An interview with Peter Stevenson: The history of Crossway Church
We chat to Author Peter Stevenson about his book and the church community that inspired it.
Your book ‘This is the Church that God built’ provides a history of Crossway Church, when did you first become interested in this area?
I was called to the pastorate in August 2009 with the hope that I could help them build a church, build a congregation and build a community. Over the years we achieved much of this and I thought I would move on after six months but I ended up staying for two years. Driven by a sense that there was more to do I realised that the church did not have an archival record and I started to explore the minute books and make contact with former ministers. It seemed right to record what I could of the story and supplement it with research.
What inspires you most about Crossway’s history?
I had met the grand daughter of the first minister and warmed to the idea of recording her grandfather’s tremendous and selfless contribution to the ministry in the Elephant and Castle. On further research I began to realise that Crossway has a DNA that repeats itself throughout the decades and I was humbled to think that I now have a share in that story.
Your book coincided with the new Crossway Centre that was opened in Elephant and Castle, what was the purpose of the new building when it was built, and how does it serve the local community?
The re-provision of Crossway occurred when Southwark Council entered into an agreement with Lend Lease, the property developers, to provide the Heygate Estate with vacant possession. As a result we negotiated to get the best we could and designed a building that would serve the community in the present context.
Your research led you to dig up some wonderful stories surrounding the church, would you mind briefly sharing one or two of your favourites?
My favourite stories were the love stories. Three ministers found new wives and one a new partner but none of them would let me tell their stories. However Jim and Rene were happy to share the love affair that started so many years ago. It is a warm and touching story and the couple have visited the new churches a couple of time and it has been great to get to know them a little more. The other fascinating tale involved the first minister, Revd Kenward, when he was chased out of a local public house. Using his first hand account the story came alive and was a glimpse into the context in which he was working.
Leaders of the church have faced different challenges over the years, what is one response to a challenge that stands out to you as inspiring?
While it may not be inspiring the repeated message that successive ministers give is that the management of building is so time consuming that pastoral care for the congregation suffers. The Elephant and Castle is a tough ‘gig’ and I have been greatly impressed by the few ministers that have served more than five years and met the challenges of deprivation head on making a difference to the lives of the people in the community.
How has your book been received by the current Crossway church community?
The book has been received with interest and people have been impressed at the richness of the story and the length of time that Crossway has served the community.
What lessons can other churches can take away from the Crossway story?
The biggest lesson that others churches can take from Crossway is that God is good! The congregation had shrunk to an average of twelve Sunday worshippers and when I arrived there was no Church Secretary, Treasurer and no Eldership. Now there is a a strong leadership team, Sunday average has quadrupled, membership has doubled and there is a healthy bank balance. The church is set up for the next one hundred years – GOD IS GOOD.
THE HISTORY OF CROSSWAY CHURCH.
Crossway church has served the community of the Elephant and Castle for over a century and from three different buildings. Today it is home to ten congregations, three day centres, and numerous community groups. This book traces some of the church’s history against the wider context of urban ministry and the changing sociopolitical milieu of the region. It includes accounts from some of those who attended Crossway in the past, as well as other fascinating stories such as connections to royalty, a delay-action bomb that exploded near the church and a local love story.