It is in July that we celebrate the Church Anniversary at Alton. It is a time to look back, to consider the present and then to look forward with hope and expectation.
It is interesting to look back at the beginnings of Methodism in Alton.
A number of 'dissenters' attempted to establish a cause in the town, but it was not easy. One story is told of a Primitive Methodist Travelling Preacher, Miss Elizabeth Smith, who:
Laboured amid persecution... at one place young men strung mutilated rats to a stick which they dangled before her face as she preached but this did not prevent her delivering her message for, closing her eyes, she spoke with even greater earnestness and effect.
Wesleyan Methodism is said to have been born in Alton in 1842 when a young probationer minister stationed in the Guildford Circuit, made a series of visits to establish a cause. By 1843 Alton had its own resident minister and two services every Sunday. The congregation met in a variety of places until a site was obtained for a building which started to be built in 1845.
The first preacher is said to have used to text 'If any man thirst let him come to me and drink.' (John 7.37). Incidentally if I recall correctly my dad used that text when preaching outside a pub near Malmsbury – long before my time!
Looking back helps us to remember the faith, commitment, determination, and courage of those who went before us.
What a strange chapter will be written about the present!
Covid Pandemic, Church life restricted, masks worn, booking system in place, on-line worship and Zoom bible studies. So many limitations put in place and ordered by Government and Church authorities alike. It has been challenging, difficult and eighteen months ago, unthinkable. Let's hope and pray that this particular chapter is coming to an end whilst recording that despite it all we have kept the faith, cared for one another and discovered new ways of being church.
And what of the future?
The news this week indicates that most or all Covid restrictions will be lifted as of 19th July. Whilst we await further guidance on the detail this looks as though we will no longer need to book to come to church, face masks will be optional, and we will be able to sing once more!
As we make this transition, we are aware that some people will feel more vulnerable than others, that it will be wise to keep some social distancing (e.g., with chairs) and that for the sake of others you may choose to continue to wear a mask and sing. It will take time to rebuild the life of the church, to consider new and exciting ventures and to respond to additional challenges.
Notes from Alton Church Council
We met in person and discussed the life of the church.
The stewards report began to map a way forward with the following aims:
Worship – Our priority is to encourage people back to collective worship whilst also providing services on line for those unable to join us and as a form of outreach.
Discipleship - Look out for new bible study/discussion courses to come in the Autumn in some instances using Zoom.
Service – Plans are being made to restart Tuesday Coffee Mornings as of 27th July; Refreshments will be served after church soon, and discussions are being had about other valuable ways of serving one another and the community.
Outreach - As our autumn plans become clearer we hope to produce a leaflet to advertise all that we offer. An Alpha type course may be shared with other churches.
Children & Young People – A new 'Stay & Play' Toddler Group will begin in September; Messy Church will return; Lighthouse have made plans and we commend the BB & GB for their outstanding commitment in providing activities during the last year.
Pastoral – we encourage everyone to continue in their role as Church Family Visitors where possible.
GAP – Joint services have been arranged and planning is in hand.
Wider Mission – We will seek to support 'Mercy Ships' during 2021-2022 and aim to learn more about their work.
Reports were received regarding finance where we are on course to remain on budget, property, safeguarding, the family committee, lettings and the return of notice sheets and monthly newsletters kindly prepared by Nancy & David as of September.
Dates for your Diary
Sunday 11th July Alton Church Anniversary and Gift Day 10am.
Please see the gift day letter and ways to donate to the church if you wish too.
Saturday 17th July from 2:30pm
Cream Tea in the Alton Manse Garden
Monday July 19th
Farewell Service for Rev Chris Blake our retiring superintendent minister and Local Preacher Accreditation Service – for Liam Sheridan. Arrivals, gathering & picnic from 5.30 pm
Service in the Garden 7pm by kind agreement of Paul & Mair Fry (Little Oakley, Boundary Road, Dockenfield, GU10 4EU )
(Bring your own picnic & chair, parking on site)
(If wet to be held at North Camp Methodist Church.)
Please let your church stewards know if you are going!
Alton Sunday Coffee Rota
Please contact Di Wright if you are able to assist with this as restrictions ease.