William Temple Church, Abbey Wood
London County Council began the initial work on the Estate during the mid 1950s. Families began to occupy the first completed houses towards the end of 1957. Frederick Belcher, curate in charge arrived in February 1958. The first Church meeting was on 24th June 1958. It was held in a house in Godstow Road. There was no Church building to worship in. A Doctor allowed the surgery in Ampleforth Road to be used for worship. Then worship was moved to the contractor’s canteen in Grovebury Road at Easter. The canteen was polished up and furnished with an altar and rows of chairs. The “Vestry” was only marginally bigger than the broom cupboard. There was a piano to accompany singing and an eager congregation of about twenty. Much of the Estate was still covered in mud and the debris of the piling on which the whole Estate was founded. Worship continued in the canteen for over a year.
Most people were feeling desperately lonely having been moved from their familiar housing with streets of extended families. They were glad to be in a house with a garden and inside toilet and a bath, but that didn’t solve the loneliness. People wanted the baptism of their children to be an “occasion” with all the family (Aunts, Uncles and cousins) present. The “Contractor’s canteen” was not attractive enough or big enough. Weddings weren’t so numerous but presented the same problems.
Parochial Church Council meetings were held in the vicarage as the Church had not been built.
In April/May 1959 the clergy were told that they would have their own dual-purpose building (which had been the temporary church of St Agnes, Kennington – the original church was bombed during the war). The floor tiles were not laid until the day before the Church was to be used for the first time. Electricity was not switched on. Preparation for the first Family communion could not begin until Saturday afternoon. Car headlights and candles provided illumination. The Church was packed with people even standing in the porch.
In September 1959 the Church was dedicated in memory of William Temple. It was felt that a new church should be named after a modern “saint”. William Temple was one of the greatest Archbishops known to the Anglican Church and his name was also known to many of the older inhabitants. The then Bishop of Southwark (Dr Simpson) accepted the suggestion. That same year the Church was partially cut off from the parish of St Michael and All Angels and was made a Conventional District with Frederick Belcher as the first Priest-in-charge.
In February 1966 the Foundation Stone was laid for the present Church. In October 1966 the present Church was dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Southwark Mervyn Stockwood. Mrs Frances Temple widow of his Grace Archbishop William Temple also attended.
The local residents could pay a £1 to have their name put on the brickwork of the Church as it was being built. George Winter, congregational member, went round the Estate asking for donations of 50p per week to go towards the new Church building.
The Church had coloured glass because a detective agency made enquiries in Surrey Docks where the Church being replaced had been and discovered some stained glass. This was in panels two foot wide and the height of the walls. They were made of chunks of 2 inch thick coloured glass bedded in a specialist cement in entirely random arrangements. There were two panels at the corners and one panel half way along each wall.
A small chamber organ was ordered from an internationally renowned organ builder but there was no bench. When contacted the organ builder told the Church that benches were not supplied unless specifically ordered. The organ builder was told that he could inform the congregation and honoured guests. He arrived with a bench in the back of his car.
The new Church building included a Coffee Bar which was open to the public during the day for meals and refreshments. There was also a lounge and three offices. Offices were used by the Thamesmead Ecumenical Project from 1968, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, local Councillor, Optician Ken Akers. Worship was every Sunday in the Church and there were special Church Birthday services with the Salvation Army band. As well as the weekly Sunday morning Eucharist, a Sunday School was started in the afternoon. The first children formed the nucleus out of which eventually grew a very flourishing part of the Church’s life. Later, the Coffee Bar was used as a Pop-In-Parlour every Thursday. Currently the Church building is used for worship, Neutral Ground Child Contact Centre, the Transforming Youth Mission (TYM) and a local Toddler Group.
In 1968 a joint Bazaar was held by the Anglicans, Roman Catholics and the Thamesmead Ecumenical Project which attracted over 1,100 people.
In March 1970 the Parish of Thamesmead was going ahead as a legal entity and was expected to be completed within eighteen months. In June 1973 William Temple Church became part of the Parish of Thamesmead when the new Church (St Paul’s) was built. This means that the Vicar is now a Team Vicar of the Parish of Thamesmead. In March 1976 Rev Jim Thompson gave an outline of the Parish of Thamesmead. This was formed from parts of three parishes, in Southwark and Rochester. It was originally intended to have a Rector and four Team Vicars but there were three vicars and one Rector. All denominations were represented, Roman Catholic, Church of England, Methodist and United Reform Church. The Church of the Cross and the new Church were to be run by a limited company. The administration committee linked the people with the Bishops. All legal matters were to go before the William Temple Parochial Church Council. The new name for the Church, St Paul’s, was sent for approval to the Anglican Bishop and Roman Catholic Archbishop. It was thought that the building would become the Parish Church from the Church of England point of view.
William Temple Church has always been known to serve the community. From its very beginning and currently. There has been worship in the Church, Sunday Schools, Uniformed organisations, youth clubs, choirs, bazaars, bring and buy.
William Temple Church has continued to flourish with the local community at its heart.