Twydall Evangelical Church
Loving Jesus, Knowing Jesus, Living Jesus, Sharing Jesus
September 2004 saw the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the current Twydall Evangelical Church building. Prior to September 1954 the church had met, for some twelve years or so, in other premises in Twydall.
But to start at the beginning!
In September 1941 a Mrs E G Usher felt the need of a Sunday School for the many children in and around Hawthorne Avenue, Rainham Mark. She and a number of other folk in the area attended Skinner Street Gospel Hall, Gillingham a few miles away, but with the air raids it wasn't considered safe for them to travel to either Rainham or Gillingham so, with the help of a Mrs W Sainsbury, a Sunday School was started in Mrs Usher's home in Hawthorne Avenue.
Mrs Sainsbury had the little ones in the kitchen; Mrs Usher had the older ones in the lounge. It grew rapidly until it was impossible to fit all the children in. An accidental meeting with a Mrs F Hammett on a bus brought the suggestion of asking permission to use the Methodist Chapel and Sports Pavilion situated at the rear of the lower side of Brenchley Road. It was land that the Methodists had bought in order to build a church there. In the meantime they had erected a sports pavilion and provided some hard tennis courts etc., and allotments. There was an orchard to the north of the site and Eastcourt and Twydall Lanes on the other two sides. It was reached by a narrow alley from Brenchley Road and a wide track from Twydall Lane which continued through to Eastcourt Lane. This was wide enough for a car. Apart from the pre-war housing, there were not many other buildings around at that time. The sports pavilion had been made suitable to be used for church services on Sundays. It was sometime before the war that this was started (by the Methodists) as Mrs Usher recalled that she had taken her mother there to an evening service before she was married (7/8/1937).
The caretaker was contacted. He warmly welcomed the idea that the hut should be used and was fed up trying to prevent the local boys from vandalising it! The Methodists had closed the work down when war was declared so the caretaker gave the name and address of one of the trustees, a Mr Chappell who, apparently, didn't know the work had closed! He was delighted that it should be used for God's service again and gave Mrs Usher his blessing.
Sunday School started there in May 1942. No rent was charged; the Methodists were very generous and helpful. In fact that arrangement is believed to have lasted until 1st April 1952 when Gillingham Borough Council acquired the site. They charged a rent until the building was vacated in September 1954.
Within six months of the Sunday School opening at Brenchley Road in 1942 a local church had also been established, originally known as Twydall Gospel Hall, but changing its name to Twydall Evangelical Church in the mid 1960's. When the Council's plans for the Twydall area became known the elders of the then Twydall Gospel Hall sought to have an area of land allocated to them but had some difficulty securing a site without the intervention and advocacy of the Ven. E. E. Maples Earle, then Vicar of Rainham, subsequently Archdeacon of Tonbridge (1953-1976). He presented our case, apparently pointing out that we were the only ones who already had a work on the estate, which had continued through the war period. Even then we were allocated the smallest church plot on the new Estate.
Twydall Evangelical Church is not, from a legal or administrative point of view, part of any larger organisation and funds for the new building had to be raised by members, friends and similar churches who wished to give encouragement. However, by another chance meeting with someone, the elders were made aware of a Trust set up by Mr. (later, Sir) and Mrs. John Laing, of building fame, who offered to match locally-raised money pound for pound. So the new building opened in September 1954; Hallelujah! Since then hundreds, if not thousands of Twydall and other local people have worshipped here or belonged to one of the Sunday Schools or young people's clubs and groups that have been run over those years.
Summer open-air services in the closes and greens of the estate were a regular feature for many years as we sought to reach out in various ways with the gospel of Christ. More recently the Christians meeting at Skinner Street Gospel Hall concluded that they could no longer continue to maintain the building and a closing service was held on 31st July 2005. The majority of the congregation transferred to Twydall Evangelical Church so that what had, in effect, been a church plant from Skinner Street, was now able to offer a new home to the friends from Skinner Street.
Twydall Evangelical Church is most grateful to its friends, past and present, in other local churches, for their help and encouragement over many years, which we trust has been reciprocated. Above all we praise God for the provision of and His blessing on the building and its use which, we trust, has been and will continue to be used for His glory!