St Andrew’s Church – a church with a mission
In the late 1800s High Wycombe was expanding rapidly from small country market town to a centre of industry. The Parish Church of All Saint’s in the centre of town, was stretched beyond its ability to cope with the pastoral needs of such an influx of population. There was particular concern that it was too far for smaller children to walk from the new housing area ‘North Town’ to the Parish Church. In 1898 a building in Gordon Road, called at first St Andrew’s School, had its grand opening.
The priest-in-charge of St Andrew’s later declared his vision and passion: “..to bring Jesus Christ nearer to the hearts and minds of the people of the district”. St Andrew’s Church soon became a growing community. The Sunday School flourished with up to 300 children regularly attending. As well as Sunday services, weekday organisations began with 100 people actively contributing to the work of the church.
Located where the people were, St Andrew’s served the local community as well as having a concern and support for overseas mission.
By 1949 further residential expansion was occurring on the hillsides on the northeast edge of Wycombe: these were principally homes for young families, leaving the Victorian terraces of North Town to the elderly. It would not be long before many of these houses were to be demolished as ‘North Town’ was re-zoned as an industrial area.
In 1947 a visionary statement appears unobtrusively in the minutes of the Annual Church Meeting. “..we have to think of building a new St Andrew’s in view of the big housing changes in the Bowerdean and Totteridge Hill area”. However it was not until 1960 that the foundation stone was laid. The new church of St Andrew was dedicateded in 1961, the whole church transferring from the original Gordon Road site to its new location at the junction of Hatters Lane and Windrush Drive.
The original church at Hatters Lane built on prayer and the new church also gave this due emphasis. Once again it was where people were, worshipping God and welcoming all. This new church, with a home for clergy next door and a larger district to look after, was allocated a full-time Priest, but the post was still a junior one and clergy were only expected to stay a short time which was far from ideal.
After an excellent start, various problems arose and the church went through a lean time. In response a very small group of people started to meet in one of their houses and prayed for the Holy Spirit to work. And He did! The 1970’s began as a great period of growth for St Andrew’s.
In 1971 High Wycombe parish became a team ministry, headed by a Rector, with Team Vicars appointed to the District churches for a minimum five-year term. We now had an energetic, evangelistic vicar, and many more came to the weekly prayer meeting, often having to sit on the floor as chairs were full. The emphasis was on worship, prayer, teaching, fellowship and reaching out into the community as well as support for mission overseas – and we grew.
In 1974 a large wooden builder’s site hut was donated by Lovells and was erected at the bottom of the vicarage garden by voluntary effort. It was used for children’s groups on Sunday mornings and Guide and Scout groups during the week. This was always only going to be a temporary measure and we still needed more space for services on Sundays. Again after much prayer and waiting on the Lord, a major extension was approved by the PCC. Building started in 1984 and was completed and dedicated in 1986. Although costing in excess of £700,000 it opened debt free. Praise the Lord!
In March 2011 we celebrated 50 years at the site in Hatters Lane with a fantastic service of celebration and thanksgiving. We welcomed back Tim Watson, who was vicar at St Andrew’s from 1970 to 1976.Listen to Tim’s talk on the day here
The church has been blessed by many gifted leaders, both ordained and lay, over the years. We have moved, extended and patterns of worship have changed but many other things have not.
The church is still where the people are and our vision today is not so different to that of the first St Andrew’s Church: to worship God, to pray and to be a transforming presence in our community.
Photos from the 50th celebration