HISTORY OF EMMANUEL CHURCH
In July 1933, a 500 seater tent was set up in the centre of Fleetwood and a six week gospel crusade began. The evangelist was 29 year old Reverend Fred Squire, a pastor from the Assemblies of God, who conducted several crusades around the country at this time. Over 3000 people attended the crusade, requiring the tent capacity to be increased twice. The new churches founded as a result of Fred Squire’s crusades were nurtured according to a structure called “ The Full Gospel Testimony” and so the Full Gospel Church, Fleetwood, was born. For the first two years, the church rented a local building but by September 1935, the congregation had erected their own building in Lowther Road.
The church grew steadily over the next fifteen years, then in 1951, appointed Reverend Stanley Smith as pastor. At the beginning of his ministry, he believed God told him the Full Gospel Church would one day occupy the Methodist Church building in Elm St (now Lofthouse Way), a larger building on a main transport route. Under his leadership, the church continued to grow so that by 1969, the following events came together:
- The Lowther Road church was too small to accommodate the numbers
- The Conservative Club next door wanted to buy the church land, demolish the church and build a function room
- The Methodists had built a new church in Fleetwood and wanted to sell the Elm Street building, preferably to another church.
Accordingly, the Full Gospel Church moved to its new home on January 18th 1969. Rev Stanley Smith preached just one sermon in the new church before contracting ‘flu, resulting in his death exactly 18 years to the day when he was first invited to pastor the Fleetwood church. After his death, it was discovered that Stanley had made an entry in his diary for March 24th 1969, simply saying” Mike’s induction”, knowing his ministry was over and his son would succeed him. Rev. Michael Smith was duly inducted on the date specified by his father.
One of Rev. Michael Smith’s first initiatives was to buy an old double decker bus to bring people from along the Fylde coast to the gospel services on Sunday evening. This proved especially helpful for the large number of young people living outside of Fleetwood who began to attend the services. In 1974, a small studio was built and programmes of Christian music with a gospel message were recorded and later broadcast on Manx radio. By now, the expanding church was limited by a lack of additional rooms, for example, the Sunday School was housed in an old hut dubbed the “Ark” because it had literally floated away during the Fleetwood flood of 1927.
In 1976 the hut was demolished and a new extension was opened for midweek meetings and Sunday School. Shortly after, the church opened its own day nursery.
Rev. Ian Makinson, a former church member, returned from his work with Operation Mobilisation to become part of the ministry team.
Also at this time, the church began to have disagreements over its administration with the Assemblies of God, the denomination to which it had belonged since it began in 1933. Ultimately the decision was taken to leave the denomination and become an independent church, renamed Emmanuel Church, which it remains to this day.
Rev. Smith had cherished a vision for Christian education for a long time and in 1979, the church opened its own school called Emmanuel Christian School.The school grew rapidly until space became a problem. Over the next thirty years, the school moved to three different premises but the demands of meeting the requirements of a National Curriculum and the difficulty of recruiting qualified staff eventually resulted in the school closing in 2010. The church’s day nursery had been absorbed into the school in 1979 but was reopened as a registered charity in 2003 under the name Toddle-Inn (www.toddle-Inn.co.uk)
In 2002 Rev. Smith retired and was succeeded by Rev Stephen Carling, who was born and raised in Nigeria where his parents worked as missionaries. Under his guidance the church continued to grow until space again became a problem. In late 2013, he was contacted by the Mount Methodist church in Fleetwood because the congregation there had dwindled until it was no longer viable to keep the church open. It was put on the market but Emmanuel were offered the opportunity to rent it until sold so Emmanuel church services commenced in the Mount church in February 2014. Being in a conservation area, the building attracted no interest from developers so Emmanuel was able to buy the building in 2016.
In 2015 the church recruited Rev. Chris Kelsall to the ministerial team to lead a mission, based at Lofthouse Way, for people in the vicinity of the church. At the same time, the church was keen to have a presence in the Larkholme and West View area of Fleetwood, an area with no church buildings at all. To lead this, Rev Rob Guinney, former head of Emmanuel Christian School, was appointed and services, pre-Covid, have been held in a community hall and the local pub.
In 2017 Rev Carling felt his ministry in Fleetwood had come to an end but, before returning to the same African missionary society for whom he had previously worked, he and his wife made a 12 month trip in his Land Rover around Africa. Rev Chris Kelsall assumed the mantle of senior minister and we welcomed Rev Sarah Jones to the ministry team.
History of the Mount Building
The foundations of our building can be said to have been laid in the villages of North Staffordshire at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
It was here, in 1807, that, out of John Wesley’s recently-formed Methodist Church and following a stirring among some of its members, the Primitive Methodist Church was set up.
This branch, as the name suggests, grew out of a desire to embrace the original, simple and also fervent faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, based on his word, the Bible, regular prayer and praise in all times and seasons of human experience and the bringing of the Gospel to others, that they too may find life in Jesus.
In the 1840s, from this community, a number of families migrated to Fleetwood, at least some, it seems, by way of a period spent fishing in the Southport area (until they had been forced to move on with the channels becoming badly silted).
Here, in their new home, they began to hold “camp” (open-air) meetings on the Mount, in those days known as Tup Hill.
A Primitive Methodist Society for the town was formed in 1851, possibly holding services, in those days, in a barn.
The fellowship developed and grew and a small chapel, known as “The Fishermen’s Church”, was built, in 1855, in the main street, with a Sunday school extension added later.
They also became too small and were enlarged so that the chapel capacity was increased to 500. By the late 1890s and with Sunday school attendance somewhere between 350 and 400, plans were in place for a new Sunday school building.
With much evidence of an unshakeable trust in God through all the ups and downs of the next decade, land was purchased and what was to become the first stage of the building in which we now find ourselves was opened in April 1908 – and, significantly, we feel, just across the road from those early meetings on Tup Hill (aka the Mount).
Within three or four years the church had left its previous location and also moved to the Mount. The Memorial Hall (commemorating those from the church killed in the World Wars and, also, the life of another member, Percy Mather, who served for many years with the China Inland Mission) was added in 1931 and has now been impressively refurbished, while a Community Hall was added in 1974. When sadly, the church closed as part of the Methodist Connexion in 2013, we, at Emmanuel, were asked if we wished to take it on, which, after prayer, we were delighted to do, seeing in the whole site the possibility of a massive potential in God’s plans and schemes, completing purchase in 2016.
We sense, in these aging bricks and intricate carved work, a living, breathing presence in the town. Always there is the possibility (probability?) of further changes because of the “living stones” (that’s the way Christians are described in the Bible!) who use it and who are alive to the challenges of communicating the timeless language of God’s love through Jesus in forms and expressions which are understood by whatever generation we find ourselves in, each with its complexity of needs, its fears, its brokenness and hurt.
We are both thrilled and amazed to think of ourselves as spiritual and geographical descendants of those who first brought the Gospel of this unspeakable love to
Fleetwood when it was itself in its infancy (remarkable the timing of those silted channels elsewhere, which compelled these pioneers to move on!) – and of those who faithfully followed them.
Our hope and anticipation, then, with the same faith and trust in all situations, is to rediscover and redig those old wells* which we’ve inherited from our “Primitive”
ancestors and also to dig new wells, as the need is for our community, society and world to taste the refreshing water of God’s blessing which brings hope, healing and eternal life in Jesus.
*(Please refer to Genesis 26:17-22 and vv32-33)
John McLellan 2020