1967-1975: Ron Hargreaves - the church grows

Ron Hargreaves began his ministry at St Barnabas in October 1967. He made his mark - he had a charismatic personality and came across very strongly, both in the pulpit and in writing.

This was a period of considerable growth: the electoral roll increased from 126 in 1967 to 192 in 1969, and by 1974 the roll had reached an all-time high of 401. Other indications of the strength of the church at this point are that there were 60 distributors for the magazine, and 70 volunteers were asked for in order to help with the Christian Aid Week door-to-door collection.

Growing links were appearing with other churches by this stage, and during 1970 the Orpington Council of Churches started.

On the financial side, in April there was still 12,602 owing on the church, plus 2,250 on the hall, still a very large sum of money. St Barnabas Builders would continue to give help, but most would fall on the members of the church. It was felt that the goal should be to pay off the debt in 10 years, with the church raising 1,000 per year.

However, in 1972 the PCC decided to pay off the debts by the tenth anniversary of the church's consecration. This was a huge step of faith, but it led to an immediate increase in giving to St Barnabas Builders and the goal was in fact achieved. At a special thanksgiving service on 10th September 1974 the last cheques were handed over - glory to God! We must record with thanks the enormous amount of help received from St Barnabas Builders and all the churches that contributed to the raising of the money.

An interesting item of PCC business in 1975 was a straw vote on the ordination of women - the idea was turned down!

In 1975, Ron Hargreaves moved on to become vicar of Egham. With hindsight, we can see that one question that faced the church was this: after the very strongly focussed days of getting the buildings erected and paid for, and after the very charismatic personality of Ron Hargreaves, would the level of commitment remain, or would some people drift away? The memory of those who were in St Barnabas through the next period suggests there was indeed some drift, but that also faithful, loving Christian ministry continued to yield its fruits.

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