.88).

The Methodist Church supported the project, and the Methodist minister at Caversham Heights the Reve Terry Harris, co-operated closely with John Crowe.

At Easter, 1971* Geoff Goldsmith was co-opted onto the St. Peter’s PCC, to represent Caversham Park.

In April} 1971* John Crowe reported to the PCC that the Sunday Family Service had an average attendance of 25 aduits & 30 chitdren.

The Methodists in Caversham Park were taking a real interest and assisted in the conduct of the services.

The first Baptism was held on the Sunday after Easter. 1971, Whilst the Anglicans were considering whether or not a Liturgical Service such as Holy Communion could be held in a none-consecrated building, the Methodists proved that it was not a problem to them.

The first communion to be held in Caversham Park other than the mid-week service was conducted according to the Methodist Rite by the Rev- Terry Harris.

The Methodists asked Local Preachers, David & Myra Parsons to be their representatives in Caversham Park.  They were active in the church for a number of years until David*s job took them to other parts. The Rev. Terry Harris made a point of taking our service once a month and the Bishop gave his permission for Terry to administer the Chalice at Holy Communion.  Everything had to be done by the book in those days.

In 1971, the Rev. John Crowe left to become vicar of Hampton, near Evesham.  He was followed by Rev. Stephen Bartlett who came to us at Easter 1972.

In the early days everyone was being very careful not to upset the sensitivities of one another.  It was a case of treading softly.  A discussion took place between Stephen and Terry over the type of vestment to be worn by them.  They decided on a white cassock!

Some thought was given to the Communion Vessels, and it was agreed that a local potter be asked to make an ironware chalice and patten.  These would not appear as Anglican as a silver set.

The choice of hymn book was another vexed question. Again, some people did not want a book that identified with any one denomination.  Margaret Lauder, who was one of our pianists carried out a lengthy research into a number of hymn books, and discovered that Hymns Ancient & Modern actually had more hymns by John & Charles Wesley than did the Methodist Hymn Book!  Eventually, agreement was reached that we should purchase the BBC Hymn Book,; a choice that subsequently proved unpopular.

Happily, those early concerns quickly disappeared as everyone soon discovered that we were all just Christians worshipping together.  Nobody thought of their neighbour or themselves as being of a particular denomination.

From the earliest days, the Wednesday House Communion became established as a regular feature of church life in Caversham Park.  The first service in a house was held on October 18th, 1969, four people attended.  On the February 25th, 1976, a record number, 19 adults & 25 children attended House Communion.  People were crammed everywhere even up the stairs, A great occasion.

A combined service of all the churches in Caversham was held in the School on January 25th, 1976.  Between 275 & 300 people attended.  A great assembly that created a welcome accommodation problem!

Stephen Bartlett was with us until 1977, during which time the church grew in numbers and in faith. One of the big activities that Stephen organized was the Parish-wide Family Festival, out of which the Link Group was formed.  Another memorable event was when Phillip & Stephen Andrews were Baptised by total immersion at the Caversham Baptist Church.  Stephen and Dennis Weller shared the service, Stephen actually going into the water and Baptising Phillip & Stephen – and himself in the process!  In January 1979, we suffered our only interruption to services in the School until 2020, when the oil heating supplies failed to be delivered.  The Roman Catholics in the adjacent St Martin’s school, kindly allowed us to hold a service in their premises.

By the time Stephen left, to become Vicar of Chalgrove with Britwell Salome, it became apparent that the house at 2 Blackwater Close was not suitable for a growing family.  Every time the main room downstairs was used for church activities, Becky and Katie were banished upstairs. 51 Galsworthy Drive was on the market.  it was a house that had been enlarged and was therefore more suitable.  2 Blackwater Close was sold and 51 Galsworthy Drive bought.

The Rev. Graham Lynch-Watson, and his wife Jane and their two children, Frances and Sami then moved in.  As was the case from the contribution Graham has made to his eight years with us, were happy and eventful ones, He was much loved by many people, not least the congregation of St. John’s, where he covered many services during an interregnum there. Rumour has it that they tried to get Graham as their Priest.

In 1980 we celebrated our first service of Confirmation in the school hall, another ‘first’ for the Methodists, but importantly, it was conducted by Ralph Rogerson & Graham Lynch-Watson jointly.  In 1985, Graham left to become a Vicar in Warwick.  He was followed by Rev. Paul Kenchington.

Paul arrived with his wife Clare and their little son, Philip.

Paul introduced us to the guitar as part of church music. Paul & Clare were popular, perhaps particularly with the young people.  During their stay we had the Mission ’88’, held in a marquee on the Show Field, when it poured with rain all the time!  By the time they left us, after five years, another little boy, Robin had increased the family to four.

From the start of the church in Caversham Park, we had been known as an ‘Ecumenical Experiment’.  It was during Paul’s ministry with us that a Covenant was signed between the Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists, which formalised us as a Local Ecumenical Project (LEP).

This Covenant was signed on January 14th, 1988.

On March 1st, 1989, the Parish of Caversham was divided into five parishes, of which Caversham Park became one in its own right.

Paul left to become a Vicar in Hucclecote, Gloucester in 1989, He was followed in 1990 by Rev Phil Abrey and his wife Dorothy, Dorothy is still with us today. Phil was licensed in the School hall by the Bishop of Reading +John Bone.

An early task for Phil was to draw up a Constitution, which had to be approved by each participating body.  This was duly achieved and on January 6th, 1991 a Service of Thanksgiving was held to mark the Agreement of the Constitution.

Now that we had become a fully registered LEP, with our own constitution, sponsored by the Anglican, Methodist and Baptist Churches, our thoughts turned to the production of our own Service Book, which would contain the Rites of all the Sponsoring Bodies This was finalised, after a lot of effort by a few, and brought into use in 1996. it has been a blessing in many ways, not least the fact that only one book is needed, instead of the many, which sometimes had to be borrowed from another church.

On June 9th, 1991 Civic Service was held in Caversham Park for the Mayor of Reading, Councillor Robert Dimmick one of our members, Robert appointed Phil as his Chaplain during his Year of Office.

When we first started to hold our services in the school, everything to do with the service had to be brought in a suitcase or two. Then packed up again and taken back to Blackwater Close at the end of worship„ This prompted the comment from one visiting preacher that, it’s the first time I have been to a church in a suitcase.’ Thank goodness we now have storage space at the school’.

Over the years, we have accumulated many items that now form part of our regular worship, such as the Cross and the Lectern, both made by Colin Andrews.  Then there is the Attar cloth, made in a sheltered workshop in the Forest of Dean, where Jack & Margaret Lauder’s autistic daughter was living.  The Pulpit Falls made by Margaret Ellison, the candlesticks and the Loop System’ all add to the richness of our Worship.

One big advantage of Worshipping in the School hall is that we are able to arrange the chairs in a horseshoe, thus enabling both minister and congregation to maintain eye contact and to see each other.  A big improvement over standard pew.

In 1996, Phil was appointed County Ecumenical Officer, a tribute, no doubt, to his work at the time here in Caversham Park.  Phil had also been recognized as a Minister in the service of the Methodist Church (Methodist Circuit).

As well as looking after our spiritual well-being, Phil also looks after the needs of the inner man by his then regular trips to Wigan, to a butcher friend, who produces the most excellent beef and ham, Several members of the congregation benefit from this service.

So far we have only heard of the resident ministers who have served Caversham Park, all of whom have been Anglican.  What then of the other ministers who have played a part in our formation and growth?

One who has already been mentioned is the Rev. Terry Harris, who was the Methodist Minister at both Caversham Churches when our church was first started.

Terry took a very keen and active interest, and contributed much to the establishment of the church, He was a regular attendant at Church Committee meetings and was always wise counsellor. He made a point of taking our Sunday service at least once a month. As was noted earlier, it was Terry who conducted the first Communion Service in the School.  He also made sure that we had a Methodist presence in the form of David a Myra Parsons, who were our first (lay) Local Preachers.

The Rev. Leslie Griffiths was the next Methodist Minister to come to Caversham, and he arrived from Haiti, where he had been ordained.  He brought to us a rich experience, from his time in the Caribbean.  Lesiie quickly fitted in to the pattern of life in Caversham Park Church and carried on the work that Terry had started.  He algo had to find someone to replace the Parsons, who had moved away from the area.  His choice was inspired as he asked John Clark to come to be our Methodist Local Preacher.  He and his wife Vi will long be remembered, and we will ever be grateful for the time they spent with us, John served us faithfully for many years and was much loved by all who knew him.

The next Methodist Minister was the Rev. Ralph Rogerson. A target than life, colourful figure Ralph was a most popular Pastor, full of humour and not a few surprises!  Such as the time, in order to emphasise a point in his sermon, he suddenly produced a sword from under his cassock! Ralph believed that vestments had an important place in worship and did not hesitate to wear them when the occasion demanded.  There was one memorable service of Christian Unity when Ralph turned up in all his finery.  He easily outshone the Romans!  Sadly, Ralph died not long after he moved to Whitchurch in Hampshire.

The Rev. Keith Saunders followed Ralph He too was fond of Caversham Park Church and joined us whenever he could.  Keith was a great gardener.  He had an allotment just over the churchyard wall by St. Peter’s Church.  He found he could relax and think about his calling in the peace of the allotment, with the Thames flowing by at the bottom of the stope.  Again, it is sad to report that Keith died shortly after taking up a new appointment in Derby.

The Rev. David Moody followed “Keith, serving Caversham Heights and ourselves for several years, though his involvement, because of other duties, was less than before he came.

His wife, Monica, was one of those instrumental in setting up the ‘Church Women Together in Caversham’ Group, which still meets every 6-8 weeks, and involves women from ALL the churches in Caversham. David & Monica have now moved on to Scunthorpe, where he has to meet the challenge of a town getting back on its feet after the closure of the steelworks, who were the main employers in the town.

In Caversham we now have a Methodist Team Ministry, consisting of the Rev. Rosemary Fletcher, a Deacon, Vic Downs and Phi. l Rosemary and Vic have both made their mark in CPG and we look forward to seeing them regularly leading our worship.

The Rev. Bill Mason was a popular Methodist Minister whom whilst incumbent at Woodley Methodist Church, came to us on several occasions, when he was forced to retire with a serious heart problem, Bill and his wife Marion, joined our congregation.  He led, or took part in, services whenever he was well enough.  In 1994, Bill agreed to represent our church at a Conference in Bognor, organized by the Oxford Diocese.  He went there not knowing how many of the seminars he would be able to attend.  In the event, much to his amazement, he managed to attend everyone! Then during the closing service of Praise & Thanksgiving the miracle happened! During the final hymn Bill felt a sudden change within himself and he knew he was healed! The change was so dramatic that friends across the room noticed something had happened.

Subsequent examinations, by his GP and the Heart Consultant at Battle Hospital, confirmed that there was no longer any trace of his heart Problem.  Happily, he is now back in harness as Minister to 4 Methodist churches in the Egham area.

After John Clark retired from his ministry as Local Preacher in Caversham Park, we were served for a short time by David Peak, before Elizabeth & Hugh Carter arrived.  They are still worshipping with us, playing an active role in the life of the Church, as well as meeting Elizabeth’s commitments to service in the Methodist Circuit Plan.

What of the Baptist connection? The Reve Dennis Weller was the Minister at Caversham Baptist Free Church when the Covenant was signed.  He too came whenever duties permitted, He has now retired to Shropshire, and has been replaced by Peter Edwards.  Our regular Baptist representative is Jeanne Smith who, ae well as being one of our pianists, is also a Lay Preacher and Pastor to the Baptist Church in East Ilsley.  Jeanne also manages to play a full and active part in the fife of our Church.

For a time, Ivan & Daphne Andrews worshipped with us, and provided a connection with the United Reformed Church.  Ivan’s work eventually took them away from Caversham Park.

We have heard of the lay participation of the Methodist and Baptist Churches, but we have also been blessed with faithful service from Anglican Readers.

Peter Holbrook served us for fifteen years, ably supported by his wife Sybil.  They brought with them three lovely daughters, Andrea, Joy and Lynn.  Peter & Sybil retired to Tiverton, Devon, five years ago. Retirement has not meant any lessening in their work in the church in fact, they seem to be busier than ever.

Since Peter & Sybil left us, we have acquired two ‘home-grown’ Readers, Both Paula Andrews and Margaret Dimmick have studied and passed the Readers’ Course.  They are now serving us, as well as occasionally in other Caversham Churches, and are on the Methodist Circuit plan of preachers.

Many of our young people have shone academically.  Phillip Andrews obtained a First in Physics at London University, where he also studied for his Ph.D in Astrophysics, and is now working for the Meteorological Office in Bracknell, Rowena studied Law & French, and is now working in commerce as Legal Counsel to a multinational company.  David Goldsmith and Sam Lynch-Watson are also practising as solicitors.  Richard Goldsmith has an Engineering degree.  Cathy Abel has recently obtained a degree in Zoology.  Lynn Holbrook is now Dr Lynn Snow, and is working in a hospital in Sheffield,  She is specialising in Paediatrics and has recently passed her first part of the examinations for membership of The Royal College of Physicians.  Joanne Tier is in her second year at Liverpool University studying to be a Vet.  Elizabeth Livsey, who, with her parents and two brothers, worshipped with us for several years, is in her second year at Warwick University, whilst her brother Robert has taken his ‘A’ levels and is having a year off before going on to university.

As we have mentioned all the above we must not forget Juliet & Michael Dimmick, Stephen & Michael Andrews, Faith & Gail Bartlett, David Wood, Andrew & Simon Gray, Susie Abel, Fraser Allan who are all doing some form of Higher Education, or have completed it, and are now in full emptoyment.

Amongst our mature students, Geoff Goldsmith became a Lawyer, and is now a Judge.  Freda Meadows and Cathy Pinn both studied for the ministry and are now Anglican Priests.  Richard Ellison completed his finals as ä Chartered Secretary & Administrator in 1972 and is now a Fellow of the Institute.  Joy Abel, Sybil Holbrook and Margaret Ellison, already qualified nurses, all completed courses in Higher Education to qualify as Health visitors.  Joy subsequently trained as a Counsellor.  Sybil was a Community Nurse Manager until her retirement, and Margaret is chief nurse adviser to the Berkshire Health Authority.

Paula Andrews and Margaret Dimmick both trained, and are now qualified, as Readers.

Now let us hear from some of those people who have lived in Caversham Park, and worshipped with us, others who lived in Caversham, worshipped elsewhere, but had connections with Caversham Park Church, and would like to share their memories with use.

 

Personal Reflections of those who served at Caversham Park
The Rev Canon John GrimwadeThe Rev Canon John CroweThe Rev Terry Harris
The Rev Stephen Bartlett The Rev Leslie Griffiths The Rev Graham Lynch-Watson
Peter Holbrook Dr Lynn Snow The Rev. Herbert Glenn
The Freda MeadowsThe Rev Cathy PinnThe Rev Phil Abrey
Margaret Ellison Paula Andrews

The above reflections will appear here shortly

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