From our own perspective – In my time

Northolt Methodist Church ‘In My Time’!

I attended my first service at NMC in January 1994 and was welcomed by Harry Turner a cheery Irishman whom I was later to learn held many roles within the church.

Revd. Chris Gibbs, the minister, was also the minister for Hanwell and having worshipped there for many years, Kevin and I were well acquainted with his family. Chris had officiated at our daughter Catherine’s wedding in 1989.

Chris and his wife Carol ran the ‘Sausage Club’, a mother and toddler group which ran from 11.30am till 1.30pm on Thursdays and while Chris cooked a simple lunch of sausages / fish fingers chips and beans, followed by ice cream and a drink, Carol could chat and support the mums.

I was looking after our two little grandsons by now but had brought Daniel to Sausage Club when we were still living in Hanwell. Later I took over the catering when Daniel and William were both at school until with falling numbers, we closed.

One lovely member and neighbour I came to know almost as soon as we moved was Phyl Johns, she sadly died such a short time later in December 1994. She left the church a sum of money which was used to buy the lovely red carpet in the Jesus Kids’ room then known as the flower room. The church flowers were arranged there as they still are today but the Sunday School was using the hall. Perhaps it was the attraction of the new carpet but shortly afterwards the Sunday School began using the rooms behind the church and became known as the Jesus Kids’ because they didn’t like the word school. David Pilgrim came up with the name Jesus Kids’ which was popular with everyone and so the room was renamed.

I was very impressed by the small but very friendly congregation who were all so welcoming and brought my sister Hilary along to the barn dances which were social occasions run by David and Heather Wildy, sometimes with a costumed theme.

Revd. Linda McMurray followed Chris in September 1994 and it was during her ministry the church was asked for a vision for the future. Heather offered to lead a prayer group to pray for the vision to be revealed, not suspecting, I’m sure, this group would still be praying on behalf of the church family today.

Hilary also came to shared events with our sister church at Greenford, a memorable one being a celebration of Passover with all the Jewish symbols.

Linda officiated at John and Constance’s blessing of their marriage and the baptism of Dorcas.

By now Kevin and I knew the members of our church well and offered to have a BBQ in our garden to celebrate the church’s seventieth anniversary. On a lovely warm day Kevin and Linda’s husband Nigel, sporting aprons, manned the BBQ. This was such a success we were able to repeat this a few times until numbers grew too large for our garden.

Other memories include a visit to the Chiltern Open Air Museum where Elizabeth Sherman taught primary school children and would keep us laughing with her stories of the funny things the children said and did. We had picnics in the park, a trip on the Leighton Buzzard Narrow gauge railway, Ivy and I cooked BBQ type meals for 40 using our cooking facilities across the road as well as the church kitchen. More recently we have been on a trip to Hever Castle.

With our farewell after five years to Linda and Nigel said, we were ready to welcome another lady minister Revd. Lucille Kaye and her husband Rupert a local preacher.

When I came to Northolt we did not have the lovely Emmanuel room we have today. It was a bleak grey room full of useful items for church maintenance and a general store room for just about everything including a large metal filing cabinet, a damaged wooden wardrobe, in fact the ‘kitchen sink’ and known affectionately as Harry’s room after Harry Turner. He would be at the church nearly every day with his delightful wife Kitty undertaking some job or another using the most basic or materials (nails, screws, string, fuse wire and tape)! Harry must have saved the church an unimaginable amount of money.

By this time I had joined the Bright Hour meetings on a Tuesday afternoon and remember Lucille’s wonderful portrayals of women in the bible. Over two or three years during the summer she ran a Bible holiday week at Greenford inviting me to help. Daniel and William thoroughly enjoyed themselves and these weeks brought the stories from the bible to life for the children there. Daniel and William were eager participants in the circuit sports days too.

Lucille invited me to think about becoming a steward but this had to be put on hold as I was waiting for surgery, it did allow me a fair amount of time for prayer and accepting.

Being a steward gave me the opportunity to experience many emotions, from sheer fear as on the first occasion when I was gripping the pulpit so tightly to stop me from shaking that my knuckles were white, through to joy at giving good news, or sadness at having to announce one of our dear members was very ill or had died. I was embarrassed on one occasion when I suddenly spied a mop and bucket in the pulpit as the preacher came through the door and decided to welcome him and then apologise. Then to my relief, discovered these were his visual aids! I introduced a local preacher as ‘Reverend’ and finally recall having to quickly arrange with Carol to proceed with worship as a preacher had not arrived!

I also found out just how supportive our members are and any criticism was honest and gently given. My thanks go to Dorothy Horn and Ivy Emery for all the help, advice and prayer support offered.

The millennium was approaching and the suggestion to have an illuminated cross on the front of the church was made. Estimates were obtained, only for Ealing Council to turn down our application. However with persistence we had our cross in place by 2000. It has become quite a landmark over the years and made passersby more aware of the building, especially at night and many times we’ve heard “I never knew there was a church there”.

Sadly Harry Turner died and Lucille thought better use could be made of the store room. A massive clear out followed. New flooring was laid and Yvonne Cumberbatch (one of the Jesus Kids teachers) who left us to go to live in Barbados, bought us a beautiful carpet to go on the new floor. Large new cupboards were installed in the Jesus Kids’ room. The two rooms were transformed. Lucille invited Kitty to officially open the Emmanuel room on Easter Sunday.

Lucille introduced us to prayer walking which we have continued to do with Elizabeth arranging the walk to begin at 9am.followed by a church breakfast before our usual Sunday worship.
Although we would have liked Lucile to extend her ministry, God had called to her to move and we said farewell with mixed feelings.

Having had two lady ministers the stewards thought it would be appropriate to have a male minister and we were blessed with Revd. Kip Bennett. who had led our worship once before, memorably riding a bike down the aisle!

I’m sure I will not be the only one to remember his very varied visual aids which often needed help from our Jesus Kids’ and the wonderful Christmas Day celebrations. I recall one Trinity Sunday looking up from the hymn book to see a plastic duck spewing popcorn into a bowl on the organ! Kip was using cornflakes, flour and popcorn as an illustration of the Trinity which is such a difficult concept for new believers.

As church numbers increased it was decided to remove the pulpit to provide more room and this was done just in time to accommodate the guests invited to Michelle and Anthony’s wedding, which was a truly wonderful celebration. However, even with the pulpit removed, there were as many guests outside the church as in it!

With the pulpit removed, we now use the lovely oak lectern which had stood unused in the vestry since I had first joined the church.

With the area where the pulpit had stood giving more space, Jane, Kip’s wife who had offered to play the piano for us when we had difficulty finding an organist, encouraged some of our members to form a worship group. Karen and Lindsey regularly lead the singing, Anton plays the guitar, Tiffany occasionally plays the saxophone to which the church contributed and with the purchase of an electronic drum kit, Keisha and more often Toby, make a huge contribution to the group. Thanks to Jane’s hard work and commitment, the group has gone from strength to strength and is another joy for all of us.

Installation of the Audi Visual equipment was controversial in the planning stage but is much appreciated now to display the words to hymns and to highlight information or supplement a sermon.

Through a bequest from Phyllis Churchouse who became a member in 1994 and who, like Harry, had undertaken many positions in the church, we were able to refurbish the kitchen which was named “Phyl’s kitchen” in her memory. Phyl must have literally spent several years of her time in the kitchen making cups of tea!

Kip suffered ill health throughout his ministry but with his strong conviction that God can heal, held a Healing service asking members to come forward if they would like to be prayed with. This was well received and we now try to have a healing service once a quarter.

The church’s 60th, 70th and 75th Anniversaries of continual worship on this site were celebrated in 1993, 2003 and 2008 and booklets compiled for each occasion.

Our Worship leaders have felt the call to lead a service once a quarter and are often assisted by the Jesus Kids’.

Northala Fields with its four distinctive mounds, completed about 5 years ago , became the focus for SING (Soul in Northolt and Greenford) to approach Ealing Council for permission to have a Walk of Witness on Good Friday from the Clock Green in Northolt Village to the main mound in Northala Fields and to include a brief time of worship as well. Kip, a great DIY enthusiast made a huge wooden cross and arranged the fixtures. For the last four years Christians from various local churches have walked to the main mound carrying the cross. Our church now offers an invitation for Good Friday walkers to call in to our church on their way home to enjoy a drink and hot cross bun in our hall. On one very warm Good Friday, we were able to sit in the church garden!

I was thrilled when permission was also granted for local Christians to hold a sunrise celebration of Holy Communion on Easter Sunday on the main mound. Sadly we can no longer leave the cross on the mound from Good Friday to Easter Sunday as vandals have destroyed the cross in previous years. So sad.

Kip came to the rescue of the property stewards on several occasions willingly joining in Gardening days, clearing drains, climbing on the roof, boarding up windows and doorways following break-ins and doing minor electrical jobs.

Kip was with us for eight years, sadly having to take early retirement due to poor health and is missed on so many levels especially by the property stewards but happily we still have Jane to lead the worship group.

In September 2012 we looked forward to welcoming Revd. Chrissie Howe as our minister. However due to restructuring within the Ealing Trinity Circuit, Chrissie is handing over the pastoral care of Northolt and Greenford churches to Revd. Peter Catford. We are sorry we have not had the opportunity to get to know Chrissie better but look forward to welcoming Peter and his family to our Church before our 80th anniversary.

Margaret McCarthy