Horsham Home from Home

By John Ellis

One branch of my ancestors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries all lived within a horse ride of Horsham in Sussex. My great grandfather, Henry Boon, moved the family home to the town a century ago and since then there have always been relations living there. It therefore felt like coming home to visit Horsham as part of the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Congregational Church being established on the present town centre site.

The first church building eventually proved too small and in the year my grandmother was born, 1884, a larger one was opened. As so often, the ubiquitous Samuel Morley was there to help pay for it and lay the foundation stone. The 200th anniversary celebrations however enjoy the more modern comforts of the third building, erected in 1983 and extended in 2009.

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The story has an ecumenical thread too. The original plot of land was leased and later purchased from the Catholic Duke of Norfolk and a later Duchess of Norfolk laid the foundation stone of the present building. United services for the town on special occasions date back to at least the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s accession in 1887. So I hope I am right to guess that my great grandfather, a Wesleyan Local Preacher, might have preached in the Congregational Chapel on occasion.

The celebration service at which I preached came at the start of a busy week of bicentenary activity. It included a presentation by the Junior Church reminding us that important though the building was, the real issue was how it helped equip people for Christian living and service. The activities this week illustrate the point with a focus on the support given to the local community and the charities working beyond Horsham that the church supports.  The ARK project based in the church, which supports some of the most vulnerable adults in the town, was the local Charity of the Year in 2012.

P1000154After the service the church family sat down for a celebration lunch. Miraculously a substantial cooked meal emerged from a kitchen with just one cooker and was served with an efficiency some restaurants might envy. It was a good opportunity to hear more about the church’s life from the minister, the Revd Elaine Dunn, and other leaders.  It also showed what energy and commitment can achieve when God’s people work together.

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