Annette Brooke explores our past as recorded in The Link (our magazine before Pivot).
At this time of the year we are usually looking forward to Harvest Festival; celebrating the harvests, joining together in thanksgiving and having supper and entertainment together with our church family. We would be back to work, school or college after the summer holidays, and re-engaging in various activities or perhaps, if we are retired, enjoying the thought of a quiet autumn break. This September will be different in many ways but there will also be continuity with the past.
Alison Jordan kindly gave me a set of ‘The Link’ (1993-2003), the local Methodist Church magazine which preceded Pivot. This has provided me with some fascinating reading during lockdown! It has been interesting to compare and contrast with the recent past and possible future situations.
I found many references to consultation with the congregation. In September 1993, Rev Richard Clarke reported that an article on ‘All-age worship’ had prompted a very good response. He wrote, ‘this indicates that people do care about the structure and meaning of what happens in our services as well as being concerned about the best way to help young people to worship’. Over the 11 year period there are many references to improving engagement with young people. For example, in one article the idea of occasional Circuit Youth Services was suggested and in another, the Worship Team was charged with finding ways of encouraging more congregational involvement, and of making worship more meaningful for young people. In 1993 a Sunday evening Group was launched at Tricia and Andrew Creamer’s house (number 99). The 99ers were involved in discussion, social activities, camping and much more, supported by Tricia and Andrew until summer 2003.
I have enjoyed reading many articles about the Women’s Fellowship including this one by Trudy Hawkins which starts – ‘In July, 45 members and friends from the Women’s fellowship set out on their annual outing.’ They visited the Clark’s village in Street, ‘a comparatively new development’ and had coffee and lunch at the Methodist Church in Street. Tea was served at Midsomer Norton Methodist Church. Trudy continues, ‘isn’t it lovely to meet up with other Methodist people working for their church in the same way that we do and taking such pleasure in showing us the fruits of their labours?’
In the same (September 1994) magazine, Sheila La Rivière wrote that ‘Communication is an essential part of our work in Church’ and Barbara Morgan wrote about the 12-member team from Broadstone Methodist Church supporting Broadstone Age Concern Day Centre. Miss Laura Ball and Mrs Florence Trubridge had just retired from the team. Barbara concluded “we hear a lot about ‘Care in the Community’ – this may be your opportunity to care!”
In September 1996, Rev Paul Mears wrote in his letter, ‘A Happy New Year to you all!’ He was referring to the beginning of the New Methodist Church Year. He writes about a ‘vision’ day in November to share ideas, visions, and even our dreams of how we see our Churches developing into the new century.
There were more vision days to follow. David Spracklen gave an update in September 1997 on the proposed actions following on from the 5 vision days that had been held. These included: ‘to help us grow spiritually, a training course in spiritual development will commence, this autumn. Tony Hamilton agreed to take responsibility for setting up a library and bookstall. Jill Spracklen will be taking photographs of us all, in family groups, so that we can have an accessible record of our whole church family. The Family and Pastoral Team will be making recommendations for improving our pastoral care arrangements.’ There were many more actions and a very significant one was to begin feasibility studies of making a major extension to the church buildings!
In 1998, there was a review on the 4-weekly cycle of evening worship which had commenced the previous year; Bible Study, Evening Prayer, Holy Communion, and ‘What Shall We Talk About?’. Suggestions from the congregation were to be acted upon – greater continuity in both Bible Study and ‘What Shall We Talk About?’.
Not surprisingly a great deal was written about Building the Vision, which as we know became much more than a major extension. In September 1999, it was predicted that £200,000 would be in the bank by early 2001, from local fundraising which included Fairs, Open Gardens and so many other sales and events. By September 2002, with grants, fundraising and interest, the Redevelopment Fund was predicted to reach £1,248,000 by August. The new building, completely replacing the old church, was expected to be complete by June, 2003. Meanwhile plans were being made to bury a small time capsule and lay a foundation stone in November. The completion was delayed but as we know came to fruition in December 2003 with the official opening of the new Church.
A great deal of time was expended on achieving the ‘vision’ but throughout, our mission continued. Rev Robert McBain in his letter (September 2003) wrote, ‘we are not a cosy club for our own benefit, simply enjoying the experience of keeping each other warm. We are engaged upon the mission of the Gospel and of Christ. We are not primarily for ourselves, but for the sake of our communities and their people to share Jesus with those around us.’ ‘One thing for sure: mission cannot be on our terms. We cannot say to anyone whether child or adult “Come and join us, and learn to be like us”. That is not mission: that is humbug. Real mission means welcoming people on equal terms.’
In this edition of Pivot, we have invited you to share your experiences of ‘lockdown’ and from there we need to look to the future. The Rev McBain’s words still have a strong message for us. We may be facing a new ‘normal’ but our mission remains the same and our faith steadfast. We will need to continue to consult with our congregation, reach out and be as inclusive as we can.