Alton Webteam: April 2016
Another Superintendent I met as a local preacher was Austin Sykes. He was a farmer and took charge at Thringstone Chapel, where the service was also at 3 pm. Austin carefully explained that the service had to end promptly at 4 pm 'then we can have a short prayer meetin' afore I has to go to milk me cows'. So I took good care to see that this is what happened. After all the Superintendent had spoken!
I finished the service a couple of minutes before 4 pm but no one left, they all stayed for the 'short' prayer meeting and Austin took charge of that. He had his place in the front row of the tiny chapel. He turned to face the congregation. Out of the top pocket of his rough tweed jacket he pulled an enormous red handkerchief and laid it on the floor. He then knelt on it and prayed, not a long prayer, but sincere and from the heart. Others followed. About twenty past four, Austin, still kneeling on his red hanky, asked me to close in prayer. I did what he asked, everyone left and I found my bike to cycle back to Ashby. Austin locked up and went off to milk his cows. I suspected they followed this procedure every week but there was such a load of sincerity that I am sure the Lord in Heaven was well pleased.
This sincerity was my lasting impression of the village chapel congregations round Ashby in those years when the war changed the lives of so many, including mine. I certainly had a few rough edges knocked off me.
The following year I was actually planned to take services in some of the larger chapels such as those in Coleville, Moira and Ashby itself. So the superintendents must have given reasonable reports of the young Baptist 'Helper', or they were really desperate for preachers!
Its good to be reminded of such events and many more like them whenever I visit a Methodist church even now.
Arthur Harvey Recalls edited by Helen Jesty
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