Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Church - Raikes Parade Methodist Church

It was a sad day in 2003 when Raikes Parade Methodist Church held a final Methodist service and the doors were locked for the last time.  The church was no longer financially solvent.  Repair work was vital to hire out the church hall, but no money to pay for it, and no hire fees coming in – Catch 22. The congregation had diminished significantly in the preceding years.  It was nothing out of the ordinary. Members passed away and families moved on.  Reaching out into the local community seemed to have very little effect.  Most of the existing congregation lived away from the town centre, including myself.

We were married there and soon became part of the church family.  My husband was treasurer, Junior Mission for All (JMA) administrator and active member of the Men’s Fellowship.  I was crèche ‘auntie’ and Sunday School teacher for the infants. Sometimes there were no other children, just ours, so we would sit quietly in church doing some colouring and joining in with the prayers and singing.

When he was in the Cubs, our son was taking part in a St George and the Dragon drama at Sacred Heart Church after the St George’s Day parade in town. We squeezed on to a pew in the busy church with our young daughter, still on reins at that time, between us. We watched our son in the drama then I got crayons and paper out of my bag to keep little daughter occupied during the service. She was used to this. At the time for prayer, she decided to turn around, kneeling to face the people behind us who were talking quietly.

“Shush! Its hands together and eyes closed!” She said with air of authority beyond her age of two and half.

I thought I might die of embarrassment and apologised to the people behind at the earliest opportunity. Luckily they were very good humoured and said she had made their day.

It is fair to say that I was given a sound, Christian upbringing.  Previous generations were a mixture of Protestant and Catholic. As an older child I tried to get out of going to Sunday School more often than not, but by that time I was in charge of taking my little sister on the bus and back. No escape, but I could put my secret lipstick on.

I’m glad that Raikes Parade Church, is still a place of worship and hasn’t been demolished or converted beyond recognition. I have happy memories and although the congregation went separate ways into different churches, or in our case, not, we keep in touch. I only have to hear ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ or ‘Give Me Oil In My Lamp’ to be transported back with a smile.

Hymn by John Betjeman
The Church’s Restoration
In eighteen-eighty-three
Has left for contemplation
Not what there used to be.
How well the ancient woodwork
Looks round the Rect’ry hall,
Memorial of the good work
Of him who plann’d it all.
     He who took down the pew-ends
     And sold them anywhere
But kindly spared a few ends
Work’d up into a chair.
O worthy persecution
Of dust! O hue divine!
O cheerful substitution,
Thou varnished pitch-pine!
Church furnishing! Church furnishing!
Sing art and crafty praise!
He gave the brass for burnishing
He gave the thick red baize,
He gave the new addition,
Pull’d down the dull old aisle,
To pave the sweet transition
He gave th’ encaustic tile.
Of marble brown and veined
He did the pulpit make;
He order’d windows stained
Light red and crimson lake.
Sing on, with hymns uproarious,
Ye humble and aloof,
Look up! And oh how glorious
He has restored the roof!
Thanks for reading, Pam x 


Steve Rowland said...

Thanks Pam. JMA! Gosh, that takes be back to my pre-teens.

I love a blast of John Betjeman, enjoyed re-reading Hymn.