OUR CHURCH AND ITS HISTORY

In January 2014 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Revidge Fold United Reformed Church, founded in 1974 when the congregation of the former St Georges Presbyterian Church moved from Preston New Road to join Four Lane Ends Congregational Church on Shear Brow. 2 years earlier in 1972 most Congregational and Presbyterian churches in England and Wales came together to form the United Reformed Church. In 1975 proceeds from the sale of St Georges Church building were used to build new church halls adjoining the stone built Congregational church dating from 1925.

The history of our church goes back a lot further than 40 years. Four Lane Ends began in about 1820 when a Sunday School was started in the area by members of Chapel Street church, the oldest Congregational church in the town, founded in 1778. At that time education was not available to everyone so Sunday schools played an important role in teaching reading, writing and arithmetic as well as Bible study and Christian values. As the population of the town increased, there was apparently a problem with unruly youths in the area and generally thought that education would improve matters.

The first school was near the corner of Revidge Road and Shear Brow, with a new school built on the same site in the 1850s. After the 1870 Education Act, this building became Blackburn’s first Board (or Council School). It was used as such until the 1950s when built. In 1881 a new school building was erected on Shear Brow opposite the current church and this then became a church from 1885.

The Presbyterian Church came to Blackburn in 1828, when an existing Congregational chapel built in Mount Street in about 1811 was purchased by the United Secession Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Presbyterianism had been the established form of Christian worship and church organisation in Scotland since the Reformation some 300 years previously. Mount Street chapel had been closed following unrest, riots and loom breaking in Blackburn due to the loss of traditional jobs caused by rapid mechanisation of the textile industry. In the mid 1820s the congregation was too poor to afford to pay a minister and the chapel was not used for a while.

Revd Francis Skinner from Annan in Scotland became the first minister at Mount Street. He spent his entire 37 working years there. He was ordained as minister of Mount Street Chapel in 1830 and died in 1866. The monument on his grave in Blackburn Old Cemetery on Whalley New Road was paid for by public donations. During his ministry he was involved in campaigns for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire and also with the Temperance movement, which encouraged people to give up alcohol, considered to be a serious social problem when money was spent on drinking rather than looking after families. A painting of Revd Skinner is among the artefacts held at Revidge Fold church.

In 1865 Revd Skinner laid the foundation stone for St Georges Presbyterian Church. It was intended that he and his congregation would move to the new church, but he died before it was completed. Some of his congregation then chose to remain at Mount Street, which still functioned as a church until 1910. The land and building were sold to the local newspaper owners. Later the chapel was demolished and the small graveyard cleared to make way for the new Telegraph buildings near to Blackburn railway station.

St Georges Church opened in 1868 and the first minister there was Dr Grosart. Later missions were opened at Blakey Street in a former beer house and Whalley Range, where first a school and then a church were built. Meals, trips for children and other support were given to the community. After the end of the 1st World War a new stained glass window was dedicated to peace and in 1920, following a presentation, 400 of the congregation swore allegiance to the League of Nations, an international organisation set up to promote peace and mediation between nations rather than wars.

Presbyterian churches were managed by Elders with a Session Clerk and Congregational by Deacons with a Church Secretary. Both also had Church or Congregational Meetings with decision making powers. Ministers were called by church members and paid by the congregation. Presbyterian churches were always part of a larger organisation with representatives on a national Synod also with decision making powers. Up to the 1800s, when Unions of Congregational churches began, each Congregational church was independent. A few decided to stay that way and did not join the United Reformed Church in 1972. As part of our Reformation heritage, individuals have freedom in interpreting the Bible Scriptures and taking communion is open to “all who love the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Today we have Elders, a Church Secretary and quarterly Church Meetings. The United Reformed church is a national organisation with churches in England, Wales and Scotland. Our national leaders are Moderators of the General Assembly and 2 Moderators are elected to serve for 2 years. They can be ordained ministers or laymen. All ordained ministers, including the current Moderators, are paid the same salary and all posts are open to both men and women. At a time when the role of women in ministry can be controversial in some quarters, it is significant that the first female Congregational minister, Constance Coltman (formerly Todd) commenced training at Mansfield College Oxford in 1913 and was ordained in 1917. The first female Presbyterian minister, Ella Gordon, was ordained in 1957.

Revidge Fold continues to support the community with a lunch club, memory (dementia friendly) café, Tuesday@2 social (usually with a speaker), Saturday coffee morning and Guides, Brownies and Rainbows. Our buildings are available to others for regular meetings or one off events. Funds are raised for local charities, particularly the FoodBank and Nightsafe, as well as national charities and overseas disasters. We raise money by holding a simple lunch in Christian Aid Week and support Fairtrade by using Fairtrade products. Of course we also have Sunday morning worship and Bible Study. We hold short services for residents at a local care home.

Mal Breeze was called as Community Minister 4 years ago to help Revidge Fold and our partner churches at Westbury Gardens and Trinity, Brownhill, to undertake new community projects. Sunday 19th August 2018 was the Retirement Service for our much loved Minister, Lena Talbot. We wish her well for the future. She will be greatly missed.