Metropolitan Tabernacle

Coordinates: 51°29′39″N 0°6′4″W / 51.49417°N 0.10111°W / 51.49417; -0.10111

The Metropolitan Tabernacle is a large Reformed Baptist church in the Elephant and Castle in London. It was the largest church edifice of its day in 1861. The Tabernacle Fellowship have been worshipping together since 1650, soon after the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers. Its first pastor was William Rider, and many notable others have filled the position since, including Benjamin Keach, Dr. John Gill, Dr. John Rippon, and C. H. Spurgeon. The Tabernacle still worships and holds to its historical principles under its present pastor, Dr. Peter Masters.


The Tabernacle fellowship dates back to 1650, when the English Parliament banned independent Christian organisations from meeting together. This congregation braved persecution until 1688, when the Baptists were once again allowed to worship in freedom. At this point, the group built their first chapel, in the Tower Bridge area.

In 1720, Dr. John Gill became pastor and served for 51 years. In 1771, Dr. John Rippon became pastor and served for 63 years. During these times, the church experienced great growth and became one of the largest congregations in the country. Afterwards decline set in and by 1850 the congregation was small.

In 1854, the most famous of all the pastors at the Metropolitan Tabernacle started serving at the youthful age of 20. His name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and he quickly became the most popular British preacher of his day. The church at the beginning of Spurgeon's pastorate was situated at New Park Street Chapel, but this soon became so full that services had to be held in hired halls such as the Surrey Gardens Music Hall.

During Spurgeon's ministry, it was decided that the church should move permanently to larger premises. The location chosen was the Elephant and Castle, a prominent location near the River Thames in South London, partly because it was thought to be the site of the burning of the Southwark Martyrs. The building, designed by William Wilmer Pocock, was finished in 1861 and dedicated on March 18. Spurgeon also founded a college for preachers (now Spurgeon's College) and church workers and orphanages for girls and boys, and wrote many Christian books which are still in print today.

In 1887, the church left the Baptist Union because of the widening influence of theological liberalism within the Union. Spurgeon was adamant that the church would not "down-grade" the faith as many other churches were doing. (See also the "Downgrade Controversy" section in the article on Charles Haddon Spurgeon.)

At the end of 1891, membership was given as 5,311 (Tabernacle capacity: 6,000 people, with 5,500 seated, 500 standing room; Tabernacle dimensions: 146' long, 81' wide, 68' high). Spurgeon died in 1892.

The original building was burned down in 1898, leaving just the front portico and basement intact, before the rebuilt church was destroyed again in 1941 during the German bombing of London in World War II. Once again, the portico and basement survived and in 1957, the Tabernacle was rebuilt to a new but much smaller design accommodating surviving original features.

The church numbers were considerably reduced following the wars, as many of the old congregation could not return to London. In 1970, Dr. Peter Masters became the pastor of the small congregation, and the church started to grow again. It is now able to support an annual School of Theology and part-time Seminary for pastors.

Services and meetings

The church holds two main services on Sundays, one in the morning at 11am, and the other (for persuasive gospel preaching) at 6.30pm. In addition to this, there is a Children's Sunday School, Bible Class and a Doctrine Class on Sunday afternoons.

During the week, a prayer meeting is held on Monday evenings and a Bible study on Wednesday evenings where God's Word is studied.

Pastors both past & present
  • William Rider, c1653–c1665 (12 years)
  • Benjamin Keach, 1668–1704 (36 years)
  • Benjamin Stinton, 1704–1718 (14 years)
  • Dr. John Gill, 1720–1771 (51 years)
  • Dr. John Rippon, 1773–1836 (63 years)
  • Joseph Angus, 1837–1839 (2 years)
  • James Smith, 1841–1850 (8 ½ years)
  • William Walters, 1851–1853 (2 years)
  • Charles Spurgeon, 1854–1892 (38 years)
  • Arthur Tappan Pierson, 1891–1893 (Pulpit Supply Only, not installed as a Pastor - 2 years)
  • Thomas Spurgeon, 1893–1908 (15 years)
  • Archibald G. Brown, 1908–1911 (3 years)
  • Dr. Amzi Clarence Dixon, 1911–1919 (8 years)
  • Harry Tydeman Chilvers, 1919–1935 (15 ½ years)
  • Dr. W Graham Scroggie, 1938–1943 (5 years)
  • W G Channon, 1944–1949 (5 years)
  • Gerald B Griffiths, 1951–1954 (3 years)
  • Eric W Hayden, 1956–1962 (6 years)
  • Dennis Pascoe, 1963–1969 (6 years)
  • Dr. Peter Masters, 1970–present
Other churches based on design

The Auckland Baptist Tabernacle in New Zealand is modelled on the Metropolitan Tabernacle and was constructed when Thomas Spurgeon (a son of Charles Spurgeon) was the minister. The Newcastle Baptist Tabernacle in Australia is also modelled on the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle, constructed in 1879 under the guidance of a student of Spurgeon's. The Tabernacle design was also followed for the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle in Sydney, the Brisbane Baptist Tabernacle (City Church) and the Hobart Baptist Tabernacle in Tasmania.

The Porto Baptist Tabernacle, first Portuguese Baptist church building dating from 1908, was also designed based on the London Tabernacle. Joseph Jones and João Jorge Oliveira were the main persons involved in the project.

The Temple Baptist Church of Powell, TN front design is fashioned like the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Their pastor is Dr. Clarence Sexton who is avid student of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Building Activity

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