St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Western Way, South Ham, Basingstoke
A brief history
The community known as ‘St. Andrew’s’ began in the front room of Jack Hayes’s council house on the new development in South Ham in the early 1950’s. Each Sunday people would gather for worship in this small room.
Eventually, a plot of land was purchased from the Borough Council and the first phase of the church, the hall, was built and opened for services in November 1955.
Sister Joan Millar, a Methodist deacon, was appointed to the new church and not only preached the sermon but also played the piano, ran various groups and made visits to people during the week.
The Revd. Bill Murphy, a recently ordained young minister was then appointed to the growing St. Andrew’s. Under his guidance many activities were formed. This coincided with Basingstoke becoming a ‘London overspill’ town. Many new houses were built to accommodate those moving out of London. The town more than doubled its size.
This brought many new people into the church and at one time it was described as ‘bursting at the seams’. One feature was the hiring of a double decker bus to bring children to the Sunday School: so large had the Sunday School become that it had to be held in two sessions. There was a caravan mission held at St. Andrew’s when two young probationer ministers were ‘billeted’ in a caravan parked in front of the hall.
In 1965 a conventional church building was added, which included four new rooms, new toilets and storage. The church family matured and settled into the life of the wider Basingstoke Methodist Circuit.
Following the normal pattern of itinerant ministry, Ministers came and went, each bringing their own special gifts and graces to the work.
Over time the young people who had joined the church grew up and had families of their own. In 2005 St Andrew’s celebrated its golden anniversary when ministers who had served the church in the past together with present and past members joined the celebrations.
By this time the church buildings were becoming difficult and expensive to run and maintain. Ways were sought to replace the church buildings with a modern building more suitable to today’s needs.
Concurrently, the local medical and dental practices were looking to replace their out-dated surgeries – of a similar age to our church; various sites were explored without success. In 2006/7, negotiations began with the aim of exploring ways in which the large St Andrew’s site might be shared with them. Plans were drawn up and approved for a new building to include a church, the medical and dental practices and also a pharmacy.
For some time now the congregation has remained steady at 48-50 members with a regular attendance of 28-30 people each week. Members of the church work closely with other churches in the area, the local community association and the community panel of the police. There is much collaboration on projects and activities with people of all ages.
A deacon, Mrs Ruth Yorke, has been appointed to the church and has begun working in the community. Among many other things, she aims to identify more opportunities to share the new premises with people visiting the medical and dental surgeries.