Church of God in Belfast Archive

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 CGB
  • Dates of Creation
      1897-2018
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English
  • Physical Description
      3 linear metres Overall, condition is good for the majority of records. Some items are poor-fair in condition, but this has been identified at item level where appropriate.
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of archive material relating to the Church of God in Belfast assembly between 1897-2018. Most material in the archive relates to the administration of the assembly and hall. This includes correspondence, minute books, roll books, and financial records such as statements and invoices. The collection also features legal documents and correspondence relating to marriage ceremonies as well as Church Trustees and premises, including plans and drawings relating to proposed building work. Finally, there are a large amount of Bible Study resources and Church publications relating to scripture, as well as personal correspondence between the Church and its members.

Administrative / Biographical History

The following church history synopsis from 2014 to 2017 was provided by the church secretary and trustee of the Church of God in Belfast, in Jan 2019.

The (Howard Street) Church of God in Belfast was founded in August 1917 by believers who had separated from the (Shiloh Hall) Needed Truth Church of God in Belfast owing to disagreements relating to newly introduced doctrinal teachings. Isaac Poots and Samuel Millar (an elder at that time in the Needed Truth Church), who separated from the Needed Truth Churches of God in 1914, later gathered with ten like-minded believers, for prayer, bible study and gospel preaching services in rented premises in Howard Street. Belfast.

During the next two years membership increased and 41 divine doctrines incorporating the doctrines of the Faith once for all delivered to the saints, were collated via weekly meetings convened for this purpose. Copies, with a fore-ward signed by several brethren, including Isaac Poots and Samuel Miller were mailed to various groups of believers within and without the island of Ireland; seeking like-minded believers with whom to unite. While some responses were encouraging, there were no replies which could made church fellowship possible. In August 1917 in the Howard Street meeting room, (17) believers, each personally committed to the 41 divine doctrines, formed the nucleus of the Howard Street Church of God in Belfast. Those who expressed a desire to serve as deacons and overseers were appointed as such. A minute book was opened to record the various activities of the church, and with many subsequent minute books, have recorded church history, without which, the details for this archive could not have been compiled.

The church meeting place moved several times, to rented premises in Donegall street, and Clarendon, Victoria Street. In 1921 the church gathered in a rented building in The Mount. East Belfast (Gilgall). A meeting place was also rented in Abetta Parade in East Belfast to hold weekly outreach gospel and children's meetings. In August 1943, the Church moved to Rugby Avenue, Belfast, as a permanent meeting place, the (vacated) Rea Memorial school building. It had been purchased by the late Samuel Miller, in 1941 for church meetings, but had been occupied by HM forces during WW2. All church services were held in the Rea Memorial building from 1945 until 1997.

The Church published several booklets on biblical teaching; A Study of the Word Church, The doctrines of The Faith; and The Subject of Worship, by Isaac Poots and Samuel Miller. Mr Millar also published a leaflet on the Books of the Bible in relation to each other. Meetings were convened on Sundays for worship; Keeping The Remembrance; Ministering the Word; and collective church prayers.

The Church gathered in Rea Memorial between 1945 and 1997, when the elders faced the problem of the ageing Rea Memorial building requiring increasing and unsustainable building and maintenance costs to keep it safe and habitable as the church meeting place. The Church meeting place moved (temporarily) to the Dundonald Business Centre in Aug. 97 and held Worship, Sunday School and Gospel meetings on Sundays. A room was also rented in the Breda Centre at Forestside to hold prayer and bible study sessions on Tuesday mornings. A small committee was formed to seek a new location in East Belfast, and to prepare schemes for a new church building and meeting place. However, during the two years of this process the church membership greatly reduced. The elders and deacons discussed the new situation and agreed that the prudent action was to abandon the new church building plan and to continue to rent on a permanent basis at Dundonald, or rent a similar suitable place in East Belfast.

By the year 2000 the church financial assets had increased substantially through bank interest on the capital sum. The accumulated church assets were gifted to evangelical organisations engaged in preaching the gospel, child evangelization, Bible translation and distribution, also overseas missionary work. Between 2000 and 2016 a total sum of some 240,000 pounds sterling was distributed to many such organizations; particularly the Child Evangelism Fellowship and the Wycliffe Bible Translation organisation, and an evangelical church in the Philippines.

The church continued to meet in the Dundonald Business Centre from mid 1997 until 2016 when decreased membership led to the decision by the trustees, in conjunction with their solicitors and the Charities Commission, to wind up the affairs of the Church, and to distribute its remaining financial assets. The permanent closure of the (Rea Memorial) Church of God in Belfast was effected reluctantly and with much regret by the remaining Trustees, elders, deacons and saints.

The last church meeting was held on the last Sunday in October 2016.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into six series which are based on function and reflect the Church's original organisation of its own records. Although some items were reordered to fit into this arrangement, most items have remained in the original order in which they arrived, and any separation of individual pieces within folders has been avoided.

Copies of documents and correspondence are common within the archive and frequently all copies have been retained. This occurs where copies have recurred in different locations throughout the archive and accompany other documents to reflect the administrative practises of the Church. 

  • CGB/1 Minute books and roll books
  • CGB/2 Church publications
  • CGB/3 Bible Study resources
  • CGB/4 Marriage ceremony records
  • CGB/5 Legal and financial records
  • CGB/6 Church governance records

Conditions Governing Access

The archive is open to any accredited reader, although some material is closed under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018; closed records are identified at item level in the catalogue. Please consult archivist for further details.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Data Protection Act, The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the University of Manchester Library in 2018 by Carlisle 'Carl' McAuley, the Church's Secretary and one of the Trustees at the time of its closure.

Archivist's Note

The Church of God in Belfast Archive was catalogued in 2018 by Fiona Doran with support from Jessica Smith, Christian Brethren Archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The records of the Church of God in Belfast were managed by the Church Secretary to support the running and development of the assembly and its services. The Archive contains notes and memos within records that were created by the Church Secretary during the process of deposit with the Christian Brethren Archive; these have been retained to reflect the grouping and identification of records during this process.

Accruals

No further accruals are expected

Related Material

The Church of God in Belfast Archive is part of the Christian Brethren Collection held at the University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Bibliography

Rea Memorial: Contending for the Faith 1917-2016, Carl McAuley, Church of God in Belfast, 2016 (CGB/2/2/1)