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Saint John's Congregational Church in 'A History of St. John's Congregational Church Buckley 1792 to 1947' by Rev. Robert Shepherd, M.A. (Cantab)"

Saint John's United Reformed Church, Buckley


In 'A History of St. John's Congregational Church Buckley 1792 to 1947' by Rev. Robert Shepherd, M.A. (Cantab) - see 28. 363 for main entry and below for chapters VIII - X.

To see all seven entries for this booklet, enter "Shepherd, Robert Rev, M.A. (Cantab)" in the author field of the Reminiscence search page.





St, John's Congregetional Church, Buckley

Opened November 25th, 1873

(Reproduced from "History of Buckley and District " - T. Cropper)


(This did not appear in Thomas Cropper's book -see 28.354 for editor's note)








The Rev. Thomas Hallet Williams (1884-1888).


The same year that the Rev. Elvet Lewis left, the Church invited Mr. T. Hallet Williams to the pastorate. Like his predecessor he came as a student from College and was ordained to the ministry here. It is very remarkable how many students in preference to Ministers were "called" by the Church.


It almost seems as though this were the settled policy of the Church at this time, but the reason is not very evident. There were, of course, large numbers of young people in the Church and members might have thought that a young Minister would appeal to these. Probably the deacons and officials felt that the organisation was running so smoothly that a young Minister would most benefit by association with the Church. Be that as it may, a student was "called" again, and the passing years proved the wisdom of the Church's choice.


The Rev. T. Hallet Williams entered at once into the life of the Church and soon came to be regarded by the people more as a personal friend than their Minister. He had a deep sympathetic nature which enabled him to share their sorrows and disappointments as well as their joys. His generosity was proverbial. No one in need ever appealed in vain to him and he had a deep regard and affection for all who experienced the strain and stress of those hard and difficult times. This marked trait of his character endeared him to the people and gave him an even greater influence over them than his preaching gave. Although he was a worthy successor of the Rev. Elvet Lewis in the pulpit, his ministry of helpfulness will always be regarded as the chief feature of his work.


The Chapel was well attended and prosperous and all the organisations worked with great efficiency. The various meetings retained their vigour. A very popular feature of the Church's activities was a series of fortnightly "Penny Readings," organised by the Minister with a twofold object. He was anxious to find an inexpensive yet uplifting form of entertainment for the people and at the same time to raise funds for the Church. He secured the best talent available and as the charge for admission was never more than threepence, they proved very popular and crowds of people attended them.


During this ministry the first young man from the Church to enter College came forward. Mr. William Henrik Jones went to Western College, Bristol, to be trained for the ministry.


Following Mr. Joseph Griffiths as Sunday School Superintendent came Mr. William Jones (Gatehouse) and his earnestness, devotion and efficiency in the work won for him the highest commendation. He was very popular with the children because of his happy, jovial disposition which revealed itself to the full on the Jubilee Day.

On that occasion he would set out after tea carrying a big branch of a tree, and followed by crowds of children cheering him on, as he sought to compel anyone within reach, to deliver up pence to buy sweets and nuts for the children. A refusal to do so meant a thrashing with the branch, greatly to the amusement of the children. The nuts and sweets were bought from Mrs. Bellis' shop in the Mill Lane, and scattered on the Common, the children scrambling for them. It was a real labour of love on the part of those who provided the Jubilee tea. Nothing but a love for the old School and its scholars could have led them to undertake the task.


There were no water taps to supply the water and no kitchen boilers to boil it in. The water was carried from wells and stored in churns on the Common. Kettles were borrowed for the boiling of the water and these were placed on a great circular fire surrounded by bricks, on the Common. They were guarded by Mrs. Mary Roberts, and the kettles were taken as required and then refilled with water from the churns and replaced on the fire. The conditions were rather primitive but was the jollity any less? Those who remember, know the Jubilee today is only the shadow of what it used to be.


While Mr. William Jones was Superintendent a new rule was made for the School, by which the Superintendent and the assistant Superintendent were elected yearly, re-election of those retiring being possible.


The generosity of the Minister expressed itself in a very practical and enjoyable way every Christmas. He always took a keen interest in the choir and at Christmas-time he provided its members with a supper which was a veritable feast of good things. He sat down with them at table and kept the diners very merry with his facetious remarks.


One very notable event took place during this ministry. The old School building was no longer adequate for the needs of a growing School and steps were taken to build the present Schoolroom and the Caretaker's house, at a cost of about £700. Foundation stones were laid for the new building on Oct. 2 1st, 1885, by the Right Hon. Lord R. Grosvenor, M.P., and Henry Hurlbutt, Esq., Dee Cottage, Queens Ferry. When the building was completed the old Schoolroom and the Minister's house which ran parallel with it were both taken down. The Rev. T. Hallet Williams followed the example of his two predecessors and married a young lady from the Church, Miss Bertha Catherall (Pen Brigog) after which he removed to Accrington, his ministry having lasted nearly four years.








Rev. J. Vinson Stephens (1889-1891).


The next Minister, the Rev. J. Vinson Stephens, came in 1889. His ministry was a very short one owing to the death of his young wife. When he arrived a house almost directly opposite Bistre Church in Mold Road was found for him. He was not then married and his mother came to be with him until his marriage. He married a School teacher soon after commencing his ministry. She was a good worker in the Sunday School and proved to be a great help to him in his ministry. He had a happy disposition and soon won the friendship of the people, especially the young people.


He was a very earnest preacher and was keenly interested in the welfare of the neighbourhood. After service on Sunday evenings he formed the practice of giving lectures at the Cross when the young people of the Church accompanied him to give him their support. His chief themes for these lectures were the evils of drink and dancing and he used very outspoken language, denouncing both with great vigour. He was beginning to exert a great influence on the Church and neighbourhood when a dark shadow of sorrow fell across his pathway. His young wife died. Her unexpected and tragic death filled his heart with a sorrow that overwhelmed him. And it became impossible for him to continue his ministry in a place where everything brought memories of her gentle presence. About the same time the Church suffered a great loss by the passing of Mr. William Jones (Gatehouse) at an early age, and in the midst of his successful work in Church and School. The Rev. Vinson Stephens found courage to preach a funeral sermon which was long remembered, in which he spoke of his wife as "the departed angel," and Mr. William Jones as "the ascended friend."


The Church sorrowed with him and every care and consideration was taken to lighten his heavy burden. In later years he spoke of "the gratitude which your kindness has kindled in my soul." He found it impossible, however, to continue his ministry and in 1891 he resigned and went to America to continue under new conditions his life of Christian service. He found happiness again, but on a visit to his old Church many years later he found it very difficult to preach in an atmosphere of such sad memories.








The Rev. Jonathan Evans (1892-1898).


We are now approaching a period in our Church history with which many will be conversant. And as far as this generation of worshippers is concerned little need be written. But in view of the coming generations we feel it necessary to record at least the salient features of the ministries yet remaining. The Rev. Jonathan Evans. whom so many of us remember with gratitude, commenced his ministry in 1892. He was already a Minister with an experience that proved to be a great asset to his ministry at Buckley.


Together with Mrs. Evans who came to be greatly loved by the young people, he settled down in a house at Pren Brigog. And in this connection one fact mirrors the man as we came to know him. When it was suggested that the Church should buy a Manse for him, he said, "No, my people pay rent, and I will do the same." That is a very good picture of his spirit of selflessness and comradeship. He was an aggressive, fearless preacher who never hesitated to attack with the utmost vigour any form of evil, nor to practise self-sacrifice whatever the cost in the cause of righteousness. His ability as an organiser was as great as his pulpit gifts and the Church made rapid progress under his ministry. New organisations were brought into being which heightened and strengthened its spiritual life. The scope of his ministry went far beyond his own Church, and he championed the cause of righteousness wherever an opportunity presented itself. He was a politician of no mean order and spoke on the political platform with convincing oratory. Most naturally he became a target for his opponents and on one occasion was assaulted with violence. He felt secure in any step he took because he knew he enjoyed the confidence and support of his Church. How well we remember his outspoken preaching over the Armenian question. His attack on the Turkish atrocities was vitriolic. He was also a great Temperance advocate and appeared regularly at the Licensing Sessions to lodge objections against any aggressive action on the part of the liquor trade. On one occasion, together with the Methodist and Baptist Ministers, he secured a brewer's dray, filled it with barrels, and went the rounds of Buckley public houses delivering a vigorous attack on drink before each one. People soon realised that this Minister was in earnest and his presence in the village a power to be reckoned with.


During his Ministry the Roman Catholic authorities made plans to spread their doctrines throughout the district, and win adherents to their Faith. A Jesuit College was founded near Mold with professors and students complete, and every preparation was made for the conversion of Buckley to the Roman Faith. But they forgot to take into account the Rev. Jonathan Evans. A challenge of this kind could never escape him. And along with the Rev. Idloes Edwards, the Zion Presbyterian Minister, he organised a week of "No Popery" meetings which were attended by the Jesuit professors and their students and great crowds of people. Buckley was stirred as it had never been before or since. The lecturer, the Rev. Alexander Roger, from London, dealt very effectively with the Jesuits, their plans were frustrated and the College closed.


There was no 'laissez-faire' spirit in the Rev. Jonathan Evans. He fought with equal force the cause of the Nonconformist conscience. There was no phase of public life where he felt there was a danger of undermining the cause of righteousness and justice that escaped his notice and attack. Most naturally he was the hero of the young people. His influence over them was unchallenged. They would have followed him through fire. And he took full advantage of this loyal devotion. His organising powers were put to good use in the Church. The Christian Endeavour Movement was at the time sweeping the country and the Rev. Jonathan Evans formed a C.E. Society and developed it in such a way that it became not only a training ground for the young men and women for public speaking and praying, but the door to Church membership. There were 80 active members as well as a number of Associate members, and the guidance, tact and encouragement of the Minister gave the young people a confidence that proved an invaluable aid to them. He was greatly assisted by Mrs. Evans who played the harmonium for the meetings. Nothing in the life of the Church had ever proved such an effective source of spiritual training as this G.E. Society. From its members, senior and junior, came five who entered College for the Ministry and a number who as lay preachers are still faithfully serving the Churches. Mr. Evans kept in touch with the young people also by teaching in the Sunday School. The Church and School responded to the challenge the Minister brought. The services were of an invigorating and inspiring character. The Church was full of worshippers and there was such a large number of young people in the back gallery of the Church that it became necessary to form a Gallery Committee to subdue and guide their youthful, energetic form of worship. This Gallery Committee was the result of a competition arranged by Mr. T. Cropper, then Superintendent of the School, on "How to deal with the young people in the gallery." Mr. John Shepherd who wrote the winning paper became President, Mr. Simon Williams, Vice-President, and Mr. Howell Hopwood, Secretary. The Committee was appointed by the Sunday School, which also drew up the rules for it. These young people during the offertory let free a good deal of their youthful energy in singing a hymn, generally a Sankey hymn. The scheme worked well.


Mr. T. Cropper was responsible, too, for organising an orchestra for the Chapel Services in addition to the organ. This consisted of violins played by Mr. T. Cropper, Miss M. E. Taylor (Mrs. M. E. Cropper), and Miss P. Lamb (Mrs. T. Wilcock), cornets played by Mr. Arthur Griffiths and Mr. Thomas Astbury, and the bass viol played by Mr. Edward Price. Thus the singing at the Services was supported by a wealth of instrumental music.


The Sunday School made great progress under the Superintendency of Mr. T. Cropper. He introduced the practice of giving prizes for attendance, and to increase the numbers of scholars he offered prizes to all who would introduce new scholars, and 19 scholars won prizes for this in the first six months. The numbers of scholars by such means were greatly increased, and the school with 345 names on the register became the largest Congregational Sunday School in Flintshire. The Sunday School also adopted a district visiting scheme. The Sunday School library, which had been first opened in 1858, was re-opened with 237 volumes and Mr. Edward Bellis became librarian. The School showed its interest in the welfare of other religious Causes by appointing Miss Jeane M. Griffiths to lay a Foundation Stone on behalf of the School at the founding of the new Church at Rivertown, Shotton, on July 27th, 1898.


The choir, under the conductorship of Mr. T. Cropper, rendered valuable service in the worship of the Church, but greater things were undertaken when an augmented choir sang the "Messiah" at Handel's Concert held in the old Central Hall.


The spiritual life of the Church glowed with an intensity that has never been surpassed. There were two Prayer Meetings a week, one on the Monday evening and another for young men and women on the Saturday evening. The C.E. met on the Tuesday evening. One incident will show the love indwelling the hearts of the people for the "old place."


A hawthorn hedge ran alongside the Chapel lane. It had been there for a very long time and had become a series of dwarfed bushes. When it was decided to make the new road, now running past the Chapel, this hedge had to be removed. The man who was doing this suddenly found himself gripped by the collar and marched to the police station by a deacon, Mr. Joel Williamson, who was outraged by this assault on "the Chapel hedge," and determined to put an end to the proceedings. Even hawthorn bushes were sacred to the worshippers those days.


The Rev. Jonathan Evans having served the Church with distinction and great success for five and a half years, left for Rochdale, leaving behind him many friends, old and young, to regret his departure.


Author: Shepherd, Robert Rev, MA (Cantab)


Year = 1923

Building = Religious

Extra = 1920s

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