St. Matthew’s Church was first built in 1899. It was a daughter church of Holy Trinity in Shelley Road. As the area north of Mill Road began to be developed, Holy Trinity had the vision for a church plant. This was a visionary move that has borne great fruit! One symbol of this great gift is the font at the back of church, a gift from Holy Trinity.
The houses around the church and the church building itself were built at around the same time. In order to develop the area the builders had to divert the Teville Stream. It used to run very close to the church; the diversion takes it away but remnants of the stream can be seen in the underpass at Worthing Station (where there is often flowing water). The underground stream comes out at the recycling centre in east Worthing. Before the church was finished there was an outbreak of typhoid in Worthing, said to have been carried by the Teville Stream. The then Vicar of Holy Trinity, Rev. Joseph Lancaster, caught typhoid and died in 1893. It is possible he caught the disease in the early stages of the building of St. Matthew’s!
The church hall was built in 1905, to which a partially weathered date stone located at the front of the large hall pays homage.
The grass area (the “tennis court”) was reserved for a future vicarage (which has never been built). As the nickname suggested, it was at one time used as a tennis court. In 1912 the final part of the church was completed: the south aisle had been left unbuilt (presumably through lack of money). There is a foundation stone, dated 1911, in the south-west corner of the building. In the 1930s there was a major refurbishment of the interior of the building. The beautiful oak panelling, the pulpit and the choir stalls were put in at this time.
St. Matthew’s remained a daughter church for many years, despite numerous appeals to the Bishop to become a parish in its own right. It was run by curates in charge but overseen by the Vicar of Holy Trinity and was part of the PCC of the whole parish. In 1989 a Team ministry was formed in Central Worthing of three parishes and four churches: St. Paul’s, Christ Church, Holy Trinity and St. Matthew’s. As such St. Matthew’s had equal status to the other churches, and a Team Vicar was appointed to St. Matthew’s. In 2008 the Christ the King team ministry broke up and for the first time St. Matthew’s became a parish in its own right with its own incumbent.
In the last few years there have been some significant additions to the fabric of the church. As a contribution to the millennium celebrations the large mural at the side of the car park illustrating Isaiah 11 was painted. It was designed by a local artist (Sarah Evans) and painted by her and members of the congregation and community.
In 2001 The church was reordered again. The servery, lighting, stage, toilet, sound, screens [ed – 2004] and carpet were all put in at this time, with the heating a little later. In 2011 the extension was built on the side of the hall using mainly labour from the congregation. In 2012 the church roof was replaced and reinsulated.
St. Matthew’s is a vibrant church where the fabric is a reflection of the life that occurs day by day. Nonetheless or history is very important and it is hoped that this part of the website will fleshed out by more articles as time goes on.