Closure of David Livingstone URC

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Closing Service

The final service at David Livingstone URC was held at 4.00 pm on Sunday 13 September 2020.The service was led by Revd Paul Whittle, Moderator of the URC Eastern Synod, and Revd Kathryn Taylor, the minister at the church. Sadly, Covid-19 social distancing measure meant that the church could only accommodate 10 people but we were pleased to welcome other friends from throughout HAEBEA via Zoom.

The History of David Livingstone Church

In December 1954, Mr E D Miller wrote to the local press about his interest in starting a Congregational Church in Harlow New Town. As a result of this letter, five founder members got together, and the first service was held in the Dashes Common Room in March 1955.

In October 1955 the first Covenant Service and the induction of the First Minister — Revd. G W Satchell took place. The five founder members were: Mr and Mrs E D Miller, Mr and Mrs E J Quinn and Mr H Dunn.

By 1958 the Church had grown and had a congregational family of 50 members and up to 100 children. Harlow at that time had a reputation as a 'Pram Town' due to the number of young families moving into the area.

As the Church was originally planned, it was hoped to have a manse on the same site and the original estimate for the planned building was £30,000. The manse was not built. Instead the minister was housed in a House provided by the Harlow Development Agency. The actual cost of the church building was £11,500 and was raised by the members with valuable help from the Essex congregational Union, David Livingstone Stanford Rivers Church, (where David Livingstone started his ministry), the Raynor Bequest and the Congregational Union of England and Wales.

The opening and dedication took place on Saturday 29th November 1958

Over the years the Church had a turbulent history, with suggestions of closure, fluctuating numbers of worshippers, leaking roofs, break-ins and vandalism etc. many attempts were made to obtain groups to share the building to help with finance, which had become costly to maintain.

By the late 1990's the vandals appeared to be winning the fight and the building took on an appearance of a World War 2 bombsite. The minister, Revd John Wheaton and the elders entered into negotiations with the Methodist Housing Association (Springboard) to take over the land, build flats to let, and provide a new smaller church on the site.

After extremely long and complex negotiations with the English Partnership, Harlow Council, the trustees and Local MP the scheme got the go ahead. Whilst the building was being carried out the members spent a very happy time, sharing worship with Trinity United Reformed Church.

The patient, faithful congregation eventually moved into the present building in 2002. We have had many lettings over the years including the Inner Wheel and a group from Grays periodically. The Aspire Support Learning group have hired our building for 5 days each week. This has been a good outreach to the community as they provided lunches on a Tuesday and Friday.

Sadly, the number of worshipers has steadily declined, and the church meeting elected to having only services every other week. This pattern of worship continued for the last 18 months (prior to the Coronavirus Lockdown) with much discussion at each church meeting, but with the remaining members unable to attend regularly the difficult decision to close was finally made.

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