We are fortunate indeed to have at hand the reminiscences of the Rev. Thomas Hall, the first Pastor - "A Man of God."
Of his conversion he writes: The two books of Richard Baxter, 'Saints Everlasting Rest' and 'Call to the Unconverted', led me to Christ!
After three years as a local preacher there came a call to the ministry, followed by several fruitful Pastorates in various places, then eventually, London.
Of this, he says: "I came to London, and in Mission Work it was my privilege to preach to the men who erected the Exhibition Building of 1862, twice at noon, up to the time it was opened. sometimes at these interesting meetings there were as many as 1,000 men.
"Before this, I succeeded in getting together large numbers of men who constructed the Metropolitan Railway. For this purpose the Vicar or Rector of Marylebone (Rev. W. Eyre) lent me the Central National School and another School House at Paddington Green was placed at my disposal. In treating them with tea and instructing them at nightschools the Dowager Lady Rowley, Lady Sleigh and her daughters, Mrs Wyndham of Blandford Square and Miss Garden of Gloucester Terrace, greatly assisted me, and several of these ladies would preside at the tables and talk with the men and their wives. Miss Marsh, the Hon. Miss Boyle, and others, including several clergymen, helped me."
We come now to the ministry at West Kilburn, of which he writes: "In the early part of 1864, I secured a site for a chapel at Kilburn from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. My brother who was an architect practising at Westminster assisted me in supplying Sir James Chalk with block plans of the ground, he also furnished the plans of the chapel gratuitously. In June 1864, I began preaching in the open air, and in temporary rooms at Kilburn."
Pastor Hall refers here to 29 Canterbury Road where he lived and held meetings for worship, and a Church was formed on 21 May 1865.
The Foundation Stone was already laid on 23 March 1865. Several coins of the Realm bearing the portrait of her most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria - one shilling, one sixpence, one halfpenny - were embedded with the text, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). We now have in our possession a Poster announcing the Opening of the New Baptist Chapel on 3 August 1865.
This step of faith was by no means easy, and, like all pioneering, it was uphill work. The total outlay for the new Chapel was £1,250.
By the Sixth Anniversary, the debt stood at £380. Here the Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon offered thirty percent if this debt could be cleared that year.
A new Schoolroom was also needed and from a report in The Kilburn Times and Western Post dated Saturday 29 June 1872, when the Foundation Stone of the new Schoolroom was laid, we learn that this financial effort was a success as the following statement shows: "We are now claiming Mr. Spurgeon's offer and intend to pay off the £280 Mortgage immediately!"
The Foundation Stone, we are informed contains a copy of: Children's Special Hymns, Baptist Messenger, Documents relating to the School, The Kilburn Times, and a silver coin, which the Speaker said was "enough for posterity."
It is a point of interest to note that in those days, a great deal of time had to be spent in the Sunday School teaching children to read. The work of building the Schoolroom was completed and some time later a Gallery was added to the church buildings.
Many difficulties were confronting them; trade depression led to outward movements to other parts of London, the country, to India, and to America.
At this time Pastor Hall records the founding of a Christian Home.
In three years about 120 members had joined the Church, a large proportion of whom had been converted and baptised in the Church. And, among these were several who had been the most notorious sinners in the neighbourhood.
This was a Missionary Church without Prestige, Patronage, or wealthy support. A truly remarkable Ministry!
In 1899, two houses adjoining the Church were purchased for Classrooms. But owing to insufficient exits constituting a fire risk they could not be used for this purpose and later, one of them had to be sold to clear the Mortgage. The remaining house was taken over by the Willesden Borough Council by compulsory purchase in September 1958; and we lost our kitchen.
This work is still continuing today in the same Gospel spirit and pattern. Recently, much improvement has been made. The Schoolroom has been restored; the Deacons vestry has been transformed into a kitchen; an additional new Vestry has been built under the Gallery; the inside walls have been restored to eliminate the damp; and the exterior of the church has been restored and painted.
We are deeply grateful to the London Baptist Property Board Limited who, in 1933, became our Trustees and have negotiated our new lease at £100 per annum; and also to our Deacon S.E. Steadman, who has acted for us in these matters, and whose Plans for additional buildings and car park have been passed by the Council and Planning Authorities.
We pay tribute to the faithful Pastors who have maintained the Witness for God through the Hundred Years during which this Church has been established in this District.
When the church building was twice badly damaged with bombs, rendering it unusable, we gathered together in the Schoolroom every Sunday. On one occasion Pastor Stoner's car was followed and continuously bombed until it was lifted right off the road. The Pastor spent the rest of that night in a cellar! After this incident we changed the Evening Service to the Afternoon, so that we could all get home before the darkness with its intensified bombing.
During the ministry of the Rev. A. Scottorn in 1926, a fundamental change was made in our financial methods. Instead of Sales of Work, and similar money-raising efforts, we decided to wait on God and bring in our Thanks-offerings annually. This method has been continued ever since.
God is Blessing our Church; souls are being Born Again; and Pastor Larmour has recently had the joy of Baptising ten of our young people.
It is fitting that in this, our Centenary Year, we should be prayerfully and actively engaged in "The Kilburn Project of Evangelism."
The Kilburn Project - or "K.P." as it has become popularly known - has been an endeavour at "outreach" to take the Gospel to all those who have become out of touch with Spiritual Things! Some two hundred dedicated young volunteer Christians from Colleges, Schools, and Churches all over the country, came together during the Easter Week-end. They provided their own bedding, and the Churches involved arranged for their sleeping quarters and catering.
This has been a truly great event and worthy of our CENTENARY YEAR!
Looking back over the One Hundred Years, we say, with Thanks to our God, "Hitherto hath The Lord Blessed." We now prepare to Go Forward, In His Name, remembering that "They that wait upon The Lord shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31).
We close this Commemoration Booklet with the words which the Rev. Thomas Hall closed a Church Report nearly a hundred years ago: