I first entered the new church before it opened while I was at Sunday School in the old church in Herbert Road aged 8. Our Sunday School teacher walked us all aloud and took us in the back way so my first view of the inside was from coming down the steps from the vestry. It was just so light and bright and the painting was so large and unlike anything I’d seen before. Once the new church was open the Sunday School moved to the vestry. I remember collecting four small texts and when four small texts had been collected they could be exchanged for a larger one.
Moving on from Sunday School I joined children’s church which met in the hall in Dallin Road every Sunday morning. This was run by Mr and Mrs Brown from Eaglesfield Road and Peter Brierley from Cleanthus Road. The prayers and readings were taken by the children and there was a harmonium which accompanied the hymns. There was encouragement to learn scripture such as the Ten commandments and The Beatitudes, which were written out on individual slips of paper and given out each week after reciting the previous week’s verse. At the end there was a prize for being able to recite them all. I still have my prizes of a Bible from September 1960 and a Prayer Book from January 1961 with their inscribed illuminated book plates. For a short while after the service Mrs Brown would hold a small prayer meeting in the side room where we could each say a special prayer for someone.
Peter Brierley organised special events for the children, amongst which I remember an action-packed Christmas party, a sports afternoon in Shrewsbury Park, and a treasure hunt around the streets on the hill. There was also an Easter Sunday when we had a breakfast in the hall of boiled eggs.
As I grew older I joined the choir where Mrs Phillips was a leading light and there was also her daughter Linda and my friend from Primary School days Diana Burrows. Choir practice was on a Friday night and was sometimes in the vestry or in the main church. The fee for singing at a wedding at this time was 2/6 [12p]. This was around 1963, as it was Diana who told me that President Kennedy had been shot, when I met her that Friday evening.
Around this time I joined the Youth Club which met in the old church in Herbert Road on a Saturday evening. This was run by Martin Sellick. There was a small snooker table and table tennis and a record player so we could take our own records to play. At the end of the evening there would be a quiet time for prayer. Martin organised Bank Holiday walks in the north Kent countryside, which we would reach by bus and train. Only on one occasion do I remember us getting lost and I don’t remember any bad weather.
On at least one of these ventures we were accompanied by one of the curates, the Rev Hill and his wife. She was lively and joined in most enthusiastically. They also held an evening group once a week at their home in Eglinton Hill, just an informal social gathering.
The other curate in residence at the same time was Rev Hewitt and his family. He organised a badminton group in the old Herbert Road church.
During the time the amiable Rev Brown was in charge. He rounded us up for confirmation classes which took place in the Vicarage front room. And every year there were the talents. A one pound note was given to those who wished to participate with the intention that it would be used to good effect and multiply, so that after the allotted time £10 would be given back.
There were the annual nativity plays and carol singing around the parish. We would forgather with lighted lanterns and visit a different area each evening, stopping at various points in the streets to sing and knock on doors with collection boxes. It was a wonderful time and on the final night we would return to someone’s house for a drink and hot mince pies.
Mr and Mrs Brown were still active in the Church and for a time they would hold extra meetings in their front room after the Sunday evening service.
From the early years I remember Miss Joyce who at one time I believe was in charge of the Sunday School. She lived opposite the Fire Station in Shrewsbury Lane and as she became more elderly she would be taken to church by car and she would sit in the front pew.
Although I was too young to participate there were trips organised to the Holy Land and also annual trips to Colwyn Bay.
All Saints was affiliated to the Girls’ Brigade movement which also met in the hut in Dallin Road. I was a Brownie and then a Guide and they met at the Methodist Church, so my loyalties were somewhat divided when I had to give my support at church parades.
And the only time I was aware of the balcony actually being needed was on the day of the Church dedication.