Previous Ministers

Rev. J. Willis Humphreys.

Rev. Jabez Willis Humphreys
(1910 - 1921)

Born: 12 July 1873, Tring, Hertfordshire
Married: May 1899, Minnie STOCKDALE (Died 1945) 3 sons
W.169 West Ham Lane, Stratford, London, 1896-1901
Spurgeon’s College
W.108 Lower Loane Street, Chelsea, London, 1904-1908
Woking, Surrey, 1908-1910
Middle Wall, Whitstable, Kent, 1910-1921
W.332 Vernon Square, Kings Cross, London, 1921-1948
W.332 Vernon Square, Kings Cross, London, Emeritus, 1948-1962
Died: 26 July 1962 aged 89, Dorking Hospital, Surrey
Obituary: Baptist Handbook 1963/p365.

Extracts of the Memoirs of Rev. J. W. Humphreys,

Before I had completed three years of ministry at Woking I became convinced that the time for a change had come. My mind was set on the chapel at Chelsea when a letter came to me from Whitstable. The Secretary of the Middle Wall Baptist Church asked if I would come and preach. The Church was without a pastor and my college Principal Dr McCaig, had advised that I be asked to come and lead a forward movement.

Both Whitstable and the Church were quite unknown to me, but information gained from the Baptist Union Handbook as to the size of the building and the number of church members made it clear that the sphere was of a kind totally unlike that for which I was looking, so I wrote and declined the invitation. Two days later I stopped dead in my tracks: I professed a life of complete dedication to the will of God, but in that letter of refusal I had consulted no will but my own. There was nothing for it but to write and acknowledge my failure and tell the church secretary I would commit myself to God's guidance as to the result.

Rev & Mrs Humphreys.My wife was by temperament cautious and I inclined to taking risks. With all her caution, once she became sure as to what God would have her do, it mattered not as to difficulties in the way, and there was only one thing for her to do that was “obey”. At the weekend when I left for Whitstable my wife, with her mind set upon my tendency to take sudden and unaccountable leaps said, “Do be careful, don’t leap to a decision, remember we have our three boys to educate”.

On that first visit I was entertained at the home of a solicitor and his wife. My father had died the previous week and the shock had upset my digestive organs and that weekend I lived on bread and milk. Later when my name was before the church meeting to vote for me to become the pastor, my solicitor friend said humorously, “Anyway, he won't cost much to keep” and told of my bread and water diet.

I discovered that the chapel was very small, very antiquated, with a bulky platform instead of a pulpit and the only heating arrangements a big unsightly stove. The building was situated in a sort of by pass way and hidden from the main High Street. I thought its position was about as unfavourable as could be. Besides all this my visit was timed for the end of the summer when all the visitors had gone home and many church members had seized the opportunity to get away for a rest.

At both the morning and evening services the congregations were very small. A voice within said that I was not meant to come and I had in my pocket a letter from Cambridge asking me to preach at a vacant church there. I was thinking of saying, “no” to Whitstable so you can imagine my surprise when I arrived home and my wife burst out “We have got to go to Whitstable!” just like that with no questions asked. She said that she had been praying and that it was God’s will for us to go. Looking back over those eleven years of ministry, it is unmistakeably clear that all was in God’s pattern for our own sakes and for the sake of our boys. Despite my wife’s fear the education of the boys was solved as a result of this act of obedience to the call to God.

The story of the rebuilding - the forward movement.

The purposed expressed in asking me to go was that I should lead a forward movement and I knew that I must not act as if my first purpose was to settle down quietly. If I did that every encouragement might be given to me to let things continue as they were. The very first thing must be to provide a more commodious and attractive building, so I at once sought to obtain plans for an enlarged and reconstructed chapel.

These plans provided for the considerable extension of the chapel frontage, with a commodious vestibule out of which would be stairs leading to a gallery. (There was no gallery in the original building). The gallery would extend over the vestibule and along two sides of the edifice. In the plans we were to update the heating and lighting systems, build a low platform capable of seating some twenty choristers flanked by a pulpit slightly higher than the platform. The reconstructed building would double its seating capacity. The plans were put to the deacons who approved them and at a subsequent church meeting the senior deacon, who was a builder and an expert made one or two suggestions to improve the original plans. These would add to the cost but they were accepted.

Within a year the reconstructed and enlarged building was ready for opening. Mr Dean, a Baptist veteran, greatly esteemed throughout Kent took the chair. We had gone round the building before the meeting and he had pointed out one or two improvements but they would have added to the cost. Mr Dean said have the work done and let my wife have the bill. He produced the last £100 so we did not suffer long months with a heavy debt.


© Tony Harris 30/04/2013