In one form or another, our church has ministered in Whitehaven since 1920.
In the Beginning
New Life Church commenced, like many churches across the nation, as a small group of people who, following a renewal of interest in 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 meetings in their houses to which others were invited. Prayer and Bible study brought an emphasis on the experience of the ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and related doctrines that were later to become distinctive to the Pentecostal movement.
In 1924, a number of such groups across the nation joined together to form the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland, also known as AoG. The Whitehaven group applied to join and were accepted as one of the founding assemblies.
Numbers and Moving Out
Growing numbers of people kept attending, and soon the home meetings were too full. To accommodate such rapid growth, 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.
Soon after, with the Tangier Street room becoming too small, two rooms were rented on the second floor of Catherine Mill (also known as Barracks Mill). With access up the outside fire escape, it was known as “climbing the golden stairs to glory” due to the exuberance of the worship and preaching. Hugh McAllister was appointed as Pastor for a number of years, although he preferred to be known as the “presiding elder”.
He was followed by another drawn from the eldership, Henry Postlethwaite. Henry was widely recognised and sought after as a visiting preacher for conventions up and down the land. During his time, the former warehouse belonging to Kitchen & Sons at Barracks Arch, Irish Street, came onto the market. It was purchased in 1953 and was re-named Glad Tidings Hall.
In 1958, a problem arose within the church and tensions grew. This led to an eventual split, resulting in the formation of an Elim Church in George Street. This meant that there was now two Pentecostal churches in Whitehaven, both of which have continued to serve the community until the present day.
A New Name, A New Life
Len Armstrong took over as Pastor in 1958, and following his retirement in 1969, a John Robert Matthews took over the leadership. Upon his retirement in 1977, the church decided to look for a pastor from outside its own ranks. So John Perkins, who was ministering in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire at the time, was invited to take on the role.
It was during his tenure that the land to the rear and side of the building was purchased from local businessmen and major extensions were built to provide more ancillary accommodation. The name of the fellowship also changed to New Life Christian Centre. However, the main meeting hall remained on the first floor, presenting problems for disabled churchgoers and in particular for funerals.
Back to the Future
In 1995, John Perkins resigned to take up a pastorate elsewhere. The church endured a difficult couple of years in which there were two different pastors. Finally, the church approached a certain Gary Brown, a young man who had been converted under the church’s youth ministry, subsequently attended Bible college, and at that time was serving at a church in Greater Manchester, to consider the leadership. Gary accepted the call and took up the pastorate in late 1997.
Since then, New Life Church (NLC) has been able (at last!) to add a new Main Hall at ground floor level as well as incorporate some revamping of the original building. Under his pastorate, the church has also developed a distinctively ‘Reformed’ flavour of theology whilst maintaining a strong emphasis on the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. The church now had the facilities to carry forward its vision for Whitehaven into the future.
In 2016, due to growing theological and organisational differences, New Life Church made the decision to end its longstanding affiliation with the Assemblies of God denomination. In 2017, NLC was recognised as an independent Pentecostal church in partnership with Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) for mutual support and encouragement in a gospel vision for the UK.
As a church we are thankful for and value our heritage, but our sights are set firmly on the future, believing our best days are still ahead of us!