How it all began
One day, sometime in mid-1959, the Revd. Denis Desert arrived on the doorstep of 44 Browning Road, the home of Nick and Eileen Crapnell, and introduced himself as the new Priest-in-Charge. He was looking for a place in his proposed parish to hold services. Thankfully, they offered their home with its through-room.
We were all young, pram-pushing mums at the time and often met at the Post Office or local newsagents, so the good news spread and contact was made with local Christians and services started to be held. Then Bishop Michael Gresford-Jones visited No. 44 to see and bless the room, and at Easter 1960 we celebrated our first communion service. What joy! Before this, those who lived in the “Poets” area walked through the cornfields to St Luke’s, Leagrave. We lived in Poynters Road at the time and walked to All Saints Church in Houghton Regis (where our children were baptized), as the bus times on Sundays never coincided with the church service times. In Browning Road, there were ten or twelve of us to start, and after a few months we had grown in numbers, enough to be able to hire Halyard School hall for services. Denis had persuaded a few of the ladies to try their hands at making vestments, and they did sew brilliantly! The green set was the first – the red and purple in the same style followed.
We soon heard that a dual-purpose church would be built, and we had to raise the money for the furnishings. This we did with enthusiasm, energy and commitment by taking it in turns to have Bring and Buy coffee mornings in our homes, and by encouraging our families and friends to drop a sixpence in the money box, placed in a prominent position on the window sill by the door, every time they visited us!
To help pay for the seating we were encouraged to “buy” a chair for each member of our own families at ten shillings a chair in old money, and to donate any china we did not need for the church kitchen. lt was such a happy, exciting and busy time, and we willingly did all that was asked of us. This building is now used as the church hall and office for St Hugh’s, but on Saturday, 29th April 1961 it was dedicated as the new church by the Bishop of Bedford. The Lord blessed us and the congregation and the children’s work grew, and it soon became apparent that we needed a much larger building.
Originally we did not have a vicarage alongside the church, and a council house on the corner of Poynters Road and Leagrave High street had been allocated for this purpose. In 1963 Revd. Ralph Cousins became our second Vicar, and it was during his time with us that the present church and the Vicarage were built. Again we were in action raising money for the furnishings for the church, and now with so many members eager to commit their time and talents, it was so much easier – and we had such fun too!
A beautiful banner displaying a swan (the emblem of St Hugh) was made, plus vestments and altar cloths, kneelers for the pews and communion rails, and robes for the Servers and the choirboys – yes, we had a choir then – and we also raised money for an organ! on Tuesday, 13th June 1967 our present church was dedicated by the Bishop of St Albans.
God has truly blessed us with the seven Vicars we have had, the other five being the Revds. Colin Urquhart, Philip Rumsey, David Gillett, Alastair Forman and Peter Law, who has been with us the longest. He deserves a long service medal! Each has served and ministered to us in his own unique way. They have loved us and prayed with and for us.
They have challenged us, taught us and encouraged and inspired us to grow as individuals and as a Body. The many Curates who served alongside them have also been an inspiration and example to us.
In the early seventies, during Colin’s ministry, God poured out His Holy spirit upon us and gifts of the spirit were evident, especially healing, and I was among the many whom God, in His mercy, healed. You can read about all this, and my God-given healing, in Colin’s book “when the spirit comes”. As I awake each morning, my grateful heart sings with love and joy, praise and thanks to our wonderful, merciful God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
ln the words of an old hymn “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord” and this is true of St Hugh’s. It has been a real blessing and privilege to have been a member of St Hugh’s for the last forty-eight years, and may Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit continue to bless and protect us,lead and guide us, strengthen and uphold us in all that we do and say in His Name. Amen.