Christian Denominations

Today the Howard Memorial Church, Cardington, and what its members believe, is a product of centuries of evolution of the Christian faith, despite the building being only 100 years old. In this introduction I will give an overview of the evolution of the Christian faith starting with the Reformation in the 16th century and how Christian groups dissented further. Lastly, I will touch on which dissenting groups Howard Memorial Church Cardington is influenced by.

Until the 16th century the Established Church in England was the Roman Catholic Church. In Germany, a monk called Martin Luther spoke against the way the Pope was asking people to buy pardons for their sins so they might spend less time in purgatory (it was really a way for the Church to make money as firstly, no-one can buy off God and secondly, purgatory was an invention of the Roman Catholic Church). This thinking was the start of the Protestant Reformation, so called because the people protested against the Roman Catholic Church. However, Henry VIII wrote a pamphlet in defence of the Catholic faith and in it, Henry VIII wrote “that no man within the Kynges royalme here after presume to preche teche or infourme any thynge […] contrary to the catholyke fayth.” For this he earned the title Fidei Defensor from the Pope which means Defender of the Faith and it is for this reason that British coins still have the initials FD on them today. However, Henry VIII later broke with Rome and declared himself Head of the Church of England under the influence of Luther’s ideas in Europe. During the Reformation churches became plainer, the walls were whitewashed to cover elaborate paintings, stained glass windows were removed and services were changed from Latin to English so the emphasis changed from ritualistic type Roman Catholic services to listening to the Word of God. However, some were not satisfied with how things were done in the Church of England and these different ideas led to divisions and dissent (see fig 1).

However, in more recent years, different denominations have moved closer together again, with many united churches being set up, one of these being the Howard Memorial Church in Cardington…

Denominations diagram

….The Howard Memorial Church building was the brain-child of a Mr. Harris of the Howard Church in Mill Street, Bedford which was then a Congregational Church. The Howard Church was formed because in the 18th century it split from what is now known as the Bunyan Meeting, also in Mill Street, Bedford. However Howard Church, Mill Street Bedford, closed in 1971 and the majority of the congregation joined with St Luke’s in St Peter’s Street, Bedford (which was joint Presbyterian and Moravian). The minister of St Luke’s (Rev Harold Springbett) took a great interest in the Howard Memorial at Cardington and a close relationship was formed with that church. In the 1980s, the congregation from the Methodist Chapel in Cardington joined with the Howard Memorial Church when the Methodist Chapel building closed due to it having become unsafe.

So today the Howard Memorial Church is the product of a very varied background but what binds the Church together is a belief in a loving and wise God and a commitment to share this belief with others.