Newssheet July 12th

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Ian Bowley

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we welcome the Rev Ian Bowley to speak during our on-line service. Ian was a minister in our circuit in the past and has also been in active missionary work abroad. He was originally invited as part of our church anniversary celebrations at Alton.

I also discovered that he married Rev. David and Aileen Ashby at Rowledge so it seems very fitting that they are also making a contribution to our service!

It is always interesting to read up on when and how a church began.

I would like to quote an article that Rev Keith Underhill wrote a few years ago:

Though Methodism had become widespread in England by the end of the Nineteenth Century, it was not until the 1830s that preachers from Independent Churches (that is, not the Church of England) began to visit Alton.
They got a rough reception — several were driven from the town by stone throwing mobs!

However, in 1842 a young minister, the Reverend Henry Needle began to visit the town regularly and by May 1843, Alton had its own Methodist preacher, the Reverend J Gostick.

Services were held in a variety of places as numbers grew, in rooms of private houses, a shed, a barn, a hop kiln and even in the open air.

In 1846 the Methodist Church was opened at the western end of the High Street, where Marks and Spencer now stands.

The church was big enough to hold 200 people and the census of 1851 states that there was a morning congregation of 60, an evening one of 92 and a Sunday School of 50.

In 1874 and 1884, the chapel was extended and was able to hold 330.

The last service there was held on Mothering Sunday, 28th March 1976 as the building had become beyond repair and it had been decided to build a new Methodist church.

The foundation stone for the new church (in its current location) was laid in September 1979 and was opened and dedicated on 6th September 1980.

The latest transformation of the Methodist Church in Alton took place in 2010, when following a one-million-pound refurbishment the church was re-dedicated on Advent Sunday that year.

Wesley would have been proud of the missionary spirit of those early (and more recent!) Methodist's. Passionate about their faith, ready to share the love of God with others, a visionary people who were also quite prepared to put up with 'stone throwing mobs' and all that would seek to discourage them.

Whilst we give thanks for the past, we also look to the future inspired by the determination and faithfulness of those who have gone before us.

At this present time, we face plenty of new challenges and opportunities.

Some questions to ask might be:
Have we learned anything about God, our faith and the life of the church over the last few months?

What have we missed most about being a gathered church and what new opportunities has it given to us?

Which community and outreach activities should we seek to take up again and what might we let go?

As people wrote about the history of our church in the past, no doubt a new chapter will be added about how the present church responded to the challenges of the Covid 19 Pandemic...

We are 'writing' that chapter right now!

I hope and pray that it will say that we picked ourselves up, saw new opportunities, overcame all that might discourage us and stepped forward in faith as a missionary minded people.

Let's pray that the chapter of church history we are writing makes for an exciting read!

Worship This Week

Sunday Service — Hymns, Songs, Readings and Reflections produced by Liz George and the speaker is Rev Ian Bowley.

To listen to the service and join in — please visit the Alton Methodist Church web site (front page) where it will be available on Sunday morning:

Next Sunday — will be a Circuit Service!

Rev Chris Blake will lead our on-line (Alton Style) service, the preacher will be the Rev David Hinchliffe — the Methodist Chair of District.

The service will be a special opportunity to say farewell to Rev Billy Slatter who is 'siting down' (retiring) after 29 years of active service. As a circuit minister Billy has had pastoral responsibility for Fleet and Hartley Wintney.

A Blessing
Let us bless the Lord: Thanks be to God. Amen

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