The Parish of Christ Church, Sutton
The now busy, densely populated commuter town of Sutton, on the outskirts of South London was a very different place in 1876. Then, surrounded by fields and open spaces, Sutton had a reputation for gentility and finery. However, with a good water supply and railway system change came rapidly. As the population increased, so the roads and houses spread into the farmlands and lavender fields to the south of the town centre, where Christ Church is now situated. To meet this growth away from the town centre and the parish church of St Nicholas, the people living to the south felt the need for a nearer church. So, in 1876, a temporary iron structure was licensed for public worship next to Brighton Road. The rector of St Nicholas, Rev JA Giles was licensed to take services and Rev. HW Turner became Curate-in-Charge until 1886 when he was appointed Rector of St Nicholas, handing over Christ Church to Rev. James Courtney-Gale, who had a long ministry at Christ Church lasting over 50 years.
The Iron Church proved so popular that after six years it had to be lengthened to accommodate the increasing population. With such a thriving congregation there was clearly a need for a permanent church and after ten years in a temporary building, a site, mostly glebeland, was chosen. In 1886 construction began amongst lavender fields to the east of Brighton Road, in what would become Christchurch Park.
After much preparation and fundraising, and in spite of difficulties and delays, Christ Church was ready for dedication at a ceremony on May 19th 1888 – in which year Christ Church became a parish in its own right.
Rev.James Courtney-Gale died in the Vicarage on 9th November 1937 aged 80. The next Incumbent was Crauford Murray. After the war Crauford was able to extend his visiting by a gift of a car from the Parish, he also became Rural Dean of Sutton. Crauford Murray was robed ready to take a funeral service on 29th October 1955 when the Verger came to the Vestry to get him and found him dead on the floor.
The next interregnum was very short. The Institution and Induction of the Rev. Frank Stanley Lewis MA, by Dr. Bertram Simpson, Bishop of Southwark, took place on 16th April 1956. At this time there were over 900 names on the Electoral Roll. Frank's outstanding feature was to regularly visit every member of the congregation. Frank Lewis retired in 1974 to Pershore.
The Rev. John Hackett MA was Instituted as Vicar at Christ Church on Tuesday 26th November 1974, by the Bishop of Southwark. On Whit Sunday 1980 the B.B.C. programme Songs of Praise came from Christ Church, transmission was on 25th May to an audience of 5,000,000. John Hackett left Christ Church and was Inducted as Rector of Holy Trinity Clapham on 19th September 1985. Sadly John died a few years later from heart problems.
Alan Mathers was Inducted as Vicar at Christ Church by the Bishop of Croydon on the 22nd February 1986. Alan, his wife Muriel and their son Richard soon settled down in the Vicarage. The Church celebrated its Centenary on the 18th May 1988. Alan continueed as Vicar at the Church until 1995, when he moved to the South of France to take up Ministry at the Holt Trinity Church in Cannes.
In September 1996 the Rev. Colin Gale was Inducted as Vicar of Christ Church by the Bishop of Croydon, Bishop Wilfred. During his time at Christ Church the original Vicarage was sold and the money used to build another one on the opposite side of the grounds. Colin left in 2004 to become Vicar of Burstow and Horne.
In 2006 the Sutton Team Ministry was created providing ministerial oversite to Christ Church, St Nicholas Church and St Barnabas Church. Rev Dame Sarah Mullally was appointed Team Rector and she was soon joined by Rev P. Mark Pullinger as Team Vicar. Together they developed the Team Ministry and helped each of the three churches discover exciting ways of sharing together in worship and teaching whilst still maintaining their own unique characteristics and styles. Sarah left the team in 2012 when she was appointed Canon at Salisbury Cathedral, then Bishop of Exeter, and Bishop of London in December 2017. Mark also moved on in 2015 to become Team Vicar at Merstham and Gatton Team Ministry. Rev Justine Middlemiss joined the team in 2013 as Team Rector and she was joined by Rev Phil Brooks in 2016, who had special responsibility for Christ Church. Christ Church is now moving into a new period of Group Ministry with St Nicholas and St Barnabas churches, with all three churches having their own dedicated clergy.