A Brief History of Minster

Minster owes its origins to the vision of a few believers from Mackintosh Gospel Hall who lived in Penylan and were exercised about starting a Christian witness in the Penylan area. In 1925 they started meeting in a converted garage in Westville Rd at the home of Mr. Edwin Willie, known as the Penylan Assembly Rooms. Edwin Willie went on to finance the building of a fine church on the corner of Minster Rd. and Sturminster Rd, which was officially opened as Minster Gospel Hall (a Brethren Assembly) on 15th October 1927. 


In May 1928 there were 102 believers in fellowship at Minster, but during the years leading up to the Second World War this number fell considerably. However, it was not uncommon during this time to see the church packed to hear well-known evangelists and Bible teachers preach.  


In 1940 Minster Hall became an air raid precaution centre where bunk beds, blankets, stirrup pumps and food were stored. Black-out curtains were fitted to all windows and the baptistery had to be kept filled and open in case of fire. When bombs fell in Sturminster Rd. and Newport Rd., Minster Hall was damaged. However, the church continued to meet and witness throughout the war years, though many of the young men in the church were called up for service in the forces.


In 1948 Marston Martin, one of the young men in the church, was commended to missionary work in Zambia and Tanganyika, and he and his wife Betty served the Lord for many years in various African countries, only retiring in the 1990’s.


In the post war years numbers in fellowship revived somewhat and in 1967 there were 82 believers in membership at Minster. In the 60’s and 70’s Minster had a thriving young people’s work associated with the Covenanter movement, and Minster’s Sunday School was also very well attended. However, in the 1980’s and into the 90’s numbers attending the church began to decline, and by 1998 there were about 25 in fellowship, the majority of whom were quite elderly, and funds were getting perilously low, with the possibility of having to shut down the witness at Minster having to be considered.

During the latter half of the 1990’s Minster’s elders invited Peter Phelps to become an unpaid Pastor at Minster (quite a revolutionary step for a Brethren Assembly), and together with the elders Peter began to bring about various changes at Minster which were designed to ensure that in God’s will a viable witness would continue into the 21st Century. Also at this time a relationship with the neighbouring Highfields Church was established, whereby Highfields was able to use Minster’s building for baptisms, weddings and funerals (as at that time Highfields had no church building of their own), and their Minister, Peter Baker shared an office in the balcony of Minster with Minster’s Pastor, Peter Phelps.


Out of this relationship came a scheme to rejuvenate the work at Minster, and in 1999 a group of 20 members of Highfields church (led by John Kendall and Mathew Todd who became Elders at Minster) joined Minster to carry forward plans to take Minster into the 21st Century as a free evangelical church, with a vibrant outreach and witness in the community. This injection of mainly younger Christians from Highfields was warmly welcomed by the members at Minster, and following this God blessed the church at Minster with a gradual increase in mainly younger people associating themselves with Minster as their place of worship. In 2001 Minster Christian Centre (as the church was now known) affiliated with the Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches. The church was able to call Alex Collins to be a salaried Pastor at Minster, and Alex’s inaugural service was held in October 2001.  


In May 2002 Heulwen Pritchard, one of the believers who had joined Minster from Highfields, was commended to work in Cambodia for two years with OMF.


Many of the believers who joined Minster from Highfields remained at Minster for longer than the one-year commitment that they had originally made, and several remain with us until the present day.


In 2010 Andy McKenna was appointed as Assistant Pastor and he served in this capacity for several years before he was called to become Pastor of another FIEC church in Market Harborough. In 2011 Clare Gatenby was appointed as part-time Youth Leader, and she is still leading a thriving young people’s work in the church to this day.


In the years between 2015 and 2022, further appointments were made to the staff of the Church, as the Elders embarked on a commitment to establish the Church as a fully functioning Charitable Incorporated Organisation (C.I.O.) registered with the Charity Commission. In 2017, shortly after his retirement as a lecturer at Bible College, John Kendall was appointed as part time Church Worker with particular responsibilities to preach regularly and oversee the training and support of those involved in preaching and pastoral roles at Minster. In 2018 Sam Liu was appointed as Trainee Pastor, to serve alongside Alex Collins with John Kendall mentoring his progress during this traineeship appointment. In 2020 the Church was successfully registered with the Charity Commission as a C.I.O, with the Elders becoming Trustees of the Charity. In 2021 Elizabeth Choi became the newly appointed Church Administrator, a part time appointment, with a brief to assist the Pastor and Elders in the efficient running and organisation of the C.I.O. Church.


In 2020 with the beginning of the Corona Virus pandemic, the church found itself having to radically alter its pattern of services and ways of meeting together to comply with Government regulations concerning gatherings of people during the pandemic. New ways of meeting together via Zoom, and the live streaming of our socially distanced main Sunday service became the norm during this period. But  we are thankful to God that the Church has continued to function, and we have been blessed with new people who have joined our congregation, several of whom have become members of the Church during this period.


In the summer of 2021, after 20 years of being Pastor at Minster, Pastor Alex Collins and his wife Jemima, and their two boys Samuel and Alastair, left the fellowship as Jemima began a new job in Derby. We are thankful to God for Alex’ faithful and fruitful service over these years. There followed a short period without a Pastor, until Sam Liu was called by the elders and church members to be the Pastor of the church, with his inauguration service taking place on 11th September 2021. We now look forward to the end of the pandemic with anticipation for all that The Lord is going to do in and through Minster in the days that are to come.


Looking back over nearly 95 years since Minster was built we can truthfully say with the Psalmist, “This is the Lord’s doing: it is marvellous in our eyes”. (Psalm 118 v 23). And we now look forward to the future knowing that The Lord is with us as we seek to serve Him, until He comes again. 


Updated February 2022

For more insights, you can download the PDF file and eBook (ePub file format) "Contact" magazine, Minster Christian Centre 90th Anniversary Special Edition.