No, not the age of a time lord (Dr Who and all that), but the number of editions of the Messenger that have been produced since it was started in October 1933! ln the October 2013 and December 2013/January 2014 editions we celebrated those 80 years and reviewed changes since 1933. So, by way of contrast, we take a look at four "snapshots" in the life of the Church as reflected in the Messenger across those 900 editions. Since we have already reflected on issue 1, we look at issue 8 (the first time that the Messenger was officially titled thus), issue 100 (when the Monthly Messenger reached three digits of editions), as well as numbers 300 and 600, significant milestones as thirds of 900!

It is an appropriate coincidence that the 900th edition also marks the 80th anniversary of the Messenger receiving that title (you will recall that it was originally untitled and that it was Helen James, the minister's wife, who called it "this little 'Messenger'"). ln May 1934 it was still a single sheet of paper. In his "Notes" for the month, Rev. Howard James mentioned that there were 131 churches in the Hampshire Congregational Union (including the lsle of Wight and Channel Islands), a not dissimilar number to our present Wessex Synod - except that includes Berkshire, Oxfordshire and parts of Surrey and Dorset! The decision had been taken in April to purchase some extra land to the South of the Church (Hall), since "the ground at the front will not be sufficient for future developments", and in order to build "a small annex to our present building, suitable for small meetings and for our Sunday School work." (That was, of course, the James Hall, and events moved extremely rapidly, since the foundations were laid in the summer, and the building was opened on October 17th, having cost £667 4s. 3d (cost price), but with £414 of this still to be paid off!)

Other events of note were the forthcoming visit of Mr Shoran S. Singha of the Indian Students' Union, London, as well as the Good Companions' summer programme of events. The GCs were the first youth group at the Church, and their plans included "an evening ramble through 'Unknown Hampshire'", as well as a visit to Winchester Cathedral, preceded by a train ride to Shawford, and then a walk into Winchester. Meanwhile the Women's Guild were having a competition of home made articles, made from odds and ends. How tastes change!

Advertisements included W. Chapman & Sons, Bakers and Confectioners of Church Street; W.L. Parkhouse & Son, Jewellers of 5 Above Bar; and P.F. Jeans, Family Butcher (!) who could provide you with "dairy fed pork" amongst other products!

issue 100 was reached in February 1942. Wartime paper shortages meant that the Monthly Messenger had been reduced to a single sheet of duplicated foolscap (both sides being used), with no adverts. ln his notes, the Rev Robinson ("Robbie") noted that evening services would move to 6pm from the start of March. There had been afternoon services at 3.30pm over the winter. With the blackout, and the fear of enemy bombing, this adjustment of service timings was a feature of wartime winters. indeed the evening service switched back to 6.30pm once there was sufficient daylight at the start of April. One can only imagine how tight for space they must have been at such times, with Sunday School immediately preceding the afternoon service, at 2.30pm. However things were even tighter in the winter of 1941-2, since a land mine that fell in Luccombe Road on the night of 21st/22nd June 1941 had damaged the southern side of the Church Hall so severely, that significant repairs were required, meaning that services were being held in the James Hall - cosy indeed!

Rev. Robinson also reflected on the continued concern for Rev. Martin Shepherd (minister of the Church from 1936-1938), who had gone to China to work as a missionary, and was in an area occupied by the Japanese. With his movements restricted, and no direct contact possible, it was hoped that no news was good news!

Moving forwards, issue 300 was reached in January 1959. The Church premises had expanded (and were about to do so again), and the Messenger had grown. Arthur Mills, minister from 1951, kept his New Year letter to a succinct length, drawing attention to the two projects of the moment: the building of the new Church, as well as "The Every Person Canvass", a scheme to rally the resources of the Church at large in Time, Talent and Treasure (the Church ultimately agreed to support the first two, but not the third aspect -- perhaps because of the financial commitment of the new building). Never one to shirk a challenge, Arthur noted "this scheme is, in many ways, quite revolutionary, but we must not be hamstrung by 'the tradition of our fathers'. That is what our Lord complained of in his day. God has yel: more light and truth to break forth from his word. We must be prepared to ask whether God is speaking to us in those terms now."

Arthur MillsRev Arthur Mills, minister 1951-1963 Elsewhere in the issue there were reports on the Festival of Carols held at St. James' Road Methodist Church by the Shirley United Front (forerunner of Churches Together in Shirley); the Christmas Fayre, where £149.90 was raised, and following concert; the young wives; the Women's Guild; the Men's Fellowship; London Missionary Society, as well as notice of no fewer than four New Year parties for different sections of the Church! it was noted that the last Church Meeting had been attended by no fewer than 52 members (no doubt due to the new Church being a top agenda item) One of the new members welcomed for the first time, was a certain Mr R. Penton.

Advertisements were back in force, including H.E. Stephens Builder and Decorator (he was also Church organist for many years); Reginald Harris, Expert Wedding Photographer (his wife, Joy, was a stalwart of the wivesl Ladies Fellowship); lngalls Cycle Works of Bellemoor Road! Wilton Road; and R. Hallum & Son, Funeral Directors of St Mary Street, who advertised "No locality too distant", although presumably no one took them up on this and asked for a funeral in Fiji...!

Issue 600 was that of July/August 1985, and the Church had changed again, having aged and mellowed. Perhaps some had become too comfortable, since minister, Rev. Robert Murray, had been tasked by Elders and Church Meeting with asking for quiet before services! Noting the tension between greeting one another and visitors, and preparing for worship, Bob noted "it is a question of priorities, and meeting with God is the priority."

The then Bishop of Durham will be remembered for some highly controversial views. Requests for a discussion on these within the Church, had led Bob to obtain a number of papers from the Bishop for the perusal of Church Members! Elsewhere in the issue, Church Treasurer Dennis Pope, noted the disparity between the offertory and expenditure - not the first or last time that such observations have been made in Church life.

The social side of things continued, as Helen Bromby outlined a comprehensive list of summer venues -- locations around Southampton for walks -- and how to get there by bus. Mostly attended by Women's Guild members, Helen noted "we...shall be particularly pleased if some of the Ladies' Fellowship are able to join us". Separately, Church Secretary Elsie Drummond, outlined the arrangements for the annual Church Picnic at Braishfield on Sunday 14th July. She also recorded that
no less than 117 responses had been received with regard to the thorny question of changing the time of morning worship at Isaac Watts, with the result that Church Meeting had decided to stick with 11am!

Almost 30 years later, and another 300 editions have passed: will there be a thousand editions of the Messenger, and what further changes will await us? Only time will tell. However, so long as it continues, it will reflect the varied news, interests and events of the life of this, our Church.