The Nostalgia Column with Margaret Watson
ANOTHER church has closed in Dewsbury, Thornhill Methodists, and I don’t have the heart to sit down and count just how many local church closures that now makes it.
It closed two weeks ago, and next month, one of its neighbours, Holy Innocents in Thornhill Lees, will also be closing.
Sadly, dwindling church attendances has meant dozens of them in Dewsbury being forced to close because there aren’t sufficient members to run them.
I would never suggest people are worse for not going to church, but I do feel Dewsbury is a poorer place without the warmth, joy and security these churches once gave to entire communities.
They were always there for us in times of rejoicing and in times of sorrow, we got married there, our children were christened there, and our loved ones were buried from there.
The Methodist churches have suffered more closures in Dewsbury than any other denomination but that is only because there were so many of them.
Chapels like Thornhill Methodists were built in great numbers during and just after the Industrial Revolution when Methodism was a way of life as well as a spiritual guide.
Most of them had hundreds of Sunday School scholars, dozens of teacher, and there was always a wealthy patron they could rely on whenever the church was in need of money for repairs.
There were once more than 30 Methodist churches in Dewsbury but I believe there are now only two – Westborough Methodists and Providence Independent Methodists in Westtown.
When Central Methodist Church closed some years ago they moved to share premises at the Longcauseway Church, where I know they are very happy, but they still lost their church.
Thornhill Methodist Church was built in 1886 but closed in 1980 and members moved to smaller premises in the village where they remained until their last service two weeks ago.
This service was one of thanksgiving and celebration to conclude the life and ministry of this lovely little church.
One can only imagine the feelings of those taking part knowing that this was the last service to be ever held there.
It was led by the Reverend Alison Crookes and the Reverend Judith Satchell, and I am taking this opportunity to reproduce the prayers they led as they walked around the church, giving thanks.
I do this out of a sense of gratitude to the small group of people who have laboured to keep their church going, and also because those prayers are a part of our history – the last prayers to be said in Thornhill Methodist Church.
This was the prayer said at the door of the church:
“This is the door through which we have entered Sunday by Sunday, where news has been exchanged, joys have been shared and comfort offered.
“We thank you for the warm welcome that has been given and received. And for the promise that wherever we go, you go before us, God of every time and place. We give you thanks.”
The prayer said at the font:
“At the font we give thanks for family life and for the extended family of the church. Thank you for the children of this church, now grown to be young people and adults, for our first steps in faith and for encouraging us to keep on growing in knowledge and love of you. Thank you for the Holy Spirit - cleansing, refreshing, confirming and sending us out to new adventures in faith.”
The prayer at the pulpit:
“This is the pulpit from which God’s word has been preached. We give thanks for the presbyters who have been appointed to this church and for the Local Preachers who have preached and led worship here.
“We thank you for the challenge and the consolation of the gospel which has been spoken, heard and heeded. Thank you for feeding us with the living word.”
The prayer at the pews:
“From the pews where we have worshipped together week by week, we give thanks for each other.
“Thank you for acquaintances that have become friends; and for the deeper fellowship founded on shared experiences and through facing challenges together. We remember those who have died, who now join with us in worship in the church eternal.”
The prayer at the organ:
“At the organ we give you thanks for your gift of music and for those who have enriched our worship in tune and song. Thank you for the voices singing hymns of praise, for music uplifting and consoling, for the songs on our lips and your music in our hearts.”
The prayer at the Communion Table.
“This is the communion table where Jesus Christ has invited us to a meal at which He is host. This is where we have received bread and wine to nurture and sustain us.
“This is where faith has been professed and where vows have been made and reaffirmed. From this place you have sent us out to serve you in the world.
“God of every time and place we give you thanks.”
And the following are the last members of the church:
Leanne Abbass, Barbara Addy, Dawn Donlan, Doris Elsworth, Barry Hamer, Robin Hawke, Brenda Hibbert, Gordon Hibbert, Judith Hirst, Stuart Hirst, Dorothy Husband, Marjorie Newton, Graham Parker, Mary Peace, Bernard Robins, Alan Robinson, Arnold Senior, Tina Shaw, Margery Smith, Susan Stocks, Stephen Turnbull, Betty Wilkinson.
And for those who have shared in the life of the church alongside them:
Maureen Mitchell, Vivien Robinson, Michael Abbass and family, and Anne Smith
Email your Dewsbury memories to firstname.lastname@example.org