Although the very early days of the Gospel Hall in Kirkby Stephen are now unclear, it appears that the first members began to meet together in the 1870s. Certainly we know of a reference to meeting in 1878 but there may have been something before that.
This was a time of great expansion among evangelical Christians throughout Britain, as many people came to a personal and vibrant faith in Christ and large numbers became dissatisfied with what they saw as the formalism of the more established denominations, and with religious ritual. They wanted something simpler, something that reached the heart as well as the head, and in which all members could actively participate without sharp distinctions between clergy and laity.
In towns and villages up and down the country many Mission Halls and small independent churches and chapels were founded. One part of this national trend was the movement that became known as the Christian Brethren. It was from this strongly Bible-centred movement that the Mellbecks congregation sprang, although it has always insisted on its independence from any outside organisation and has never taken a denominational name.
Numbers have fluctuated over the hundred and forty years, at times reaching about fifty. At present adult membership is around twenty, but on Sunday evenings this can almost double as Christians from other churches join us for our Bible Teaching service.
For many years the church met in the converted cottage shown (as an artist’s impression) in one of the pictures on this site. It was small, and yet the Sunday School often reached a hundred children and many older Kirkby residents will remember Mrs. Mary xxxxx (“Aunty Mary”) as she led this week after week back in the 1940s and 50s.
The building for a long time was rented but around 1950 was donated to the church by its then owner. By the late-80s it had become seriously indadequate, and in 1990 the front extension was added. Now once again it is insufficient for the aspirations of the church. We would dearly love to have accommodation that allowed us to run an adult church service and children’s activities in parallel, but we’ll wait and see what God has in store for us in future years.