A few weeks go I wrote 42: Exciting Churches: Raunds Methodist. One reaction was from David Matthias in The Road to "Elder" ado: Exciting Churches in which he wrote
Dave Warnock is excited about his Church, which is great to see.
Of course Raunds is only one of the Churches for which I have pastoral charge (Methodist speak for being the minister). So, being a pedantic person – when it suits me – I wanted to point out that a) no Church is "my" Church in a possesive way and b) "my" other 4 Churches (Irthlingborough, Old Weston, Thrapston and Wollaston) are also exciting. So I guess I get five times more excitement than David does.
In fact I could even argue that as Methodist Ministers are appointed to Circuits (in my case the Nene Valley Circuit) not specific Churches that I get either 12 or 15 times more excitement (the difference depends on whether you count Churches or distinct congregations).
Anyway, enough randon rambling.
Today I want to share some of the excitement of a small village chapel. Now I know that many people do not think that a small village chapel can be exciting. So let me tell you about Wollaston Chapel.
Wollaston is a village just south of Wellingborough, there are four Church traditions in the village (Baptist, CoE & Salvation Army as well as the Methodist). They all work closely together and have different strengths.
When I say that Wollaston Methodist Chapel is pretty traditional in Worship style and in the rest of it's life many will dismiss it as boring, irrelevant or dying. In fact it is none of things. Instead it has chosen to be unfashionable in order to serve people in the village that might otherwise be missed.
So Wollaston Methodist Church has deliberately chosen to serve the elderly of the village. It has done a lot of preparation for this over the years. For example in making the premises attractive, safe and easy to access for the elderly (and in the process made them very effective for others too such as the uniformed organisations who use them regularly). But this is not a Church that understands mission as providing a building. Instead they are incredibly active in all aspects of the Methodist calling : Worship, Evangelism, Learning & Caring, and Service.
Beyond the Sunday worship there is a large Wesley Guild meeting every Monday evening (well over 40 when I was there last). On Tuesdays there is a Bible Study group and on Thursdays the Church is open for quiet prayer followed by either a lunch or a Womens Fellowship (alternate weeks).
Then there is the long list of events, most of which are carefully tailored to the target age range.
For example tonight there was a tea at 4pm followed by a concert. There were over 90 guests at the tea plus the "staff". The numbers were made manageable by setting a minimum age of 70 (there is a repeat on Monday night for anyone younger). So far as I could see it would have been pretty much impossible to fit any more in the hall. The team were clearly well practiced at serving and clearing away with no fuss and great speed.
One tea was over most guests went downstairs to the chapel to sing their favourite hymns while the team cleared away all the tables, set out the chairs, built the stage (it needed to be folded away to fit so many in for tea) and then got into their costumes – all done amazingly quickly, downstairs we were still in full swing with favourite hymns when all was ready. (Note that depite having an upstairs and downstairs we also have level access to front and rear depending on whether you enter from the High Street or College Street).
The concert itself was ideally suited to the audience, there were loads of songs they knew. Plus a comedy duo (certain Church Stewards were seen in a very new light) and a set of songs from Oliver performed by children (children playing the childrens roles is what I mean). Afterwards the Church organised lifts home for anyone who wanted one.
Over the next few weeks it seems that barely a week goes by without a special event for the community organised by Wollaston Methodist Church, in them all they make sure that the good news is proclaimed and lived out.
Beyond all this the Chapel is also very active in world mission with collections for many places, plus a team goes to Croatia every year (late Nov/early Dec). They also make sure to invite speakers and preachers from a wide range of mission agencies to learn and offer prayer and practical support.
So in the morning when I am leading traditional worship and preaching at Wollaston I will do so as someone who is excited to be part of this Christian community living the gospel in the village of Wollaston.