Enon History

A short story of Enon Baptist Church

Enon Baptist Church is 178 years old. Before the early 19th Century most of the population of Sunderland lived south of the River Wear where there were Baptist churches¬† for many years. As the town began to spread north of the river churches began to be built to join the historic St Peter’s which has existed since the end of the 7th Century.

Most non-conformist churches were built by a group of committed people but Enon was the vision of one man. Mr Thompson Oliver, a ship owner who lived in Dundas Street had become a Christian while a prisoner in Arras, France during the Napoleonic wars. He decided to build a church in Barclay Street very close to his home. In early 1834, while the church was being constructed it was severely damaged by a severe gale but was still able to be opened by the end of the year. For many years, reflecting the size of the population in the area, the congregation was very small but there was always a large Sunday School where the local working class children would have been taught the three Rs as well as the basics of the Gospel. Originally this was housed in a lean-to at the side of the church until a proper school room could be built.

By the early 20th Century the church was well established and had increased numerically. The members seem to have been extremely dedicated and hard-working and there were many activities for all ages including the Christian Endeavour and the Sisterhood which continues to this day though it is now called the Monday Fellowship.

About 1943 the church was approached by the congregation of Lindsay Road in Hendon about sharing a pastor. The joint congregation continued till 1963 when the Hendon building was sold and the members moved to Enon before eventually a church was planted at Gilley Law, now Lakeside Baptist Church. The Lindsay Road building still exists and is owned by the Sea Cadets. In 1958 the building in Barclay Street became the subject of a compulsory purchase order to facilitate the development of Barclay Court which in turn was demolished to make way for the construction of Howick Park in late 1980s. The new building was erected on its present site and the first services held in the Sunday School Hall in 1963 with the church being opened in 1964. The congregation continues to reflect the changing population of the city. There are now very few members with a historic family connection to the church. As Sunderland Polytechnic grew and eventually became the University of Sunderland with the large St Peter campus very close to the church we have sought to serve the students and staff a number of whom have been valued members of Enon. We also serve the community close to the building who are increasingly coming to regard the church as their spiritual home. In recent years we have also been joined by a growing number of people from overseas either economic immigrants or asylum seekers. This has given the church an international flavour. Interest in foreign mission has also grown. We support a number of missionaries in various countries. Membership of the church remains fairly steady at around 100 with people being added after conversion via Alpha courses or personal contact. Like every church we have weathered a number of storms but with the Lord’s help we look forward to being an active centre of witness and worship for many years to come.