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The Early Days And Beginnings
Rochdale AoG was one of the first 'church plants' by the newly formed Home Missions Council which had been brought into being at the general conference, this was as a result of the vision of George Oldershaw of South Normanton. Evangelist George Reed was sent to check out the land in Rochdale in preparation for a pioneer crusade and in 1943 he knocked on the door of 169 Drake Street, the residence of the Whittaker family.
The whttaker's, Robert and Gertrude, and their two sons, Robert and Colin (a life long Methodist family) moved from Haslingden in the summer of 1941. They attended Champness Hall, where on Remembrance Sunday 1941, both sons gave their hearts to Christ and were 'born again'. In May 1942 Robert was called up for National Service.
The whittakers had close contact with Pentecostals in Haslingden through Fred and Isobel Ramsbottom who went to the Belgium Congo in the early 1930's with Morrice Hugo a new convert. It was through this contact that George Reed came to ask Mr and Mrs Whittaker if they would support a new Assembly of God church in Rochdale, to this they agreed.
Owing to sickness George Reed was unable to conduct this pioneer campaign so veteran Welsh evangelist George Every took on the job. Mr and Mrs Every and a friend were all accomodated in the Whittakers home during the campaign, which was held in the hall over the cafe in Butts Chambers in the centre of Rochdale.
After the campaign Douglas S Quy, discharged from the RAF for health reasons was appointed follow up pastor. Pastor Quy was also accomodated by the Whittakers for two years. David and Rosemary Griffiths from Stoke on Trent succeeded him. Pastors Quy and Griffiths both nurtured and built up the little group of faithful members.
After the war Colin Whittaker on his discharge from RAMC in December 1947, spent his demob leave working in the assembly. Before his call up in 1944 he attended Hampstead Bible School under Howard Carter and in the spring of 1944 he worked with Home Missions in their first caravan as a trainee evangelist under George Oldershaw and Henry Shave. The caravan was located at Huthwaite and the campaign also covered Stanton Hill. When his leave finished he sought a temporary job so that he could help build the young church. He was employed by Turner's Asbestos Ltd. as a clerk, but after a short period he was invited to take over the pastorate which had been vacated by Pastor Griffiths some months before in 1947.
The Reid family joined the Assembly during 1947 and when Colin took over he and Kenneth Reid became firm friends. Colin and Ken started spending half nights praying together on Fridays.
On Wednesday 28th July 1948 the church reported that 57 decisions to follow Christ had been made in the first six months of the year, 25 under 15 years of age and 32 over that age. 17 were baptised in water at Beulah AoG, Bury in co-operation with Pastor Arthur Blythe.
The Sunday school was started during the war by Mrs Gertrude Whittaker and at this time there were 81 members recorded, 47 girls and 34 boys with an attendance of between 30 and 40.
Between March and July 1948 16 open air meetings were held, 5 on the streets, 2 in Newgate and 9 in the Town Hall Square. An average of 7 people distributed 10,000 tracts. Sunday attendances at this time were 18-24 in the morning and 25-35 in the evening. Attendances Monday were 18-25, Wednesday 25-35 and Saturday 30-40.
A campaign with Harold Miles an evangelist fom Peniel Chapel, London was held for one week in the summer of 1948. On his last night Harold Miles was unable to preach because of a soar throat, so Colin preached in his place and God gave him the joy of seeing Mr and Mrs Diggle and Sheila raise their hands at the appeal. Robert Whittaker had been training as a student teacher at Sheila's school before he went to Leeds training college. He had visited the Diggles home and invited them to the campaign. To God be the glory!
Another important event happened in 1947 when the Cliff College Trekkers held a campaign at Brimrod Methodist Church with evangelist Tom Butler. During this campaign Hazel Lee and Joan Fitton both found Christ and supported each other in their new found faith. They both attended the Assembly and in due course Colin married Hazel Kenneth married Joan. A building fund was started in 1949 as it was realised that if the church was going to grow it needed its own premises.
It was a big burden for the small assembly to support a single young man especially as membership declined due to two deaths of older members, people moving away from the town and the loss of new converts. Consequently, in 1949 Colin sought a temporary job and was employed as a wages clerk at Sharrock and Sharrock Ltd.. Colin and Hazel married on 2nd of September 1950 and in 1951 after Colin was invited to the pastorate of the Radcliffe Assembly, Ken and Joan took over the local pastorate in April 1951. This was meant to be a temporary arrangement but they filled the gap so effectively and caringly that they continued to shepherd the Assembly for many years until their retirement in 1990. It was due to their sacrificial labours that the church continued to grow.
In 1966 the church applied to the council for land, as the premises over Taylor's cafe were unsuitable. Seven years later permission was granted to build the present church. Quotations for the building of the church were over budget so it was decided that with God's help we would carry out the building work ourselves. As work progressed God in his mercy provided the finance. The building was opened in March 1974 and an extension was added in 1987.