On Friday 7 October, Wensleydale Evangelical Church, Leyburn, celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The history of the church goes back to 1985, when two families moved near Catterick Garrison. They were then members of an evangelical church 15 miles away, and shared concern about the lack of evangelical churches in this area.
They began to meet for prayer on Sunday mornings in a home in Scotton, about nine miles from Leyburn. In a short time, other Christians in the area began to meet with them. The number gathering became too large for the home and so the group met in Scotton village hall. This resulted in a morning worship service being started in Scotton.
This core group took the work forward. The first recorded ‘members meeting’ states ten people had committed themselves to becoming members of a new church, that would be known as Scotton Evangelical Church. It was formally constituted in 1991. Five of those are still in membership with us today.
In 1988, a representative of this group attended a meeting at Reeth Congregational Church, along with members of other evangelical churches, concerning the need for an evangelical witness in Wensleydale. Then, in 1992, some evangelical church leaders began to meet regularly to share their concern and pray for Wensleydale. The result was that, in 1993, a monthly evangelistic Bible study began in Leyburn community centre.
In 1995, Sunday evening services commenced in Leyburn community centre, sponsored by Scotton Evangelical Church. As time passed, the church at Scotton assumed sole responsibility for the work at Leyburn.
The church felt that it needed to find a pastor to help develop the work further. Noel Ramsey was called as Leyburn church’s first pastor in 1999 and, in 2002, the church was able to buy Leyburn community centre (previously, a Congregational church).
At this point the church changed its name to Wensleydale Evangelical Church. It has continued to proclaim the glorious gospel to the people of this beautiful Yorkshire dale. So, with grateful thanks to God, over 60 people were packed into the church building in Leyburn to celebrate the goodness of God over the past 25 years.
The preacher for the special service was John Rubens, who used to live in the north east but now lives in Penzance; and who was actively involved in preaching and giving guidance to the church in its earliest days.
He reminded all gathered, from Ephesians 1:23, that the church is the body of Christ, who is head over everything for the sake of the church. This means the church cannot merely exist for its own sake or to serve its own purpose.
To be the body of Christ means the church is totally depended upon Christ and subject to him. The church is a divine institution, planned and structured by the Lord. He instructs it how to function and what its message is.
God’s fullness is in Christ, and Christ’s fullness is in the church through his Spirit. Therefore, Christ is all that the church needs. By the grace of God, we will continue to be the body of Christ in Wensleydale, preaching God’s glorious gospel.