The origins of Poole Christian Fellowship (PCF) go back to 1989 when a handful of Christians began to meet together in a living room. Without any intention to start a new work, after about a year it was realised that we were in fact starting to function like a church.
A caretaker leadership emerged and our first public meetings took place in 1990 in a Day Centre in Garland Road in Poole. This was the venue for our Sunday meetings for a couple of years during which time the congregation numbered 20-30. We continued to meet in each other’s homes during the week for fellowship and prayer. These were days of small beginnings and refreshing informality.
In the early 1990’s we felt that there was a need for a larger venue to meet. We started to meet at Hamworthy Middle School – a venue which was our Sunday spiritual “home” for a number of years. These were formative years during which time we started outreach into the west Poole community, appointed our first elders, had our first church weekend away together, started a Youth Group and Sunday school, had our first baptisms (in the school swimming pool), set up housegroups and started praying specifically about two things: our own premises, and our own full time worker (minister or pastor). It was also during this period that one of our elders, Nick May, met Paul Newberry at Spring Harvest, which started a friendship with Nick and the other elders, and ultimately with PCF, and was to have profound consequences for both Paul and PCF. (Paul describes this incident in his book “Spiritual Fathers” (Sovereign World) on page 107 and in a note on page 117).
In early 1996 we were contacted by the leadership of Poole Evangelical Church, a Brethren Assembly that had occupied premises in Lagland St for over 100 years. After over 100 years of blessing the numbers had dwindled and the leaders of the assembly had taken the courageous decision to close. They were very keen that after they left, the premises should remain a place of Christian worship. PEC had their last meeting at Lagland Street in June 1996 – and PCF moved in that evening. A dozen or so members of the now – closed Brethren assembly decided to become a part of PCF, and remain so to this day – with one of their number eventually becoming an elder of PCF.
The building was eventually purchased outright from the owners for £75,000 and a few years later a similar amount was spent in re-furbishment. We are grateful that the Lord confirmed the decision by providing every last penny. Read more about the building here.
PCF now occupied an excellent town-centre location and the building was used for coffee- morning outreach and a toddler group as well as for regular church events. The relationship with Paul Newberry developed to the stage where we talked through all major decisions with him and he and his wife Pat were regular visitors for fellowship and ministry. Paul was our guest speaker at two weekends away.
From 1999 onwards the elders – all in secular employment – consistently brought to the church for prayer the subject of a full-time worker. A number of options were explored – but the door remained closed. In 2001 Paul Newberry shared with the elders that he felt his time in Maidstone was coming to an end, and that he would be seeking God’s will for the next phase of his ministry. During his sabbatical in 2003 Paul and Pat spent a significant amount of time with the leaders of PCF and the view was unanimously held that Paul and Pat should move to Poole, and that Paul should take up ministry at PCF from early 2004. Paul Newberry arrived in Poole on 1 January 2004 to take up his position as PCF’s first full-time Minister. Paul and Pat sold their home in Maidstone and brought a house in Poole during the same year.
The blessing from Paul’s ministry proved to be decisive in the development of PCF, but sadly short-lived as failing health meant that he was out of action for much of 2007. After a long illness he went to be with the Lord in November 2007, just a few days after his 65th birthday. His funeral was held in Poole at St James Church.
One of the final acts Paul Newberry carried out was to set in motion the process for the appointment of his successor. John MacDiarmid, who had been at PCF since the start, and was one of the existing elders, was proposed by Paul to the elders as the next full time Minister, and when Paul passed away, this was put forward to the church. John’s induction was carried out by Andrew Parfitt, who had been Paul’s closest colleague in ministry for twenty years in Maidstone, and who continues to have a much valued relationship with PCF. John MacDiarmid started his duties in April 2009 and continued until November 2018.
The following years were a time of defining our mission in the Town, and making the changes necessary to implement them. From 2009 to 2014 three major initiatives were started, as the church launched its Mission Statement, “Knowing Jesus… and Making Him Known”. These key initiatives were:
1. The Opening of a CAP Centre. PCF, in partnership with “Christians Against Poverty” (CAP) and other churches in the town, opened a CAP Centre with the desire of helping folks who were sinking under the weight of debt, and also seeking to introduce them to Jesus. Richard Miles, then one of the elders, spearheaded this initiative, being the Centre’s first Manager and Debt Coach. When Richard and his wife Sarah were called to serve the Lord in Northern Ireland, Richard was replaced as CAP Debt Centre Manager by Ruth Hobbs, who, with her husband Clive, relocated from Cornwall to pick up this project.
The relationship with CAP developed as we ran CAP Money Courses, in conjunction with Poole Vineyard, and also CAP Lifeskills as Jenny King, and then Jo Wiltshire, took on the role of Lifeskills Manager.
2. Parenting Course. Under the leadership of Helen Williams, who had previously run parenting courses with the Borough of Poole, the church started a Parenting Course, designed to help parents improve their parenting skills, as well as introducing them to the Christian Faith.
3. Children and Youthwork. The elders became convinced that if PCF was to have a strong future we needed to invest in the ongoing ministry to Children and Youth. After a long recruitment process, Steven Driver was appointed as PCF’s full-time Children and Youthworker, later Children and Youth Minister. He started on 1 September 2013.
The whole direction of PCF was to become more missional in character with the aim of being used by God to bless the community in which he has put us. Church weekends away became a part of the life of the church, which three weekends at Sidholme between 2010 and 2014 being highlights for fellowship and mission. At two of these weekends, Paul Dando, who along with his wife Pearl had been longtime friends of Paul and Pat Newberry and later of PCF, was our guest speaker.These weekends away continued every two years, with the guest speaker for 2014 and 2016 being Richard Langmead (now Chief Executive of Urban Saints) and, in 2018, Matt MacDiarmid, who had grown up in PCF, as Guest Speakers.
By 2015 we had felt for some time that our Lagland St premises, though a blessing, were not fit for purpose, and especially are not suitable for the growth that we believe that God wants to give us. So, the next step on our journey was to relocate our Sunday morning meetings to Poole High School from 27 September 2015. The Lagland Street premises were retained for all our other activities.
PCF continued its emphasis on a commitment to the gospel by, in May 2016, affiliating to FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches), a family of over 560 churches across the UK that share the same passion to reach the UK with the gospel.
In January 2018 PCF launched it’s new small groups program called “Streams”. This was based on the principles outlined in “Activate” a program pioneered in New York, to enable the church to function most effectively in small groups
So, Poole Christian Fellowship has finished its first twenty – nine years. They have been consistent with the biblical pattern of blessing, challenge, joy, pain and encouragement. Throughout it all everyone associated with it have been enormously aware of God’s hand upon us, and his faithfulness in all that we have done. It is with excitement and confidence that we anticipate God’s dealings with us in the future.
We do not know what the future holds for us but we can say with confidence: “Thus far has the LORD helped us.” (1 Samuel 7 v. 12)