Worthing Tabernacle was formed, under God, by Pastor C. Douglas Crouch, in 1896.
For reasons of conscience he and others were led to sever their connections with the Baptist Union, owing to its absorption of liberal views on Scripture. The opposition to this controversy, known as the Downgrade Movement, was championed by Crouch’s mentor, the great London preacher, C.H. Spurgeon and the Tabernacle derives its name reformed heritage and interior design (!) from his church building in London.
Both Spurgeon and Crouch felt that God would have them establish churches on purely ‘undenominational’ lines. An Evangelical Free Church was thus commenced as a basis of unity for all those who love the Lord Jesus, and wanted to maintain the doctrines of grace which were in danger of being undermined. We are very grateful to God, and to those men and women who constructed such a lovely building to worship in. Although it will hold over 400 people, it is so built that no one, either in the auditorium or the gallery, are very far from the preacher or from each other. Each aesthetic element conveys carefully considered theological truths. The building was opened in 1908.
God blessed the stand that was made for His truth, and this continued after the founder retired in 1919, through the pastorate of his successor, Rev. G.J. Attwood, who came from Bristol. As the church grew spiritually and numerically, overseas missionary interest increased, and a number offered themselves for service. Mr. Attwood retired after 21 years. The next pastor was the Rev. Eric Land, from Bournemouth. He arrived during the difficult war years, but with his powerful, uncompromising preaching, a good number came to the Saviour, especially amongst the young people. He retired after 28 years, and was called home in 1989, well into his nineties.
In 1970 the Tabernacle welcomed Pastor Tony Sargent and his wife, Rowena, from Enfield. Tony’s pastoral preaching, his desire to train men for ministry and his vision for growth helped the Tab continue to be a thriving church. He introduced Home Groups and continued to give the Tab a “great commission” focus. In 1979 we were able, by God’s provision, to acquire the old bakery next to the church. This has been adapted to meet the needs of the expanding ministries, including office space, our shop Chapel Gifts & Books and a flat. Tony and Rowena moved to Glasgow in 1998 so that Tony could become principle of the International Christian College. After Tony, Mark Weeden led the church from early 1999 through to July 2011 when Mark left to pursue an itinerant ministry.
In 2013, the church called our current minister, Rich Owen to lead us into a new era. Rich joined us from City Evangelical Church in Leeds, where he had served as the Assistant Pastor for four years. Rich has a background in software engineering and studied Physics with Space Science and Technology.
Under God, Rich has been helping us to see local churches as God’s great mission agency and the front line of God’s work. We’ve been given a renewed emphasis on the ‘quality’ of our fellowship, the need to reach out to our community and make the church a place where families thrive. We’ve been training up new leaders in partnership with Union School of Theology, and encouraging our members in evangelism and the arts. Rich is married to Ruth and they have three children, James, Hannah and Daniel.
Doug Clark joined us in September 2014 as Assistant Pastor seeking to gain experience and further training and in 2018 we sent him out as a church planter to Halifax in Yorkshire, together with a small group of people from the church. Find out more about Hope Church Halifax here.
In 2018 we appointed Steve Mason as our new Assistant Pastor. Steve is a home-grown leader, starting out as a member of the church, then as a home group leader and as a lay-elder. Steve left his job as a postman in 2016 and studied in our Union Classroom for two years, working part time for the church to gain more experience. Steve is married to Laura and they have three children, Evie and Seth and Emma.
In recent years, we’ve formed a partnership with the Alliance for Transatlantic Theological Training (AT-3) who have enabled us to receive pastoral apprentices from the US to serve us, and to train for ministry through Union.