In case you think that all this sounds new, a bit of a flash in the pan. Let us assure you that we are here for the long-haul. In fact we have been here in Whitehaven for over eighty years already! In one form or another, our church has ministered in Whitehaven since 1920.
New Life Church commenced like many across the nation as a small group of people who, following a renewal of interest in the person and work of the Holy Spirit across the world in the early 20th century, found it difficult to remain within the structures of the mainline denominations. In 1920 two families living in the Kells area of Whitehaven (the Smiths and the McAllisters) started home meetings in their houses to which others were invited, where prayer and Bible Study brought an emphasis on the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and attendant doctrines that were later to become the distinctives of the Pentecostal churches. In 1924 a number of such groups across the nation joined together to form the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland, and the Whitehaven group applied to join and were accepted as one of the founding assemblies.
It became impossible in home meetings to accommodate the growing number of adherents and premises were rented over a Coffee Shop in Tangier Street, where a Pastor Pomeroy was the minister for a short period. An eldership was formed and it was from this group of men that the subsequent pastors were drawn until 1977.
The Tangier Street room becoming too small, two rooms were rented on the second floor of Catherine Mill (sometimes known as Barracks Mill) with access up the outside fire escape, when it was known as “climbing the golden stairs to glory” due to the exhuberance of the members in their worship and preaching. Hugh McAllister was appointed as Pastor for a number of years, although he preferred to be the “presiding elder” followed by by another drawn from the eldership, Henry Postlethwaite. Henry was widely recognised and sought after as a visiting preacher to conventions up and down the land. During his time the former warehouse belonging to Kitchen and Sons at Barracks Arch, Irish Street, came onto the market and was purchased in 1953 and named Glad Tidings Hall.
It was in 1958 that a problem arose within the church the result of which was the formation of an Elim Church in George Street, so effectively now there were two Pentecostal churches which have continued down the subsequent years to serve the community.
Len Armstrong took over as Pastor in 1958 and following his retirement in 1969 John Robert Matthews took over the leadership until his retirement in 1977 at which time the church sought a pastor from outside its own ranks and invited John Perkins who was ministering in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire to take on the role. It was during his time that land to the rear and side of the building was purchased from local businessmen and major extensions were added to provide more ancillary accommodation, and the name changed to New Life Christian centre, but the main hall remained on the first floor presenting a problem for the disabled and particularly for funerals!
In 1995 John Perkins resigned to take up a pastorate elsewhere and following a rather difficult two years when the church had two pastors for short periods, the church approached Gary Brown, a young man who had grown up in the church and subsequently attended Mattersey Hall Bible College and at the same time obtained a Bachelor of Divinity honours degree through the University of London and was serving a church in Greater Manchester, to consider the leadership. Gary took up the post in late 1997 and under his leadership the church has continued and developed a distinctively reformed flavour of theology alongside our belief in the continuing of the work of the Holy Spirit. Since then the fellowship has been able at last to add a new Main Hall at ground floor level and to incorporate some revamping of the original building. The church now has the facilities to carry forward the vision into the future.
As a fellowship we are thankful for and value our heritage, but our sights are set firmly on the future believing that in the 21st century our best days are still ahead of us!