Sowerby Methodist Church
Worship each Sunday at 10.30am and occasional evening services as per the Circuit Plan
Shared Ecumenical services with Sowerby St Oswalds on occasion
More details about Sowerby Methodist Church may be found on their website at www.sowerbymethodist.org.uk
The first Methodist services in Sowerby were held in the home of Mr.& Mrs. John Rennison, which adjoined the village poor house. It was registered for worship in April 1816. Historical documents speak of the worshippers being pelted with bricks and stones but it only strengthened their faith. The leader of the mob then drowned in the Swale whilst out hunting! His son though became a local preacher and a good servant of the church that his father had so violently opposed. In 1820 the services moved to another house – ‘Nanny Atkinson’s parlour’- believed to be near the grassy area known as The Flatts.
The next move was in 1841, to a building in Back Lane which was set to hold 140 worshippers. Soon after, Sowerby appeared on the Thirsk Circuit Plan but it was becoming apparent that the premises were inadequate for the church’s activities and money was raised to build the church where we now worship. The year was 1865, the lease was for 2000 years. the plot cost £120 and the building £825. In the Methodist Recorder it was described as ‘a beautiful little Gothic chapel in the pleasant village of Sowerby’.
Soon there was a need for more space and a school-room was built on the back, the land costing £19 and the building £145. This was further extended in 1925. The organ installation was completed in 1867 and it was said to give performer and listener ‘the greatest satisfaction’ – it cost £55! A newer instrument was installed in the 1890s. Across the back of the church is a gallery, paid for by the friends of William Sinclair in his memory. The heating and lighting of the premises have been improved at intervals from 1903 to 1959 – from a stove in the corner to new-fangled central heating.
In 1962, major alterations were undertaken, rewiring, better lighting and updating of the kitchen and toilets. By 1975, an upstairs room had been constructed, comfortably furnished, in which smaller meetings can be held. The After Eights Youth Fellowship has had a large say in how it is decorated as it is also their base. These alterations served well until the 1990s. Some embarrassing moments with coffins having to be upended to get round tight corners in the entrance, heating pipes of enormous diameter and steps in the aisles to trip up the unwary led to the pews being removed, the floor being levelled and carpet being laid throughout.
The pulpit was reduced in size and far superior lighting and heating installed. The rededication of the church was in November 1997.
Once the church renovation was completed, attention turned to modernising the rest of the premises. A larger vestry was made – the other was virtually a cupboard under the stairs – and a well-equipped kitchen provided. The toilet facilities were updated to comply with present regulations. The Denman organ has also had a major overhaul.
So this is how we came to have a church in which to worship and with which to seek to fulfil our mission in the local community. From dancing classes to Pilates, from Mowbray Singers rehearsals to Women’s Institute meetings, from Beaver group sleepovers to children’s parties, the premises are rarely quiet. The flexibility of the church seating enables us to have Taize style worship, informal communion celebrations and café style services.
Around the church there are several items of furniture, many of them Mouseman pieces, given in memory of those who served the church faithfully and moved forward the work of God. In 2010, sophisticated Audio Visual equipment was installed, convincing even the sceptics that the old ways are not always the best! The church’s situation on the main Front Street means that beautiful new glass doors allow people to see in and those of us inside to realise that, in the words of Fred Pratt Green,
‘When the church of Jesus shuts its outer door
Lest the noise of traffic drown the voice of prayer.
May our prayers Lord make us ten times more aware
That the world we banish is our daily care’.
First published in March 2011 in the Circuit Magazine