The Christadelphian movement was founded by John Thomas in the USA in 1848. Thomas was a doctor who was born in London but emigrated to the USA in 1832. He was shipwrecked on his way to America, and while he was in danger he realised that he knew little about what would happen to him after his death. So he decided that if he survived he would devote himself to religious studies.
Although the Christadelphian movement originated through the activities of John Thomas, he never saw himself as setting up disciples and today Christadelphians see him as being a pioneer, but nothing more. He believed he had rediscovered 1st-century beliefs and encouraged others to read the Bible for themselves. Christadelphians became a recognised movement and took their name during the American Civil War. At that time, church affiliation was required to register for conscientious-objector status, and in 1865 Thomas chose for registration purposes the name Christadelphian.
The name comes from the Greek in the New Testament and means “Brethren in Christ” a term the writer Paul uses to describe those who follow Christ. The Greek expression refers to both sexes and to this day Christadelphians will refer to each other as brother or sister. The first UK churches were formed when John Thomas carried out a lecture tour between 1848 and 1850. These were referred to as “ecclesias”, again adopting the Greek word usually translated as church, to differentiate themselves from other churches and religious groups.
The Early Years
By 1876, a thriving ecclesia was meeting at the Temperance Hall in Liverpool and around a dozen of the members were travelling through from Ormskirk each week. These included the Garside family who ran a Chemist and grocers shop in Aughton Street. Through the Garside’s trade connections, permission was granted to hold some public meeting at the Corn exchange on Moor Street. So on Sunday 7th November 1897, Christadelphians began their first preaching campaign in the Market town of Ormskirk.
Over the next 2 years more people in the town were baptised and interest grew. In April 1899 a permanent ecclesia was founded, still meeting at the Corn Exchange. The ecclesia grew even more and in April 1922 they moved into a purpose built meeting room on Moorgate. This is still the room that we meet in now, although it has been extended and modernised over the years.
Famous Ormskirk Names
Within the Christadelphian community, Ormskirk Christadelphians became known as “the ecclesia of shop keepers” due to the large number of members who ran local shops and businesses in the town. For example:
Snape’s Grocers (Burscough Street) – Bill & Winnie Snape
Balmforths Motors (Aughton Street) – John Balmforth
Ashcrofts Audio & TV (Beaconsfield Corner) – Bill & Elsie Ashcroft
Swifts (Moor Street) – Henry, Phylis and Nora White
Thomas Ridings and Sons (St Helens Road) – Ernie & Anne Riding
The Pavilion Cinema (Moorgate) – Arthur and Lily Prince
Griffiths Barbers (Moorgate) – Ernie Griffiths
In 1935 the hall in Ormskirk became one of the few Christadelphian halls in the North West to be registered as a venue for marriages.
As a result it has hosted scores of weddings for members of Ormskirk and the surrounding area.
Sunday School and Youth Circle
Since the earliest days of the ecclesia there have been youth activities with a Sunday School, Youth Circle, Sunday School Parties, Outings and Youth Weekends.