The International Presbyterian Church in Ealing (or IPC Ealing) can trace its roots to the arrival of Francis and Edith Schaeffer in Europe from America. It’s well known that in 1955 the Schaeffers opened their home in Huémoz, Switzerland to be a place where people might find answers to their questions and a practical demonstration of Christian care. They called this house L’Abri (meaning ‘shelter’).
It is much less well known that they were also significantly involved in the establishing of the International Presbyterian Church the year before. In doing this, Francis Schaeffer dreamt of a church that wasn’t limited by national boundaries but was a truly international expression of the body of Christ. The first IPC started near to the Schaeffers’ home, and in time consisted mainly of people who had been converted through the work of L’Abri.
In the late 1960s, Ranald and Susan Macauley (Schaeffer’s daughter and son in law) moved to Ealing, West London to begin an English L’Abri and because of people becoming Christians, IPC Ealing was born on 14th September 1969. The church initially met in a large home and had a strong ministry among students. There would be worship services, meals together, lectures and discussions. We still have people in the church who came to saving faith during those days.
A developing church
As L’Abri moved out of London to Greatham in the Hampshire countryside, IPC Ealing grew and developed its own identity. Dick Keyes was the minister for eight years, and the church forged links in the Ealing area. The congregation has always been local, with a strong emphasis on community and hospitality. One of the challenges of being a church in West London is the transient nature of the community. As I look back, I’m so grateful for those families who have stuck in the city when they could have moved out to bigger homes where life might have been less pressurised. The elders have done a sterling job over decades in providing stability to the church family. Ministers ordinarily didn’t stay long and often were drawn from the US, but during lots of changes and challenges, the light of the gospel was clearly shown in West Ealing.
Signs of growth
In 1979, the church bought an old Anglo-Catholic retreat house with a chapel, and this has been our home ever since. The building has served us wonderfully but is now inadequate to meet our needs. For the past eight years, we’ve had to meet in a local school because we’ve not been able to fit everyone in our building.
I came to the church in 2003 when I was 26. It seems ridiculously young, but there was a good, strong eldership and God has been very kind to us. We’ve seen the work grow and on a Sunday morning, there are usually around 160 of us with about 35 nationalities represented. On Sunday evenings, there are about 80 of us. Last year we planted our first daughter congregation, Immanuel Brentford, and it has been a joy to see that work grow and begin to be established. We sent out 25 people and our Associate Minister to start the work. The process of good friends leaving to start another church wasn’t easy. Financially it has stretched us, as we gave away some of our best givers, but the need of the gospel means that planting new congregations must be our focus as a church.
We have been planning a building project for the best part of the last decade and God willing, later this summer, we will have started. It’s been difficult to get to this point because English Heritage listing our Chapel meant radical changes to the design, and there is the sheer cost of building in London. We’ve seen God answer our prayers remarkably and £2 million has already been raised. We are close to being able to get diggers in the ground. Our hope throughout this process has been that we would build beyond ourselves; that generations to come would rise up and call us blessed, that we sacrificed so that a place could be built out of which Christ would be proclaimed. Ealing is such a transient area, as in any big city, and so there is a real sense in which we hope our building is saying to the local community, ‘We will keep proclaiming the gospel. The church of Jesus Christ will be here long after you are gone’.
Church life is full. There is a parent and toddler group, a lunchtime service in the Town Hall for workers, book table outreach, language classes for women, children and youth work, house-groups, Bible studies, Sunday School for both children and adults, prayer gatherings and morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day. Even as I write this, it’s encouraging to think of Christ’s body using their different gifts to build one another up and reach out. One of the encouragements of the past 14 years is to have been able to train and disciple men who have gone on to be Christian leaders elsewhere. This coming year we have two assistant ministers and a couple of interns starting with us. It’s a great investment for the church to make in future leaders.
Pray for us…
Please pray that we would equip Christians to live out the gospel publicly. As our culture becomes more hostile, I fear that the danger for all of us is that we privatise our faith and keep our heads down. We need to do a better job on this, instilling courage in one another.
The new building project is going to stretch us financially, but that is a good thing. Pray that we would be generous and trust the Lord to provide.
We are currently training four new elders and praying that they will be ordained this autumn. This will be a huge help in pastoring God’s flock here. It should, God willing, help us as we begin to think about planting again
For the congregation, I would ask you to pray that we would be committed to one another and the means of grace. In a city where time is pressurised, and work takes long hours, the danger is for Christians to become consumers in the church. Pray that those ‘one another’ imperatives of the New Testament would be a real priority for us as a church. For example, the priority of hospitality in a city like ours can have a huge impact.
Lastly, at my induction in 2003, Dick Lucas gave me four indicatives from the pastoral epistles – preach the word, guard the truth, live the faith, endure hardship. Pray that for me.