Centenary Celebration Booklet
1908 - 2009
(Reproduced with kind permission of Suzanne Bunce who collated and edited the booklet)
Ashbury Mission Hall opened 14th April, 1908 after an increasing number of ladies had met regularly in homes in Idstone and Ashbury, to obtain more good Bible teaching.
The 1912 Vale of The White Horse Directory shows the Hall was erected by Miss Madeline Hedges (she personally paid for the land and the building) in memory of her uncle, John Spindloe. a miller, married to an Ashbury girl, Mary. Constructed from corrugated iron and painted sky blue, a Berkshire County Council village plan stated, "even a building of a humble material such as corrugated iron can be a delight if it is well maintained, as the Mission Hall bears witness."
This building was pulled down in 1972 and. during the eight months it took to build more permanent premises, communion services continued at College Farm on Sunday mornings and evening services at the old Methodist chapel. The new Mission Hall, with the perks of a kitchen and toilets this time included, opened in May 1973.
A Thanksgiving and Dedication service was held Saturday 19th May with guest speaker, Mr Street. The vicar of St Mary's at the time, Mr Sheldon, spoke the follow ing Sunday. An open day for ladies also followed on the 22nd May with a buffet supper and slide show by Mr A Blake (a retired chemist), who lived in Billy's Cottage.
There has been a long association between the residents of Claremont (a few houses up from the church) and the Mission Hall. By 1881 John and Mary Spindloe were living at Claremont and his name is inscribed on the wrought iron gate there, with the date 1868. Subsequent residents included Miss. Hedges, (daughter of Robert Whitfield Hedges and one of six sisters and one brother) and later her husband Mr. Edwards, Dr. Bergin, David and Betty Chapman (who ran the English branch of 'Gospel Recordings') and the current owner, Marion Turner, who helped with Breakfast Club. When the garden of Claremont was divided into two plots and sold, Joy Charters purchased the one nearest to the church and gave it to the church. It is now the car park and grass area.
In 1919 Mr. Alfred Edwards, of Didcot, came to stay in the district as he was busy in the Berkshire Downs distributing Christian almanacs to lonely cottages and villages. Two years later he married Miss. Hedges and together they shared the responsibility for the Mission Hall and its work until Mrs. Edwards died in 1954. In November 1958 Mr. Edwards formed a trust to protect the material and spiritual interest of the Mission Hall and eventually it was agreed to form a 'church fellowship' where people were invited to become members if they had a 'saving belief in the Lord Jesus Christ' and 'a whole hearted acceptance of these doctrines' (outlined on page 23). The mission hall was eventually to become to be known as Ashbury Evangelical Free Church.
For two or three days each year until the outbreak of war in 1939 put an end to it, Mr and Mrs Edwards held a conference in a 400 seater tent in the field adjoining the Mission Hall. Lunch was held on the lawns for visitors after the morning service, followed by walks on the downs and then tea before the evening service.
Many well known speakers such as Mr Brierly, Mr. Short and Mr. Montague Goodman came. Eunice Gigg recalls dealing with the practicalities such as smearing whitewash on the scullery windows so visitors weren't overlooked going to the outside toilet and being on her best behaviour at home when a speaker had to be accommodated! The annual Swindon convention, celebrating its 75th year this year, grew out of the Ashbury conventions with many people travelling from Swindon to attend. Other events, like the speaking rally by Gipsy Smith pictured, were arranged.
Today, as a small church, we still value and appreciate those willing to visit and speak at services and special events. The 'bricks and mortar' of the building is overseen by a small group of trustees and the spiritual welfare of the church is overseen by elders.
God uses the Mission Hall
In the war years troops at Ashdown and Shrivenham often attended evening services, and were invited afterwards to supper by church members. The church was opened week days to give soldiers peace and quiet to relax and write letters home. Mr Edwards had a pass to go into all the military camps in the country, of which he made full use. Every Christmas Mrs Edwards sent parcels to the soldier boys of the village for which the ladies knitted balaclavas, scarves, socks and gloves. Eunice Gigg went round the village collecting the boy's addresses and recalls, after the war, hearing one say how much these parcels meant.
Sometimes there would be German POW's stationed at Ashdown and they would be brought to the Mission Hall. Dr Wilder Smith, whose wife was German, would come and share the gospel with them following the evening service, after which they were provided refreshments.
Ministry to women
The church first started as a women's fellowship. Every Wednesday Mrs Edwards held a women's meeting with various female speakers. 40 to 45 women attended! They brought knitting and sewing to do while listening to the talks & brought their children, and sweets to keep them quiet! Until we had a kitchen, two well wrapped pots of tea and a kettle of boiling water were brought in each week. Dr Bergin's wife Pam used to cause a 'minor stir', standing up during the meeting to try to see where the local hunt was!
The women's fellowship continues, though reduced in number as most women now go out to work.
In the 60s and 70's a series of monthly Ladies Evenings was held at the Hall. There were speakers and demonstrations on a wide variety of subjects for example, spinning and weaving, hairdressing, home decorating and cake icing. These evenings proved extremely popular and were usually packed with women of all ages.
Doug and Maureen Edmondson joined the church in August 1984 and Maureen formed a Christian Viewpoint Committee with ladies from St. Mary's Anglican church and our church. CVP, now known as 'Activate', is a national organisation intended, by various means, to share the good news of Jesus and the love of God with women. In Ashbury, men are welcome too! We have had many interesting events including: dinners, barbecues, speakers on many subjects, such as Billy Burns, a police officer shot by an armed robber who he later forgave (both pictured right), an army wife who was part of Saddam Hussein's 'human shield', horse trainer, Mikey Heaton Ellis, from Barbury Castle, an antiques valuation, a quiz night, a cake decorating demonstration.
The last few years, once a month in lieu of the ladies meeting, we have held coffee mornings, or an occasional meal. Men and women are welcome and since the closure of the village shop, this is one of the few occasions when people of the village can get together for an informal chat.
Since the start of the women's meeting an annual outing has taken place. In Mrs. Edwards day, each week the ladies would give her a few shillings to pay for a seaside day trip. Any surplus money was used as spending money. There were sometimes three coach loads, as husbands and children were included, leaving at 6.00 a.m. No trip was complete without sandwiches, fish and chips and toilet stops of course. More recently some current church members have kindly funded trips. Gordon Reade (circled), still a church member, was obviously enjoying this outing!
Ministry to men
Men were also cared for. Saturday evenings Mr Edwards would hold a men's meeting in the Kiln, with around a dozen attending. He also had a boy's Sunday school in the Kiln with supper occasionally provided. Eunice Gigg remembers to this day turned up noses at the 'doorstep' sandwiches she made! Mr Blake also used to organise coffee mornings for men which the retired folk particularly enjoyed.
Ministry to children
Over the years many children from toddlers to teenagers have been part of the life of the church, learning about the Christian faith, with a bustling Sunday School of varying forms and descriptions. For many of these children, these experiences shaped their lives as they chose to follow Christ.
Learning memory verses was very important. There was a verse
'Sunday' when each class would go to thechurch front, repeat a verse and sing a chorus. Occasionally the whole Sunday school would have what Mr Edwards called an 'object lesson'. Children would bring an item from home with an appropriate scripture and Mr Edwards would give a talk on each one.
Once a month on Monday evenings, the senior girls (taught by Miss Doris Bunce), would go to Ivy House for a quiz, packet of crisps, cream cheese and lemonade! A group also visited a Miss Hammond's in Bishopstone for a Bible talk and to meet with girls from Bishopstone and Hinton Parva. Mr Edwards encouraged some to visit surrounding villages with him and deliver Christian leaflets. In the 1960's a Covenanter group for girls on Sunday afternoons was set up, largely run by Mrs Mary Charters and Mrs Rita Bunce, in Alyn House.
In 1987 Doug and Maureen Edmondson set up the Breakfast Club which invited girls over the age of 10 to eat croissants, drink coffee, read the Bible and learn about God. This ministry grew from the original six members to around fifteen, including boys!
Today, sadly, there are no children of any age in the church.
Ministry to others
Over the years church members have been involved in the work of the local primary school. David Hewlett was headmaster from 1984 to 2004. For many years, once a week, morning worship was led by a number of volunteers and several have served on the school board of governors helping it to thrive and grow despite outside pressures and times of change. Others have supported the school in different ways such as offering expertise in photography and film making, donating money or items such as sets of bibles. Eunice Gigg's parents. Frank & Mercy Pill were caretakers of the Mission Hall for many years from the early 1930's. On her mothers death in 1989, Eunice inherited their estate and gave a piece of land to the school. This has been turned into a garden with an area for group use and smaller areas for individual reflection and prayer. During times of great changes, innovations and demands the school has been supported by the prayers and thoughts of the congregation and individual members.
Our history would not be complete without mentioning our friends 'up the hill' at St. Mary's Anglican Church. Though traditions and forms of worship differ, we share a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and have enjoyed fellowship and working together in many ways over the years. In the words of former vicar the Rev. B.P.R. (Bill) Pegg (Oct 1985 - Sept 1994) "Almost twenty five years ago when I came to Ashbury I was soon aware of how closely knit the Anglican and Free Church were. We shared not only the organist (James Reade) but congregation members, the morning assembly at the primary school, lent study courses, Bible study, services on special occasions, open air services and even some odd lunches where some ate well - a full, roast - and others sparingly - one course- watered down soup! There was always something different in our sharing. What the Evangelical Free Church meant to Ashbury, and also myself, was brought home to me some years later when, in the village where I was vicar, there was only one church and one denomination. I very much missed being able to share with friends of another church."
The church has, over the years, sought to follow Christ's example and command to care for others and to 'go into all the world and preach the gospel'. We have supported many charities financially including Tear Fund, Mission Aviation Fellowship, The Leprosy Mission, Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen and Sudan Interior Mission. The current world economic climate is providing major challenges for many of these charities at the moment. As well as financial help, some have been helped in a more 'hands on' way.
Soon: In the early 1960s the distribution of SOON was started by a few individuals in the church. This was a leaflet in easy-to-read English, produced by a team from the Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade (WEC), giving testimonies and short Christian articles. It was aimed at people from other countries who were eager to learn or improve their English. Batches would be sent out, with sheets of address labels, to dispatch units all over the country, who would then pack them up and send them on to addressees all over the world. This work is kept going by David and Rita Bunce and we have been packing and sending these papers out, four times a year, ever since.
Sudan Interior Mission: As early as the 1930s, the fellowship actively supported mission overseas. Olevia Sealey, who lived with her parents at 1 Mill Cottages, Kingstone Winslow, was funded by the church to become a missionary in Ethiopia with Sudan Interior Mission (SIM). She met her husband there, Thomas Simpson, and the Free Church continued to fund them even in retirement.
Send a Cow (SAC): Peter Reade was one of the West Country farmers who launched SAC in 1988 and writes .."SAC's mission was to send pregnant cows to families in Africa that would provide milk for them and a second family when the calf grew up. The charity has grown both in size and the type of aid given. Both the staff and trustees seek Gods will in all things and believe the huge success has been through his hand. SAC has become renowned throughout the agricultural development world for the practical way its sustainable natural farming systems operate, looking after the environment while growing crops and rearing livestock to provide food and an income or the whole family. SAC have seen many children helped, some are now doctors and politicians, and one is now the chief executive of SAC Uganda. Hundreds of thousands of people are now enjoying a better life in ten African countries. SAC hope to help many more people in the future with your support".
Belarus: Mark Gillingham writes "The church has supported Christians in the small town of Zaslavl, Belarus, in Eastern Europe, since shortly after the fall of Communism in Russia, 17 years ago. Our first project was to help finance a new 700 seat church in the town, and this excellent building was completed in 2002. Four church members attended the inaugural service. More recently we have supported friends in Zaslavl who are adopting young people from State Orphanages, which has transformed their prospects. One couple have adopted six teenage boys in addition to their own four children, and another are in the process of adopting 10 children. The church also sponsors Sunday school work in the town".
The church is, of course, made up of it's members. It's in the memories of those people that the legacy of this church lays. In the next section you'll find a collection of memories from people who have been part of this church, and which we hope will help bring back some happy, nostalgic memories for you too!
Mrs. Betty Sealey (nee Kingston): Attended from being a baby.
I lived at Odstone and we used to walk to Sunday school, a mile there and back, twice a day. If it rained Mr Edwards would take us home in his car! (There were not many of these in the village). Mr Edwards usually took the morning meetings, girls sitting on one side, boys the other. A large hymn sheet was displayed at the front. Seats were plain wood, oil lamps hung from the ceiling and the heating was oil heaters also. A good number attended and a register was always kept. This made a difference to your prize at Christmas! Afternoon Sunday school was taken by Mrs Edwards, Misses Bunce and Mr A Bunce, and was divided into several boys and girls classes. We had good teaching. Later, my husband Eric Sealey and David Bunce took the boys classes.
There were several highlights each year to look forward to. The summer treat was in the holidays, usually held at Ivy House. A lovely tea was made for us all, held on the lawn. Afterwards was a 'treasure hunt' with various little presents hidden in the garden hedges and trees. Very exciting. Afterwards, we were ushered on to Mr Dunce's Ford lorry and driven to Ashdown woods to play and swing on the branches. Feeling very tired we were driven back to Ivy House where we had scrambles on the lawn. The Aunties (Miss Doris and Miss Irene Bunce) would throw sweets and little jem biscuits, and we would scramble for them - dirt and all!
As we grew older, Mrs Edwards held a girls sewing class where we made various little objects. I still use the needle case I made. We all grew up so quickly. Mr and Mrs Edwards held a marquee meeting (similar to the one held in the summer at Keswick) on their lawn, and bus loads of people would come from Swindon and all around.
Speakers came from far and wide. At one of the children's meetings, a Mr John Moore of Devises was speaking. This is when I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus.
Our mission hall was not registered for marriages so I married Eric Sealey in 1943 at Regents Hall in Swindon (now the site of the Wyvern theatre). Eric later taught in the Sunday school where Christopher, our only son, also went.
Abigail Harbourne (nee Reade):
Mr and Mrs Henry Willis came to Ashbury College Farm. As strict Baptists they attended the Baptist chapel in Kingstone Winslow (now gone). Due to a grievance they left the chapel and went to St Mary's in Ashbury. My Grandmother started some Bible Studies at College Farm to gain more Bible teaching. More and more people were attending when the Misses Hedges arrived and suggested building the Mission Hall.
My mother, Eva Willis and her sister, Elise, were the first to help with the Sunday school. Before Christmas Elsie would gather up all the chocolate boxes and ribbons, ironing them out to make up what we called 'Choice Boxes'. The children with the most marks had first choice. When I was there we had a present as well. The Misses Bunce, Irene and Doris, worked tirelessly in the Sunday school. They were always there, the most faithful pair ever known, always ready to help and entertain visiting speakers. Irene played the organ for some lively singing.
Bill and I were the first to be married in the Hall, much to the interest of villagers who crowded outside to watch, including the district nurse.
David Bunce: (Has been coming since he was a baby)
I have many happy memories of attending the Sunday school and Bible class at Ashbury Mission Hall. Mr Edwards always concentrated on the Bible and I remember a chorus we used to sing:
The best book to read is the Bible
If you read it every day
It will help you on your way
Oh, the best book to read is the Bible
The best friend to have is Jesus
The best friend to have is Jesus
He will hear you when you call
He will help you lest you fall
Oh, the best friend to have is Jesus
I trusted Jesus as my friend and saviour in my childhood and have proved him to be a faithful friend.
Moving to Ashbury after my marriage to David (Nov' 1954), it was good to be immediately welcomed into such a warm, loving fellowship. I'd met quite a few before as earlier that year they organised a coach trip for the village to hear Dr Billy Graham at Harringay. I lived in North London so met them there. I was soon 'roped in' to take a girls class in the flourishing Sunday school. When our three sons came along, 1955,1958 and 1960, they were all, in turn, dedicated to God in infancy. Later, each one made their own decision to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
During the early 1960's Mary Charters formed a Girl Covenanter Group for teenage girls which we ran together for quite a number of years with a Sunday afternoon Bible class and a club night during the week when we engaged in various activities like games, cooking and crafts. We joined with two groups from Swindon, William Street Chapel and Gorse Hill Baptist Church, for local rallies which included all kinds of competitions. On several occasions we joined the William Street Group for camps in farm buildings on Lord Faringdon's Buscot Estate. These were great fun as well as including challenging talks on Christian discipleship. We also went to the National Rally at Westminster Central Hall sometimes, joining groups from all over the country.
When the boys reached their mid teens, they attended a Crusader group in Shrivenham, run by Professor and Mrs Hutchinson, who bravely had a large group of lively teenagers to tea every Sunday. Many young people were greatly helped in their early Christian discipleship by this dedicated couple.
As well as regular Sunday school we occasionally had special meetings with visiting speakers such as from Scripture Union and Church Army. I remember one weekend we had a speaker from Birmingham Bible College and, although it was not particularly a children's talk, our son, Andrew and Peter-John Charters both accepted Jesus as their Saviour.
One year a bus crowded with teachers and children set off for our Sunday school outing to Swanage. Unusually, it poured with rain all day however, it did not dampen our spirits and we sang ourselves hoarse on the way home. At the end of the day Jessica Hewlett, with great feeling and eyes shining, said "Haven't we had a lovely day".
Remeny Starritt (nee Gigg):
attended from 1956 to 1990
Ashbury Mission Hall was a little blue corrugated iron building perched in the village of 'dear old Ashbury' as Gordon Miles, a local taxi driver used to say. Inside were hung scripture pictures with beautiful illustrations by Mrs Edwards. The chairs were pink and blue with green springy tubular frames, just a few hard wooden chairs were at the back. The Pulpit was a table with a sloping wooden box on top covered in black prickly fabric. There was one huge picture scripture on the wall behind the pulpit with, 'For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.'
Another on the side wall said, 'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.' A big black cupboard with Bibles in it for when we had forgotten to bring our own stood under a window at the front. The windows were frosted and I was always told it was so we wouldn't be distracted looking out at the pretty countryside. To the right of the pulpit was the old pedal power organ, on the back wall to the left of the pulpit next to the big picture was a kind of hymn sheet contraption.
My first day at Sunday school, my mother handed me over to Miss Irene Bunce who carried me in and sat me down at a blue table riddled with woodworm. It all seemed strange so I started crying and I distinctly remember Mr Moore, who was leading, asked me to be quiet. That didn't work so Miss Bunce plonked me on her lap which was very comforting. It wasn't long before I came to really love Sunday school. Misses Irene & Doris Bunce taught the younger ones. Miss Doris used to tell Bible stories using a flannel graph. As the story was read we took turns to add a piece to the picture. Each week we had a Bible story and a leaflet called 'Friends of God' with illustrations to colour. I used to like sticking the end of my pencil into the woodworm holes!
Miss Irene, the church organist, played the old pedal power organ in her own inimitable manner. Once she found the right note she would look up, smile and turn it into a triumphant elongated screech as the sign to start singing... songs from the good old CSSM chorus book, songs like 'The Wise Man Built His House Upon The Rock', 'Wide Wide is the Ocean', 'Trust and Obey', 'In My Heart There Is a Melody' and my favourite, 'For The Lion of Judah Will Break Every Chain'. We also sang hymns and choruses from a suspended prehistoric flip chart, often lopsided or completely stuck. Mr. David Bunce once managed to let it slide down with a crash.
Mrs Doreen Reade taught the girls class (for 25 years!). I liked the soft way she spoke and was fascinated with her pretty pink lipstick. I thought I'd like to wear pink lipstick when I'm grown up. She always related personal situations where God had answered her prayers and encouraged us to trust and do likewise. Once a month we had to learn and recite a scripture. I didn't look forward to that very much but it was a good thing to do. Occasionally we had 'Object Sunday'. Mr Eric Sealey was always very lively and funny and brought various objects to portray his message. Another treat would be when Mr Mottram or 'Mottie' would come and sing songs while playing a squeezebox. Then he would entertain us with his puppet Joey sat on his knee.
As we got older we could go to Sunday afternoon groups called Jucos and Covenanters. Jucos (short for Junior Covenanters) was run by Mrs Chapman in Claremont and Covenanters in Alyn House with Mrs Mary Charters and Mrs Rita Bunce. I enjoyed them too.
As well as an annual church seaside trip (e.g. to Swanage or Weymouth) we also had a summer picnic trip. We were given big greaseproof paper bags with, among other things, giant meat sandwiches, chocolate cornflake cakes and crisps. We had sweet 'scrambles' too, sweets were thrown and we all had to get them.
The Christmas party was an annual event to look forward to. We all had a present from the tree and a scripture card. One year I remember seeing a lovely doll on the tree in a woolly green dress and hat. I so wanted that doll and was really shocked when it was taken off the tree and my name was called out to collect it!
I will always have fond memories of my childhood Sundays in Ashbury, visiting my grandparents who also attended the Mission Hall, along with my parents. I was married by Philip Charters, in the church, to my husband Des on July l6th 1977.
Ray Gigg: Eunice Gigg's (nee Pill) husband & Remeny's dad
One memory I have is of sitting in my mother's (Ethel Gigg) class early in the early 1930's, scribbling on biblical pictures and learning 'God is Love', then progressing to Mrs Mabel and Mr Bert unce's classes and finally, to Mr Alfred Edwards in The Kiln. In Mrs Bunce's class we were encouraged to learn by heart Ecclesiastes 12:1 'Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say I have no pleasure in them.' In the joy of youth it was difficult to imagine the experiences of the life described, as ones life progresses (all too quickly) the truth of those words dawn upon us. Both Eunice and myself are thankful for the teaching we received in our early years and the example of Mr and Mrs Edwards' faith. We have seen a number of changes in the village over the years, to us the most significant being the growth of united Christian Fellowship in sharing and worshipping with St Mary's from which we have received blessing and inspiration in our later years. Our hope and prayer is that closeness will continue to grow as we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savour. 'God is Love' (1 John Ch. 4 v 8).
Anthea Fillingham (nee Bergin):
Two simple Gospel sermons preached by Ian Dobbie at evening services in January 1960 were the final links in the chain that led to my surrendering my life to the Lord Jesus. I had partly resisted as I was afraid of being asked to speak publicly about my faith, but, having grown up in a Christian home, it became clear to me that the Lord would not ask me to do something, without giving me the strength to do it. I was delighted when three months after my conversion I was asked to speak at the small woman's meeting. It was an opportunity to prove that the Lord would be faithful. Sure enough, despite being somewhat nervous, I was enabled to share the difference the Lord had made in my life. I was thrilled to be able to talk about the peace, purpose, and power He had brought into my life. Having been such a shy person, lacking in self-confidence, it was very faith-building to stand at the podium aged just fifteen, and not have any moments of my mind going blank from fear!
Later, I had the joy of helping in the Sunday school with a small group of two-year-olds. I had always wanted to teach, and had a conviction that even at a very young age, children could understand far more than they were given credit for. Amongst my two-year-olds were Philip Bunce and Stephen-John Charters. Philip, a particularly active toddler, would be under the table between the chair legs, or even on top of the table, while I told them a Bible story! However, il was so encouraging to be told by his mother that he could always tel her what his Bible story had been in Sunday school that day!
Nicola Payne (nee Bergin) writes:
I enjoyed our years in Ashbury, and remember with great affection the Misses Bunce of Ivy Cottage and their wonderful sense of humour. I particularly have a vision of Rene Bunce playing the orgai and grinning at us all as she jumped around the stool as she played the hymns! What lovely ladies they were. I also remember learning the books of the Bible at a Sunday school in David Bunce's house. The Misses Bunce are still to be seen arriving at church on the video of our wedding in 1968!
I remember dear Mr Edwards or 'Daddy E' as we called him. The Mission Hall was so very important to him. He lived above the stables after we moved to his house and suffered much from the smell of horses below him! I must have driven him mad as I visited regularly and particularly found his old fashioned toaster fascinating!
The Mission Hall shaped my early Christian life more than I realised I particularly remember a sermon on Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac and then a substitute being given at the last moment. It was described as representing the way Jesus was substituted for us and was the first time I fully appreciated the enormity of what He had done for me.
Amy Leon, Breakfast Club, 1988 to 1996: (pictured with Maureen Edmondson)
Breakfast Club started in 1987 when I was 9. I had to wait a whole year to go which seemed unfair and cruel as all my friends got to go! I became a Christian aged 10 when Breakfast Club went to Spring Harvest. Breakfast Club nurtured my faith over the next 10 years and enabled me to grow as a Christian.
Croissants, raspberry jam and the smell (not taste) of coffee sum up Breakfast Club of a Sunday morning for me! Maureen and Doug Edmondson both spent time enabling us to engage with the Bible and also encouraged us to do so on our own. Breakfast Club started at 8.45am, far too early for me and I was always late! Not long after I started going Maureen awarded me a badge saying 'Not a morning person' which she instructed me to wear at all times, to warn people!
Although Maureen and Doug led Breakfast Club, the members of Ashbury Free Church supported us financially and in prayer. We were made to feel part of the church and regularly participated in their evening services. In one service, everyone had to encourage someone else by giving them a label - I received a label that said 'rejoiced over'. Knowing that God rejoices over me was incredibly encouraging and something I still remember today.
Breakfast Club sketches were legendary. Doug directed these productions and made us learn lines and execute comedy even if we didn't quite 'get' it! The 'Wurd Bank' sketch was a prime example!
The church members graciously came to every fundraising meal we put on and even paid us to wash their cars! This helped fund our annual trip to Spring Harvest and taught us not to expect our parents to pay! Thank you - I'm sure the food wasn't amazing and we were not the most practiced of hosts but your graciousness and support enabled us to do better!
Many congratulations to the members of Ashbury Free Church on this momentous occasion. You, collectively, have made a difference in my life and enabled me to get to know God. May God richly bless this time of celebration.
Ewart Chivers :
In the In the summer of 1935, as it was Jubilee year, all the Sunday school children were given a new Bible, blue ones for the girls and mauve for the boys. Both of my sisters Iris and Jean still have their Bibles.
One of the highlights of the year was the Sunday school outing, this usually consisted of a trip in one of the Bunce lorries followed by a picnic at a nearby local beauty spot. The Sunday school outing of 1935 was held in the gardens of a big house, we all gorged ourselves on cream buns and dishes of fruit and jelly.
At Christmas, a large Christmas tree was erected, suitably decorated with tinsel. Everyone received a Christmas present. In those days, money was very short and a family of six survived on a £2 a week wage. How they managed to find enough money to buy presents for all the children was a mystery to us all. Like most children from Ashbury and the surrounding area, we walked to Sunday school, all dressed in our best clothing. Betty Kingston, my two sisters and I walked from Odstone. On our way home from Sunday school, we usually played on Winslow banks. I received many a clip around the ears for getting grass stains on my best trousers through sliding down the grass bank. When HMS Amethyst escaped down the Yangtze river in July 1949, she sent the Admiralty this famous signal "One hundred up". We now send the same message to the Ashbury Sunday School "ONE HUNDRED UP".
I arrived in Ashbury about 1944 at the age of 17 and lodged with Mr. & Mrs Sealey at 1 Pound Piece. I married Barbara (District Nurse) in 1965 and moved to Longcot. Whilst in Ashbury I came to know the Lord as my personal saviour through Gospel services at the Free Church and through the life and witness of many people, the Sealey family, Mr. Edwards & Bunce family to name a few. Many happy memories of Christmas tree celebrations, Sunday School, Bible studies, breaking of bread etc.
John (& Tony Moore) remember travelling with Mr. Edwards, Ray Gigg and David Bunce to a young peoples meeting in Oxford City one November evening. John recalls "his car had just had the engine rebored and so had to be 'run in' and go slow. When we came out of the meeting it was very foggy and the speed was even slower as the sides of the road weren't clear. It was decided that some of us would get out and walk in front of the car but Mr. Edwards wouldn't let them have a gap between them. Every time they tried to get on he speeded up. We eventually got home very late and tired. We had many laughs over it over the years. We had some good times with Mr. Edwards and praised God for his fellowship.
Another lady connected with the Mission was a Miss Tucker. She lived in the house looking over the Coombs. She was very good to the Sunday school mainly giving out presents, text cards, apples and oranges at Christmas, hi the summer a tea was held in the garden of Ivy house when there was a game to find the hidden treasure and to cap it off, a ride on one of Bunce's lorries. Mr. Bert Bunce drove the boys & Miss Doris Bunce the girls. It was a big disappointment if it rained".
I first I first attended regularly in 1984. I was 18 and we, as a family (David, Ruth and my brother Darren) had moved churches. My memories of AEFC are from much earlier as Dad was invited to preach occasionally at evening services. I have to admit, as a child the highlight was supper afterwards with the Misses Bunce at Ivy House! They always seemed very interested in my brother and me, quite a change from other "older" ladies! They always had some new gadget (a new Swiss Cheese Slicer springs to mind!) or toy for us to play with!
I remember soon getting involved with Sunday School and remember taking the little ones e.g. Mandy and Chris's children, Lorna, Lucy and Jessica, Des and Rem's boys, Jamie, Alex and Andrew. I also played my flute at the family service or the piano along with James Reade on Sunday evenings. The times we had on the Church Weekend away at Kelston Park near Bath were fun too.
I still think of AEFC as my spiritual home and was baptised there in May 1990. I remember "interesting" discussions at the Tuesday evening bible study house groups at Des and Rem's house or across at The Old Forge with Eunice and Ray. church parties in the Village Hall, Auntie Betty's meringues. Lent Services at the Old Methodist Chapel with Miss Partridge on the harmonium and Joint Services with St Mary's and playing my flute and singing with the choir for Nine Lessons and Carols on the Sunday before Christmas. One occasion I have very fond memories of was Mum and Dad's 25th Wedding Anniversary in 1987. The whole church helped me prepare a surprise party. I made the cake (at Des and Rem's and the smell of it cooking during the Tuesday evening bible study nearly gave everyone indigestion!) It was a great success and a complete surprise for Mum and Dad. Maureen Edmondson gave me a "First Aid" recovery box when it was all over and we have a wonderful record of the event as Melvyn Gigg took some excellent photos!
As editor, I get to have the last word! Negatives... the flower rota and the occasional requirement to 'play' the piano! Positives: Since joining the church with my husband Andrew a few years ago, we've enjoyed a real warmth of friendship and fellowship here.
A church is but a collection of different people which changes and adapts as time goes by and people come and go. Here in Ashbury, as I've sifted through so many different stories from over the years, it has been evident how much the church in its varying ways has meant to people, in friendships formed, in encouraging them to not only grow in their faith but to find that peace and security and forgiveness that only Christ can offer, in the first place. There will have been, and will be, times we have not been all that we should be BUT. we are united in our faith in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has done so much for us and who has not, and who will not. ever let us down.
Thank you to all who have had an input into this booklet. I hope it's a blessing and of interest to you. it's been immensely interesting if not challenging for me and I'm glad centenaries only come even hundred years! May God bless us all we embark on the next one.
Ashbury Mission Hall
Statement of Faith
A Statement of Faith was drawn up many years ago and we still have this today (1 to 7 below). Though language may change and some of the words are no longer 'every day English', we believe the message of the Bible to be true and unchanging through every generation.
Probably the most memorised verses in Sunday School through all the ages, sums it up! 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him' John 3 v 16-17
1. The divine inspiration, Authority and Sufficiency of all the Holy Scriptures.
2. The unity of the Godhead, with the distinction of Persons in that Unity, namely the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to whom equal honour is due.
3a That the Son of God truly became a man, being begotten of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary.
3b That His Death was a sacrifice to God and a propitiation for the remission of sins.
3c That He was raised from the dead.
3d That he ascended to the right hand of God, and is now the all-sufficient High Priest of His People.
3e That he will come again in Person to receive them unto Himself, and to set up His Kingdom.
4 That in consequent of the fall of Adam, man became dead in trespasses and sins and at "enmity against God".
5 The need of the Holy Spirit's work in regeneration and sanctification.
6a That the justification of the sinner before God is by faith alone in the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6b That every justified one is born of God.
6c That such new birth results in and is made evident by holiness of life and good works.
7a That at death the spirit of man does not cease to exist, or become unconscious.
7b That the dead will be raised either to eternal life in Christ or to eternal damnation in their sins.
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