THE CHAPEL IN THE FOREST
Having preached at Providence Chapel for the annual Thanksgiving Services for over fifteen years I was very interested to be given a report of the opening of this attractive chapel. It is still to be found along a rough lane leading off the A22 road south of the village of Forest Row near East Grinstead. The lane continues on into the Ashdown Forest in an area of real attractiveness and tranquillity. The old cow-shed that formed the original meeting place still stands and is used for the serving of teas on special occasions. This old and special relic gives one the sense of a past era when hunger for the preaching of the truth was so evident and the report which follows clearly indicates a time of real numerical blessing requiring the building of the much larger and more suitable building. There is, however, a sense of deep sadness to realise
that in the period since these happy days the numbers meeting at Providence Chapel have so sadly decreased. I trust this account may stir some praying souls to ask the Lord for better days at Forest Row once again and, as Mr Delves exhorted in his sermon, to `seek the good’ of this and other small congregations where once great blessing was known.
Report of Opening Services
of Providence Chapel, Forest Row, Sussex on April 25th, 1928.
In this small country village there has been a little Chapel where Free and Sovereign Grace has been preached for many years, and by the goodness of God the congregation has so increased, and other changes have taken place, that a new Chapel has been erected, and on Wednesday, April 25th, 1928, the opening services were held. The event was a great one, and while all were pleased with the new Chapel, there were those who were grieved to take farewell of the old building, which had been to them the house of God for many years. The history of the development of this Cause is an interesting one, for in the old days, when there was no such place of worship in the village, a number of people would walk to Crowborough in order to attend the Strict Baptist Chapel at Forest Fold, Crowborough, under the pastoral care of the late Mr Littleton. To make such a journey unnecessary, Divine service for some time was held in the kitchen of the late Mr Stephen Card.
This was in the days of Mr Tester, Mr Budgen, Mrs Huggett, and Mr and Mrs Isaac Waters, who, with others, agreed to apply to Mr Henley for the use of his cow-shed as a chapel. This permission was granted, and the cow-shed became Providence Chapel. The transformation took place in the year 1874, so that for over fifty years the building had served its purpose as a place of worship.
Some time ago it was realised that the accommodation was not sufficient, and a scheme was inaugurated for the provision of a new building. With the assistance of friends this was made possible, and there now stands within a stone’s throw of the old chapel a handsome new place of worship, which, through their generosity, was opened free of debt. The congregation was so great that many were unable to enter the chapel at the afternoon service. Tea was provided for the visitors, an achievement of no mean order, as the congregation was continually increasing, so that when the time for the evening service arrived it was clearly seen that only a portion could be accommodated in the new building.
It was, therefore, wisely decided to hold the service in the open, and on the borders of the beautiful Ashdown Forest on one of April’s best evenings the second service was held and the second sermon preached.
It was greatly enjoyed, and was a particularly happy feature of a remarkable opening ceremony. It was estimated that there were five hundred people present, and the sincerity with which they entered into the service was apparent.
Mr Walter Brooke, of Tadworth, was the preacher in the afternoon, and he said he had good news for the congregation in regard to their new place of worship. Often on such occasions ministers had to make a special plea in regard to a cumbersome debt, but he was very happy to be able to tell them that there was nothing of that sort hanging over their new chapel.
Loyal, earnest and liberal workers had enabled that chapel to be erected, and so far as the building was concerned it was free of debt. He thought they would all agree that that was very pleasant. He went on to say how glad he was to be present and to meet so many old friends, and proceeded to preach from the 84th Psalm, 10th verse, `For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.’
Mr S. Delves, of Forest Fold Chapel, Crowborough, was the preacher at the evening service. His text was from the 122nd Psalm, 9th verse, `Because of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek thy good.’ His earnest address was greatly enjoyed, and in it he emphasised the need for unity.
The new building has comfortable accommodation for one hundred worshippers, but at the afternoon service there were about two hundred present. It is a beautiful building, well lit, and the pulpit is made of Austrian oak. Much of the woodwork in the building is of the same wood, and the doors, frames, and porch are also of oak.
It is an interesting fact that Mr Harry Waters and Mrs Holmden, both of whom were present on Wednesday, were members of the congregation when the former chapel was opened. Mr Harry Waters has played the clarionet in the chapel for about thirty-six years, and his brother, Mr Edgar Waters, has been corresponding deacon and secretary twenty-eight years. These two friends are well-known builders, and undertook to carry out the work, which all agree has been done in a most satisfactory manner.