Crown Road Baptist Church, Sutton

History

The church was founded in 1883 as a mission to the local community, housed in a tin structure. This was upgraded to the present brick building in the late 1930s. On its website, the church describes itself as “self-governing over its ministry, finance, membership and leadership, while remaining part of [the nearby] Sutton Baptist Church.” Originally administered by the Shaftesbury Society, responsibility for Crown Road was later transferred to Sutton Baptist Church, but I was unable to find out when this took place.

Appearance

The exterior of the church is not, in all honesty, very impressive. A plain rectangular brick building, one would not be able to tell it was a church if it did not have a noticeboard and a large “Crown Road Baptist Church” sign on the outside.

While the interior is a little bland in some respects, I personally found it very charming. There is no religious imagery, no real decoration, just a stage with a cross and some flowers on it and the hymn numbers on a wall next to it, and yet for some reason I – being one who usually appreciates decoration in churches – did not find it too plain for my liking. The words “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) are positioned above the stage, and a piano is next to it. On one side of the church is a table with some toys and some pictures drawn by a recent Girls’ Brigade event, and on the other is a table on which teas and coffees were served after the service.

One of the most striking aspects was the size. The church is very small, giving it a rather cosy feel – it may have been this which made me somewhat appreciate the lack of decoration, as much more may actually have made it look crowded.

Clergy

The service was led by a male preacher in a shirt and tie, and the piano was played by a lady who also helped to lead the prayers. The psalm was read by a lady from the congregation.

Congregation

The congregation was the smallest of any church I’ve yet visited; including myself and the two at the front, there were only twenty one people in the room. The majority of the congregation was female – not including the preacher there were only six males – and I would guess that most were between the ages of thirty and eighty. In regards to the ethnic make-up of the congregation, I did not count, but I would say that there was roughly a 3:1 white/black ratio. Due to the small size of the congregation, there was a real sense of community – one may even say a sense of family – amongst them. They were very friendly and welcoming, and I was warmly greeted by several of them both before and after the service.

Service

After the preacher introduced himself, we sang a hymn the words of which were projected on a screen which came down over the stage. After this came prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer. The preacher then showed us a short video on the projector screen which had the message of not giving up and being able to make a difference, and gave a short talk on those subjects. This was followed by a second hymn, after which the lady playing the piano gave some notices before an offering was taken.

The preacher then gave the gospel reading, Matthew 25:19-25, part of the parable of the talents. Focusing on the third servant’s perception of his master, there was then a talk on our perceptions of God. After another hymn, Psalm 139 was read, and the preacher then spoke about God’s omnipresence and His work in our lives. After prayers of intercession for the world and for members of the congregation, the congregation was dismissed with a blessing following a final hymn.

The service lasted an hour and ten minutes.

Afterwards

After the service, tea and coffee were served at a table on one side of the room. Biscuits and slices of cake were also available. The members of the congregation chatted with each other, and several of them approached and engaged me in conversation before I had to go.

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