After a huge influx of members in its first 15 years, Community Church continued to expand in the 1990s. And with a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit, exciting things began to happen…
Following on from its influence in the 1980s, Community Church continued to see lives transformed and the perception of Christianity dramatically changed. One of the church leaders, David Adcock, regularly wrote features in magazines and newspapers about the church, faith matters and the relevance of Jesus to society at the time.
But it was a report by the City of Southampton Society that illustrated the true impact of the church in the local community. The document offered a (rather dismal) review of the St Mary’s area, but described Central Hall as a “gleam of encouraging enterprise” that was “fulfilling… the original purpose” of the building. It marked the reality of what God was doing as He began accomplishing His intentions for the church in their Central Hall location.
God’s will for the church continued to unfold through a range of exciting prophecies. Words included images of the church as a lighthouse shining across the Channel; being a gateway to the world; opening doors of new ministries and being a place of Jericho where God would demonstrate His power in the midst of His people.
And the prophecies quickly began to be fulfilled. Community Church suddenly experienced a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit during the Toronto Blessing in 1994. People were filled with the Spirit in fresh ways, finding new freedom and passion in their walk with God. This was accompanied by a variety of strange manifestations – falling over, crying, laughing, shaking, and speaking in tongues. As the movement swept over other churches in the region, God began demonstrating His power as He’d promised.
But the phenomenon wasn’t just confined to adults and church members. The church’s youth work took off in the 1990s. Groups like ‘Outhouse’, which held garage music nights and talks for teenagers, brought huge numbers of young people to the church, all eager to hear about Jesus in a way that was relevant to them. ‘Sublime’ and ‘Cutting Edge’ events also welcomed thousands of teens and twenties, as God continued to reveal His power and open new doors of ministry.
Nineties in Numbers
Six million tuned in when Community Church featured on BBC’s Songs of Praise in 1996.
Seven thousand young people attended the Sublime concert, Dell 98, at Southampton Football Club’s ground.
Four thousand attended the open-air Cutting Edge and Delirious? event in Hoglands Park in 1997.
One thousand people gathered in Central Hall every month from Roman Catholic, Anglican and other denominations, to worship together.
Sublime & Cutting Edge
While the numbers of young people in church were allegedly declining, the 1990s saw a huge spiritual hunger in Southampton’s youth. Sublime, a worship and concert night that was held every Saturday at Central Hall, became a celebration of what God was doing in young people at the time. They held a larger event called Cutting Edge once a month, which saw up to 1000 people at each session.
In 1998, Sublime held a Christian concert at Southampton Football Club’s ground, the Dell, with artists such as World Wide Message, Matt Redman and Hydro. Though initially declined due to the football pitch being ‘sacred ground’, eager prayer enabled the concert to go ahead and an audience of 7000 young people showed up for an incredible night of worship.
1991 – The church had their first meeting in Central Hall, after a lengthy bid process and some much-needed renovations.
1994 – The Daily Echo reported ‘Strange Happenings Down at the Church’ as Community Church experienced a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit during the Toronto Blessing.
1995 – The church began meeting with Roman Catholic and Anglican Church leaders to cooperate better as members of the same faith.
1996 – Community Church appeared on BBC’s Songs of Praise, attracting an audience of six million.
1997 – Thirty-five members of the church youth went on mission trips to Africa, India, South America and Northern Ireland.
1998 – Community Church joined 157 other churches in a nation-wide prayer event organised by the ‘Alpha Initiative’.
1999 – Church members gathered at the Sound of Thunder conference in August 1999.
“My first memory of the church was when they were singing Jehovah Jireh and I was sitting near the front with my friends. We started doing actions to the song and next thing we know David Adcock was calling us up to the front to do the actions in front of everyone! It was quite daunting and I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ll go back there!’” Sarah Amer, Central Congregation.
“In those days Central Hall looked a lot different with the old wooden seats that made a huge din when everyone sat down or stood up,” Becky Boxall, Central Congregation.
“We met a young guy called Martin Smith and he was running an event over in his home church, called Cutting Edge. He had a word about doing one over in Southampton, so we brought him across with his band and we started running the Cutting Edge event here at Central Hall. We had about 1000 young people every month,” Billy Kennedy, Senior Leader.
“Cutting Edge events were huge. On one occasion they had to turn away several people who’d travelled from Bristol and Bournemouth, because it was just rammed. People would queue around the block to get in. But those events were really formative in my faith and in encountering God’s presence for the first time,” Theo Amer, Senior Executive Leader.
“Our son went to Sublime and all the youth camps; and from the age of 14 our kids would run house groups. Because we ran a church in our early twenties, it seemed normal that they would want to lead from a young age,” Jenny Deagle, Central Congregation.
“We started to watch what was happening in people and saw that a lot of the manifestations were mirroring something that God was doing in that person. It was a very significant time,” Lizzie Cox, Eastleigh Congregation.
“I remember in one meeting everyone was laughing their socks off in a Holy Spirit laugher. But I was sobbing my heart out for about half an hour, holding some poor young man’s hand. I didn’t even know him, but he’d come over to ask for prayer and I was just sobbing all over him,” Allan Cox, Eastleigh Congregation.