Luke 6:48 "...it was founded upon a rock..."
1 Cor 10:4 "...that Rock was Christ..."
The Assembly at Bromborough is an active although small testimony of about 25 believers. Whilst, as in most Assemblies these days, the majority are older there are a number of younger families. There is a healthy interest in Gospel activity. There is generally one midweek meeting but this is often supplemented by other meetings. God has and continues to bless the work. In a day when many Assemblies are small and numerically weak there is much to give thanks for.
The importance of a solid foundation cannot be stressed enough. This brief history seeks to describe the early days when the foundation was laid. The details have largely been gleaned from conversations with older saints.
Most Assemblies have gone through difficult periods. Bromborough is no exception. In the New Testament there were difficulties to be faced in early church days. We can learn from God's Word how to confront these difficulties. Problems invariably arise when the will of man is on display. Despite this God overrules and the testimony in Bromborough has been continued to the glory of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first attempt at starting a testimony in Bromborough was made with a tent campaign, conducted by Gavin Hamilton, in 1928. A report in the June issue of the Witness of that year gives details of his proposed meetings in New Ferry and Bromborough. In the following month a report says that he "had a good start at Bromborough June 10th". The site for the Tent was very near the spot on which the present Gospel Hall is located. Both the New Ferry and Rock Ferry assemblies were associated with this work. The Hamiltons (no relation to Gavin Hamilton) of Rock Ferry had moved to Mainwaring Avenue and took a great interest in this first effort. At this time the work was not followed up but interest in the area continued and the Village Workers were very active at this time with Bromborough as a venue.
In about 1932 another attempt was made to commence a work. Believers who lived in the village, who appreciated the importance of gathering to the name of the Lord Jesus, generally were associated with the testimonies at Hope Hall, New Ferry and Ebenezer Hall, Rock Ferry. There were at least three families who took the bus to New Ferry for the meetings, Mr. and Mrs. Jones (parents of Gordon Jones of Park Hall Tranmere and Mrs. J. Kirkham of Ellesmere Port subsequently in fellowship at Bromborough), Mr. and Mrs. William Brown (parents of Mr. Terry Brown of formerly of Park Hall, Tranmere and Irby and Mrs. Marion Wright who, with her husband Bill, was for a time in the assembly in Bromborough) and Mr. and Mrs. Adams (parents in law to the late Jeffrey Harrison).
Looking Out with Gospel Work
At that time a large assembly met at Hope Hall New Ferry and they had an interest in outreach work. It was the late Mr. Will Brown of Port Causeway from the New Ferry assembly who really initiated the work in Bromborough. From 1932 to 1934 meetings were held in his house and Frank Bresnen and George Harris of Rock Ferry helped in the work. Many young people from New Ferry undertook regular tract distribution, and regular Open Air meetings were held outside the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jones at 2 Dale Avenue. Every Saturday between 8 and 12 folks were engaged in this work.
Sometime during 1935/36, with the permission of the elders at New Ferry (including Mr. Pritchard and Dr. Grierson), it was decided to hold regular Gospel Meetings in Bromborough. The local Council Offices (on Allport Lane, now the site of the Bromborough library) were hired for this purpose. Apart from the families referred to previously other families including the Carman’s, another family of Jones's (who had recently moved from David Street, Liverpool) and the Gilbert’s became involved. Men such as Bill Brown, Eddie Ritson and Bill Gilbert were particularly active in the work. The work of tract distribution continued during this period. In addition a number of local believers, whilst still in fellowship at Hope Hall, began to meet in the midweek for Bible study firstly at the home of Mrs. Haslem at 1 Bradmoor Road and later at 2 Dale Avenue. Mr. Billy Elliot became involved in the work at this time.
Looking Down in Blessing
The Lord blessed this work. The desire of all those that helped the work at Bromborough was that an assembly work be commenced. This became a special matter of prayer. It was decided to look for alternative accommodation. There was a house called Sunnyside in the Rake with a large timber garage in the front garden, big enough for two cars. The brethren decided to rent the garage from the owner, a local historian, Mrs. Anderson. The hut was somewhat rough and dilapidated. However the saints soon set about making it presentable. It is a good thing when saints are not divided and so the dividing partition that ran down the centre of the garage was removed. The whole was lined with plywood and varnished. A Sunday School was commenced at this time as an additional part of the gospel activity. On the first Sunday 8 children attended, on the second 16, on the third 32. Thereafter the numbers continued to rise. It was soon realised that the building was too small and a room in Mrs. Anderson's house was loaned for the senior Bible class of teenagers between 14 and 18. The Lord was blessing this work and a number were saved and are still going on well for the Lord.
The "garage" became known as Sunnyside Gospel Hall. It was used by a cobbler during the week. As a result of the Gospel efforts some were saved. Others moved into the area as a result of the increase in council house building. It was on 19th March 1939 that the first Breaking of Bread meeting was held in Sunnyside. There were about twenty in the fellowship. This hut continued to be used in the early war years. The work was not easy. At this time Geoffrey Harrison, who later went into full-time service, joined the company. A number of sisters were a great help both in a practical way in ensuring that the building was in a fit state in which to hold meetings and by their prayer support.
Looking Forward with Vision
Because of proposed rent increases it was decided to look for more permanent arrangements. A piece of land was rented, the site of the existing Hall. A second-hand wooden hut was purchased from Lancashire by Mr. G. Harrison and this became affectionately known as "the hen hut". Originally it was a "fowl house". Of course it was cleaned and scrubbed before it could be used for the Lord. Mr. Archie Boulton assisted financially to raise the hut onto higher ground. Concrete panels had to be used! The Gospel Hall, as it was known, acquired a combustion stove. A Christian blacksmith from Birkenhead made a guard for the safety of the children. The stove was located near the platform so that while the speakers used to get hot under the collar the congregation sometimes remained cold! Rationing still existed at this time but an allocation of soap was made so the hall was kept clean. The sisters were often seen on their hands and knees scrubbing away at the floor. It is a good thing for the saints to be on their knees but in this case no easy task since the water had to be brought from next door (Tickle's cottage) which was a rather ramshackle affair. Mrs. Carman and Mrs. Simmons did much of this work. Outside the Hall an open Bible was displayed in a glass case. The emphasis on outreach was continued with open air meetings at Bromborough Cross and in the roads around the Hall.
In 1944 a tent campaign was held on the Bradmoor with George Barton from Warrington. Another campaign was held in June 1946 with Walter Ainsley, when Walter Pickstock was saved.
Later Arthur Hodgkinson and Walter Fowler moved to the area and joined the Assembly. These two men were to be a great help in the work and brought spiritual wealth to the gatherings. The work continued to be hard going. It was to the credit of all those mentioned that they never gave up. Truly they, with the Lord's help, laid the foundation for present blessing.
Building for God
The "henhut" was used for many years but eventually it was decided to build a permanent hall. The piece of land on which the "henhut" was located was purchased. It is a good site and had ample space for a sizeable new hall plus car park. Much of the work was initially undertaken by local brethren including Bill Buckley, Jack Perry, Bert Houghton, Walter Fowler, Walter Pickstock, Will Brown, Ken Jones, Tom Bevan, Arthur Hodgkinson, Bill Gilbert, Fred Windsor, Harold Shaw and Richard Darnell. As in the days of Nehemiah when a work for God is going on Satan is always active. A local market gardener caused some difficulty. Eventually however the Hall was completed in November 1959. An opening conference was held on a Saturday. The hall was filled to capacity and the next day the saints met to remember the Lord in the new building. The hall was known as Emmaus Chapel. The Lord had supplied for all material needs. The annual conference has been held on the second Saturday in November ever since.
Throughout the 1950's, 60's and 70's there was an active children's work with over 100 children in both the Monday night children's meeting and the Sunday School. Mr. Tom Bevan was the Sunday School superintendent for much of this time followed by Bert Houghton. Numbers in the assembly remained steady at about 30 to 40. Quite a few came across from Liverpool because of either employment or retirement. These included the Hunters, the Redferns and the Rigbys. Some joined the assembly because it sought to uphold Scriptural principles when they were being abandoned elsewhere.
Brethren such as Arthur Hodgkinson, Walter Fowler. Bert Houghton, Bill Redfearn, Bill Gilbert, Tom Smith and later Bill Hunter and Howard Barnes were exercised in leadership. Mr. Hodgkinson set very high standards as assembly secretary. Mr. Hunter was diligent in visitation. In his 80's he was commonly seen in the village, on his bike, on his way to visit the saints.
In the early 70's the old Bromborough library, that had been located in the front grounds of Stanhope House, which originally had been given by Mr. Archie Boulton to Bebington Council, was acquired. It is a wooden structure but it has proved a wonderful asset for children's and Sunday school work.
During the 1980's the difficulty of Sunday school and children's work increased. Whilst over 100 children would attend in the 70's numbers reduced to less than 10 in the 80's. In October 1986 Oaklands Lodge Retirement Home was opened in Bromborough. A good number of elderly saints moved into the area. At one time 25 saints were received into the Assembly within the space of two to three months. This had a marked impact. However as many of these saints have become infirm there are now (in 2016) only about 4 who are able to attend on a regular basis. At the same time the number of younger families was growing. As children have grown the demands of education and subsequently employment have taken them elsewhere. The influence of Assembly life in their early years will hopefully continue to be felt. A good example of this is seen in the fact that Mrs. Carman's granddaughter, Sue Williams, is now serving the Lord with her husband in Eastern Europe.
During the 1990's there have been many changes in the assembly. God never changes. His Word never changes. His power is unfailing. God is faithful. Recognising this, there was a desire to return to the old paths, to be more active in Gospel outreach but to ensure that the principles of gathering were maintained. It was decided to revert to the former name of the Hall. It is now known as the Gospel Hall. The times of the meetings were changed so that the Lord's Supper is held first on the Lord's Day. Gospel activity was increased with an occasional family service and family Gospel teas. Coffee mornings were held on a regular monthly basis. The Lancashire Gospel Tent has visited Bromborough approximately every three years in the last twenty five years. The result has been a breaking down of barriers with the local community and good numbers of unsaved hearing the Gospel. There is regular tract distribution.
There have been setbacks which men would find difficult to explain. We know however that God never makes a mistake. A great shock to the assembly came when Bert Houghton was called home suddenly. The words of another are worth quoting "Over the years he proved himself to be a solid assembly man, always at his post, taking responsibility for the smooth running of assembly affairs. His homecall shook all those who knew him... Bert had a real heart for the Lord and His people".
The work must go on. Surely God will raise up spiritual men to fill up the ranks. Prayer is vital. Zeal is necessary. The divine pattern must be sustained. It is God's work not mans. Christ must be given the pre-eminent place. Caution must be exercised by those who take a lead. Clearly where a work is established on solid foundations there will be showers of blessing in God's time.