• A moment in time 10 September 2018 | View comments

  • 10th September 2018 | By David Jolley

    This year Altrincham Methodist Church celebrates 50 years in its building on Barrington Road. Last night we celebrated with an anniversary dinner in the presence of a former minister and his wife. They had travelled up from the South Coast. The M6 introduced them to 18 miles of upgrading for a ‘Smart Motorway’. Single lane for miles and miles, slows you down and strains the smiles. It was no surprise that the theme of journeys and journeying gave structure to the evening.

    This building brought together the congregations of five churches or chapels which had been struggling. So the beginning of this 50 year journey was not a beginning, nor an ending but a continuation. The Methodist Movement began in the 18th Century – a development from the Church of England, which was a development from the Catholic Church. Christianity dates from events 2000 years ago and grew from the Jewish faith which has history recorded for thousands of years before.

    We talked of an extension which provides a venue for a coffee bar and other activities through the week. We reflected on the removal of pews. The evening would raise money for a new, pitched, roof for the extension – Whoever thought that flat roofs were a good idea in the North West of England!

    Western Europe is the only part of the world where religions are in retreat, but this is the part of the world in which we live – and the 50 years have seen weekly congregations tumble from 300 to 100. The other three churches linked in the Altrincham Circuit are smaller and have also seen reduction and ageing of membership. Extrapolation is a gloomy business.

    This was not a night for gloom, but for celebration, reminiscences of humorous and wonderful happenings, as well as of sadness for the passing of good friends. But it was also a night for reflection on the nature of journey: We are travelling, learning as we go and aiming to make a better place. But there is no Promised Land, no destination that will mean no more travelling.

    As it is with the churches, so it is with our services to work with people who are unwell, and the families caring for them. It is reasonable to take stock at key times. It is appropriate to take pride in achievements and to be thankful for the dedication and triumphs of key people – and others who are the supportive cast. We find much to be saddened and frustrated about – there is much to be done to right inequalities and frank unfairness. This is the journey and we will be ever looking yonder – best to feel OK with that.

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