For the first two years the Church relied on visiting preachers from London and the surrounding areas.
In April 1853 the Revd Robert Hamilton, who had been Pastor at the Barbican, London , accepted the position of first Pastor at The Temple. From his long letter of acceptance it is clear that no financial details had been discussed, but that he trusted he would be treated in the Christian way of the Lord.
Over the next two years the Church membership increased, a singing group was formed, extra teachers were appointed to the Sunday School, and Church Members were pledged to unite as social preachers to the local villages.
From its earliest days The Temple Church has seen outreach into the wider community to be central to its role.
In 1856 the congregation decided to visit every house in St Mary Cray and to distribute “little books” to each.
The Revd William Lewis, who began his ministry at The Temple aged 34, in 1888 continued as its pastor until his untimely death aged 62 in 1916. His was a truly significant pastorate and his obituary in the Kentish Times stated he was an earnest, gifted and sympathetic minister. There is no doubt The Temple fellowship prospered under his guidance. He also served the wider congregational community as Chairman of the Kent Union, President of the West Kent Sunday School and a Director of the Missionary Society. As a local school manager he worked for the good of the children. This concern with young people resulted in the building of new school rooms at The Temple for the Sunday School, and this included the Moffat Hall.
Early in 1924 the minutes record a request for the choir to sit underneath the pulpit on Sunday evenings – a set of chairs being made available for this purpose. By July the change was rescinded and the choir were back in the gallery.
In February 1926 the Church Meeting passed the following resolution: “That in the opinion of this Meeting it is highly desirable that the choir, in the interests of worship, should sit downstairs and move into the front seats during the sermon.” (This latter practice continues to the present day.)
One event which is specific to The Temple Church is the May Morning Breakfast. On the first Sunday in May the young men of the Church prepare and serve breakfast to the congregation. Started in 1924, the Breakfast has been held every year (even during some of the years of the Second World War) on over 76 occasions. The meal starts at 9.30 am and afterwards the morning service is held with families still sitting around the breakfast table. Traditionally the breakfast is overseen by alternatively a church member lady or gentleman, with a guest speaker providing the religious talk during the service. This event is greatly appreciated and is one of the highlights of The Temple’s year.
During the years between the two World Wars, the Temple fellowship, as in many other churches, hosted a wide range of social, entertainment and recreational clubs. These included tennis, table tennis, badminton, drama, youth clubs, Girls’ Life Brigade, cubs, scouts, rambling and camping. Initially the Tennis Club had the use of tennis courts behind the church but when these were no longer available, Mr Best, the butcher in St Mary Cray let The Temple use courts on the corner of Court Road. When this arrangement finished, Jim Vinson, one of the Deacons, met with the Nuns of St Philomena’s Convent to ask permission for use of their facilities.
By 1950 the church was closed due to the structural damage caused by a land mine dropped in 1941 and the decision taken to demolish and rebuild. The old pulpit was taken out and stored in one of the paper mills. Unfortunately it was later found to have been attacked with dry rot and destroyed – although it would have been difficult to reinstall it in the new church. The War Commission offered a grant towards the rebuilding costs and after extensive efforts by the minister and deacons this was increased to £15,000 leaving the church to raise the balance of £7,000. Unfortunately the first builder went bankrupt as the new building reached roof level – with nothing done inside. A court action was needed to obtain a settlement and allow another builder to complete the work. The final cost was £28,000 with the outstanding balance to be raised over a period of time by fund raising. The opening of the rebuilt Temple took place on Saturday 17 November 1955. Four hundred and fifty worshipers were accommodated in the new building and a further 100 heard the service relayed to the Village Hall. The Minister, the Revd C Storer and his wife received the keys from the builders and unlocked the doors to let in the congregation.
For the last 160 years The Temple Church has served the Lord in St Mary Cray. There have been many good times, always difficulties and some bad times. Through it all the fellowship has been seen as welcoming with a great deal of Christian love. It has evangelized to the local population and assisted other close areas to know more of the Lord Jesus. The buildings have always been a center point for social and religious activities for St Mary Cray, a duty we are proud to share with other churches in the area. As we move into the next 160 years we trust the Lord will continue to guide and support us, to enable us to move into new areas where we can do His Will both near and far.