Free Grace Church as it was then called, was formally constituted in February 1982 with a membership of 10. The Church came about as a result of 5 couples desiring more consistent and spiritually edifying bible teaching coupled with the acknowledgement of the truths of the Reformed faith.
The establishment of the Church evolved from a weekly bible study which took place whilst the organisers still attended main stream churches in the city. The bible studies attracted more people than expected and carried on for over a year before the Lord led his people to establish the Church.
In the first instance the Church met in a local community centre called Ryelands House which was originally the country home of Lord Ashton a local factory owner and wealthy entrepreneur. The Church met there in the morning and in the evening and mid week met at the home of one of the founder members.
This arrangement worked well for a while but then the Church was challenged to decide as to whether to look for a more permanent building or investigate the possibilities of calling a Pastor. The answer came when a local Pentecostal group moved into the community centre quickly followed by a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses and it was felt that a move away from these premises was inevitable.
It was at this point that the building in Lune Street became available. The property was originally built for the Co-Operative Society but when that closed it became a spare car parts outlet. Structurally the property was sound (apart from having a flat roof) but the interior was in very poor condition. The asking price was £25,000 but a purchase price of £21,500 was negotiated and in the Lord’s goodness and the generosity of the Lord’s people, the funds raised very quickly and in a remarkable way.
The purchase was completed in September 1982 and the target was to hold our first services on Christmas day of that year. Work began on cleaning the interior, removing industrial heaters, counters and other fixtures. Internal partitions were built and the Central Heating was installed. The heating installation was completed on Christmas Eve and the Church met for worship for the first time on Christmas morning 1982. Since that time considerable improvement works have been undertaken and we now have a comfortable and pleasant building to meet for worship and other activities.
In 1987 the Church decided to investigate the possibility of calling a Pastor and over the next year a number of potential candidates visited the Church but no agreement was reached. Then in 1988 we became aware of a man called Phil Arthur who resided in Sunderland and was a History Teacher in a local college of further education. Phil visited the Church on a number of occasions and in due course when put to the Church Meeting it was unanimous that he be invited to become our first Pastor. The call was accepted and in September 1988 Phil and Barbara joined the Church and his excellent and widely renowned ministry has continued to this time.
In 2009 the Church decided to look to appoint someone who would both support Phil but also undertake evangelism and outreach work. Following invitations being made to a number of young men, no consensus was reached. Then outside of the process, one Lord’s Day morning a young man named Jeff Haskins came to preach. He immediately made an impression on the Church. At that stage he was not aware of the vacancy and decided to apply. He was invited back on a number of occasions and eventually in 2010 following a unanimous decision by the Church he was invited to take up the position on a three year contract. In the goodness of God the contract has been extended for a further period as funds allow.
Since the Church was established in 1982, over the intervening years we have known the Lord’s blessing in so many ways. The Church has grown both numerically and spiritually and currently we have a committed congregation who actively seek to proclaim the Gospel truths.
We give God all the praise and glory for his goodness to us.