News and Events

The Church Born in a Prayer Meeting (August 2020)


You will remember that we left the account of our church history at the point where we were about to embark on yet another interregnum at the beginning of 1986. I had quite a rude awakening when I suddenly realised that, at this point, we had already celebrated the Centenary of The Boys’ Brigade (in 1983) and I had been Captain of the 5th Southampton Company for over 3 years.  As I remember it, the Company was very strong at this stage with well over 150 members spread over its four sections. (Anchor Boys (5-7), Junior Section (8-11), Company Section (12-16) and Senior Section (16-18))  

During this uncertain period in the life of SBC overall, I remember that the Youth Organisations embarked on a ‘building project’ of their own.  The Keeble Hall had fallen into a state of disrepair and was used mainly for storing newspapers that were being collected and sold on to raise much needed funds for the Home Mission Fund, and sorting jumble for jumble sales, which had become a favourite method of fund-raising.  At a Church Meeting on the 18th May 1986, the Church Treasurer reported that the Church income was very low, in fact she said that the situation was desperate, but even though this was the case the Church approved a proposal from the Young People that they should be allowed to ‘do up’ the Keeble Hall for use as a Youth Centre, provided they raised the money to refurbish the hall themselves. They had investigated the improvements that would be required and estimated that these would cost approximately £4,300. 

The Young People set about this project with enthusiasm, and at a meeting 4 months later were happy to announce that they had already raised £1,700 towards the cost of the proposed work on the Keeble Hall, and that work would be commencing shortly. 

Meanwhile, things in the church at large were not quite so rosy. My feeling is that the church was tired. They had been raising money for the new halls for 11 years, and whilst the end was now in sight, they were weary. At the church meeting held on the 19th June 1986 the Treasurer again pleaded with the Church Members to prayerfully consider their giving.  Their projected Annual Income was £31,740, and their Annual Expenditure £32,901 meaning that if things did not change there would be a shortfall of £1,161. She also pointed out that the minimum stipend for a new minister would be £8,000 + national insurance and rates. Against this depressing backdrop, Peter S was invited to continue in the role of Pastoral Assistant.  It would seem there was little prospect of a new Pastor being called to SBC anytime soon.

However, God has always promised to build His church and He had “plans to prosper us and not to harm us”. It should have been no surprise then, that, just over a month later, on the 24th July 1986, the majority of the membership voted in favour of calling the Rev. Michael B who had been to preach with a view to the pastorate. This call was accepted, and his induction planned for the 8th November that year.  At this point the church membership stood at 200 and Eric W spoke in support of the Treasurer where he warned the church meeting that they were facing a financial crisis. It had been necessary for the Church Treasurer to borrow £800 from the Building Fund in order to pay the Fire Insurance Bill, having paid £3,000 for the redecoration of the manse prior to the Banfields’ arrival. He said that looking at the projected budget for the coming year, based on current giving. they would be facing a shortfall of £6,393.00.  People were obviously listening because at the Church AGM the following month, the Treasurer was able to report that the previous Sunday offering had been over £400; and we can see that this was not just ‘a flash in the pan’. At the Annual   Financial   Meeting   held    in    the   March of 1987 the Treasurer was reportedly considerably happier than at the same time the previous year. The weekly giving at SBC was then averaging £525.00, and she thanked everyone for their response to Eric’s appeal.

Another development at this time was a further appeal for help from Colne Avenue that had been received early in the New Year. After much thought and prayer, it was agreed that Peter S should give 2 days per week to Colne Avenue, Michael B would preach there once a quarter, and other morning services would be staffed by Lay Preachers from SBC. This would apply only to morning services. Colne Avenue folk would be encouraged to attend SBC for evening worship.

Our regular readers will be aware that we received the news that Michael had died earlier this year, and published a tribute penned by Jane R in his memory on pages 5 – 7 of the May edition of this magazine to which you may like to refer.  In the interim, we received a copy of the tribute to him, written by his brother, Stephen, and published in The Baptist Times which we are now going to use…

Stephen says, “Michael and his family had served for about 5 years at Minehead before he accepted a call to Shirley Baptist Church in Southampton in 1986. This was a flagship city church with a large group of young people and many organisations for all ages. New initiatives were started, including Communicare which has grown and become well-known offering support to the vulnerable across the city. An eldership was set up in addition to the diaconate. Michael again had a preaching and pastoral ministry but also focussed on discipleship training for all ages. Masterlife courses were held and many benefitted from these. As the church grew, a building project was launched and completed.  
(We believe the project being referred to here is the further development of the Keeble Hall into a Church Office. Hall, & Minister’s Office. Eds.) 

Several enjoyable church holidays were held in Minehead.
Michael also served on the Southern Baptist Association Ministerial Recognition Committee, becoming secretary for a period of time, sharing this role with Linda as minute secretary.

During the latter years at Shirley, Michael was drawn back towards Southampton Airport. He had become very much at home there, being involved in its chaplaincy for a few hours each week, when he saw an advert in The Baptist Times for a full-time chaplain at London Luton Airport in 1995 and felt that God was calling him to apply. He applied and was accepted and thus, after ten years, his ministry at SBC drew to a close.

One of the early paragraphs in Stephen’s tribute to his brother made us chuckle and, knowing Michael as we did, I think he, too, would have found it amusing.  Michael obviously had quite an obsession with a variety of different forms of transport and the tribute reads thus:  “Michael’s lifelong gifts of leadership, enthusiasm and utter commitment showed early. They were first focussed on Whitstable railway station, where the staff resolved his ubiquity by making him a junior porter, allowing him in those pre-Tannoy days to hone his public-speaking skills by announcing the trains in a shrill treble. All the neighbours were obliged to turn out to see the first electric unit go through in 1959.”

At present, we are no longer able to access the church minute books, so it will be necessary to halt our brief history of SBC at this point.  However, it has been suggested to us that some folk who currently attend the church may not know why the Spurgeon and Carey Halls were so named, so our homework this month, is to find out all there is to know about the lives of these two distinguished Baptists!

Barbara R

A Few Added Thoughts from John Waldron

You will remember that John was a young lay preacher at this time and leader of the thriving Young People’s Fellowship at SBC.  He says:

“My remembrance of Michael was as a visionary, approachable and thoughtful. He was a good preacher and I still use some of the worship leading techniques that he taught us all those years ago…

He was very supportive of me when the Y.P.F. embarked on the “Eat Less Pay More Christmas Cracker Restaurant”. He helped get the permission to run it through the Diaconate with all the possible liabilities that were there. It could never happen today!”                 

The Refurbished Keeble Hall

Being fortunate enough to read the magazine before it goes to print,  reading Barbara’s article about a “Church  Born in a Prayer Meeting” brought back a memory with regard to the Keeble Centre, as it is now known.

Yes,  the building project was to make it into an office, smaller hall etc, but one thing I do remember is that before the work was carried out,  it had large double wooden doors leading into the hall (where now the office window is looking out onto the car park).

One door was taken away, I won’t say by whom, and from part of it was made a very nice bowl that could be presented to Mrs Keeble, whose husband of course was a former minister at Shirley, hence the name of the hall.  If my memory serves me rightly, Mrs Keeble was asked to reopen the hall. This took place after a Sunday service and was then followed by a lunch.

I wonder what happened to that bowl?

John H