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History of Iden Green Congregational Church

The church, where Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s father for a time was the minister, was founded in 1833 by dissenters in the hamlet who wanted to worship where they lived. The alternative was to walk five miles to just outside Sandhurst. There the Baptist Church attracted believers from far and wide. Initially in Iden Green the Christians met at Field Farm which can still be seen today behind Claremont Place (commonly called ‘the Five Dwellings’). The first pastor was a certain Thomas Avery. He was inducted by the then pastor at Sandhurst.

By 1834 the need was felt to have a dedicated chapel built and so the little church set about securing funds. The Kent Baptist Association did not offer any financial help but the local Congregationalists did. In consequence, the church was established as Congregational but open to Baptists who might care to become members. The weatherboard chapel, in what is now called ‘Chapel Lane’, was opened on 19th April 1837.

The denominational equivocation was formalised in the Church Statements of 1860 that were prepared by the Rev’d T Joseph Kightley of Cranbrook Congregational Church. Connections with Cranbrook have always been strong. By 1860 the cause in Iden Green was already struggling and dependent on the assistance of that church. Over the years half the ministers at Iden Green have also had charge at Cranbrook. That continued until the Rev’d Bill Gurney’s retirement from ministry at Cranbrook in 1979. (He continued at Iden Green until his death in 1983.)

Other than Mr Gurney, favourite names among the ministers at Iden Green happened not to also serve at Cranbrook. The Rev’d J M Hooker for example was pastor twenty-one years albeit in two periods (1906-10 and 1930-46), one as a lay person and then years later having been ordained. The manse, still to be seen in Standen Street although no longer owned by the church, was built during Mr Hooker’s second term of ministry. Another popular minister was the Rev’d William Francis Rowlands. He and his wife had returned from serving with the China Inland Mission. They lived in the manse and it was during his time that the second chapel was constructed.

Shaking by the fall of doodlebugs in World War II had led to the original chapel being declared unsafe. As a result, for nine years the church met in the leaky Iden Green Pavilion building until the brick dual-purpose chapel and public hall was completed in 1954. The foundation stone was laid by Mr Peter Scott, a Biddenden farmer, lay preacher and president of the Beult Sunday School Union. The last featured large in the life of the church. IGCC20021954

After Mr Gurney died, for four years a small team of visiting preachers served. They included Mr Gurney’s son, David Gurney and the Rev’d Peter Larcombe, then minister at Dunton Green Congregational Church. In 1987 the Rev’d Peter Michell was inducted to the pastorate. Under his ministry the present Sanctuary was constructed, being completed in 1999. The foundation stone was laid by the Rev’d Peter Larcombe who had become the minister at Cranbrook Congregational Church at the end of 1987. The Ark at the rear of the School Room was built in 2014. Peter Michell retired from the pastorate in October 2017.

Perhaps in, what we understand to have been, the rather lean early days of the mid nineteenth century they could hardly have imagined the busy Christian community that the church is today.

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