Hayes Town Chapel has recently celebrated 225 years since its founding in 1788.
In 1748 Charles Manning, Rector of St Mary’s Anglican Church, Hayes, invited leaders of the evangelical revival to preach. Rev. Manning had evangelical convictions but had encountered opposition, such as the bells being run while he was trying to pray and preach.
John Wesley was the first invited to speak but many, including ministers, walked out when he preached on ‘Except ye repent, ye will likewise perish’. Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and William Grimshaw followed.
By 1750 Wesley noted that this congregation was listening more seriously. People came from miles around to hear him. Unfortunately, after the rector died in 1757, evangelicals were no longer welcome.
However, a spiritual awakening had begun, with groups meeting for Bible study and prayer. Some met in the Manor House, a location which had been used by the archbishops of Canterbury, including Cranmer. The building is now at the centre of sheltered accommodation where monthly services are held.
In 1788 Captain Anson gathered a congregation and a building for worship was completed by 1790. A Sunday school was started by chapel members in 1808. For its first anniversary in 1809 Rowland Hill from Surrey Chapel preached.
A new chapel building was opened on a different site in 1955. This has recently been refurbished, with help from the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches.
Hayes Chapel benefited from the ministry of Ray Wilkie (1958-1966) and Peter Golding (1966-1998), with a resurgence of the Reformed faith. Both men received encouragement from Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel. Gwynne Evans, the current pastor, has continued ministry in the same vein.
During the anniversary celebrations, Geoff Thomas of Aberystwyth was the guest speaker. He spoke on ‘The greatness of Christ’ at an event attended by other churches from the area. He then preached at the Sunday morning service on ‘What is a Christian?’, as there were many visitors to the church.
Over 80 people stayed for a lunch and Geoff spoke about his conversion and call to the ministry. He later preached at the evening service, giving a glorious and moving exposition on ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’.