"I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times."
- Psalm 77:5
Over A Century Old
The church of Christ has met in Brighton for at least 140 years. At first, worship was conducted in a home with five people in attendance.
By 1868, the little group had grown to reach seventy-nine members thanks to the powerful preaching of a brother by the name of B. Ellis. The church was then meeting in Ship Street Chapel. Brother Ellis had completed his engagement as
evangelist at Chelsea for the good of the church and was willing to take part in secular employment in Brighton. His labour brought so many to the Lord that it was needful that he devoted his whole time to the work in Brighton.
In 1880, the congregation gave notice of its relocation from Ship Street Chapel to Windsor Street. The pattern of meeting remained the same, the church coming together on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. to break bread, evening at 6.30 p.m. to preach the gospel and Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 8.00 p.m. to study the Bible.
In 1890, two residences in Oxford Street were joined and converted to make the present meeting hall. Since that time the entire street has been commercialized, but the facade fronting on the street marks it clearly as the meeting place of a church. Centrally located, the building is only about two blocks from the Anglican and Catholic church in the city and readily accessible both by bus and train – an excellent location.
It's worth noting that Brighton is just 50 miles from London and is often the convention centre for Britain's Labour Party and the chosen destination for a multitude of holidaymakers both from the UK and from the continent. It is also a centre of education with two universities and a student population of almost 34, 400 students. With its adjoining suburbs, Brighton has a population of over 470, 000.
As the churches of Christ in England gradually associated themselves into a denominational relationship, the church in Brighton continued to be listed among them. However, they never sent delegates to the conventions, nor did they adopt the use of instrumental music as others did.
In the earlier part of this century, the congregation was often numbered in the 50s, but because of the loss of its young people, the attendance by the 1970s had dwindled into single digits. The church was often without a Sunday morning speaker, but the services were always conducted with utmost decorum, hymns and readings pre-selected and posted, and the table carefully spread for the breaking of bread.
Two older couple faithfully met in all kinds of weather, making their way to the place of worship on foot or by public transportation. It was a moving experience to worship with them and see the devotion and reverence demonstrated by so small a congregation in which four visitors often doubled the attendance.
Learning of the need of Brighton, Fred Melton, an American evangelist working in Kent, began visiting on occasions. He was regularly asked to preach for the church and his teaching was gratefully received. Derick Daniell, an English evangelist in Tunbridge Wells, began going down to Brighton with a car load each Wednesday night and the assistance these men gave to the work helped to give it a new life. Derrick's continued support, students coming for studies and an occasional couple moving in have also helped to advance the work.
When the Association of churches of Christ contacted the brethren about a proposed merger with the United Reform Church, the officials were emphatically informed that Brighton would have nothing to do with such affiliation and that they intended to be simply a church of Christ. This they continued to be. When Fred Melton began going to Brighton, he was often accompanied by his young teenage son, Bonny. Later, Bonny, his wife Angela, and their three children lived near Brighton and worked full-time in evangelizing the area, supported by churches in the United States. Fred and two brethren from Houston (Texas) spent a week with them, remodelling their building to provide classrooms which would make possible a "Holiday Bible School" ("VBS" in the US). Correspondence courses were distributed in selected areas and telephone messages were used to make contacts.
Admittedly, progress was slow in England and on the continent, but thousands were given the opportunity to hear the truth through the diligent efforts of gospel preachers supported from the US. May the sacrifice and faithful service that have built and preserved the Brighton church continue until the Lord comes.