Aspects of Church Life

Painting of Christ Church by Stein Ingolfsrud


The stewardship Campaign is one way in which some Methodist churches have tried to become more effective. Any church considering a Stewardship campaign has to decide what areas the Church wishes to explore or develop, and set itself some aims.

A team of volunteer hostesses ensure that as many members and associates of the Church as possible are then invited to a big Church family meal. After sharing the meal some members of the Church talk about their Christian experience, possibly with special reference to their time in this particular Church. Everyone receives literature explaining the Campaign.

During the next two weeks or so a team of Church members then visit everyone who is willing to take part. The visitors carry back to the Minister any comments or suggestions about the way the Church is going, any offers of help in areas suggested by the aims of the Campaign and any needs that the Church might be able to meet. In general the conversations are confidential, although offers of help are, of course, passed on to church members who are organising particular activities.

The idea of a campaign surfaced at intervals, but the time did not seem right until 1984. A Stewardship Committee was formed to decide on the aim and objectives of the Campaign. The Committee gathered in ideas from other Church committees, adding ideas and developing a program to submit to the Church Council.

The theme of the first campaign was "Together Alive in Christ" Mr Adrian Booker was invited from the Home Missions Department to act as director for the first campaign. A Family Meal was arranged at the Church of England School on May 11th. The School was then still on premises next to St. John's Church in Church Road. All those at the meal received packs with information, time and talent forms and a more confidential offertory commitment form. The visitors arranged times to visit during the next couple of weeks. A service of thanksgiving was held at the end of the visiting.

The campaign showed the talents available from among the Church family and also some needs to be met. As far as possible these offers and needs were followed up. It was a chance to rethink and revitalise our church life.

The inclusion of financial commitments from those willing and able to make them improved the church treasurer's ability to make a budget, including a forecast of the excess of income over local requirements that would be available for supporting Missions and other church work elsewhere. This enabled extra collections to be minimised and concentrated on unforeseen needs, particularly appeals for disaster relief. A part of the regular income from church collections and letting of premises was also allocated for the Minister's Benevolence fund and an allowance was also given for a Stewards discretionary fund so that help could be given for individual needs or small donations to appeals from charities which were worthy of support, but not chosen for a special appeal.

A follow up campaign took place in March 1986 which was organised completely within Christ Church. The theme on this occasion was "Sharing and Caring In Christ". We needed a slightly larger venue to get the church family together, and we were fortunate to be able to use the Bulmershe School hall for the Family Meal.

Two years later a third campaign was arranged. The theme was "Reaching Out in Jesus". The meal took place in the splendid, new Woodley Baptist Church Centre. This was in a sense a return of hospitality and further expression of mutual friendship, since the Baptist congregation worshipped at the Christ Church (then Methodist) premises for part of the time that they were meeting before they were able to build their own Centre.

Christ Church continued to look to the future. After discussion at the church meeting a steering committee was set up to explore ideas for further events. Suggestions included a plan less concentrated on a very busy few weeks with perhaps further development of opportunities for people of all ages to deepen our knowledge of the Faith by study groups or seminars e.g. Face to Face.

In subsequent years there have been many similar activities and further stewardship campaigns.

Activity Groups

Christ Church has always had lots of activities and groups catering for various ages and interests. They were often reported in Woodley Methodist News:

Woodley Methodist News

Details of some of those listed below, that are still going (shown in bold), can be found elsewhere.

  Wesley Guild
  Network (women’s group)
  Young Wives
  Mothers and Others
  Drop In Centre
  Coffee Cup
  Rainbow Café

  House Fellowship
  Manse Bible Study
  Bible Study Group
  Prayer and Praise
  Church/Guild holidays

  Music Group/Band
  Senior Choir
  Junior Choir
  Taizé Group/Harmony
  High Spirits singing group
  Mannafeast drama and music group

  Girls’ Brigade
  Boys’ Brigade
  Scouts (2nd and 4th Woodley)
  Y-chat discussion/social group 
  Youth Club
  Saturday Club
  Holiday Bible Club
  "Squash" discussion/social group 

In addition many other groups use our premises:

Dancers, lace makers, slimmers, study groups, pre-school, and so on.

History of our Church Projects

Youth Work

Youth Clubs and other young peoples meetings

Less than 8 months after the church opening The Church formed a Youth Council. No Minutes exist of the meeting at which it was constituted, but its first meeting took place on 15th June 1964 at 7:45pm. Some idea of the organisations already in existence can be gained from the representation on that first council, which was recorded in the minutes for 17th September 1964:

 1. The Minister (chairman)                       Rev G Webber     
 2. Secretary of the Youth Council                Mr F Riley       
 3. Treasurer                                     Mr N Rees
 4. One representative appointed by the trustees  Mr J Daglish
 5. One representative of the Leaders Meeting     Mrs A Woods
 6. Sunday School Superintendent                  Mr N Vine        
 7. One other officer of the Sunday School        Mrs E Ripley      
The Leader of every youth organisation functioning in the Church and recognised by council:
 8. Secretary of the Wesley Guild                 Mrs D Cross      
 9. Youth Group leader                            Mr Dingwall
10. GB Captain                                    Mrs Vine        
11. Scout Master                                  Mr Smith
12. Cub Master                                    Mr M Arthur  
13. Christian Citizenship Secretary               Mrs F Riley 
14. JMA and YMA secretary                         Mrs R Curnow
15. Educational Secretary                         Mr N Sugg
16. Cradle Roll Secretary                         Mrs Hetherington  
    One additional representative of the Sunday School      Mrs Laschok 
    One additional representative of the Wesley Guild       Mr R Hetherington
    One additional representative of the Youth Group        Mrs R Dingwall
    One additional representative of the GB                 Mrs D Hart            
    One additional representative of the Scouts             Mr D Hart                        
    One additional representative of the Cubs               Mr B Alderman            
Also up to three co-opted members.

The first business of the Council was to establish the Youth Group on a proper footing. The Group then numbered 12 (full members) and their friends. Mr Dingwall had been acting informally as the Group Leader with coffee evenings at his home for the Youth of the Church. He agreed to take on the position of Youth Group Leader. The Group would continue to have a social evening on Sundays and also weekday activities.

The shape of Youth Work depends both on the ages of the children of church families, since they can provide a nucleus of members, and on the leadership available. Various changes are recorded in the Youth Council minutes.

Mr and Mrs Dingwall resigned in May 1965 and the Youth Club (as it was then named) was suspended until September. By the July Council meeting a Mr D Coghill, lately transferred into the area and with Youth work experience, had been approached by Rev. Webber and he reopened the club that September. Unfortunately by December Mr Coghill's work took him to the north of England and Mr Riley was asked to take over the leadership. Shortly afterwards Mr Sellars was approached to act as his assistant.

Inevitably there were several changes of personnel in the Council itself and in the uniformed organisations. However the Youth Club continued until October 1967, when Mr Riley and his assistant Mr Sellars reported that a rowdy element had joined the Club, creating a disturbing influence and making it increasingly difficult to maintain order. It was decided to close the club and reopen in November with a smaller and more closely knit group at first. Also the leadership would be expanded to four, operating as two teams on alternate weeks. At the same meeting Mr and Mrs Sugg offered to start a Sunday night Fellowship meeting for young people, possibly starting on November 5th. This could act as an evangelical activity and strengthen links between young people and the church. The young people were to be sounded out on this idea and also on the best day for the Youth Club to meet - Monday was thought to be a possibility.

There is no record of the proposed Fellowship in the two remaining minutes, but the Youth Club was recorded as having 28 members and a waiting list of 20 in September 1970. However the Club did not open in the Autumn of 1971 "due to the influence of the Bulmershe Centre". Presumably time was needed for the pattern of use of the new attraction to become clear and a restart was planned for January 1972.

No further meetings of the Council are recorded. It was formally dissolved at the Leaders Meeting on 26th February 1974. This was a consequence of new Church structures which were being introduced throughout Methodism. Indeed the Leaders Meeting itself disappeared as the new committee structure took shape.

Some further information on youth work has been gathered, mainly from Church Meeting minutes.

A Junior squash was set up by Mr and Mrs Griffiths intended primarily for youngsters between the ages of 10 and 14 years. It was held on a Sunday evening after evening service from about 8pm in various homes of people who belonged to the Church. The activities were varied, i.e. quizzes, discussions etc. A summer event was arranged, the one to Wellington Park being especially successful and interesting. In October 1980 it was reported that the numbers in the Junior Squash were depleted. New leaders were needed as Mr and Mrs Griffiths had resigned. However from the Junior Squash, the Senior Squash eventually began.

In December 1982 membership of the Family and Neighbourhood Committee set up at the start of the joint church included representatives of Youth Club, Youth Squash and 18 Plus Group.

In July 1984 Robert Curnow, reporting from the Church Family and Neighbourhood Committee, said that "The encouraging response to the launch of the Youth Club had not been followed, as expected, by a continuing rise in attendance. A membership drive would take place in the Autumn."

In November 1985 it was reported that the Saturday Club had closed. At the same meeting Mr Adrian and Mrs Sue Dennison were said to probably be prepared to start up a 13+ Club. They had recently joined the church and Mr Dennison was trained in youth work. By the next meeting in July 1986 this new venture was reported as having made a successful start.

Some references to the work of the uniformed organisations have appeared in the previous text. We are fortunate to have a short history of the Boy's Brigade (covering 1974 - 1990) provided by Don White.

1st Woodley Boys' Brigade Company (1974 - 1990)

The founding of the Boys' Brigade Company may be described as an example of an ecumenical youth venture. In 1974, three young men met together to invite the Woodley Methodist and United Reformed Churches to sponsor the formation of a Boys' Brigade company. They were Peter Kirk (Methodist), Robin Gunstone (Baptist) and Stuart Manning (URC).

Initially two sections were proposed: a Company Section for boys aged 11+ and a Junior section for boys aged 8 to 11. In 1976 an Anchor section was also started for boys aged 6 to 8.

The Company began meeting on a Wednesday evening in the URC Church Hall in Loddon Bridge Road. When the Methodist and URC Churches joined in 1982, the Company transferred all its meetings to the Crockhamwell Road site.

Robin Gunstone took over the captaincy from Peter Kirk in 1978 and the Company continued to grow in strength, winning a number of Battalion trophies for athletics, team games, football and swimming. They also gained awards for their entries in the Woodley Carnival.

In 1983, the Company, with David Voller as captain, took a full part in the Centenary Celebrations of the Boys' Brigade. A message from our Patron, the Queen, was received and this was displayed on the rear wall of the Church.

In 1984, the BB band joined with the GB band to form a joint BB/GB band with the BB captain, Don White, as bandmaster.

Over the last 16 years, many boys from Woodley have passed through the ranks of the 1st Woodley BB Company. In any year, up to 80 boys have been involved in the activities. Some have achieved its object - that is full Christian manliness - and many more have been challenged by the Gospel and have been influenced by the example of officers and helpers.

Sadly since this history the Band has ceased to meet. The demands of school and other interests led to a decline in the number of young people who could turn out for an extra evening a week plus some weekend engagements. However the BB and GB continue.

Music and Drama

Great Beginnings: Our worship has been enlivened by the musical and dramatic talents of many of our members.

In 1986 a most ambitious and successful production called "Jacob's Wings" was staged. It told the story of Jacob and his encounters with God. Lively dialogue with more than a touch of humour and stunning singing by a massed choir of members of Junior Church made this a very memorable event. Some of the music was specially composed by Benet Gillespie. Regretfully the list of youngsters involved is too long to be able to include them all.

Since then other musicals performed by the church, its choirs and groups have included: "Jesus Barrabas", "Jonah", "Jairus's Daughter", "Spirit" and "Burning Questions".

Mannafeast: A group, who were perhaps outgrowing the meetings for young people, wanted to put their talents (known and untried) to work for the Church. Mannafeast was set up in 1987 by Lisa and Keith Waite, and Rhoda and Benet Gillespie. They decided to combine their music and drama talents to form a group to be a resource for the church, both the Minister and the local preachers. The aim was to bring God's word to life through drama and music.

The name Mannafeast (pronounced man-a-fest) was decided upon for its double meaning: a feast of manna - manna being bread from God - and its pronunciation sound like "manifest" - to show oneself.

Since 1987 the original core group of 4 increased to 11 and the group not only spent their time with preachers but also went to other churches and groups in their own right.

Drama and music are excellent media with which to approach both young and old alike, and although some of the drama has outrageous jokes there is always a serious point, to the glory of God.

The Music Group: The theme of using talents in worship leads naturally to the music group or band. This started as a new addition to our musical resources in the early 1990s, lead by Graham Walker. A group of musicians of all ages continues and frequently plays at Parade and Family services.

Choirs: There has long been a junior choir that sings at special services, and a senior choir formed each year for Christmas. There have also been choirs specialising in Taizé and harmony singing.

Fellowship Meetings

Wesley Guild: Many mid-week meetings have been formed over the years in the two churches. In the Methodist church the Wesley Guild operated from very early days, aimed at fellowship for a wide age range with a program under the headings Social, Devotional and so on. From these meetings the idea of a Guild weekend holiday around the half term in February developed. This proved so popular that it evolved into a Church Family weekend. All these mini holidays took place at Guild Holiday homes in various parts of the country. Many happy weekends have been spent by Church members with friends and families. We hope that it will continue for many years to come: however there is currently a suspension, since prices have been rising and the numbers able to go have been falling - let's hope that it may be possible to revive them.

House Fellowship and the Manse Bible Study: over the years various bible study groups have met either at the church or elsewhere, daytime or evening.

Drop-in Centre / Coffee Cup: In the summer of 1986 Miss Janice Ternent was asked to explore the possibility of providing coffee and biscuits on Church premises to provide an opportunity for lonely people to come in and meet church members on one or more weekday mornings. Although the site is not far from the main shopping centre and considerable effort went into circulating leaflets and posters the response was very small. Janice was thanked warmly for her efforts and the scheme evolved into a coffee morning on Fridays. Apart from church members this also provided a meeting place for parents waiting to collect their children from the ballet classes which use Christ Church halls.

Perhaps a predecessor to these efforts was a Mother and Toddlers group where coffee was served in the Upper Hall (then known as the Scout Hut). This served a need for a while (a baby boom?). It was operated under difficulties since the rest of the premises were hired out and the kitchen was at the opposite end of the site from the kitchen. The urn did good service.

Women's Meetings: This section is not intended to be sexist, but women are sometimes able to meet during the day, when many men are not free. Meetings tend to be set up and disappear as the needs of the Congregation change. A meeting for women on an afternoon during the week has been set up more than once. Currently a meeting under the umbrella of "Network" meets on Monday afternoons. In the early 1990s , a new development was the wives' meeting, deliberately not restricted to young wives, on Thursday mornings, which changed into "Mothers and Others".

Prayer and Praise: Christ Church is a "broad church" providing a home for people of various shades of Christian belief and a degree of variation in worship style. It has been affected by the Charismatic movement, as have many churches of all denominations. A Prayer and Praise group on Tuesday evenings met for several years until the 1990s and hosted "Life in the Spirit" seminars for local Christians.


History Index

Page last updated 11th June 2020.