Proud of our history
In the 18th century Kingswood was a small coal mining village where local people were well known ‘for neither fearing God nor regarding man.’ Into such an arena stepped two giants of our Christian heritage, George Whitefield and John Wesley. On 17th February 1739, Whitefield preached in fields at Rose Green near Kingswood (see page 10 of Frankie Melton’s paper at http://churchsociety.org/docs/churchman/126/Cman_126_1_Melton.pdf for more details). The response was dramatic and it is said that this style of open-air preaching greatly influenced John Wesley in the founding of Methodism.
The response to such preaching can certainly be seen from Whitefield’s Journal when he writes of one particular occasion when preaching in Kingswood:
‘At four I hastened to Kingswood. At a moderate computation there were about ten thousand people … All was hush when I began: the sun shone bright, and God enabled me to preach for an hour with great power, and so loudly that all, I was told, could hear me.’
As a result of Whitefield needing to visit America, he invited John Wesley, with whom he had been at Oxford University, to take over his work in the Bristol area. Wesley arrived on the 31st March 1739 and wrote, after seeing Whitefield preaching at Rose Green on 1st April 1739, ‘I could scarcely reconcile myself to this strange way of preaching in the fields.’
However, he did reconcile himself to it and on Sunday April 8th 1739, Wesley preached in the open air for the first time at Hanham Mount, Kingswood (pictured on the right). He recorded in his Journal for that day, ‘At seven in the morning I preached to about a thousand persons at Bristol, and afterward to about fifteen hundred on the top of Hannam Mount in Kingswood. I called to them, in the words of the evangelical prophet, “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;….come, and buy wine and milk without money and without price”. About five thousand were in the afternoon at Rose Green (on the other side of Kingswood); among whom I stood and cried in the name of the Lord, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”.
The construction of a number of chapels, Tabernacle and schools by Whitefield, Wesley, and their associates and followers is held to be one of the factors contributing to Kingswood’s growth.
For many years Kingswood was the focus of an annual temperance parade featuring musical bands and ‘floats’ with local children and church groups on board. The parades attracted crowds numbered in the thousands and were hugely popular. With the demise of the temperance league participants dramatically reduced. The parades, which were always held on Whit Monday, were supplemented by evening fireworks in the early 1990s and re-branded as the Kingswood Festival.
Kingswood Congregational Church, itself, traces its roots back to 1867 when some members of Whitefield’s Tabernacle decided, following a disagreement over the calling of a new Minister, to create a new, independent church. Initially, these members met in houses and workshops but, in 1868, they acquired the site on which today’s church stands. As the picture on the right shows, the original church looked slightly different from what you see today.
In 1888 the building was enlarged and in 1905, the year the balconies were added, it is recorded that 168 new members joined the church following a revival campaign. In 1911 renovation of the church took place with the pulpit being raised to its present position and the circular choir seats added.
In its early days, tracts were distributed, over a two mile radius, from the church every Sunday. During the 1920’s a Literary and Debating Society was extremely popular and in more recent times a drama group, supported by some members of our current church family, produced some memorable theatrical evenings.
In September 1988 a brief history of Kingswood Congregational Church was included in the church magazine. This history concluded with ‘the Church of Christ is a live and living force and like all living matter moves and changes to meet the needs and conditions of its time.’ This statement is still just as true today but does need an addition. Whilst we are always subject to change, your being able to read this online rather than in a magazine is proof of that, there is one thing that doesn’t change, and that is God’s love for us all. That’s a key thought for the many activities we get involved with now and for whatever path He sets before us as members of Kingswood Congregational Church in the future.
A list of our Ministers can be found by clicking on Ministers.