Albert Street Chapel, Oxford
On 28 December, the congregation of Albert Street Chapel (ASC), Oxford, met for the last time. The pastor, David Cooke, had announced his resignation four months’ earlier in anticipation of his call to a pastorate in Banbury, which was subsequently confirmed.
The church, therefore, concluded it was right to disband at the end of 2008. The pastor suggested that the right attitude to this decision was not a sense of failure, but of completion, since the Lord was bringing to an end the work done there.
ASC had its roots in a fellowship meeting in a private house in the Jericho area of Oxford, in the early Victorian period. It was formally constituted as a church in 1842 and the chapel was built in 1881. However, within a decade of the chapel opening, numbers had declined to a core membership of about a dozen, and throughout most of the 20th century it was even smaller than that.
Without a pastor, the church relied on visiting ministers from all over the country until 1992 when David Cooke was appointed pastor. Shortly afterwards, the church formally adopted the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.
In God’s providence, the 1990s saw a period of growth, largely as a result of a small but loyal group of students, some of whom remained in Oxford after graduation. Around 150 students passed through ASC during this period including a large number of Americans, many of whom were on short-term exchange courses. Church membership eventually peaked at 18.
From 2003 onwards, there was a steady outflow of young couples moving to other parts. The church never recovered from the effects of that loss, and the pastor’s impending resignation brought matters to a conclusion.
Throughout the past 17 years, the neighbourhood of Jericho was laid on the hearts of the church. Gospel calendars and many evangelistic leaflets were distributed each year. Over 100 Bibles were given away during door-to-door visiting. From 1987 onwards, the church ran a small evangelistic Sunday school, though this eventually closed in 2005.
So much seed sown! So little fruit seen! And yet, in the final fortnight of the life of the church, the Lord graciously reminded us that our labour had not been in vain. A phone call was received from a man who told us it was through reading a leaflet he received when living in Jericho six years earlier that he had been converted.
In the closing service, Pastor Cooke preached from Acts 20:32: ‘And now, brethren, I commend you to God’. Following the service, the deacon John Hope made a presentation to the pastor and his wife Jenny, on behalf of the congregation. We trust that the Lord will guide each one as to the church they should now join.
Meanwhile, the chapel building is in the hands of its trustees. We pray the Lord will raise up others to use the building to spread the message of Jesus Christ in the spiritually needy district of Jericho!