1950-1959: John Sertin and the vision of St Barnabas Builders

John Sertin (right) with the Bishop of Rochester (centre) at the dedication of the hall church, Friday 11th June, 1954John Sertin came to the parish in July 1950, having served a curacy in Sidcup, and having just completed a degree at Cambridge. His own background was rather different to the majority of people on the estate, but he came with a real sense of vision for ministry in a housing area such as St Paul’s Cray.

A few months after his arrival, in October, the area was designated the "Conventional District of St Barnabas Cray in the Parishes of Chislehurst, St. Paul's Cray and St. Mary Cray". The hope was to build a church, and once that was built the area could become a parish.

The Rochester Diocesan Evangelical Union (RDEU), taking up an idea originally suggested by John Sertin, agreed with the diocese that if the RDEU raised money for a church then the diocese would give the patronage to CPAS (Church Pastoral Aid Society), so as to ensure the ministry would always be evangelical.

So in November 1951, St Barnabas Builders was formed with the Bishop of Rochester as its President. Canon Guy King (vicar of Christ Church, Beckenham) was Vice-President and took a leading role in all that followed. Mr E. Rowland Appleton (churchwarden of Christ Church, Orpington) was Secretary. Rowland Appleton was responsible for a huge amount of work from 1951 right through to 1974 when the Builders finished their task of raising money.

The motto of the Builders was appropriately enough: "The God of heaven, he will prosper us, therefore we his servants will arise and build." (Nehemiah 2:20)

By 1952, services were taking place in a hut or "tin tabernacle" erected on the current site on Rushet Road. John Sertin commented on worship in the hut, "The struggle to maintain dignity, reverence and good order within the four walls of the Hut imposed a nervous and physical strain which we shall not soon forget."

The original "hall-church" is now used as the church hallIn 1953, work started on the hall, or hall-church as it was often described, since it was to be a multi-purpose building with folding screens allowing the sanctuary area to be divided off from whatever activities might take place in the body of the hall. This building is now our church hall.

In April 1959, John Sertin left, to go on to St Cuthbert’s, Wood Green. In the 9 years he had spent here he had done an enormously important work, seeing both spiritual growth and the development of the hall/church.

A couple of years later, in 1961, his successor John Tanburn wrote:- "John Sertin was the first minister, and he did a heroic work from 1951-59. In those early days the Estate was far rougher even than it is now. He started with services in his own Council house, then builders’ huts, etc., - and laid small but very solid foundations for the building up of the church." Today we can echo those words of appreciation, and give thanks to God for the way the work here had begun.

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