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, although our official membership is currently 74. Recently our number of adherents has grown and we are re-considering, in the modern context, our definition of both church and membership.
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.
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.
The incoming minister will be our seventh. The previous three each served for over fifteen years. Our last minister successfully shared his pastorate with Sutton in Ashfield URC.
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 softened, enabling us to welcome and call to significant leadership roles, those who came from other fellowships.
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 counterparts.
There were two original levels of lay ministry – deacons and deaconesses and elders. The first woman elder was ordained in 1976.
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, all successful in their roles.
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.
Seven members of the local Methodist Church joined us upon its closure in January 2000. This has proved another bonus. In 2019 we were asked to take on the responsibility and leadership of what it might mean to be the Resource Church within our North Notts Area Church Partnership, working together with representative leaders from all involved churches, over two years plus, as to what such an Area Church might look like and how it might best work to achieve its common mission. We are now ready to appoint the Area Minister who can help us make this vision for the future a reality.
We believe we have been successful in moving with the times, always seeking to remain modern and relevant, without ever diluting our simple, yet profound belief that Jesus is Lord and our active and practical response to this. Rather than adapt out of necessity and chase the change, we are a church that has always sought to be the change.
We witness to this in our worship, outreach and daily living and by ensuring that we remain a meaningful, spiritual and practical presence at the heart of our community. 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.