The ministry of the Elim Church in Swindon began as a Tent Crusade on a piece of land in Broad Street on the 18th June 1933. Previously there had been no Pentecostal witness in the district. The Campaign Team was composed of a Pastor Smith, Mrs. Munday and her two daughters: Florence, who had an outstanding testimony of healing, and Freda the pianist. People from the surrounding district, attracted by the singing and lively services, soon became interested, especially when they witnessed the power of God both in salvation and healing.
Services continued until November when, due to weather conditions, it was necessary to hire a classroom in the Clarence Street School. During the following months 80 people were baptised in water – the Gorse Hill Baptist Church being hired for the occasion. So the work became established.
The following year, Pastor Carver was sent from the Elim Headquarters and the Assembly became a part of the Elim Family. As the church grew and various activities entered into, it was decided that a church building was needed so, accepting the challenge of Malachi 3: 10, a building fund was started and a piece of land sought for.
The present site was unacceptable for houses due to the position of drainpipes, but by setting the building further back from the road, permission was granted for a church.
Right from the start three resolutions were made:-
- There would be a Prayer Meeting on the site every Friday morning at 6 a.m. until the building was complete.
- No help either financial or labour would be accepted from people who were not Christians.
- No materials would be obtained on credit.
Not only were there no apparent financial resources, there were no skilled builders either but, being considered as the will of God, the work should proceed.
The first evidence that God was in the work was when the owner of the land, on hearing of the intended use, immediately halved her asking price! A young man, Mr. K.W. Morrell, training to be an architect with a local firm, volunteered to draw up the plans free of charge as a training exercise! Then a new convert, being skilled in all aspects of building, was able to supervise the work. Later, a brother from another Elim Church, being a qualified surveyor, was detailed to work on a Swindon project for six months, so was on hand to help line up the steelwork.
As the work continued into the war period (1939-1945), difficulties were encountered such as material supplies, so second-hand and alternative materials had to be used although, in answer to prayer, materials for the roof were released by the authorities. Another problem that had to be overcome was when both the Ministries of Food and the Fire Service tried to requisition the building for storage Depots. The building was finally registered as a place of worship and, although there was no roof, a service was held once a week, thus claiming it for the Glory of God. The church was completed and opened on Bank Holiday Monday 3rd August 1942 – entirely free of debt!
The present building was erected by the membership of the day. The vision being for a congregation of 1,000 members. This included simply two small rooms either side of the entrance, with a pulpit in the alcove, which now forms the service area to the kitchen. The prayer room, adjacent to the minor hall, was the pastor’s vestry.
It was not until Pastor Day’s ministry during the years of 1957-1965 that modifications were made to the entrance area. These included the two cloakrooms and a balcony opening onto the main auditorium. Later, this was then closed off to form the “coffee bar” and was used almost exclusively by the young people. At the other end of the church, a permanent wall was constructed to form the minor hall, a new pastor’s vestry, and ante-room. It was then necessary to create a new platform, which was built to hold a choir of at least 30-50 people, and also to house the baptistry.
During Pastor Alan Seeman’s ministry (1976-1991) the Sunday School flourished and there was also a great influx of young people, due mainly to the leadership of Richard (Dick) Denyer and his wife Margaret who opened their hearts and their home to these young people; many of whom developed leadership roles themselves within the church fellowship. Musical talent was also to the fore with the production of such Musicals as ‘From Pharaoh to Freedom’ and ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. A small band was also created which had a great impact on the youth at Swindon College and at Greenbelt.
For the younger generation, plans were approved in 1987 for the reconstruction of the minor hall into a two-tier element with the ‘up stairs’ being specifically designed for a Pre-School Playgroup. This was co-ordinated by Jean Crookes and officially opened on 5th September 1988 and continued until changes in Government policy, resulting in lack of numbers, determined its closure.
A monthly lunch club was also created and the Fund Raising arm for Missionary work under the heading of LifeLink continued with much success, raising around £2,000 each year.
Much research was done into the formation of a Residential/Nursing Home (the proposition was dropped as it was considered beyond the means of the membership to administer).
Towards the end of Alan Seeman’s ministry, many of the young people had now grown up and moved away for a variety of reasons but there are many who are still in leadership roles today, albeit in other churches.
It is with much regret that, under Alan Mason’s term of office (1992-1996), this decline continued and it was not until Ron Williams came into office (1997-2006) that further structural alterations were made – especially to the ‘coffee-bar’ area at the front of the church – this being widened and refurbished to create a much more spacious area to conform to government regulations for nursery school facilities. It is now used as a crèche. A lower false ceiling was put in place in the main body of the church together with diffused lighting and complete redecoration. New cupboards were constructed in the minor hall to give more pleasant surroundings for the mid-week services.
With the arrival of Pastor Steve Gunn in 2007 the work of modernisation continues with the installation of Power Point projection of computerised songs and scripture together with special stage lighting in the main auditorium. Further expansion is also envisaged with the creation of an evangelistic ministry.
Much more could be written but it is to the Glory of God, the inspirational ministry of His word, and the faithfulness and commitment of the membership that the Elim Church at Swindon continues to flourish and expand.