Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - In the Slums, by the Rev. D. Rice-Jones, 1884 - Chapter 2 - The Mission Church

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CHAPTER II.

THE MISSION CHURCH.

WHEN I was sent here by the London Diocesan Home Mission at Christmas 1882, the church was merely a small room built over a back-yard in Sardinia Street. It had formerly been a workshop, and at another time a saw-pit. The windows on one side open immediately over a skittle-alley at the back of the adjoining public-house, and on the opposite side, over the back-yard of a cheap lodging-house and coffee shop. The noises from the skittle-alley are sometimes very trying during our week-day services; but against the lodging- house on the opposite side I have but little cause of complaint, except the perpetual barking and howling of a large dog kept in the yard, and the imprecations occasionally aimed at the said dog by its master or others connected with the house.
    A small room between the skittle-alley of a low tavern and the back-yard of a cheap eating and lodging house may be thought a curious place to [-9-] dignify with the name of church. Nevertheless it was a church in every sense of the word, except that it had not been consecrated. The usual services had been regularly carried on there for many years, and amongst the small congregation there were about twelve communicants. But just before I came here, a plan had been formed for enlarging the little mission church by throwing open and adding to it the whole of the basement floor of the mission house; and, unfortunately for me, the builders had only just begun their work; and one of the first things they did was to place a deep gulf between the old and the new parts, which are now connected by steps descending from the latter into the former. The portion of the church in which the services were then held could therefore only be entered by walking over the pit on some loose planks which the builders from time to time laid across it for our convenience. This was bad enough. But what was even worse was the circumstance that they had partially unroofed the church at one end, where there is now a skylight, so that for several Sundays we were exposed to the cold rains and bitter winds of mid-winter. Then it became impossible to hold any services at all in the church, and I had to migrate with my little congregation to a small room upstairs in the mission house. But even this room was sometimes difficult of access; for the front of [-10-] the house was in a state of chaos, and we had now and again to stoop very low in passing the barriers laid across the entrance. Notwithstanding such hindrances, however, none of the mission work was ever stopped. The little congregation kept well together; the usual services were held on Sundays and week-days in the upper room; the Holy Communion was regularly administered; many children were baptized; and the Sunday and Saturday schools were carried on without interruption.