|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 1st April 1955, transcribed by Gill Hollis|
A common purpose makes these 259 Methodists one big happy family
| Fifty years ago the Church played an essential role in the life of the community. If today the world is more materialistic, Rushden Park Road Methodist Church, which is now celebrating a jubilee, has not suffered.
It has gone from strength to strength since the opening of the present building in 1905, when the Rev. Howard May said that a church should be made to feel like a home to get a response from the people. That is the way it has been. The Park Road church has taken an active part in the social, as well as the spiritual, life of its congregation.
There are records of a Rushden Methodist cause of 15 members attached to the Bedford Circuit in 1781. In 1817 they worshipped in an old barn, converted into a chapel about 1827. The present Methodist Society was founded in 1888, and met at the Public Hall in Coffee Tavern Lane.
After one more move to the B.W.T.A. Hall it was decided to build, and the present school was the result.
Services were held there until 1905. Increased membership had prompted the decision to build on ground adjoining.
Much of the credit for this big forward step and for the general growth of Methodism in the town belongs to the brothers Thomas and Isaac Cunnington.
Some doubted the wisdom of incurring such a big financial responsibility, but the brothers encouraged the idea and did everything in their power to forward it.
On April 8, 1904, the foundation stones of the new church were laid, and a little over 12 months later on Easter Monday the opening ceremony was held.
The building cost about £5,200. Money was raised by donations, and when the doors opened the sum outstanding was only £1,190.
When Thomas Cunningham died he bequeathed £800 which cleared what remained of the debt.
On the opening day of the new church Methodists came from miles around. In the “Argus” of Friday, April 28, 1905 there was a photograph and a long report of the proceedings. The reporter describes the building as “capable of holding 750 persons” and of “a light and airy appearance” inside.
After the first service, a public luncheon was served in the schoolroom. It had been “generously provided by two ladies whose names were not divulged.”
Many people still living can look back on that opening day, and may remember the words of the Rev. C. H. Kelly, who said in his sermon “I appeal to the young people present to consecrate themselves to God’s service at the opening of this place so that those of us who may attend its jubilee can then recall the day with joy.”
Mr. W. E. Capon remembers the day as a very great occasion, yet his most vivid memory is not of the first service in the new church, but of the last service in what is now the hall.
For Mrs. Sherwin Smith, who now lives at Crosshills, near Keightey, in Yorkshire, the opening was “a great thrill.” She remembers as a child playing around the new church when it was being built, and when the great day came, standing outside the main door and seeing the enormous crowd which had come to watch the event.
After she had been at the Sunday School for a number of years she took a class of boys. At the old scholars’ reunion on March 5 she met a number of them again.
Two had taken up the ministry Mr. Westley Webb and Mr. F. Bayes, who now lives in Canada. Two others Mr. E. Wood, of Higham Ferrers, and Mr. John Craker, now the Lieutenant of the Boys’ Brigade Company became local preachers.
60 Years in Choir
Mrs. Smith herself married a minister and left Rushden about 1928, but since her husband died she has spent much of her time at Rushden. Her sister Mrs. George Parker, 27 Glassbrook Road, Rushden, has been in the choir for 60 years and in the Sisterhood for 40.
Mrs. Parker sang her first solo at the age of 10.
The Sisterhood, once called the Mothers’ Meeting, started about 1907, in the time of the Rev. R. H. Colwell, and now has an average attendance of 50.
Every week the Wesley Guild also meets for devotion and fellowship.
The church is proud of its choir, which is trained and conducted by Mr. John Cooke. There is also an enthusiastic male voice choir, which started 10 years ago and now has 24 members. The first conductor was the Rev. N. P. Goldhawk, and Mr. H. F. Smith, music master at Tennyson Road County Modern School is now in charge.
The Sunday School, fully graded needs more teachers to cope with rising membership.
As a follow-up from the school, the last minister, the Rev. C. F. Guy, started the Manse Class Fellowship. Mainly designed for young people between the ages of 14 and 21, the fellowship seeks to train them for service to the church and give them a greater depth of Christian knowledge. Members visit the surrounding villages and conduct services, sometimes giving a five-minute talk.
The Girls’ Brigade and Life Boys meet weekly for drill, devotions and games.
Now, with a membership of 28, the Dramatic Society was formed in November, 1945, after several plays had been produced by members of the church, and has raised £260 for the church funds. The shows are produced by Mrs. C. Espin and Mr. G. T. Macpherson, with Mr. J. Craker as technician, and the group is affiliated to the British Drama League.
A Games Club caters for tennis and badminton. The Minister’s Class, which is held in the church parlour on alternate Tuesdays, is followed by a Sewing Meeting tea. The actual sewing is done at home, and last year raised £190. For this group the highlights of the year are the annual outing, the strawberry tea, and the Christmas bazaar stall.
A new organ the first electronic instrument in the district has just been placed in the church, and awaits official opening. It will cost £2,000, and in 12 months a large proportion of the money has been raised. The old pipe organ is to be sold, and the proceeds from it will go towards the cost of the new one, which Mr. Andrew Hazeldine will play at the jubilee celebrations on Easter Monday.
A common faith in a common cause has welded the church’s 259 members into what the present minister, the Rev. D. W. Holwell, describes as one big happy family a family with purpose.