In 1867, a Scottish Presbyterian called William Reid became the minister of Warwick Road Church in Carlisle. A number within the church who had been challenged by his teaching decided to leave and began to meet in one of the rooms in the YMCA building. The group grew and moved to meet on Bank Street and were joined by Johnathan D. Carr, founder of Carr’s biscuits, makers of the famous table water biscuits.
They moved several more times before settling on the Botchergate in 1920, the site of the present Hebron Church. Those who met at the time described themselves as ‘Open’ or ‘Plymouth’ Brethren and were characterised by their desire to study the Bible and reach out to the people of Carlisle. The Sunday School was just one of such activities with many children attending. During the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, many children were brought to church by car and later bus from the estates in the South West of the city. Like many similar Brethren churches, they conducted gospel meetings on Sunday evenings where people were invited in off the street to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. In the 1960s the church also ran a coffee shop ministry, organised tent meetings in Bitt’s Park, with Dick Sanders, and participated in open air events in the council estates and villages surrounding the city.
Over the years some of the more traditional meetings and outreach events have ceased or have been changed to meet the needs. H.E.C.T.O.R., the church toddler group, now runs twice on a Tuesday; Mealbank, a food service for those who’ve fallen on hard times, operates on a Monday night. Youth work continues to be an important part of church life and many adults meet during the week in small house groups. More recently, Hebron has also partnered with other churches in the city through organisations like HOPE and Pray for the City.
Hebron has certainly changed over the years, the membership has changed, the meetings have changed, and with the passage of time the way we ‘do’ church and reach out to the surrounding community has changed too. In 2011, all of the elders in the church changed as well, and in 2016 a new vision for the church began to be implemented.
Despite all the changes, one thing has remained constant – a desire to be obedient to God and to play our part in His mission in Carlisle, the UK and the rest of the world.