High Cross Church is an ecumenical church formed from the union of the Methodist and United Reformed Churches in Camberley. The two congregations began worshiping together in 1989 and moved to Knoll Road in 1990. Within the High Cross building, the main worship area is on the first floor with an adjoining hall and stage. On the ground floor there is a chapel, offices, various meeting rooms, a creche and coffee shop, set around a central concourse for people to meet together. There is also a flat for a resident caretaker.
The building serves the community through the letting of a majority of its spaces to other organisations, from small meetings to orchestral concerts. In addition it is used by a large number of church organisations for example a Luncheon Club, Fellowship meeting, Bible Study groups, Prayer and Meditation Groups and many committees. Church groups also meet in the community as house groups for bible study, known as Crossgroups, or as social groups.
United Reformed Church
In 1900 the Baptist Church purchased a church building in Obelisk street from the Primitive Methodist Church and established a free church. At one stage, some consideration was given to the idea uniting the Baptist Union and Congregational Union, but due to differences on the issue of baptism, this did not happen. Instead, the Congregational Church took over the Obelisk Street Church building with the agreement of the Baptist Church, in what was described as a 'spirit of brotherly love and goodwill'. On 24th October 1909, at a Covenant Service, thirty four people signed the Roll as Foundation members. During the early years there was no Minister appointed to the church. The senior church officers were Mr Pearson, Church Secretary, and Mr. N. Verran, the Treasurer. The latter owned an important butchers business in Camberley. Both men saw the church through the next twenty four years of its development. Despite a shortage of income, money was raised to install a pipe organ in December 1911 at a cost of £135.
It was 1914 before the first Minister was appointed, but as there was little money to pay his stipend he left in 1916. By the beginning of 1917 a new minister was appointed and the church began to improve. By 1920 still bigger congregations resulted in plans for extension work to be considered. Unfortunately the Minister was forced to leave through ill-health in 1921 and it was not until 1924 that the next Minister came newly ordained. The rented rooms were not to his requirement and the Church bought its first manse on the corner of Park Road and Belmont Road for £675. The church now thrived with programmes developed for different areas of the church family. The church building was a scruffy little place for worship and in 1925 a building fund was started.
A change in Minister meant that it was not until January 1929 that a Consultative Committee was elected to find a site for a new church. At their first meeting the Committee agreed that the most suitable site was on the corner of Southwell Park Road and Southern Road, but there was a major question - how to pay for it. Two members each offered to pay half the cost of the land. This generosity inspired others to donate what they could towards the venture, not only cash but also furnishings and fabrics. The builder, a member of the congregation, gave much of his time and labour to the construction, erecting the new church at a cost price of £5,500. The foundation stone was laid on April 23rd 1930. By Autumn of that year building work was completed and the opening ceremony was held on October 23rd. The old organ was transferred from the church in Obelisk Street and remained there until the 1980's when it was replaced by an electronic organ.
The new church gave more space for worship as well as the Sunday School. In the winter of 1932/33 the church lost two of the founder members involved in setting up the Congregational Church in Camberley, Mr Pearson, Church Secretary and Mr Verran, Treasurer. Despite the shock of this loss, the church held an autumn fair in 1933. The proceeds of this and the commemorative donations in memory of the two long serving officers, meant that the church could pay off its debt on the church building.
1935 saw another change of Minister. His successor came in 1936 and already had a house in Camberley, therefore the Manse was sold and the bank loan paid off. The Rev'd Stephens was to see the church through the Second World War until his retirement in 1951. Rev'd Howard Justin came in 1953 and remained in Camberley for 10 years. During his time a fund for a new Manse had existed, and two members provided the funds for a site opposite the church. By 1959, the year the church celebrated its Golden Jubilee, there was about £2000 in the Manse fund. In 1963, seeking a new minister, suitable accommodation would now be required. The congregation gave generously as did the builder. This enabled the new Minister, Alan Burroughs, and his family to move into a new Manse.
The 1960's saw a number of social changes which started to affect church attendance. Television was becoming popular and more people owned cars resulting in families taking trips on a Sunday. Changes in the pattern of church attendance meant that, as most people attended the morning services, evening worship eventually ceased. Efforts were made to change the outlook of the church from inward looking to one looking out to the community. Many of the different groups for Church Members were opened to the wider community.
The 1970's saw a significant change in the national organisation of the church. The Congregational Church and the English Presbyterian Churches had been working together for some years and a union was proposed. Before that could happen a change was required in the organisation of the Congregational Church and in 1966 the individual churches covenanted to come together to form the Congregational Churches of England and Wales, ending 300 years as separate church congregations.
In 1972 the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches came together to form the United Reformed Church. During Alan's Ministry membership had increased to over 200 and they had taken the first steps to becoming a Community Church. Alan left for York in 1975 and, after a short interregnum, Rev'd Anthony Spring was inducted in 1975. Under Tony's ministry, work with children continued to grow and many parents who would not normally attend church came with their children. Tony brought in the idea of serving coffee after the morning service and "Food for Thought" lunches held after the morning service with an invited speaker. Even at this time the population of Camberley had been fast moving with many leaving the town as others came in. This has continued to the present time. Despite the need for extending the buildings a greater need was seen in charitable work and an ambitious target was set in 1981 to raise £1000 each year.
Although the patterns of worship did not alter, this was a time when there was considerable change taking place in church music with the introduction of more modem hymns. Camberley URC became involved with the Council of Churches, with both its Chairman and Secretary being drawn from the church. There was much talk in the 1970's of working towards a possible union between the URC and Methodist churches. The sharing of evening worship had brought the two congregations together. After two years of careful discussion, in 1976, the Methodist Church felt it was not the time to sanction a union. The church continued to develop into the community with a walk-in centre for the unemployed, a shopper's creche and a Luncheon Club for the Disabled. Although Tony left for Southampton in 1982 these developments continued during the interregnum. The church was now looking to call a Minister who could work with families and whose own children were growing towards adolescence. The existing Manse was considered too small, so, through generous donations and a grant from the URC Province, it enabled the current Manse, "Red Oak" in The Avenue to be purchased.
Rev'd Graham Long came and was inducted in 1983. Graham had heard of the reputation of the church for its enterprise in URC circles and he was to make his own contribution to its stature. The church had been looking outwards for some time now, and Graham was to help the congregation focus inwardly on what they could
bring to the church through their gifts. Through committees and training courses the people were encouraged to become Elders, Youth or Worship Leaders to share in the work of the church. Graham also focussed on local evangelism and the development of fellowships in outlying areas. This work eventually led to the development of the fellowship in Yateley to form the Trinity United Reformed and Methodist Church in 1985.
As far back as 1869, some half dozen Methodists had joined with Baptist friends for Sunday morning services in the old Baptist Chapel situated on the site behind their present building. These Methodists met in Mrs Goddard's cottage, opposite the chapel, on Sunday afternoons for a Class Meeting led my Mr Franklin of Crowthorne. On Sunday evenings they would meet at the 'great chapel' in Sandhurst, involving a long uphill walk. They were soon instructed by Rev J.B.Algar, sent by the Home Mission Committee, to stay at home and form a church of their own, to serve Cambridge Town and Yorktown. Their first service was held in an open space in Park Street, behind the Staff Hotel. Later they met in a room over a shop kept by Mr & Mrs Chitty. Membership increased and eventually Mr Robert Wright, a tradesman of the town, secured, rent free, a two-roomed cottage at the back of Osnaburgh Hill in Yorktown. Membership continued to grow, drawing from Bagshot, Frogmore and Blackwater and during the ministry of Rev J.R.Cleminson, the decision was made to build a church.
The site chosen was perfect for the mission to preach to the people of Yorktown and Cambridge Town. The corner of The Avenue and London Road was equidistant from both neighbourhoods, so on this site, in 1879, the first Camberley Wesleyan Methodist Church was built at a cost of £478. It was opened in 1880. As the congregation grew, it became evident that the church building was too small for all its needs. Eventually, it was proposed that a new church be built on the adjoining site, with the continued use of the old church as a meeting hall and junior church. A Grand Circuit Bazaar was held in 1910, raising £500 towards the fund for the New Wesleyan Methodist Church.
The beautiful new Methodist Church, with its small spire, graceful arches, oak beams and sloping roof was open in 1913 at a cost of £2239. The old church became know as Central Hall.
In the 1970s the church supported the setting up of an Ecumenical Church at Heatherside and also developed close cooperation with the United Refored Church. Such cooperation did not , however, succeed in overcoming the pracitcal difficulties attendant upon the ideal of a United Church in Camberley and, for almost another decade, the two churches developed seperately but in friendship.
In 1986, at the same time that the local council's plan for the URC site were made public, the list of repairs and need for modernisation of the Methodist Church reached a critical level. A joint feasibility working party headed by Rev Jane Sharpe and Rev Graham Long of the URC was formed, colminating in the joint decision in July 1987, by chuch members, to unite.
In 1990, after 110 years, Camberley Methodist Church closed its doors.
High Cross Church was built on the corner of Knoll Road and Portesbery Road, close to its town centre community. The new URC / Methodist Church was opened on 17th March 1990.
It is interesting to note that the development of the area which included the former URC Church was much delayed and it was not until the early years of the 21st century that it began. The final phase, the Atrium, was not opened until November 2008!
The two congregations worshipped together before the move but now it could take place in a new modem building. Ministers from each denomination serve High Cross, as part of the former URC District and the Methodist Circuit. A number of ministerial changes have occurred since High Cross came into existence At its opening in 1990, the two Ministers were Graham Long, URC, and Roy Howard, Methodist, supported by a number of lay preachers from each denomination drawn from within the membership.
Our Church Today
Today the church still stands at the centre of the community which it serves well through its many facilities and activities. Services are now held at 9am and 10.30 on Sunday. The 9am service is held in the chapel in a more intimate setting and to a more traditional format, whilst the 10.30 am service is held as a family service in the Sanctuary. Services are usually conducted by the URC or Methodist ministers, ably supported by members of the congregation in reading and prayer. Both Ministers have other commitments. We have a full time URC Minister who also serves as Chaplain to the Town Centre and is instrumental in organising community lunches at High Cross three times a year. They also organise other events in conjunction with the local priesthood, such as the open air carol services. Our Methodist Minister, has other churches to look after in Bagshot and Frimley but still manages to participate fully within High Cross.
A variety of music is used in the family service with hymns from both traditional and modern sources. Whilst the former are usually led by the choir, accompanied on the Allen organ (installed when the church was new), the latter are often led by the Music Group, with voice & band. Much use is made of modem technology. Visual aids are used in services with the words of Hymns projected and sermons often illustrated with video to good effect. The church has a well equipped office with modem computers and copying facilities. Communication is assisted through the church website as well as the monthly production of Crosstalk.
High Cross church is organised under a Church Council consisting of the Ministers, Secretary, Treasurer, six Elders and six Stewards, and a Pastoral Secretary. The Stewards look after other committees which cover various aspects of the life of the church.
The church also employs a Youth and Family Worker who works alongside the Ministers in outreach to young people. Within High Cross there are organised groups for young people of all ages from
a Creche and Mothers and Toddlers groups, a Pilots Company and a Youth club. The Youth Worker also is also involved with Camberley Youth for Christ working with the local schools.
Our large building carries high running costs, currently in the order of £175,000 per annum so lettings are an essential part of the churches income. However this has the advantage of bringing people into the church, some of whom have come back to the services.
We look back on the past 100+ years with gratitude to those who founded our church and to all those who have supported and enabled it to grow throughout the years and have brought us to where we are today - a strong church at the centre of our community. We look forward with hope and confidence, ready to serve the community through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen to our Revd Mike Thomason talking about what it means to be a church at the heart of the Camberley community. Is It Just About Religion? No! It Is About Community And Human Kindness.