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Article extracted from "One Hundred Years of Worship" by kind permission, and compiled by Greville Watson 2007

Independent Wesleyan Church:
Ministry during the 20th Century

High Street Church had seven ministers during these one hundred years starting with Rev. Richard Shorten who was at Rushden from March 1901 to January 1908.  The others were as follows:

Rev. Charles John Keeler, November 1909 – May 1939

Rev. Thomas Strang Kee, April 1940 – June 1945

Rev. John Renison, September 1946 – September 1951

Rev. Gordon Bellamy, January 1952 – February 1962

Rev. Reginald Taylor, 1962 – 1985

Rev. Peter Haigh Norton, August 1987

The century saw the biggest technological changes and, of course, the biggest (though not the longest) wars in history.  One only has to look at photographs to see how clothing styles changed, but much more may be learned from the reports given in the minutes of church meetings.

Rev. Shorten had an interesting time with regards to his salary which started at an annual amount of £175 and increased to £200 per annum after two years.  By 1906 this changed and he then took two drops in salary to £175 per annum, then to £120.  He left in 1908 to minister in Bradford.

Rev. Keeler was appointed in 1909 and remains the longest serving minister to come to High Street.  It was during this time that he volunteered to serve with the National YMCA amongst the soldiers, later offering to serve with the forces in France.  Sadly he was not able to go, but the church commended him on his patriotic spirit.  In 1927 he moved into the new manse at 5 Higham Road.  Rev. Keeler was reported to be very ill in May 1939, and died in Northampton Hospital on May 21st 1939.

In April 1940 Rev. Kee was appointed Minister.  As an indication of how times have changed, it was Rev. Kee who asked for permission to install a telephone at the manse, at his own expense.  It is hard to imagine life now without such a device.  The Boys Brigade and Girls Life Brigade were started during the ministry of Rev. Kee.  He left in June 1945.

Rev. Renison started his ministry in September 1946 and it was during his time that a great deal of discussion was made over the possible linking with the Congregational Union, whilst retaining links with the Wesleyan Reform Union.  This obviously did not happen and in 1951 Rev. Renison decided to return to the ministry of the Congregational Union and moved on to a position in Somerset.  It was during his ministry that the ‘Primary Mothers Own’ was set up by Mrs. Renison, thought to be the forerunner of the Mothers Fellowship which in turn became the Women’s Fellowship.

Rev. Gordon Bellamy became minister in January 1952 and remained so for the next ten years.  His wife contracted polio but was seen as a great example with her cheerful spirit and her willingness to take on challenges.  They had three boys who were very supportive.  It was during this time that the Christian Endeavour and the Junior Christian Endeavour were established at High Street.  Rev. Bellamy was appointed President of the Wesleyan Reform Union in 1960/61, the first minister from High Street to hold this office.  He moved on in 1962 to Long Sutton in Lincolnshire.

Rev. Reginald Taylor was welcomed on the 14th April 1962, having come from the Hucknall Church in Nottinghamshire.  During his ministry at High Street there were campaigns led by Tom Butler and John Knight, who used his artistic skills to highlight the Gospel.  Also the Rev. Richard Bennett came and led a mission.  These were very special times for many when their personal commitments were made.  In 1972 Rev. Taylor became the second minister from High Street to become President of the Wesleyan Reform Union.  Another pleasure for him and Mrs. Taylor was being the House Parents for the first youth holiday at Avon Tyrell.  An exchange was also arranged for Rev. and Mrs. Taylor to spend time in America, whilst Rev. and Mrs. Dwight Ganzel came to Rushden.  Rev. Taylor retired from High Street in 1985 and many people came to the farewell celebrations on October 26th and 27th.

Rev. Peter Haigh Norton started Ministry in Rushden in August 1987, having moved here with his family from St. Just in Cornwall, near Lands End.  During his time in Rushden one of the most obvious changes has been the building of the Church Hall.  In 1998/99 he became the third High Street Minister to become President of the Wesleyan Reform Union.

Two interior photographs
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