On Sunday, March 12, 2023, the launch of a unique Oral history project titled “
Former Christ Church and its role in shaping the lives of people across
Kensington” took place in the 153 years old North Italian Romanesque
style hall of the former Christ Church building in Kensington, Liverpool. The
the project has the ambitious goal to record 20 oral victory histories of people who
have interacted, worshipped, been influenced or had community events inside
the church building.
To understand why this was a historic event, a little bit of history lesson.
Christian Gold House Ministry (CGHM), led by Ghanaian born Pastor Samuel
Sarpong may be responsible for maintaining this landmark heritage in
Kensington-Liverpool but when the now Grade 2 listed building was
constructed in 1870, it was known as Christ Church Kensington and Anglican
Christians worshipped there until 1975 when the church closed down. After
serving as a storage for a number of years, Kenyan born Pastor Gilbert Deya
ran his ministry in Liverpool from the building till he had to leave
unceremoniously. Dozen of squatters then took over the building for a number
of years. CGHM had to fight a long court battle before evicting them. It has
been delivering regular church services there since 2018 and also running a
food bank and other community activities in the building that needs a lot of
repair work if it has to survive the next 153 years. The oral history project is
intended to record part of this history for posterity.
In his keynote speech, Kensington Councilor Steve Radford thanked the CGHM
for rescuing the building from total collapse saying the oral history project was
a brilliant way of recording and keeping the collective memories of people of
Kensington. “Recording one’s history is not denigrating another person’s
history” he said. “ We travel with our customs and traditions and this brings diversity to a community, Bring your history, bring your traditions and add to
the Liverpool story” he added. In a way, councilor Radford was reechoing the
fact that most Christians who worship in the church now are Pentecostal black
Africans while those who worshiped till the church closed down in 1975 were white Anglicans.
This is a clear indication of the diversity of the population of Kensington in Liverpool Councilor Radford said he arrived in Liverpool as a young student almost 50
years ago and is one of Liverpool’s’ longest serving councilors
Speaking earlier, Mrs. Patricia Sarpong, wife of the lead pastor said “oral history
is generating and preserving original, historical and interesting information,
primary source material from personal collections through recorded history”
which is what the project being launched intended to archive through 20 video
Pastor Ibrahim Napson gave a brief history of the court battles CGHM officials
had with squatters in the beginning before they were able to evict them and
refurbish it for use as a worship site and community centre. “CGHM started as
a prayer group with just three people” he said and has since grown to a
flourishing Pentecostal ministry. He appealed for people across the community
to bring in their different skills to sustain the church as a community meeting
point. He outlined the numerous problems of the building including the leaking
roofs broken windows and walls and issues with the floor boards. CGHM is
hoping they get financial assistance to fix the building to acceptable standards
Tell us your Story…in your own words.
Two long established oral historians Judith Jones and Stephen Kelly who will be
training volunteers for the CGHM oral history project also made presentations
during the launch ceremony. Both have collaborated on many oral history
projects and have a wealth of experience in the section. According to Judith
Jones, “oral history is a way of understanding the written past” since people
get to hear voices and sometimes see the people telling the stories. She said
recording oral stories “allows people who have not been heard to tell their
stories. It is good to capture the stories when people are still alive”. On his
part, Stephen Kelly said it is important the people themselves tell their stories
with a brilliant football analogy…”football history must include history of the
Pastor Olivia Tchum closed the launch speeches with a reminder recording the oral history of the church was recording the stories of people who have lived, worked and interacted with the church in one way or another.
The launch event ended with the cutting of a launch cake.