In 1934 Enfield was a rapidly growing town, and in the area known as the "Suffolks Estate" considerable development work had taken place and more was envisaged. However nowhere in the plans was there any provision for a place of worship to be built near at hand.
A group of young people at Enfield Baptist Church, led by Mr. Charles Phillips, were convinced that here was a challenge, and an opportunity to start a new work to the glory of God. They were given the same words that had been addressed to the Philadelphian church in the first century "...behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it..." these words were taken to heart and became reasons for service in the area. They constituted a promise that we see fulfilled today.
The first objective was to form a Sunday school and in April 1934 a start on this was made. The response was both immediate and overwhelming. Around five hundred children turned up at Suffolks School on the first day! Over the next few months things settled down but we must pay tribute to those who were in charge over that difficult initial period. In 1937 a Christian Endeavour Society was formed and this maintained a quiet, effective and consistent witness for many years
However successful these efforts were, the leaders were convinced that the "door" was being opened wider and so in 1936 an extension of the work to include adults was begun by the commencement of a regular Sunday evening service, again initially at Suffolks School. The future outlook was encouraging and in 1938, and with the thoughts of future development in mind, the London Baptist Association purchased the present site.
So through those exciting days of the late thirties until 1939, supported in the main by young men and women, the "Suffolks Mission" as it had been named by then, was particularly vulnerable to the impact of war.
But the Word had been given "... an open door, and no man can shut it..." The Lord had foreseen forthcoming events and that promise availed. Evacuations, conscription, air raids each had their particular effects, but apart from a temporary closure whilst air raid shelters were being constructed both the Sunday school and the Christian Endeavour continued to meet. Significant little comments appear in the Sunday School Minutes of that period and express the conditions that were met - "air raid warning in progress" and "Sunday after rocket attack" are just two items reported, but despite the difficulties caused, the youth work was further extended.
The year 1942 marked the beginning of the 14th Enfield Life Boy Team which catered for young boys up to the age of 12 - surely a work of faith as there was no boys Brigade Company to which they could be transferred. That faith was justified two years later when it became possible to begin the forming of the senior organisation. Also in 1942 the Girls Life Brigade Company was established thus completing the structure of the youth work, which continued through to the 1980's
If the pioneers at Suffolks had been inspired by the earlier part of the letter to the Philadelphian church, then those who carried on during the dark days of war were indeed obedient to its closing words "...hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown..." Yet in their holding fast no one could have anticipated the great gesture that was to come. Even if it had been possible to publish the news, the full impact of the bombing of Vauxhall Baptist Church during the blitz on London could never have been imagined. The action of man in war would lead to the praise of God in the years ahead.
With the return of peace the work at Suffolks met with new difficulties. Some of those who had been responsible for the pre-war efforts had left the district; leaders and teachers had taken on other responsiblities.
But slowly and surely others came to join the existing nucleus that remained and in wishing to follow the original pattern the Sunday evenings were started again in Boleyn Hall Enfield This proved to be an uphill struggle as that first winter in 1947 had Arctic weather combined with a fuel shortage and there were many who shivered in overcoats, scarves.
No great progress was made and during the next few years the congregation grew smaller. Among the faithful there were two convictions growing. The first being that it was essential to have a building dedicated to God's glory and the second that Suffolks Mission needed full-time oversight. It was discovered that for an annual fee of around £100.00 this could be arranged. The next problem was where was the money coming from to meet this expenditure. Such was the conviction that it was promised by means of extra contributions especially for this nd fur boots during the services.
In 1949 the first London City Missionary was appointed and this continued for almost seven years and the fees were met by the continued faithful giving. At the end there was a surplus of just over £113.00 and this by general agreement was put into the Building Fund.
It was proposed in November 1954 that a building fund be started following talks with the L.B.A secretary, Rev. Leonard Lane concerning the site. Again no final decision was made. Finally in February 1956 it was decided to appoint an architect and builder. Later that month Mr. Norman Webster was appointed as architect. Plans were prepared following a site visit by the architect in April and were submitted to Enfield Council planning committee in June.
In July the Executive Committee discussed in detail the plans with the architect, this being the first time that some had sight of the proposal, which resulted in some quite major changes to both design and finishing. Further details were discussed in October.
In November quotations had been received from five builders with prices ranging between £17,829 and £19,472. All these prices were above the money available and much discussion took place to reduce the cost. The architect made certain suggestions and a mocked up plan was left for further discussion.
(A major item to be deleted at this stage was the two storey building at the rear of the church.)
By January 1957 the revised cost was now given as £13,643 and with the War Damage Commission money etc, this left the sum of £4100 to be raised by the church.
There were many setbacks to this idea mainly to the outward appearances - obvious workshop look-alikes. Then in January 1966 the decision was made to have a purpose built unit to match the existing building. An architect was appointed and plans were agreed in October at an estimated cost of £7000 with over £2000 already in hand. Work started in May 1967 and the hall was officially opened in November of that year. All outstanding debts were cleared by July 1973, four years earlier than planned.
THE LAST FIFTY YEARS
In late 1956 the members of the Mission felt that it was time it became an official church and at a service in Enfield Baptist Church on January 3rd 1957, Suffolks Baptist Church was formed and the founder members transferred.
Once the church building had been opened for worship the first baptism took place on the Sunday following. The first major problem was soon found -there were not enough chairs to seat the congregation at the morning parade service, so this was quickly rctified.
Having successfully completed the first year the diaconate felt that it was time to consider the appointment of a full time Pastor and this would be raised with the members at the next church meeting.
Subsequently Mr Brian Treharne was invited to "preach with a view" early in February 1958 and following a meetinc of members an invitation to th Pastorate had been sent and acceptec in March, with the Induction servic* planned for September.
One thing that appeared regularly in the minutes book was that meetings of both deacons and members should end by 10.00pm at the latest. Where this was first agreed the actual meeting ended at 10.45pm!
The annual return in 1958 showed that the average attendance at service was! 130, membership increased from 57 to 76 and there had been 6 baptisms (many had made mention of the temperature of the water)
In June 1959 it was reported that the glazed tiles in the baptistry were a problem and in a typical fashion decision was deferred till October.
During August of 1959 "Betsy" the motorised bicycle used by the Pastor had expired and in consequence the deacons would be donating £100 towards the purchase of a motocycle.
In October it was finally agreed to retile the baptistry floor to avoid the slippery condition and therefore "Premature Baptism".
In February 1962 the church decided as an act of faith to withdraw the application for further aid from the Homework Fund for 1963. (Homework Fund later became the Home Mission Fund) Also in March the purchase of a manse was raised and in May of that year one of the deacons who was leaving the district offered, at a substantial reduction, the opportunity to buy from him. After much negotiation this took place and following internal decoration and his marriage the Pastor moved in.
Around October/November 1963 much discussion was taking place over the possibility of an extension to the rear of the church, with the construction of a concrete prefabricate building.
The statistics for 1963 showed that membership had grown to 99 whilst a strange fact emerged with regards to attendance at services - morning 65 and evening 135 - there were 8 baptism.
In March 1965, Rev. Brian Treharne reported that he had accepted a call to Catford Hill Baptist Church with effect from September. In March 1965 approval was obtained from the membership for the provision of a cross in the church. The Pastor as a farewell gift paid for this. Following a meeting with the area superintendent, Rev. Geoffrey Haden, three names of possible candidates for the Pastorate were obtained. After an initial meeting of the Pastorate Committee, Mr. David Greengrass was invited to preach with a view on Sunday 20th June 1965 and accepted an invitation to the Pastorate at Suffolks with the Induction service on 9th October 1965.
The decision to actually go ahead with the erection of the hall was finally given the go-ahead in October 1966, an idea that was first discussed three years earlier. The opening took place in November 1967.
In July 1969 the Pastor advised the church that he had received an invitation to Egremont Baptist Church, Wallasey, Cheshire and a subsequent meeting was held with Rev. G. Haden to discuss the Pastorate after the termination of the ministry of David Greengrass in October. The Rev. Peter King (Enfield Baptist Church) agreed to moderate for the interregnum period.
October1969 saw the first appearance of Rev. Bob Davey as he came to preach with a view to the Pastorate of Suffolks. However in the interim between coming to Enfield and our invitation for a further meeting he accepted a position in in Devon.
Rev. C.L. Rawlins, having visited the church in November was invited to the Pastorate of Suffolks in December 1969 and was inducted in January 1970. August 1971 witnessed the sudden departure of the Pastor at very short notice. Rev. Peter King again acted as Moderator for the church.
Come December 1971 and Mr. Rinaldi was invited to conduct worship as soon as possible. This happened to be 9th January 1972. Following this together with an informal meeting on 5th February, an invitation was made and accepted with a commencement from 16th September.
At the end of May 1977 deacons meeting Rev. Frank Rinaldi, announced that he would be joining Campus Crusade at the end of July. In the intervening period he proposed to help the church to manage without a minister. His plan was to divide the work of a minister into its component parts - Pastoral, Administration, Evangelism and Ministry Shepherds. Three members of the diaconate were nominated for the first three and it was suggested that a student from Spurgeon's College be invited to be the Ministry Shepherd.
The first student was David Warren who had been recommended by Rev. Peter Manson. He served in this position until June 1978. Nick Mercer took over in October 1978.
The manse in the Cambridge Road had been sold following Rev Frank Rinaldi's departure and in September 1978 the church purchased a new manse in Pembroke Avenue with plans to extend at the rear to include a study and kitchen extension.
Eric Parker was the third Ministry Shepherd from Spurgeon's College in 1979.
Mr. Brian Smith was invited to preach in October 1979 and was later invited to the pastorate at Suffolks with the induction service in April 1980.
Due to a change in emphasis of Sunday services and the lack of leaders who were willing to change the system, it was found necessary to close down the uniformed youth activities by the end of December 1981.
In April 1984 Rev. Brian Smith gave notice that he would be leaving to go to Winchcombe. He later tried to rescind this but the Area Superintendent advised us that his action must stand and he would therefore leave at the end of July. Rev. R. Whitfield was appointed as moderator.
The departure of Rev. Smith resulted in a split within the membership with half leaving to form a house church, which did not last very long.
By the end of 1984 things had settled down and the church was ready to receive the help of a retired minister on a part-time basis and so Rev. Jack Mundell was installed in January 1985.
Juring June 1986 Jack Mundell suffered a heart attack and was advised to take things easy, but by October he was chasing around again with our part in a partnership Mission with a team from Nashville USA.
During the ministry of Jack Mundell there had been many approaches made to prospective ministers but for various reasons most had not been interested and those that had visited had then decided to go no furthr.
Around the middle of 1988 the diaconate, aware of the health implication to Jack Mundell and their inability to slow him down, reluctantly asked that he terminate his time at Suffolks. This took place at the end of October.
Rev. Mark Rudall had agreed to act as Moderator from the beginning of December 1989. This lasted until September 1990 when he left the district.
Andrew Gore was given an invitation to the Pastorate by phone and immediately accepted. As he was still studying at Spurgeon's College, his starting date was later confirmed as 7th September 1991. He was ordained at Margate in June. In the meantime the Rev. John Waghorn would act as moderator.
Because of the problems relating to Rev. Brian Smith and the original church manse, a second manse was purchased in Autumn Close in order that Andy Gore might have a settled home.
A Mother and Toddlers group (Sunbeams) was started in June 1992 and in a similar form is still in action to date.
In 1998 Rev. Andy Gore announced that he would be resigning from the Pastorate at Suffolks and would be taking up the offer from Whitton Baptist Church in January 1999. Rev. Bob Davey agreed to act as moderator during the interregnum. By one of those so-called coincidences it turned out that our moderator would in fact become our new Pastor and was inducted in April 2000.
The manse in Autumn Close was sold in April 2000. By November 2000 both of the old manses had been sold and contracts exchanged for the new building in Carterhatch Lane.
Rev. Bob Davey reached retirement age in 2004 but continued to serve the church in an unofficial capacity until the beginning of 2005. Following a short interregnum we were fortunate to obtain the services of Mr. Clive Atkins in October 2005 as a student pastor for a 3 year period during which he had been studying at Spurgeon's College for a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Since then he has served the church in a variety of ways, many of which were beyond his normal commitment and expectation.
In 2008, following the completion of his studies, the church called Mr. Clive Atkins to the pastorate of Suffolks Baptist Church, in which he continues to the present.
Suffolks has become a multi-ethnic fellowship - a family of young and old. It is our prayer that we will have the courage and faith to rise to the challenge of becoming the people that God wants us to be in this part of Enfield. We want to serve the community, making the good news of Jesus known, that we might become a sign of the presence of the kingdom of God in this area.
And so we come to today in 2014. What does the future hold for Suffolks? One thing we do know is that "the door is open and no man can shut it."
The story really starts with the acquisition of the site by the London Baptist association in 1938, at the price of £1400. The details of how this occurred are very nebulous, but it involved Enfield Baptist Church in the discussion. They however felt unable to incur the expense but were prepared to take some form of responsibility for the action.
The next time there was a mention of the sit is found in the minutes of the "Suffolks Executive Committee" dated April 1st 1952. Although there was apparently a long discussion on the use of the site no decisions were made at the time. It was raised again at the December meeting of the committee when it was decided that the matter should be brought before
Cecil Road and the Suffolks workers for their information.
Work finally started on the site in February and as with all building work the "extras" started to appear and hard choices had to be made as to what was absolutely necessary. Saturday 18th May 1957 saw a large crowd on the corner of "Autumn Close" (Linden Crescent) to take part in the Stone laying Ceremony.
Later the corner of Autumn Close was the scene of a large congregation of interested parties to witness the opening of the "new" church in the area. From the photograph available it can be seen that the Church was full to capacity (250) for the service that followed.
Obviously there were teething troubles to follow not least the fact that for the first Youth Parade Service there were not enough chairs, so that a hurried expedition was required to beg or borrow sufficient to meet the demand.
Wisely, the church decided to put off any further action until the extension fund (Launched in 1961) should reach £1000. We reached the amount in 1964 and started to investigate pre-fabricated buildings.