At the Annual Meeting of Members held on 12th April, 1893, a number of important decisions were taken, apparently all in one afternoon! It would appear that Members were divided up into classes, each with a Class Leader and headed by Mr. Richard Adcock. This, of course, the Methodist Church has been doing since it’s inception, a tradition that is still in operation today in that denomination. The Meeting then went on to establish a Young Mens’ Class, under the leadership of Mr. Robert Urwin, a Christian Endeavour Society was also formed as was a Mission Band.
The Mission Band referred to above was not a band as we know it today – it was simply a crowd of Members who, in procession, marched the cobbled streets in the Mile End Road area, persuading all who would listen, their need of a Saviour. To this end regular Open-Air Meetings were held on Tuesday evenings, with a prayer Meeting at seven o’clock, on Sunday mornings followed by an Open-Air Meeting at around ten o’clock. It was, however, to be some years hence before the Band became a marching band equipped with brass band instruments.
From the records it would appear that between 1893 and into 1896 there was a substantial increase in membership, the Sunday School was increasing in numbers to such an extent that accommodating the children was becoming a problem. However, after more than four years occupancy, it was decided at a Workers Meeting on 14th October, 1896, that the Mission Hall was ready for a spring clean and in order to make this possible, all Members were asked to subscribe to a Special Fund. The total collected was £2. 13s. 6d. with expenditure for materials at £2. 12s. 5d. leaving a balance in hand of one shilling and one penny.
In the same year on 20th December, 1896, it was proposed and agreed that Meetings should be held on Christmas Day with the following arrangements:-
Missioning the streets on Christmas morning after a Prayer Meeting at 9.30 a.m. In the afternoon at 2.30 p.m. a Meeting for fellowship followed by an Open-Air Meeting 5.30 p.m. at the corner of Bath Street and finally, a Meeting at night at 7.00 p.m. at which a special collection would be taken for the Children’s Treat to be held on Boxing Day.
Development continued in 1897 when a Pentecostal League of Prayer Meeting was commenced on a weekly basis. Undoubtedly the highlight of that innovation was a visit to the Mission of it’s founder Reader Harris Q.C. An unusual feature of this auxiliary of the Mission was the fact that the ladies wore special bonnets similar to, but slightly different, from those worn by female Members of the Salvation Army. The men, in contrast wore a single ribbon on their lapel, indicating that they too were Members.
On 5th January, 1898, it was decided to paint the interior of the Mission Hall and at a Meeting held on that date the Minute reads, “that the paint be seen to at once and the Secretary (Mr. George Bowman), and Thomas Elliott, canvas the town for subscriptions on behalf of the Mission”. When the walls had been painted, consideration was given to including scripture verses behind the pulpit. A number of texts were examined and the following were chosen:
“Prepare to meet Thy God”, “Holiness unto the Lord” and “Christ died for our sins”.
There were two further innovations in 1898. One at a Meeting on 16th November, when for the first time, it was agreed to hold a Watch Night Service on 31st December and secondly, on 21st December it was unanimously agreed that “we as a Mission support Bro. Ajcock’s recommendation to get brass instruments for the work of the Mission”. This then was the birth of the People’s Mission Silver Band when on 18th January, 1899, the first rules of the Band were approved by the Workers Meeting. A further rule was added on 15th March, 1899, to the effect “That no-one become a Member of the Band until the expiration of three months after confessing conversion”.
On the 11th April, 1900 a Christian Endeavour Society was formed to meet on Thursday evenings under the leadership of Bro. Noble.
It became evident now that the Mission was growing rapidly, clearly the intense Open-Air work was reaching out to hundreds of people who were responding to the regular appeals made to them. This, of course, has to be set against the socio-economic climate of that period, when living conditions by todays standards were appalling, with large families living in tenement houses, with no running water indoors and obtainable only from a communal tap in the backyard, servicing as many as thirty people.
The Sunday School benefited from the fact that in those days seven to ten children in one family was not unusual, although the mortality rate was high.
With growth of course came problems, some worrying others humorous. A typical example was the case of two Members who fell out with each other, one of whom put the matter in the hands of a solicitor and, at a Special Meeting it took the Members who attended, a great deal of pleading with that gentleman to withdraw the charges.
The Silver Band were invited to play at the Sunday Evening Service on some occasions, but one Member in a Business Meeting, and I quote, “asked the Band not to play inside the Mission on Sunday nights as it was injurious to his wife”.
On 3rd October, 1900, a further extension of the activities was considered and approved to the effect that with effect from the first Sunday in November and monthly thereafter, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would be observed.
The records appear to suggest that the next few years were devoted to consolidation rather than expansion, which is not surprising, given all that had been achieved in a few years. Business Meetings previously held monthly were now held quarterly, but there was no diminution in activities. As examples, Cottage Meetings were established, infant baptism was introduced but only for the children of Members, a fund was opened’ ‘for the sick, poor or distressed”, almost at every Meeting there was an influx of new Members as many as thirty in one quarter. A Choir was formed who previously had to rely upon a small harmonium for accompaniment, but it was decided to buy a new organ of a superior quality.
Two important innovations took place in November, 1904, firstly, extensive alterations were made to the Mission Hall to accommodate a growing congregation and the rapid increase of Sunday School scholars approaching four hundred. These renovations took several weeks, during which time the Hall could not be used, therefore, as a temporary measure the homes of Members were widely used. Secondly, the first Trust was dissolved and the number of Trustees increased to twenty-six.