In 1999 I produced a book on the history of Coleman Street Chapel, titled “Coleman Street’s Children”, a little prior to it celebrating 100 years of existence. I wanted to provide an accurate account of its history, especially the people who were involved, for the sake of posterity. I became involved with the Chapel in 1964, aged 13, when I joined the Boy Covenanter group. I maintained my involvement up to 1976, when I moved away, and resumed there in 1988, after having moved back to Southend. I was a member there to when the work closed in 2014 and taken over by the Potters House Christian Fellowship, who occupy the chapel building at this present time.
As I reflect, Coleman Street’s Children are those who have been part of what went on at the Chapel since the building opened in 1900. In its hey day the Chapel had 300 people regularly attending services and a Sunday School of 500. Even in 1964 there was a good size congregation but thereafter the congregation dwindled and the decision to close that work was made mainly based on the sense it was the right time due to our low numbers. It is worth noting that that only few of those who were around in 1964 are still around and most have passed on. While death is an inevitability for all of us, the fact they were part of the Chapel makes it especially sad. Two of Coleman Street’s Children, who I remember well, have died recently, Tim Coker and Andrew Pattison. I wish to honour their memory.
Tim was (I believe) 12 years younger than I and was around in those early years. Just after leaving University and before I left Southend, I led the Boy Covenanter group for a time and Tim was in that group. When I came back to Southend and rejoin the Chapel, Tim had also moved on, although was still in the town and his parents were members of the Chapel. I remember Tim as a quiet, decent sort who kept his own counsel (much as his father and grandfather did) yet was around to help. He was a gardener and took pride in his work. He was an accomplished musician and played the organ. Tim never married and left behind his mother and two brothers. He had been unwell for a while and his death came as a great shock. His funeral was a week ago but I could not attend. I understand some 200 people did attend the funeral and despite the sadness of the occasion, it was also a positive one and many tributes were made.
Andrew was the same age as me. He was in the same class as me at school and for a while I reckoned him as my best friend. We attended Covenanters together and got up to mischief. Our paths diverted once we left to go to college. We met a few times after that and the last time was some 3 years ago when we went over old times. Andrew was a complex character with a dry wit. He was no saint. He was a teacher but had to retire early due to ill health. He was divorced from his wife who later died and had a partner. He had three children. He had people well weighed up but could show extraordinary acts of kindness, especially to the underdog. Andrew had been unwell for some time. His funeral is arranged for Monday 30th July at Southend Crematorium, South Chapel at 2.20pm. I will be taking the funeral and in the meantime fill in some of the gaps.
The passing of Tim and Andrew have both left me with a sense of great sadness. I commend these two, Coleman Street Children, to the mercy of the Almighty, mindful that my turn could well be next.