History of Network
Church plant …. a pioneer Cell Church …. the story continues!
Network began as St Albans Chapel Fellowship, which was a church planted out of Ashley Church, a charismatic evangelical church in St Albans led by Roy Gregory.
The congregation at Ashley Church outgrew its building in Ashley Road in the late 80s (about 200 people). The building was enlarged but the congregation continued to grow. Volunteers were asked to go out and plant a new church which would eventually be entirely independent of Ashley Hall.
In 1992 a group of about 35 adults volunteered to church plant, out of which Chris and Sarah Hill and David and Liz West were asked to be leaders. They had a clear vision to disciple and reach people through the cell church model. Their Sunday venue was the old chapel building at St Albans Hospital, which gave the church its original name. St Albans Chapel Fellowship took its place amongst the few churches who were the first to begin to work out the cell model in UK culture.
They continued to be under the eldership at Ashley Church for three years until the time came when they felt enough confidence to become independent, as was the original plan. Relational links and friendship with Ashley Church were maintained.
As the church began to grow it became obvious that there was a bottleneck in the lack of leadership time. Through a relational link Trevor Withers was taken on in 1999 as the only employee, three days a week. He also began working for Cell UK two days a week.
The old chapel building was not an ideal venue, with no heating, toilets or kitchen facilities, so various alternative Sunday venues were each tried in turn: The Jubilee Centre in St Albans, and St Albans Girls School.
It was felt appropriate during this period to change the name of the church to Network. This reflects the high priority placed on the cell groups, and the community and outreach that these enable. See other sections of the website for more information about our cell groups/small groups, which meet during the week in homes across St Albans, Harpenden and Wheathampstead.
In 2004 the Sunday venue of Rothamsted Conference Centre was discovered, where we met for 11 years.
In the Summer of 2010 the Network leadership and the leadership of Batford Community Church began to explore the possibility of their two churches joining together. Conversations continued during 2011 between the leadership teams, trustees and the congregations of both churches, and also involved a few joint services.
The two churches finally joined together in October 2011, meeting on Sundays at Rothamsted Conference Centre and re-organising the cell groups to include a mixture of Network and BCC folks. The leadership team and trustees included representatives from both churches.
In 2015 we moved our Sunday meetings to Crabtree Fields Scout HQ, where we met for 7 years until wonderfully we outgrew it.
During the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 we quickly transitioned successfully to Zoom Sunday meetings, in such a way as to keep the participation and relational aspects of our time together, including using breakout rooms. Our small groups also continued to meet weekly on Zoom. Later in the pandemic and weather permitting both Sundays and small groups met outside when possible.
During this time we started receiving and welcoming many people into our fellowship who had relocated from Hong Kong, and these families are now an integral part of our church community. We have embraced songs in Cantonese, translation into Cantonese as much as possible, and Chinese biscuits with our coffee.
In 2022 it was clear we had outgrown the Scout HQ as our Sunday venue, so we have now relocated to Manland Primary School for Sunday meetings, see our Sunday Venue page for directions.
Our story continues, as we continue to seek God, and seek to bring his Kingdom in our relationships and areas of influence. Why not try us out one Sunday, we'd love to welcome you.