Streatham began life as a rural village (Street was Saxon for highway and ham for dwelling) on a Roman road from London to the Sussex coast. In 1792,when about 8,000 people lived in Streatham, a wooden hut was used as a preaching station in Greyhound Lane. It was on wheels – probably because it was still not possible for non-conformists to buy land for a building.
Local Christians met there, the popular Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon took a personal interest in the area and several of his students pastored the congregation. A strong link with Spurgeon’s College still exists today.
The first regular minister was Rev William Bunning who began his ministry in 1864. This initial meeting place for Streatham non-conformists gave way in time to a mission hall which was used by Immanuel Church. It officially became a Baptist congregation on November 11, 1866. There were three surviving articles from this hut – a pulpit Bible, communion items and an oak chair.
Part of the present site was purchased by Caleb Higgs, a local farmer, and a building (known as the Caleb Higgs Memorial Chapel) was created in 1877 which forms part of the current church. For the first time the church had its own baptistry – previously the one at New Park Road (Brixton Hill) had been used. Further ground on the site was bought in 1881. The extended building was opened in 1902.
During the First World War the church threw open its building for new recruits billeted in the area. The minister was called up as an army chaplain. Two members lost their lives and several were wounded. The following years were turbulent, including sadly the suicide of one minister, Rev Jones.
The tide turned with the arrival of Stephen Madden in 1932. During the Second World War church members helped those affected by the bombing and one church member, Arthur Curtis, was awarded the George Medal.
Some members of Lewin played significant parts in the wider community. Stewart Chapple was a deacon for 52 years from 1905 and the church secretary for 37 years, combining this with responsibilities for 50 years at the Royal Courts of Justice, for which he received the MBE from King George VI. Lois Chapple, his daughter, served in China and on returning home worked in various capacities for the Baptist Union and was National President of the Baptist Women’s League in 1960-61. She was the first ever woman deacon at Lewin. Rev Stephen Madden and Rev Angus MacMillan were both presidents of the London Baptist Association. Rev Douglas McBain became an area Superintendent and was President of the Baptist Union.
The church has a recent history of long pastorates – Rev Angus MacMillan, a strong evangelist, ministered from 1942 to 1967. Rev Douglas McBain was minister until 1983 and brought to the church an openness to renewal and charismatic gifts. Rev Mike Wood then came, bringing a vision for three-stranded ministry – evangelism, renewal and radical action. He also oversaw a £1.3 million development of the site. Mike retired in 2006 but continues to work with the LBA as a District Minister.
Our present Senior Minister, Rev Phil Robinson, joined us in November 2007. Phil has brought with him a renewed emphasis on the teaching ministry of the church and on retaining and increasing an outward focus, whilst building on the charismatic ethos of the church. Lewin has seen considerable numerical growth since his arrival, resulting in our move to two morning services, and is in good heart for the challenges which lie ahead.
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