Petersfield was early in the field of churches working together with records going back to 1874 showing that the Free Churches were meeting together for prayer. In 1913 a Standing Interdenominational Committee was formed of the Anglican and Free Churches and in the late 1950s the clergy and ministers of the town began to meet in a monthly Fraternal for coffee, talk and prayer. As a mutual friendship grew between the churches, this led to much sharing in joint activities and, so far as loyalty to their own tradition allowed, to combined worship.
In 1968, the Petersfield and District Council of Churches was formed, and the range of joint activities continued and expanded. In 1973, a group of members under this umbrella banded together and made donations to form a fund to help in the housing of people whom local government could not assist. From this grew the Petersfield Housing Association. Other examples of practical activities which continue to serve the community are the Society for Special Needs, the Voluntary Care Group, the Social Concerns Group, the Holiday Club and the Unity Bookshop. In total, the number of active affiliated groups currently amounts to fourteen.
The PACT Bible: at the PACT AGM each year the PACT Bible is
handed by the current PACT Chairperson to the next Chairperson
In addition to these practical activities, many of a more spiritual nature, involving all the churches, were begun in the 1960s and continue today. During the season of Lent, several groups meet for Bible Study and discussion in private houses. More public functions include: ‘Carols in the Square’ at Christmas time, with singing accompanied by the Salvation Army band; the Procession of Witness on Good Friday, starting from the Methodist Church and finishing with a service in the Square; the joint Pentecost Service. Combined services are held in one of the church buildings throughout the year, notably the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January and One World Week in October. Alpha courses were begun in 1993.
In 1990, the title of the co-ordinating body was changed to ‘Petersfield Area Churches Together’, usually abbreviated to ‘PACT’. This reflected the change in the national title from ‘Council of Churches’.
Reproduced by kind permission of Petersfield Area Historical Society
A History of Christianity in Petersfield