It is difficult for us today to imagine that, at the beginning of the 1900’s, the district which we now know as the Parish of The Holy Redeemer, Lamorbey, was sparsely populated. Only a few cottages around farms, orchards, small market gardens and nurseries provided evidence of habitation. Surrounded by woodlands, cornfields and pasture land with rough tracks and flowing streams, it was an idyllic countryside.
The area at that time was part of the Parish of The Holy Trinity, Lamorbey. About 1904, members of this church started a Sunday School, weekly activities and occasional evening services in a room over a small shop at the corner of what is now Arlington close. A mission hall was erected and opened by the Archdeacon of Rochester on 14th October 1909; so it was that the worshipping community began.
1914-18 war brought some prosperity to the farms, as food was needed more than ever for the nation, but the coming of the 1920’s saw many changes with plots of land being sold to disabled ex-servicemen for £80 ($400). This new influx of people, together with the widespread housing development in the district, meant that by the 1930’s the mission hall had become too small to accommodate the growing population and there was a need for a proper church building.
With the support of the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd Martin Linton Smith and the Twelve Churches Fund, created by his predecessor, Bishop Harmer for the building of new churches, the parish was created, and the Church of The Holy Redeemer came into being and was dedicated on 21st October 1933. It was the first church built entirely of steel and concrete. The Revd John Rogers, M.A., 1933-1948, became the first vicar. He is remembered by many as the Vicar who lived in a caravan on the site of the new church until a vicarage was built.
The first work for the Vicar was a vigorous campaign visiting 3 000 houses in the new parish. The church grew apace until World War II, when the mission hall became a rest center and food kitchen, whilst the church remained open day and night for those needing shelter. Although there were many casualties and much damage in the parish, the only serious damage to the church was to the east window, which was blown in and scattered over the altar. Many remember the Vicar during these dark days for his energetic response to those in need of comfort, cycling round the parish to the scene of every bombing incident.
With the end of hostilities and the return home of families separated by war, church life began to grow again. A new vicar, the Revd Richard Agg, L. Th., 1948- 1958, promised to continue the work committed to him, and in particular the house-to-house visiting and care of the growing congregation. In 1953, to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, new stalls were provided for the choir gallery. During the 1950’s the mission hall, affectionately referred to as the “tin hut”, was replaced, after more than 50 years’ service, by the fine church hall we know today. It was designed by Churchwarden and Honorary Architect, Mr John Lee, F.R.I.B.A. The demolition of the mission hall opened up the church to public view and the grounds were planted with shrubs and flower beds.
So began a new era, marked by the arrival of the Revd Kenneth Daniels, A.K.C., 1958-75, as Vicar. His first steps were four ventures in faith: to create regular bible-study groups, weekly parish prayers, Congregational participation in parish affairs and Christian stewardship. During his incumbency church life at Blackfen grew rapidly. This had started with a mission tent run by members of the Church Army, and a Sunday School held in the home of a parishioner in Blackfen road. In response to the need for a proper church building, the Church of The Good Shepherd in Blackfen road came into being as a daughter church of The Holy Redeemer.
It was shortly after this that Father Ken, as the Vicar was affectionately known by the many who loved him, became seriously ill. In thanksgiving for his return to health a Lady Chapel, in the north-west corner of the church was dedicated in 1971.
During the early part of the 1970’s many liturgical changes were being proposed throughout the Anglican Church, and there was some controversy over the introduction of Alternative Services for the Holy Communion. The arrival of a new Vicar, the Revd Colin Levey, B.A., 1975-1981, brought new insights into these complex matters, and new experiences in spiritual renewal, counseling and healing.
As The Holy Redeemer approached its Golden Jubilee the Revd Gerald Cunliffe, 1982-89, arrived and brought to the church a sense of worship, fellowship and witness. In the mid-1980’s he installed the Stations of the Cross around the interior walls of the church and a Christus Rex above the altar to focus worship on Christ the King. Both spiritual and social fellowship grew in an atmosphere of caring.
Each vicar brings his own unique gifts to the parish. The year 1990 saw the arrival of a new Vicar, the Revd Nicholas Kerr, M.A. His arrival coincided with the start of the decade of evangelism, which promises a renewal in faith and further steps towards the Kingdom of God in this parish.
The text above is taken from a leaflet published in 1993 to celebrate the Parish’s Diamond Jubilee.© 1992, Arthur Turnham
After nearly 21 years at Holy Redeemer the Revd Nicholas Kerr retired on the 31st August 2011. The Revd Colin Terry arrived later that year as Priest-In-Charge. Following his retirement in 2017, we welcomed our current incumbent, Revd Melanie Jemmett, on 8th November 2017.