In the 1930’s a small group of Christians began meeting and evangelising with a special focus on open air ‘tent meetings’ led by Jim Bryant. For their regular meetings they hired the Guide Hut in Perrymount Road, then later the Co-op building in Sussex Road. In God’s amazing providence a plot of ground became available in New England Road on the Bentswood estate – a major housing development. This was purchased by the church from a Mrs Baker for £200!
On 11th February 1936 the group of 16 believers agreed to form a church called “Haywards Heath Independent Evangelical Mission.”
Soon after this, in 1937, a formal constitution was agreed and the property was transferred on trust to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (formed in 1922). The church was renamed “Haywards Heath Evangelical Free Church.”
The church erected various buildings on the plot which were used for their meetings. God blessed them with many seasons of spiritual and numerical growth. The church was normally led by a pastor and a team of deacons.
These were the pastors over the first 50 years:
Rev Claude Preston (1936-1938)
Rev Everard G Derry (1938-1950) – He later went to work for the Poona and India Village Mission. During his time the first manse was purchased in New England Road.
Rev A E Anderson (1950-1957) – He had great wisdom dealing with many issues as the old values were questioned.
Rev Douglas W Battson (1958-65) – He especially encouraged the work amongst the young people in the Campaigners group (see below).
Edward Ralph (1965-1972) – He was instrumental in leading the church through the replacement of the old building with a new main hall in 1967 and rear hall in 1973.
Kingsley Coomber (1974–1987) – Kingsley was a gifted evangelist who encouraged the church in reaching ut into the local area with door to door work and open air preaching. Many people were converted and joined the church during this time.
The founding eldership
Thereafter is was decided that it was the most appropriate application of the Bible’s teaching for the church to be led by a group of elders with one or more of them paid, to enable them to focus especially on public word ministry.
The founding eldership was formed in 1988 with David Ashdown, Derek Bigg, Andrew King (full time), Peter Lines and Les White. Apart from Andrew, these men had all previously been part of the “Church Management Committee.”
Derek worked full time for the church from 1990. This included visits to Spain twice a year, teaching in an evening Bible school in Barcelona in the spring and leading preaching workshops in southern Spain in the autumn. Derek had formerly been a missionary in Spain.
In 1995 a new constitution was adopted which was simpler and more descriptive rather than prescriptive. It formalised the leadership by elders and explained the process of reaching decisions by consensus. It also clarified that although the church emphasis was on believer’s baptism, those who held a paedobaptist view would also be welcomed into membership.
1995 Robert Fernandez joined the eldership
1997 Peter Lines retired from the eldership and moved to Eastbourne.
1996 Nick McQuaker joined as a full time elder and Derek Bigg retired from the eldership, but has continued a writing and teaching ministry.
2000 Andrew King left the eldership to begin a work of “teaching teachers” in Brazil
2001 Graham Nicholls joined the eldership, later he was employed part time and then full time supported by the church
2008 David Ashdown left the eldership
2009 Nick McQuaker became Director of Training and Development for the Sussex Gospel Partnership and ceased to be employed by the church but continued as an elder.
2009 Mark Ventham joined the eldership as another full time worker.
2013 Robert Fernandez retired from eldership
2014 Nigel Jones joined the eldership
The church has also been actively involved in church plants at Holbrook (Horsham), Hurstpierpoint and Grace Church Haywards Heath. In 2011 the name of the church was changed from Haywards Heath Evangelical Free Church to Christ Church Haywards Heath. In that same year a major building project was undertaken.
Since 1981 until the present day membership has grown steadily from 63 to around 125 at present (2015)
We trust the Lord to bless us in the years ahead. May all the glory be to Him!