Bulwell United Reformed Church has its origins in the Churches of Christ whose first local congregation was established in 1841. By the early 1900s, many members had moved to live in the Highbury Vale area, so it was decided to plant a new Church in that neighbourhood, or as the relevant minute book puts it ‘to shoot off from the mother branch'.
In March 1911, Broomhill Road Church of Christ opened its doors to the public with an initial membership of 103. This level was exceeded for most of the twentieth century. The average attendance at morning worship hovered around 50%. In terms of actual membership, this percentage pattern has continued. Recently our number of adherents has grown. Attendance at morning worship is also on the increase.
There was no paid ministry until 1957, although the Church was served by a series of Evangelists and Home Missions sisters. This tradition of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ continues to the present day. Local congregation leadership is strong.
Reverend Bones was our sixth minister. The previous two each served for quite a long time – one for fifteen years and one for nearly nineteen. The sharing of a minister with two other fellowships will be a new experience.
Guest membership and guest communion arrived in the mid-1960’s. Happily, the word guest soon disappeared. The reality of talent allied to Christian commitment helped to dispel earlier prejudices and the barriers to such incomers eventually being ordained to lay leadership roles were gone.
Initially, women had no significant roles within the conduct of worship, but positive changes did take place with no evidence of a bitter gender-based crusade pushing this forward. By the mid-1970’s, they preached, presided at communion and contributed as fully as their male counterpart
Membership of Churches of Christ was by believers’ baptism. For many years the validity of the membership of another Church was not recognised unless such baptism had taken place. This hard-line offered, enabling us to welcome and call to significant leadership roles, those who came from other fellowships.
Premises have been improved over the years. A new Church hall was opened in 1961. There has been ongoing refurbishment, including significant changes to the sanctuary in 1988. In 2018 we redecorated throughout the church to neutral colours with banners added to bring colour to the walls. In 2020 we fully refurbished our toilets making creating a space which is functional and professional.
There were two original levels of lay ministry – deacons and deaconesses and elders. The first woman elder was ordained in 1976.
Conventry Road Church
In 1969 our Coventry Road Church was subject to a City Council compulsory purchase order because of redevelopment in the area and both Bulwell Churches were closed and their members came together to form the Bulwell Church of Christ. In 1981 we became part of the United Reformed Church. Deacons and deaconesses became elders. Eight of the nine original elders chose to become auxiliary (now non-stipendiary) ministers.
It was agreed that a service of infant baptism would be available for parents who wanted it in preference to the normal service of thanksgiving and dedication.
Weekly communion services still take place. One has recently become part of evening worship allowing the pattern of family worship on that day to be more flexible.
Seven members of the local Methodist Church joined us upon its closure in January 2000. This has proved another bonus.
We believe we have been successful in moving with the times without diluting our basic belief that Jesus is Lord.
We witness to this in our worship, outreach and daily living. We move forward with vibrant optimism and a faithful attitude. Our mission statement is more than a cleverly constructed set of words. We mean it and try to live it.