A little bit of our history
The story of ChristChurch is very much tied to the story of Woking as a town…
As the new town of Woking began to grow, people began worshipping in the back of a shop in Chertsey Road in 1876. A year later an “Iron Room” was built on the site of the current church. In 1886 Revd. William Hamilton became Vicar of St John’s and was the driving force for the construction of a new church to support the rapidly growing town. The first service in the new Christ Church took place on New Years Day 1889, the building was consecrated in June 1893 and later that year Christ Church became a separate parish, with Revd. Hamilton becoming the first Vicar. The building had cost £7,190 to complete!
The Early Years
Revd. Hamilton was also the driving force behind the building of both St Paul’s in Maybury, and St Mary of Bethany, both of which were originally “chapels of ease” to Christ Church but are now separate parishes. Attendance in the 1920s was high with many services each Sunday, though very different from today - children, for instance, did not attend but went instead to Sunday School. There were pews of course, and a large robed choir. The church was also very much linked into the local community with many clubs often with membership in the hundreds. There was also a Christmas Market - in 1931 this extended over four days, and had 19 stalls. The Market ran right up until 1987.
The Middle Years
The Second World War inevitably led to a reduction in social activity associated with the church. In the mid 1950s the new Vicar, Revd. Bill Read, initiated stronger children and youths work and revived the prayer ministry, arguably laying some of the foundations of what was to come. The stained glass windows that are now clearly visible from The Gallery were added in the early 1960s as a result of the generosity of the Sawtells, who had long been associated with the church.
The Church in the Centre
Christ Church had been built in a residential area and that was the case up until the 1960s, But then the town centre began to expand, and at one point it was suggested the church might be demolished in favour of the shopping centre that became Wolsey Place. The church hall moved from where Wolsey Place is now to where Barclays Bank is now. Then in the mid 1980s, when Revd. Malcolm Herbert became Vicar, a new vision emerged for a significant transformation of the building to recognise the place of the church in the centre of the growing town. The church hall was sold, more money was raised, and the building was transformed, removing the pews, adding a baptismal pool, a coffee shop and bookstall, and rooms to the side. Having been open on the one day of the week that the town was closed, suddenly the building was open seven days a week, with many people entering on a daily basis for all sorts of purposes, including music recitals, toddler groups and simply to have a coffee in a relaxed environment (before the many coffee shops which now exist had opened). The change had been delivered with a reasonably small congregation, but that changed with the new building and considerable growth has been experienced since. The reconfiguration, as it was known, had cost over £2m.
Coming Up To Date
In the years since the reconfiguration Christ Church has opened a debt relief centre, continued to concentrate on the importance of children and youth ministry, and is involved with many other local churches in wider ministries such as work with local schools or supporting the homeless. We also continue to support various overseas ministries, as we did even in the days of Revd. Hamilton. The building continues to be used both by the church for all sorts of events but also as an asset for the wider community.
Right from the start, the people of Christ Church have sought both to serve the community of which we are part, and also to speak distinctively of our belief in a God who loves us all and want us to know Him, and we expect our building to be part of the plan to do just that.