Rededication service held to celebrate spiritualist church's 100th anniversary year
PAIGNTON'S Spiritualist Church has celebrated the 100th year since its founding with a rededication service.
The event was led by Minister David Bruton, president of the Spiritualists' National Union, and his address included a brief history of the church, which saw practically all the leading names of spiritualism grace its rostrum during the 20th century.
These included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and world renowned spiritual healer Harry Edwards.
Lew Sutton, the church's historian, said: "It was a pleasure to see Paul Rabbich, great grandson of the first president Henry Paul Rabbich, was able to attend together with his wife Susan and his mother, Mrs Hilda Rabbich, the widow of Peter who recently passed to spirit.
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"About 150 witnessed the rededication service with several paying tribute to the church and its success.
"Among those offering congratulations were ministers of the parental body, the SNU, together with representatives of regional spiritualist churches. These included Bodmin, Brixham, Dawlish, Exeter, Newton Abbot and Plymouth.
"Paignton church president Teresa Emberson responded to the kind words spoken.
"It was members of two prominent Paignton dynasties, the Rabbich and the Rossiter families, who played major roles in creating Paignton Spiritualist Church.
"The Rabbich family was mainly, if not all, baptists and in fact, Mr G. Rabbich built the baptist church in Winner Street.
"By 1895, he was Deacon Rabbich and, in 1896, tendered his resignation as church treasurer. So perhaps the scene had been set for fresh fields."
Paignton Spiritualist Society was formed and early on in the 20th century and, by 1912, possessed sufficient funds to start building their own church on land given to them be a local builder Henry Paul Rabbich.
"The site couldn't have been better lying alongside the main coastal road linking Paignton with Torquay.
"Work proceeded slowly with World War One delaying construction. Members had to wait until May 26, 1922, for the opening ceremony, performed by the wife of the president H. P. Rabbich. The local paper reported that this was the first spiritualist church in Devon.
"The Rossiters are best remembered for running Paignton's only departmental store, now sadly closed.
"Ralph Rossiter was chairman of the Paignton Urban Council and a local JP. He was to become the church's second president in 1924.
"It is not known how the two families initially became interested in spiritualism.
"It was probably through public meetings in Torbay which later on featured Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with H.P. Rabbich chairing. Conan Doyle was to become a regular visitor to speak at meetings in Torbay."
He said 1978 saw the start of annual three-day seminars that became the catalysis for transforming the church into a major teaching centre for spiritualism.
"Increasing the teaching programme in 1996 turned the church into the leading teaching centre in the South West.
"Paignton Spiritualist Church and Centre is among the most active spiritualist churches in southern England with two divine services on Sundays and three spiritual healing services a week.
"Altogether there are typically about 16 events a week.
"Visitors are most welcome and the church is easily found being adjacent to Manor Road traffic lights in the Preston area of Paignton."