[pictured above: the KBC Choir from the 1890s]
When Joseph Foy died in 1879 there were no locally trained ministers so the church recruited a man with a tremendous reputation from Mansfield Nottinghamshire, Rev Henry Marsden. He was man of action, a graduate of Spurgeon’s college who in his six years at Mansfield had grown the congregation from 40 to 200. But there was a downside. He applied to join the Baptist Annuity Fund in 1879 but was rejected on medical grounds and advised to move to healthier climes. So he left for Melbourne three weeks later. In May 1880 he was snapped up by Kew and set about building a new church on Cotham Rd and attracting a much larger congregation. But his health failed and he died 18 months later, in 1882, aged 30, before the new church was completed.
The deacons, of whom Courtney Walrond was now the oldest serving member, then appointed James Blaikie, another outstanding preacher from Spurgeon’s college. Blaikie moved into Marsden’s new church and while here founded the Christian Endeavour Society that was so significant for the next 70 years. In 1892, the Rev J B Gillison succeeded him, but like Marsden he was in poor health and had to resign in a little over a year. These three men shaped the pattern of worship for the next 100 years.
The focus was on preaching as reflected in the design of the present auditorium with the pulpit up front and central, the communion table and the baptistry underneath, and the choir and pipe organ on the side. With universal education everyone could read, so hymnbooks could be used.
But by the end of the century things had begun to change. The pulpit was abandoned in the late 1990s when Ruth Sampson could not get up the stairs to preach. The hymnbooks were supplemented with an overhead projector in the 1990s and were removed from the pews around 2010. The choir was disbanded around 2012.
So we are exploring new territory as we build a new auditorium to provide a space for worship. Will we have a media booth with a sound system and overhead screens? Will we refurbish the baptistry and make it a feature at the entrance to new space? Will the pipe organ and the pews be removed? I look forward to seeing how it all turns out.
Worship is the heart of Kew Baptist.