The Church of Christ in Every Age
A history of Cambridge Road Methodist Church written by Alan J Ratcliffe
Acknowledgements: In writing this short history I have been able to use some of the information, researched by Bobbie Parsons, for the booklet, “The Triumphs of His Grace”, written to celebrate the centenary of the original building in 1987. I need to thank her and those editors who produced the church newsletter for many years as well as various local writers whose work is available on the internet. (Alan J Ratcliffe 7th August 2016)
IN THE BEGINNING
Methodism came late to King's Heath! The first mention of its presence was in 1878, 87 years after the death of John Wesley. The Baptists were the first church builders in 1815, rebuilt in 1872 and 1898, on its present site in the High Street. All Saints followed in 1860, and the first Wesleyan Methodist Church was erected on the corner of School Road and Cambridge Road in 1887, the year in which King's Heath became part of the Borough of Birmingham.
Towards the end of the 19th century estates at each end of King's Heath High Street were taken over for housing and the Grange Estate was purchased in 1895 with seven new roads laid out. Writing for the King's Heath Local History Society Ivor Davies clearly explained, in “The Early History of King's Heath”, that “as farming decreased in importance, the inhabitants became a mixture of business, industrial and professional middle class, together with artisans, many of whom worked in Birmingham. So these changes took place in order to fit King's Heath for its new role”.
The Wesleyan Methodist community in King's Heath started to meet in a private house in Avenue Road, the home of William Johnson and his wife. Shortly afterwards in 1878 there were regular Sunday services in the Infants' Department of King's Heath Board School in Institute Road. This initiative was apparently part of the “King's Heath Preaching and Sunday School Scheme”, but it was not entirely successful as in the first three years expenditure outstripped income by an annual average of £13, about £1 400 today!
The Cambridge Road we know today developed from these early meetings through a number of stages, being variously known as King's Heath Wesleyan Church, King's Heath Methodist Church and, from the mid 1940s, as
Cambridge Road Methodist Church. In 129 years this church has experienced
2 buildings, 3 transformations and 32 ministers, spanning the years from 1888 with the appointment of Rev. H B Workman to the current incumbent,
Rev. Nick Jones.
THE FIRST BIG CHANGE (1887)
With land already purchased in 1886, sixteen trustees met in April 1887 to form a building committee and accept a loan of £500 (£55 000 equivalent today) by James Botterley. William Hale was appointed architect for the new chapel and school and was asked to submit his prepared specifications to John Bowen, a trustee, but more significantly the appointed builder.
Good progress was made and in July 1887 the foundation stone was laid and a service was conducted by Rev. W H Tindall, superintendent minister, who very generously presented the building fund with £100. The total cost of construction was £1 973 15s 2d ( £217 030), an incredible, precise, but unrounded sum!
The first ministerial appointment was made in 1888. Having entered the Methodist ministry in 1885, the 26 year old Rev. Herbert Brook Workman only served for three years. He has the merit of being listed in Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia. He became a leading Methodist of his time and was renowned as a historian and theologian. He remained a Circuit minister until 1903 when he was appointed Principle of Westminster College. After lecturing in various universities in the USA, he became professor of Methodist Church History at the University of Chicago in 1927. He subsequently returned to England and, in 1930, was elected president of the Wesleyan Conference. He published extensively in the field of Medieval and Methodist Church history . Whilst at Cambridge Road he published “Persecution in the Early Church”. In 1912 he published “Methodism”, which has recently been reissued by the Cambridge University Press. It was interesting to discover that Dr Workman was married at Cambridge Road in July 1891. Girls from the Sunday School formed a guard of honour.
There were additional gifts provided for the church..... a communion table, a hymn book for the pulpit, a font, a water bottle and glass and a clock. Thanks were expressed for these at the first meeting of the trustees in March 1888. At the same time those responsible for providing flowers for the communion table, for playing the organ and training the choir were given grateful encouragement.
Obviously this project was successful in the light of the increase in membership from 46 in 1887 to 76 in 1897, and still growing at a pleasing and significant rate. The appointment of the first deacon in 1893 reflected an increased need of service, though by 1895 the deacon left on the grounds of affordability, when an ordained minister took charge!
For a number of years there was much discussion about building a larger church on the Cambridge Road site, following a meeting of four trustees, all wealthy men, James Botterley, John Bowen, Alfred Baker and Alban Buller, who were members of Moseley Road Wesleyan Church. In March 1896 the Birmingham Moseley Road Circuit gave approval “for the purpose of extension” and the new work would be undertaken for the “building of a suitable and commodious church to meet the wants of the popular and rapidly growing suburb at King's Heath”.
The word “extension” is interesting as it has been difficult to establish, apart from conjecture, what happened to the first church building. One theory is that it was demolished. The second theory is that the large structure was added to the original building. As the first church was brick built and the same architect and builder were employed, it seems a reasonable assumption! For those who remember the school hall and adjacent classrooms, demolished in 1982, there does seems some sense in this argument!
THE SECOND BIG CHANGE (1896 – 1898)
The foundation stone of the new church was laid on Tuesday, 23rd June, 1896. Listed on this stone, which was situated near the bottom of the staircase approached from the Cambridge Road entrance, are the names of five gentleman: -
Ebenezer Parkes, M.P., John I Parkes, J.P., Alderman J Bowen, J.P., James Botterley and Solomon Jevons.
What remained unknown until the extensive building renovation began in 2016, was that our Victorian benefactors had buried a time capsule underneath the foundation stone. The contents were contained in a large, glass bottle, which unfortunately was broken during the excavation. However, the contents, carefully folded, were discovered to be in excellent condition and we accept them as found with gratitude. Unfolding this treasure was somewhat daunting, yet uplifting when realising that they had lain untouched for 130 years!
CAPTURED IN TIME
The amazing discovery of the time capsule has given us a direct link to those people who had the vision and the faith to lay down the foundations of our church and set in motion over a century of worship, witness and outreach.
The glass capsule contained a list of the names of those who laid the foundation stone, a circuit plan, copies of The Methodist Times and the Methodist Recorder and copies of two newspapers, the Birmingham Daily Post and the Birmingham News.
The Moseley Road Plan of Religious Services was for the quarter from
12th April 1896 to 11th July 1896. Services were held at 11-00 a.m. and
6-30 p.m. with worship each Thursday at 7-30 p.m. On 21st June 1896 Southouse and Murgatroyd were appointed for morning and evening services respectively and Murgatroyd also took the mid week service. On the following Sunday Bishop, Hill and Southouse conducted divine worship at the same times. Rev. A J Southouse was minister at our church from 1895 to 1897.
The edition of the Methodist Times, a religious and social paper, was published on 18th June 1896 and is far less interesting than the Methodist Recorder of
18th June 1896. Priced one penny, its subtitle was the General Christian Chronicle. The front page featured a notice of the Liverpool Conference and a plan for this event, which cost 3 pence, and could be posted for a halfpenny.
The Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, based in four locations in London advertised recent publications, including The Mystic Secret and Other Sermons as well as The Poacher Turned Preacher, the remarkable story of John Preston of Yeadon.
There was an extensive report on the Local Preachers Mutual Aid Association in Bolton where one proposition was “to raise the maximum possible allowance to the old men from 8 shillings to 10 shillings per week”. The meeting was very impressed, but cautioned that the increase should be withheld for three years!
There were the usual advertisements, such as, perhaps unusually, “Holiday Trips for Sunday School Teachers and Friends....no, not to the Lickey Hills, but a steam yachting cruise to the Norwegian fiords or a week in Switzerland!
The back page focussed on Beecham's pills, Hovis bread, Reckitt's Blue and the latest thing for female cyclists, a platinum corset, “fits like a glove”, the substitute for stays, starting at 4 shillings and 11 pence! The present day reader of this edition of the Recorder, in spite of taking great care, quickly discovered after all these years how quickly the printer's ink transferred itself to his fingers!!
The Birmingham News provided much more local interest than the Birmingham Daily Post. The edition in the capsule was dated Saturday 20th June 1896 and cost one penny. It has only eight pages, each measuring 28 inches by 21 inches, making the turning of pages even more of a challenge than the broadsheets of today! The print was much smaller than today's publications and tested both the eyes and the concentration span.
The front page was typical of late Victorian newspapers laying out a range of advertisements and public notices. Under a column headed “Religious Notices” was one for the Wesleyan Church, Cambridge Road referring to the laying of the foundation stone on Tuesday, 23 June with an address by the
Rev. R N Young, D.D. It welcomed residents of the area to a public tea at 5-00 p.m. and a public meeting at 7-00 p.m. Somewhat incongruously below this notice was an advertisement for Cook's Conducted Tours for holidays every Saturday and Monday to Paris, Brussels, Antwerp and the Field of Waterloo. Thomas Cook had been a Baptist preacher and, if for no other reason, felt entitled to use this column. Relevance was restored in the column by the announcement that “If Christ came to Birmingham” by W H Archer was available at all bookstalls for 6 pence.
At that time a new grocery and provision store was about to open at the station end of the High Street with Ernest Vickerstaff selling “choice Ceylon tea” for one shilling a pound. In Poplar Road John Bluck was advertising “high class and cheap lines” in pottery, glass and china which “can be seen at all times.”
On the second page there was a report of a “vehicular accident” in King's Heath. Mr Payne, a hay and straw dealer from Alcester, collided with a King's Norton Rural District Council cart, causing considerable damage to the vehicles and to Mr Payne's back and left ear, as he was thrown on to the road. The police man who attended the incident alleged that Mr Payne had been driving on the wrong side of the road! He was unable to drive home, of course.
On page 5 there was a “Village Gossip Column”. The main local item supported a “laudable scheme” to erect a drinking fountain near the Jubilee lamp at the junction of Vicarage Road and Alcester Road “for the use of many horses and other quadrupeds which pass”. One well wisher suggested that Miss Richard, “the moving genius in this case”, should also consider the provision of a drinking fountain “for the benefit of thirsty strangers and passers by”.
There was cricket news, too. Barnt Green could only manage a score of 49 all out while King's Heath, because of superior batting, reached 156 for 7 wickets. It was described as an interesting match and reported that “Kirk's bowling was most effective and contributed in a material degree to the winning of the game”.
There was also a report on the King's Heath Lawn Tennis Tournament, held at the club's ground in School Road. “Fair summer weather favoured the event” and many people enjoyed the singles, doubles and mixed doubles games “for men and women”.
There was a second horse related incident reported......a runaway horse, an ex racer! Mr Middleton, a greengrocer from Middleton Road, was delivering in Avenue Road when his horse was startled. It bolted towards Vicarage Road, took two sharp left turns and was seen “going at a smart gallop” down the High Street. When its harness got entangled in its legs it was thrown to the ground. It rose and dashed off again apparently making, it was thought, for its old stables in Valentine Road. There was much shouting and “efforts of the people” to restrain it, but the determined horse took a diversion, dashed down the station approach, through the goods yard and galloped 400 yards along the railway line towards Lifford and was then stopped by “an oncoming shunting engine”. At last the horse was captured, but not without some “damage to its knees and body”.
One particularly poignant entry recorded the death of James Horner, “one of the fast diminishing Crimean veterans”. He served throughout the Crimean War (1854-1856) and fought at the battles of Alma, Inkerman and the siege of Sebastopol.
There were increased demands for information and services in Birmingham during this rapid period of expansion as shown in the wide range of advertisements for plumbing, photography, breweries, builders, carriage builders, dental surgery, millinery, holiday outfits and even coffee houses.
A CHURCH OF RED BRICK WITH TERRACOTTA DRESSINGS
After the laying of the foundation stone and the address given by
Rev Dr R N Young, Mr Thomas Barclay J.P. presided at the public meeting and a total of £420, the equivalent of £46 200 today, was raised during the day. For its part the congregation pledged a further £1 006 (£110 660) through “promised subscriptions”. Mr Bowen very generously offered £500 (£55 000) for the “estimated cost of the tower”. The company of John Bowen and Son undertook the building work at a total cost of £7 244 18s 4d (£796 840). William Hale was again hired as architect.
The Pastscape website describes the building as “a church of red brick with terracotta dressings. The nave is aisled and there is a chancel with lower ridge, transepts to both sides, one acting as an organ loft”, a description which makes the church immediately recognisable!
The church is also mentioned in the Historic England website, being described as: “The exterior is clearly designed to provide a strong architectural presence with much decorative detail. All of this combines to create a forceful presence on its street corner site and the height of the steeple can be seen from a considerable distance in the area”.
William Hale is thought to have drawn inspiration for the design from a number of sources. Apparently the porch is reminiscent of Tudor brick with examples found in East Anglia, while the tower appears to derive from a mixture of motifs from German and Dutch sources. Some historians consider Cambridge Road Church has distinct architectural merit and was well designed to suit its site and to stand out in what was quickly becoming a prosperous area of suburban Birmingham. The height of the tower measured 120 feet and the church, unsurprisingly, became labelled as the Cathedral of the Circuit!
After 19 months of construction the church was opened on 21st January 1898 by Rev. Dr W L Watkinson, President of the Conference, and a noted writer. The front door was opened with a silver key by Mrs Parkes and when the congregation was seated she declared that the church was open for divine worship. In his address Councillor Parkes congratulated the congregation on the beauty of the building, though the word “handsomeness” was used. Another memorable part of the first service was the unveiling of the stained glass window at the east end of the church above the communion area and below panels set out in gold lettering with the words of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. The window and the panels were extremely generous gifts from Mr and Mrs Bowen respectively.
THE CAMM STAINED GLASS CHANCEL WINDOW
The rose window with its five supporting panels is undoubtedly the treasure of Cambridge Road. Throughout the generations it has served to focus the attention of the congregation. It deserves close inspection, but to appreciate the finer details and the range and subtlety of colours a pair of binoculars is essential.
The left hand light shows a nativity scene featuring the Christ child with Mary, Joseph and a shepherd looking on and the feeling of adoration becomes very real. In the central lights Jesus is seen with outstretched arms blessing the bread and wine of the Last Supper. Eleven disciples, mostly bearded, are gathered round the table, one opposite Jesus with his head, as if in sorrow, resting on the linen cloth. The facial expressions of the other disciples seem to disclose their anguish and foreboding. On the right side of these lights Judas can be seen making his exit. The intensity and variety of colour, from deep purple to bright yellow, demands our attention. The right hand light recreates the Ascension with Christ dominant and the disciples bow their heads or look up in awe and wonder. The rose window is split into twelve sections to represent the tribes of Israel with Christ in majesty at the centre with angels waiting on.
The window was designed by Thomas Camm, who set up his stained glass window studio in the High Street in Smethwick in 1893. He ran the business until his death in 1912 when his three children Florence (1874-1960),
Robert (1878-1954) and Walter (1881-1976) took over and continued the management of the company under the name T W Camm and Co. It is likely that Thomas drew the cartoons and created the glass, as he did with many of his projects, though Florence in particular may have had some influence.
The company prospered from these humble beginnings to gain international acclaim, winning many awards for its outstanding designs. Florence had 43 exhibitions of her work at the Royal Academy in London. The company ceased production in 1960, but we have a fine and beautiful example of the Camms early work. Further examples of their work can be found in the Picture Gallery at the Smethwick Heritage Centre.
It was reported in the Moseley and King's Heath Journal in February 1898 that tea followed the unveiling ceremony. In spite of a police presence two ladies “were relieved of their purses”, though fortunately the collection had already been taken and the collection plates removed for counting!
THE HARRISON AND HARRISON ORGAN
During the building work the organ from the 1887 church was moved into the new premises. This Mason and Hamlin reed organ was the type which produced wind through foot pedals and it was thought necessary in 1904 to install a replacement organ. A decision was made by the trustees in 1905 to ask Messrs Harrison and Harrison of Durham to install a new organ from specifications drawn up by Mr Leslie White, who was appointed organist in 1897.
Founded by Thomas Harrison in Rochdale in 1861 the organ building company quickly established a reputation for “meticulous craftsmanship”, and moved its factory to Durham in 1872. Its current website states quite firmly that “a number of Harrison organs from this period are still in good working order”.
We are fortunate to have a splendid Harrison and Harrison organ to rival those in Durham Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, Coventry Cathedral and King's College, Cambridge. We are indeed in good company!
In October 2010 I wrote to the company to ask what documents had survived and had a quick response indicating that all the original paper work was lodged in its archives. Copies of the more interesting documents were sent.
There were several letters from Leslie White and the whole process of building and installing of the organ to be completed by the end of 1905. The church settled on a cost of £750 (£82 500 today), most of which had been raised by the time the organ was officially “opened”. Amongst the technical information was the programme for the “Opening of the New Organ at King's Heath Wesleyan Church”, on 28th January 1906. At the first opening recital Mr White played the organ, Miss Nellie Finch was the invited vocalist and Rev. J Wilson Stuart presided. The opening hymn was “Praise the Lord! Ye heavens adore him”. The organ music included Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. By the time payment for the organ was due the cost had risen to £850!
The cost of tuning the organ in 1907 was six guineas. The organist was given an honorarium of £10 a year, the lead soprano was also paid £10, the base soloist
£10 12s 6d, the tenor £8 6s 8d with no mention of an alto! The organ blower pocketed £9 p.a. until 1914 when an electric blower was installed.
The original organ had two manuals, “but provision had been made for a third manual, which was added by Harrison in 1923. The organ screen was given by Henry Garner and a special service was held on 20th December 1923 with a recital by Sir Edward Bairstow, the organist at York Minster.
In 2011 we had contact with the Methodist Organ Adviser, who was looking for pipe organs with historical interest to prepare a submission to the British Institute of Organ Studies. Completed paperwork and photographs were sent, and on 27th July 2011 we heard that out application had been accepted and we were awarded an Historic Organ Certificate.
GROWING IN FAITH IN DIFFICULT TIMES
In the early years of the 20th century membership grew to 133; in 1906 church expenditure was £365, half of which came from pew rents. In 1908 a debt of £1 500 from the building was cleared and thanks particularly to the treasurers the total amount was raised. Debt free at last!
The country was blighted by many difficulties during the first four decades of the 20th century. There were the horrors of the First World War (1914-1918), The Slump and 2 million unemployed in 1921, trade depression and the General Strike in 1926, followed by a world economic crisis in 1931, German aggrandisement in the 1930s, culminating in the Second World War in 1939.
When Germany violated Belgium neutrality on 3rd August 1914 Britain declared war. At the outbreak of war Spring Hill College, now Moseley School, was used as a training ground for the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, also known as the Birmingham Pals. The idea of a Pals Battalion was to keep friends together to train and fight. Unfortunately many also died together, wiping out whole groups of soldiers from the same village, town or city.
During modification of Moseley School in 1990 some relics were found behind a wall, comprising “an empty paper pack of 5 Wills Woodbine cigarettes......a handwritten card of French words.....a 1914 concert invitation for army recruits...and a prayer book”, as recorded by the Moseleians Association.
1107 local volunteers, “young men of all grades of society”, enlisted, many of whom would have gathered at Moseley Station, to await a train to take them to the front.
We know from the war memorial at Cambridge Road, featured in “Moseley at War” (the Moseley Society), which was unveiled in 1920, that 8 “parishioners” were killed and 65 other men served in the conflict. At the top of the memorial are listed Ernest Hill, Percy Fawdry, Sydney H Fielding, Sydney F Wilkinson, Harold W Johnson, Leslie A Wright, C Holly Lucas and James Mundy; “Their names liveth forever”. The general citation reads: “To the praise of God and in lasting remembrance of the men of this church and school who answered the call of the country during the years 1914-1918”. All these young men had close association with Cambridge Road. Those who survived had their lives interrupted, and almost certainly changed for ever by their experiences.
Electric lighting was installed in church in 1920, but, more significant in the 1920s, was the huge expansion of the Sunday School and the beginning of other groups. Membership in the Sunday School rose to 200 with a team of 35 teachers. The system could only cope by having a morning session at 10-30 and an afternoon session at 2-45. Apparently attendance was so large with 100 children and 12 teachers in the primary department that there were not enough chairs. The problem was solved by importing hassocks from church! There is also anecdotal evidence of children sitting on chairs which had not completely dried after receiving a fresh coat of paint with unpleasant consequences! On another occasion during a Sunday School Anniversary a young teacher, in a smart new outfit, was waiting to conduct her singing group when a child was inadvertently sick over her!
At this time the Sunday School Anniversary always took place on the last Sunday in April. It was a grand occasion with a tiered platform built in the chancel to accommodate upwards of 100 children, all in new clothes for the occasion. It was made a condition that only those who attended all the practices on Sundays and during the week would have the privilege of sitting on the platform. It is reported that the children were “trained with rigour and meticulous care” by Mr Hobday, and later Mr Leslie White. The celebrations continued on Monday evening with guest speakers, many known nationally, such as Leslie Weatherhead, Donald Soper, Adrian Boult and Rev. G Bramwell Evans, famously remembered as “Romany”.
In the first week in March as many as 60 children sat the Sunday School Examination and outings were arranged, at first to local destinations, such as the Lickey Hills, but later, and more ambitiously, by special train to Rhyl, Llandudno or Weston-super-Mare. In 1929 the cost to Llandudno was ten shillings for each adult and half price for children. In order to get this discounted price the railway company wanted a guarantee of 300 adults. Some undertaking! A young men's Bible Class also came into being and prospered.
In addition a Girls' Brigade, a Scout Troop, a Junior Guild and a Drama Group were established. In the 1920s and 1930s the Wesley Guild flourished and membership reached a high of 200 with an annual subscription of one shilling.
The Guild was the highlight of the week for many people and speakers addressed capacity audiences. John Masefield, poet laureate and novelist, was one visiting speaker, who, it is recorded, so much enjoyed his visit that he returned his fee. The set of curtains bought later in his memory were in use until the alterations of 1982. The Guild continued to meet until 1966 when decreasing attendance led to its closure.
The drama group produced a play every year, including “She Stoops to Conquer”. Rev. T H Johns (1927-1928) took a leading part. His predecessor Rev. James Mackay (1924-1927) had literary and musical gifts. “He was a poet and had the lovely voice and lilt of the true Scot”. He was apparently a mystic, too, and attracted large congregations, especially of young people.
When the Rev. H P Harris moved from Moseley Road Methodist Church in 1928 he brought the circuit superintendency with him! There were other changes and improvements afoot as well. In 1931 the chancel panelling and the oak choir stalls were installed, shortly followed by a fixed oak pulpit on the south side of the church, and, finally, the cross was carefully positioned beneath the east window. These were all generous gifts by long serving members of Cambridge Road.
In 1933 a cottage on land adjacent to the church in School Road, where the car park is now, was purchased to extend the Sunday School, a pressing need for further space because of growing numbers. The number of children on the registers was an incredible 290 in 1937. Attendance records were kept on a large blackboard situated at the end of the schoolroom, visible to all!
In 1933 a new Methodist hymn book was published at the time of the union of the various strands of Methodism. The preface refers to the 1929 conferences of the three churches which were contemplating union and appointed a joint committee to undertake the work. This hymn book was issued for the use of all British Methodists. Its publication was seen to be an historic event in the life of Methodism and soon was in use in hundreds of churches including Cambridge Road. It was considered important to unite the hymns of the Methodist revival with ones suited to the needs of more modern times. It has been quite tricky to identify new hymns which were written and first published close to the date of the conferences. The first Bishop of Plymouth (1923-1933), John H B Masterman, wrote the hymn “Almighty Father, who dost give the gift of life to all who live”, in 1922. This can be found at 907, sung to the tune “Vermont”, in the new book. Nonetheless, it quickly captured the imagination of many Methodists.
In 1932 the King's Heath Wesleyan Scout Troop became known as Methodist instead of Wesleyan. When the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was opened by
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939, 25 cubs from the church were part of the guard of honour in the forecourt and were able to get a close view of the royal couple!
The Choir magazine of July 1935 contained an article about the music at church with a fine and complimentary description: “At King's Heath there is not only a magnificent organ, but a choir performing the best in church music, their work being given unstinted praise by all who hear them”. In 1937 the Golden Jubilee of the church was reached and celebrated. By this time the membership was recorded as 290. For the occasion the organ was cleaned and restored and an opening recital was given by the city organist, Dr G D Cunningham.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND BEYOND
In September 1939 Britain was again at war with Germany. A comprehensive record of memories of World War 2 has been compiled by the King's Heath Historical Society. These first hand stories refer to deprivation, food queues, evacuation, air raid shelters and bombing raids when German planes were targeting the station.
At the height of the Blitz, eight months from the beginning of September 1940, bombs were dropped on the station demolishing houses in Grange Road and Westfield Road. The old St Dunstan's Church on the corner of Westfield Road and Station Road was also damaged. This was at Easter 1941. At the same time Val Cole describes another incident: “My brother was on leave and a bomb dropped in Cambridge Road in front of the Methodist Church. He was asked to stay in the crater and shine a torch to prevent anyone falling into it. Unfortunately, no one came to relieve him and he was there all night. As he was on leave he wasn't best pleased”. There were no casualties, though there were fatalities close by in Elmfield Crescent, Woodville Road and School Road. In spite of all the misery, uncertainty and tragedy the Kingsway Cinema never closed and gave some much needed relief, relaxation and entertainment!
The war brought many challenges to the church. One huge undertaking was the removal of the rose window. It was carefully taken out and laid under the lawns of Rowney Hall “for safe keeping”. It is recorded that permission was given to the ARP to dig trenches for the general public on land surrounding the church premises. At certain times volunteers kept watch on the roof and tower for incendiary bombs. The minutes of a Leaders' Meeting in 1942 refer to the blacking out of the church and the construction of a baffle wall in front of the side entrance in Cambridge Road, thus converting the corridor into an additional air raid shelter. In 1943 the iron railings on the church walls were removed and sold to aid the war effort.
During the war Mrs Lily Herbert, a stalwart of the Sunday School and Youth Fellowship, kept in touch with members in the services and supported those with severe financial needs. There was a Comforts Fund which enabled letters to be sent to those on the Roll of Honour and many parcels and postal orders were sent off at Christmas.
Rev. John Talbot took up his five year ministerial appointment in September 1942. Attendances at church were certainly holding up during the war. On 3rd January 1943 it is recorded that 118 people took communion during the Covenant Service. At this time communion services were not an integral part of Sunday worship, but were a separate experience, following the preaching service. It is interesting to note that there were more communicants in the evening than the morning: on 2nd July 1944 there were 18 in the morning and on 4th August 1944, 66 in the evening. In 1944 a payment of £2 2s was made to Rev. John Talbot for the Greek Fund and other later payments to aid “soldiers' comfort”, hospital chaplaincy and the Birmingham Christian Social Council. In 1945 a dozen bottles of communion wine cost £2, compared with £38 today! A Christmas gift of one guinea was paid to the caretaker from the Poor Fund together with a payment of £5 to the Air Force Welfare Trust.
The Birmingham Mail reported on the Choir Festival, held on 28th January 1945, when Handel's Sixth Chandos Anthem was sung. Fred Hobday was the choir master and Leslie White the organist. On Good Friday, 27th March, the Mail announced that Brahms' Requiem would be performed with free admission and a collection for expenses. Immediately after the war a Choir Festival took place on the evening of 24th November 1946 with selections from Mendelsohn's “Elijah”. The first hymn was “Before Jehovah's awful throne”, number 4 in the Methodist hymn book, and in conclusion 503, “God moves in a mysterious way”, was sung with enthusiasm to the tune “Irish”.
During the war the Youth Club was formed under the guidance and inspiration of Mr Percy White, Brian's father. Activities included Badminton and table tennis, the latter providing a team for the circuit league. Youngsters could join the club at 14 on condition that they left no later than 9 o'clock! At 16 they were allowed to stay an additional hour to the end of the session. The club grew from strength to strength and gained a considerable reputation in Birmingham and nationally.
In 1948 the Sunday School Anniversary was held on 25th April at 11-00 a.m.,
3-00 p.m., and 6-30 p.m. The printed programme stated: “Today is a day of praise both for the children and the parents, a link between home and Sunday School”. Rev. W Walters Ensor, father of Betty Edwards, officiated in the evening and the congregational hymns were MHB 29, 703 and 943.
In November 1948 additions were made to the premises. New toilets and a more modern kitchen were provided plus two meeting rooms, the larger of which became known as the “Fellowship Room”, later used for evening worship when attendance began to decrease.
In 1952 the church acquired a car park when the cottage, which stood on the site, was demolished. Rev. Bryan Read was only one year into his appointment when asked to become secretary at the Methodist Youth Department.
In the 1950s the country was riding high on a post war economic boom, which created full employment, an increase in wages and improvement in the standard of living. It was the decade of the Festival of Britain, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and the announcement from the then prime minister that most of us “had never had it so good”. Membership at church was continuing to rise with a satisfactory level of income to maintain the premises and support regular donations to organisations such as Christian Aid, Methodist Homes for the Aged, the Church Aid and Refugee Service. On 2nd January 1955 122 people attended a New Year Communion Service in the morning. At 7-30 in the evening the Covenant Service was broadcast on the BBC Home Service. Rev. R R Clements, the minister (1953-1960), led the service, and the President of the Conference, Rev. W Russell Shearer, preached the sermon. The service began with the singing of “All Praise to our Redeeming Lord” (MHB 745) and concluded with “Behold the Servant of the Lord” (MHB 572). The occasion had been pre- recorded and only 12 members attended the “real communion”!
Leslie White, organist from 1897 for sixty three years, died in 1960, having been appointed at the age of 17. He was a very skilled musician, who led the church music with great energy and enthusiasm. To have played to such a high standard all those years was a remarkable achievement. In his memory his son and daughter commissioned the stained glass window to be found towards the rear of the south side of church. It was installed in 1963. At its centre is Charles Wesley and immediately below is Mr White seated at the organ, joined by Bach and Handel on either side.
THE SWINGING SIXTIES AND SERIOUS SEVENTIES
In the 1960s the demography of the immediate area around the church was changing. Some of the large Victorian family homes were split into flats to accommodate students and short stay residents. At the same time there was a substantial movement of families out of the area, which gradually led to a reduction in the number of church members. However, in 1960 the membership roll reached 392, the highest ever, reflecting a rapid increase from 230 in 1945.
The 1960s became known as the “Swinging Sixties” with hemlines drastically raised, teddy boy haircuts fashionable and a different emphasis placed on appropriate ways of behaving in public!
Rev. H Chadwick Smith took up his appointment in September 1960. In May 1964 he introduced the first church newsletter. It was a simple A4 fold over, printed on a Gestetner duplicator, and provided four sides of information. From this first edition, edited by Bob Crawford, over 350 further newsletters were published until its sad demise in December 2014. As the newsletter developed there were several standard items each time, such as a message from the manse, a summary of the Annual Church Meeting and Leaders' Meeting, reports on finance, Women's Fellowship, Wives Club and Junior Church.
On 24th May 1964 there was a Youth Service conducted by the young people who had “devised, written and presented” this act of worship “with a difference”. Meanwhile the minister put out an invitation for a buffet supper and entertainment in the manse's garden.
In June 1964 Mr Chadwick Smith reported a “mystery” and appealed for help from the congregation to solve the problem. The silver builder's trowel which was presented by Mr John J Parkes J.P. at the foundation stone laying and service in June 1896 had suddenly been discovered in a locked drawer in church. How long it had lain there and what had happened to it in the intervening years no one was willing or able to establish! Later in 1964 the minister wanted to experiment with evening services to conduct “worship with a difference”. This idea took off and on one occasion “members of a panel tackled very thoughtful questions with honesty and sincerity.” In September the manse was moved from 55 Valentine Road to 63 Valentine Road and the trustees decided to install oil heating in the church and school.
Rev. Thomas Lee took up his seven year appointment in September 1964. The following September he was invited to join a committee “to consider a variety of topics in conversations with the Anglicans”. These conversations unfortunately did not take us far along the road to unity as there were huge doctrinal and theological differences. The Statement of the Anglican/Methodist Unity Commission was eventually published at 6 shillings.
In April 1965 the Fellowship Room was extensively refurbished. A suspended ceiling was put in place, new curtains hung, fresh carpets laid and the walls repainted. The bill was met largely through generous donations. At the same time a stewardship campaign got under way with “home visits for all”. The general nature of the appeal was to ask members to make a proportionate commitment of time, talents and material possessions. So the envelope scheme, which still exists unchanged, began.
In June 1966 John Simmonite, our treasurer for almost 40 years, founded the Moseley and District Churches Housing Association. He was supported initially by the Moseley and District Council of Churches and the Balsall Heath Association. There was common agreement that there were severe housing problems with multi-occupation, overcrowding and a lack of appropriate sanitation and cooking facilities. The immediate task was to provide “acceptable standards of accommodation at reasonable rents”. From the first purchase and conversion of a huge house into flats, the organisation met with great success and by 1989 was responsible for over 1 000 dwellings.
By the middle of 1966 the church had established a baby sitting service and all requests had been met! The Annual Garden Party was held at 33 Grove Avenue by invitation of Mr and Mrs F Batty, the Guild had been suspended to be replaced by a small number of midweek meetings. In October an augmented choir performed Mendelsohn's “Elijah” to raise money for the organ fund. An extensive refurbishment of the organ was completed in March 1968 and a service of rededication was held on 11th May with a recital by Roy Massey.
In February 1967 the Wives Club was planning a shortened version of “The Mikado”, which featured in a Women's Work Garden Party in June. It was so successful that the group did an encore at the Annual Church Meeting in November. Shortly after the Youth Club converted three former classrooms into a modern coffee bar and lounge. It was in business on Thursday evenings and after the evening service on Sunday. All profits were donated to the children's ward at the East Birmingham Hospital.
The 1970s was a much more serious decade, buffeted by local and national industrial disputes in a climate of economic upheaval which caused much depression and despondency. This period became known as “the pivot of change”. There was the realisation within Methodism that things needed to change and this included its own outdated structure.
Within our church life continued with a broadcast of hymn singing on the Light Programme for the BBC in its “Sunday Half Hour” slot. Choirs and congregations in King's Heath were invited to swell the singing and “to make it an ecumenical occasion”. The programme was pre-recorded a week before the broadcast on 19th April 1970. There were eight hymns, with two added from the newly published supplement, “Hymns and Songs”. One of these was “Thy hand, O God has guided”. Mr Lee commented after the event that it had been “a marathon, but a very enjoyable experience nonetheless”. At the same time the complete New English Bible was published with the addition of the Apocrypha.
In April 1971, at the suggestion of Joan Williams, a combined Flower and Music Festival was held. There were superb floral decorations, making a tremendous splash of colour, in all parts of the church. On the Friday evening the choir of Yardley Wood Junior School “entertained us at an astonishingly high level”. On the following evening the Salvation Army band and three talented musicians from the School of Music provided superb entertainment.
Rev. Thomas Lee, who had been unwell during his last few months, retired to Newport in South Wales and, amongst many things, would be remembered for “his friendly manner and concern for the welfare of all church members”.
Rev. Cledwyn Wood took over as superintendent minister and soon discovered the need to replace the boiler! The major task of replacing it was completed in early 1972 with a deficit of £573. An appeal went out by letter from Mr Wood with an envelope enclosed for donations. The debt was quickly wiped out, and the treasurer breathed a sigh of relief!
In March 1973 there was a stewardship renewal campaign in the school hall. There was the serious part, introduced by Ted Crump, about making ends meet and increasing financial contributions. However, the stage was set as an Edwardian parlour and members wore costumes of the day. As part of the entertainment Mr Wood and a friend, suitably attired as offices of the law, “gave a rousing performance of 'The Two Gendarmes'”.
In June 1973 Mr and Mrs Wood exchanged pulpits with Rev. James Watson. The Woods were located in Merrick on Long Island, New York, for five weeks. The exchange was a successful and interesting time.
By April 1974 the revised structure of Methodism had been agreed. The main objective was to exercise a better stewardship over leaders' time and increase the involvement of members of the congregation. The Church Council replaced the Quarterly Meeting and small sub committees were established, such as Church Family, Neighbourhood, World Service and Mission, Finance, Pastoral, Property and Consultation on Worship. In principle this seemed a fine idea, but many churches, including ours, discovered that few attended and often the same people were present at most meetings. The result of this was to amalgamate various sub committees at a later date or, indeed, to phase them out. We put the first three together to produce a Combined Committee, which made life considerably easier!
By 1976 Mr Wood agreed to hold full Family Services with help from the Junior Church staff and the children were asked to select the second hymn at morning worship. Membership continued to drop from 212 in 1974 to 201 in 1975 and to 188 in 1976. As the congregation seemed to dwindle each week, the Junior Church was also losing youngsters. The Senior Department boasted 30 (11 to 14 years) in 1968. In 1972 it had dropped to 18 and by 1976 was down to 10. It was agreed that the Juniors and Seniors would meet together as an Inters Department, sharing the opening and concluding sessions and meeting in between in three groups.
It was decided in November 1976 to hold the evening services in the Fellowship Room. There was a vote on changing the time of the morning service from 11-00 a.m. to 10-30 a.m. The outcome was 70 in favour of change and 58 against! However, there was some confusion, muted after the event, about who should have voted and was it for all time! The Church Council accepted the uncertainty and decided to have new vote. Unfortunately, this did not happen immediately and was shelved for a few years!
Rev. Cledwyn Wood took his last service on 20th August 1978 and moved to the Chichester Circuit. He will be remembered for his preaching of the word, his deep understanding of the Bible and his pastoral and administrative ministry. He died at the aged of 96 in 2010 and until 2009 was still tending his vegetable garden and sending his Christmas letter to members of our church.
THE THIRD BIG CHANGE (1978-1982)
The superintendency passed to Rev. Peter Rodgers, who quickly recognised that at Cambridge Road there was “a wealth of talent, a reservoir of loyalty and a depth of devotion, which provide the great building blocks we require”! He wrote that he was looking forward to building on the foundation that had been securely and firmly laid.
It was obvious that Cambridge Road, like many other churches across the land, had to find solutions for the future as the large building was becoming a burden for the members and there were voices urging change, as the church itself was used just once most weeks and everywhere was in need of refurbishment.
The Church Council expressed its grave concern in early 1979. Recommendations to consider the future size and shape of the building would be addressed; the pastoral visiting system, family services and an outreach in the community were thought to be essential changes. As a result study groups were set up to produce a clear plan based on priorities within our resources.
On 11th May 1980 the church performed “A Grain of Mustard Seed”, a musical written by Roger Jones, to celebrate the bicentenary of the founding of the Sunday School by Robert Raikes. The children, the choir, augmented by the congregation, and many others took part in the singing and narration with great enthusiasm to produce a fine performance to mark this historic event.
In June 1980 a new service book was introduced for communion and baptism, whilst the church enjoyed itself with an outing to Chester, a bonfire party, a car treasure hunt, regular car washes, coffee mornings and the Wives' Club Christmas Fair. There was a campaign at this time to persuade members to covenant their offerings. £10 covenanted produced £4-29 from Inland Revenue!
In October Peter Rodgers preached a sermon, which emphasised the need for our church to adapt “to serve the present age”, dwelling on the pattern of church life and what kind of building we needed. An estimate was soon sought to give us an idea of the cost to refurbish the whole premises. This came in at £80 000. The whole church community was drawn into discussions in the homes of members. Part of that discussion centred on either keeping the main church or converting the ancillary buildings. The architect was next asked to draw up plans for the redevelopment of the church itself and the buildings not required demolished and the land sold. In 1981 the Church Council and Annual Church Meeting supported the retention of the church itself. Finances were not healthy in spite of the sale of the caretaker's house in Greenhill Road for £13 000. It was a bold decision and by September the Manpower Services Commission had agreed to a “Community Enterprise Programme”, by which it would pay the labour costs. The cost to the church was £100 000 for materials, fees and other expenses, including essential work on the tower. The scheme was able to go ahead once it was recognised that MSC's input would be £60 000 and generous gifts from members, totalling £25 000 in eighteen months, the J Arthur Rank Benevolent Trust, the Circuit Advance and the Methodist Division for Property were committed. The Moseley and District Churches Housing Association bought the land for the erection of eight flats for the elderly. All this meant that at the end of the building process the church would be without debt!
The pews were removed and an upper room created behind the balcony. A kitchen and toilets were installed underneath this area. The communion area was developed, raising levels and with moveable blocks and pulpit added. New kneelers were made by a group of enthusiastic women with a very pleasant outcome. Chairs could be stacked to open up space. The entrance could be used as a room and everywhere benefited from gas convector heaters. During the renovation we were fortunate to have the recently retired David Robinson to lend his financial acumen and help to guide the project to its conclusion.
The school hall was used for morning worship for the first three months of the building programme, after which we decamped to Hazelwell Methodist Church.
By September the work was finished and on 12th September 1982 a Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication was held in the morning. Rev. Peter Rodgers conducted the service and in his sermon the Chairman of the District, Rev. Christopher Hughes Smith, reminded the congregation of the immense possibilities of the new building.
An Arts and Crafts Festival was arranged soon after the opening and over 600 people, many from the local community, came to view both the building and enjoy this event.
SAILING ALONG THROUGH THE EIGHTIES AND NINETIES
As a result of the redevelopment the there was a different feel about the life of the church and the congregation could move freely about the church after services. It became the norm that coffee and biscuits were served after worship and fellowship could continue informally. After consultation with the stewards the starting time of services was changed at last to 10-30 a.m.!
So began life in a multi- purpose church, which was put to all sorts of use; Toddlers Groups, Play Group, badminton, a Luncheon Club each week for the elderly, a keep fit class, and many more as time went by, but it always still felt like a church.
A new hymn book, “Hymns and Psalms” was published in 1983. Authority was given for its production at the Conference in Plymouth in 1982 to succeed the 1933 book. Like all changes it endeavoured to meet the needs of the current age and became widely used and valued.
The church continued to follow a regular pattern of services, weekday meetings and committees. In September 1985 Rev. Peter Rodgers drew the attention of the Church Council to the closeness of 1987, a hundred years since the first church building. He wrote: “We should spend time, effort and money in 1987 looking backwards and forwards, giving thanks for the past and preparing for the future, and sharing celebration and joy in the present”. Over the next few months a challenging programme of events was drawn up, including a local history exhibition, an Arts and Crafts exhibition and a church family weekend at Lindors. All this came to pass and at the “Vision 2000” weekend we were asked to dreams dreams, but realistically we hoped for three things....an increase in members and spirituality, more involvement within the community and the development of our pastoral care.
Peter Rodgers ten year appointment came to an end in 1988. In looking back he admitted that there had never been a dull moment as superintendent or local minister. He will be remembered for his courage and commitment, supported throughout by Beryl, in leading us through the great changes of the 1980s, making a reality out of something that seemed impossible, for creating a warmth and togetherness and for introducing variations to the style of worship. Many of us will still have one of his beautiful watercolours on our walls!
With Peter's departure the superintendency went too to Hall Green! Rev. Brian Taylor, fresh from college, became our minister, bringing Helena and two young children with him. It was quite a change for everyone, including Brian, who had spent many years in London as an accountant.
We chugged along in 1989 quite happily. The Men's Lunch Club began in members' homes once a month “to foster fellowship over a ploughman's”; the Christian Aid house to house collection raised £765, including the proceeds from a Famine Lunch; the Harvest Festival social evening included Scottish dancing, influenced by the minister, of course; and there was serious discussion in the Combined Committee about the participation of children in communion. Walter Crump explained in an article that, due to advancing years of choir members, and in the absence of replacements, the good standards of music, previously achieved, could not be guaranteed. He reported that “the choir would graciously retire at the end of October 1989”. The last hymn contained the words: “We'll praise Him for all that is past, and trust him for all that's to come”, a fitting conclusion to the enormous contribution the choir had made over many years.
In 1990 the Church Council announced its intention of carrying out a survey of talents, seeking new ideas and new offers of support. There was a tremendous response, though the new “situations vacant column” in the newsletter did not immediately lead to a flood of volunteers to take on vacant posts! A new music group was formed and made contributions to special, seasonal services.
The organ became a focus of attention in 1991 as it was in desperate need of repair and restoration. The heating in the church was helping its deterioration! Estimates were sought from five organ builders. These ranged from £102 225 to £54 050, inclusive of VAT. The Church Council agreed in principle to the work being done, but insisted that the costs should be met by appeals for funds. The restoration was abandoned 12 months later due to the economic climate.
The church weekend at the Highbury Hotel in Weston super Mare in October 1992 was a great success with an evening concert revealing hidden talents. Out of this grew CAMEO (Come And Meet Each Other) which provided regular activities, such as local walks, beetle drives, a quiz afternoon and the beginning of the Easter morning breakfast.
In August 1992 Addison Road Methodist Church closed after 80 years and some of the congregation gladly transferred to Cambridge Road, where the membership was holding up with an average of 82 people taking communion in the morning, but fewer than ten in the evening. In early 1993 Emma Thorne, the oldest member at 105, died. She was born in 1887 the year in which the first Wesleyan Church appeared in King's Heath.
It was decided that the last evening service should be held 10th April 1994. Numbers had been decreasing for several years and sometimes as few as six attended, most of these on duty! Some years before Peter Rodgers had challenged us to vote with our feet to protect the evening service. It was a pity because this service provided quiet and uncluttered time for worship.
On 22nd July 1995 a special social occasion was held to say goodbye to Brian, Helena and their family. Brian had brought spontaneity and joy to our worship, which made it a living and challenging thing. Brian, thanks to Helena, was always a good source of tickets for “Pebble Mill at One” when someone from the world of cricket was appearing on the programme!
In September 1995 we welcomed Rev. John Goodhall and Pat, who had swapped the peace and grandeur of Guernsey for the skyline tower blocks of Birmingham. John was full of Yorkshire humour and anecdotes. They had returned from exile, he told us, and their move was a journey of faith. During another church weekend, this time at Willersley Castle, where we had a grand time, John was already thinking about ways in which the church could move into the 21st century, and quickly set up a Day of Discovery, led by Rev. Ray Trezise to explore our way forwards both individually and collectively.
As early as mid 1996 the church began to think about its centenary celebrations. A planning group, John Goodhall, Betty Davies, Brian White and Helen Somerset, was set up.
John and Pat had a six week exchange with David and Mary Lois Hilton from Frankfort in Kentucky in 1997, a rewarding and enjoyable experience for them all. Someone asked him “Is your German good? I'd heard you were going to Frankfurt in Germany on an exchange.” He replied, “No, my German is non-existent. I am going to Frankfort in Kentucky, USA!”
Some priorities were set for 1997, along with a mission statement, which included a monthly tea and fellowship meeting for all, the production of a 'Welcome Pack', persuading more children to get involved in the life of the church and examine the possibility of having a service on a different day.
The focus of church activity during 1998 was the celebration of 100 years of worship and witness at Cambridge Road. The planning committee produced a range of services, meetings and functions to wet the appetite and challenge the memory. This mammoth task of preparation began in January and continued at a swift pace until the end of November. A photographic record of all that happened was kept and the signs of happiness, rejoicing and praise were obviously captured on film! On 25th January the Rev. Dr Fred Kaan preached a memorable service and one of his own hymns (508 in 'Hymns and Psalms') was included. The Flower Festival in April provided an opportunity for imaginative arrangements, some depicting oratorio titles. On the following evening there was a concert of music, conducted by Dick Popple, and the Sunday morning service was taken by Rev. John Taylor, President of the Conference. In May we enjoyed a performance of “An Evening with Susanna Wesley” by Rachael Newton, followed by a talk in June by Chris Upton from the Local Studies Library about Birmingham in 1898. Rev. Peter Rodgers returned in July to take the Church Anniversary service and a lot of fun was shared along with food afterwards! It was a wonderful time and as the year progressed we had a Senior Citizens service taken by Rev John Ashplant, a Harvest Festival with Rev. Brian Taylor returning, and rounded things off in November with a grand Craft Fair.
In August 1998 Billesley Methodist Church closed. A number of its members joined us, though for some time a class continued to meet. At Cambridge Road work was progressing on a centenary banner, which was to become a bold statement of our church life and faith, under the direction of Pat Goodhall.
At Easter 1999 Pat and John were able to take a sabbatical, beginning with a visit to the Greek island of Paros to join in the Easter celebrations of the Greek Orthodox Church. They also undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For them it was a time of renewal, reflection, recreation and growth when new skills might be developed and boundaries of experience broadened. For John it was his first and only experience of sabbatical!
It was reported at the Annual Church Meeting that repairs to the church roof had cost over £11 000 and an increase of £3 000 had to be met for our circuit assessment. It was thought, too, that the church must consider ways of raising additional funds to complement stewardship giving. It was also reported that the church should seek ways of bringing its people together. Church membership was slowly reducing and an average of 70 attended Sunday morning worship.
THE DAWN OF A NEW MILLENNIUM
As we turned to look at the new year in 2000 there was much celebration, jubilation and optimism across the country as we all hoped for a brighter future!
At the February Church Council we again heard that income was barely meeting expenditure without eating into reserves. There were serious reservations expressed about the condition of the organ and it was agreed that we should look at ways of preserving its life within the limits of reasonable cost and purchase a digital piano.
On 4th March 2000 the hilarious and much remembered pantomime, “Jack and the Beansprout”, written and produced by Peter Wright, opened to a packed church. After almost two hours most people were worn out by laughing. The enthusiasm of the cast was infectious with even the odd missed cues adding to the fun. Most members found themselves the target of a joke. The minister trod the boards in the guise of Squire Allgood!
The church expressed its appreciation to John and Pat at a social evening on 30th July 2000, where they were given a rousing send off. During his last service, whilst preaching the sermon, John became aware that the stud holding his dog collar in place had come loose. To avoid discomfort he ripped it off and flung it across the church, saying, “I shan't need this any more”! He did, and he continued preaching Sunday by Sunday in retirement in Bournemouth. We will remember the warmth of John's character, his humour, his optimism, his patience and sincerity which put others before self. His passionate and deep love for the Lord shone through all that he said and did.
Following the retirement of Rev. John Goodhall two things happened. Firstly, there was no immediate ministerial replacement, as the Church of South India and the Methodist Church were still seeking a suitable appointment. Therefore for four months Rev. Catherine Minor was attached to Cambridge Road in addition to her other Circuit responsibilities. Secondly, the Valentine Road manse became surplus to requirements and was put up for sale. By October 2000 the membership had sunk to 110; this loss was a constant concern. The Friendly Club closed after many years because the numbers of those who had benefited from this provision had also dwindled.
Rev. Florence Gundala arrived from Bangalore in January 2001. She had travelled extensively, but was greeted on her first visit to England by cold, winter weather. On the first Saturday morning Peter Wright and I took her for a walk around Highbury Park and inscribed messages of welcome on the frost encrusted benches, much to her amazement and delight. Later she was overwhelmed by the availability of familiar things both in Ladypool Road and Sparkhill. We soon came to recognise her sunny smile, confidence and self assurance, whilst her care and compassion for us and her humour shone through all that she did. At the Circuit Meeting on 14th January, attended by the Lord Mayor, she was officially welcomed and told us that she had had a dream in which she was called to move to Birmingham. For us this was an imaginative and different appointment.
Meanwhile the Search Group was continuing to provide thought provoking and interesting meetings along with outings to Gloucester, Lichfield and the Potteries, the last of these included a visit to the Museum of Primitive Methodism at Engelsea Brook. In conjunction with the membership roll continuing to reduce, there were many vacancies arising and the Annual Church Meeting of 2002 emphasised that the church should do only “those things we can”.
By September 2002 the number of Methodists nationally had fallen to under 325 000 with great losses in Birmingham. Sadly the Women's Fellowship stopped its weekly meetings and chose to meet once a month from September. The revision lasted only until the summer of 2004 when, after 60 years, it held its last meeting with a tea party with strawberries and ice cream. We were also asked to respond to a Conference paper, “Our Calling” to consider Worship, Learning and Caring, Service and Evangelism by responding to the Gospel of love in Christ. Rev. Florence wrote to all members about the deteriorating financial situation and appealed for increased giving. With no slack in the general fund only essential repairs and maintenance could be undertaken. In spite of this we contributed over £1400 to Christian Aid from the collections in the local streets.
In June 2003 the John Wesley Tercentenary Service was taken by Rev. Trevor Lockwood, his last appointment before retirement. Lunch and thanks followed.
Wesley himself had visited Birmingham on a number of occasions. His first experience, not recorded as a success, had been in 1738 when he travelled from Shipston on Stour in appalling weather. In 1786 he preached to 300 in Quinton before moving to central Birmingham for an evening service.
The 2003 Conference at Llandudno requested circuits to respond to plans for an Anglican/Methodist Covenant. There were seven Affirmations and 6 Commitments to consider. It emphasised that it was a set of stepping stones, not a unity scheme. The Church Council voted 15 to 2 to accept the proposals. On 1st November 2003 the two churches signed an agreement in Westminster Hall in the presence of the Queen, and set up a commission to identify priorities to work towards unity. It has been a long wait!
Rev. Florence lost friends and family when the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 hit South Asia. She had received a call from a friend in Sri Lanka on Christmas Day when he was celebrating the day with 92 friends at a family wedding. The next day all were dead, and her mother was half a mile away from the sea with much damage to property. Florence insisted that she should return to in India in February 2005 to give comfort and practical help. After almost five years Florence's ministry came to an end. She had had to make many adjustments, the weather, living without servants, the traffic, the British way of life and the ways of Cambridge Road. She had many speaking engagements on behalf of the World Church all over the world. In addition there was academic work and study with lectures to give at universities. Florence had opened our eyes to the world beyond Cambridge Road with her friendship and generosity.
In September Rev. Tony Malcolm brought with him a new system whereby the Circuit had been divided into three clusters. Cambridge Road joined Moseley Road and Maypole in the Alcester Cluster “to develop collaborative patterns of leadership and ministry alongside lay people”. Successive Council meetings worried about funds, the organ and the renovation of the kitchen, but in all seriousness gave close attention to the statement; “something needs to be done about the church building”. It gives the impression that we are dead!” A schedule of work was drawn up to spruce up the outside of the premises. Small steps would eventually lead to bigger things.
In October 2006 Tony Malcolm flew to South Africa to represent the Black British Methodist Ministers Group for consultation in Johannesburg. One of the highlights for Tony was meeting Nelson Mandela. On his return there was a lively event of music, pictures and information at Moseley Road.
In the midst of our deep concern about our future many good things were going on. On 5th November 2006 the first children's communion took place. The young people had taken the lead in its planning and approached the task with great thoughtfulness to ensure a successful and meaningful outcome for the 56 communicants. Also in 2006 new curtains were bought for the chancel after a short fundraising campaign. With the incredible surplus of £1 000 we were able to redecorate the vestry. Again we were blessed by the generosity of our members. In May 2008 a “Meet and Chat” group was formed for members unable to make it to church on Sundays. The following month the Church Anniversary included an opportunity to make a gift towards the provision of new chairs for midweek use. The target of £1 350 was not quite met, but Gift Aid donations more than redressed the balance. The Good Neighbours Group, a link with King's Heath School, was started in 2008 and provided a lively opportunity for activity and snacks after school on Tuesdays. In September 2008 the church and circuit welcomed our fifth deacon, Janet Smith, who joined us from Bolton and she has continued to develop this Tuesday enterprise with help from others.
WORKING TOWARDS THE FOURTH BIG CHANGE (2009-2016)
Saturday, 28th February 2009 was a very significant date in the life of Cambridge Road as Tony Malcolm organised a “Vision Day”. It set us on the path to a revolutionary approach to solving the problems of our Victorian heritage. From careful, small steps the vision of a complete refurbishment of the interior came increasingly to be seen as a workable solution. The June Church Council agreed to an action plan in three parts: essential maintenance, short term planning and a longer term project, the feasibility of which would take some time to unfold. Deacon Janet Smith was given the task of setting up a working party to move the major project forwards.
The usual pattern of church life continued with some additions. Tony Malcolm's idea of a “Sunday Chill” for children of secondary school age took hold and one meeting a month soon increased to three. He arranged for old copies of “Hymns and Psalms” to be sent to the Hugh Sherlock Methodist Church in Clarendon in Jamaica. We were also asked to consider the Circuit's initiative to amalgamate five circuits to create a large Birmingham Circuit. This idea, after much thought, prayer and debate, became a reality in September 2011 with a service of celebration at Symphony Hall.
On 15th May 2011 Moseley Road Methodist Church held its last service as it was about to close 139 years after its foundation in 1872. Tony was soon welcoming a substantial number of its members, who, not only increased our congregation to over 70 on average, but brought a wide range of skills and a fresh vibrancy to our worship.
Meanwhile Tony was busy setting up “Heretics Anonymous”, providing members with the opportunity to question and challenge all aspects of life and faith. Tony moved on to the green pastures of Dorridge in September 2011. He will be remembered for pointing us in the direction of wholesale renovation, for his work with the young and disadvantaged, and also as an innovator. The children will remember him for the lure of chocolate which appeared regularly on Sunday mornings! He wrote in appreciation: “Thanks for sharing the joys and pain of ministry”. It was also the end of the Moseley Road and Sparkhill Circuit and a final service was held on 10th July 2011.
In September 2011 “Singing the Faith” was published. It owes its origin to the Methodist Conference of 2004 which “authorised the preparation of a supplement to 'Hymns and Psalms'”. The Music Resources Group quickly discovered that the wealth and diversity of material produced in the last twenty years merited a new collection. We had soon purchased the new book, though timing was not particularly sensitive, as in June 2010 copies of the “Complete Mission Praise” had been bought for the church as a gift!
Rev. Nicholas Jones joined us from Cotteridge at the beginning of the 2011 Methodist year and bought skills which would encourage us to move forward in faith with the major project we were undertaking. At the Annual Church Meeting in April 2012 a programme of fundraising was agreed. A garden party was held in September to kick start events. On 6th October there was “an air of excitement and anticipation” at church, followed by a hush, as Elvis appeared to give a memorable night of entertainment. Nick revealed an amazing and unforgettable talent. The evening raised over £1 000. Next, the December “Winter Warmer” with refreshments and home made gifts brought in £859 after much hard work. Other events included a Caribbean evening (£900), a pantomime (£1 000) involving the young people, a beetle drive and the preparation of a book of favourite recipes, all well supported and the funds kept increasing! In addition “The Bag Lady” continued to produce hand made bags at reasonable prices!
By the end of 2012 “there was a good head of steam up, driving the church vision and development project forwards”. Our own funds had continued to grow and were augmented by an anonymous gift of over £17 000 and a kind donation of £5 000 from Maypole Methodist Church. Final plans, with later modification, for the major refurbishment were approved and planning consent was sought to remodel the interior of the building to provide an exciting design, and create the impression of space with a kitchen and toilets on either side.
With stage one completed we embarked on a process of more fundraising with a Giving Day attached to the Church Anniversary, when Rev. Peter Bates was appointed as preacher, in July 2013. The building committee of Peter Wright, Debbie Berrill, Ruth Tissington, Judith Smith and Tony Cooper, with others, too, did an enormous amount of detailed and complicated work, both with Marc Worrall, the architect, and in seeking grants from various organisations and charities with later support from a professional fund raiser. Later, they had to watch progress and attend site, planning and strategy meetings. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these five members who, working closely with Nick, spent an enormous amount of time, effort and energy on our behalf. By the end of 2013 planning permission had been granted. Grants began to pour in with large amounts from the Methodist Connexion, the Birmingham District and Circuit, together with generous donations from Veolia Environmental Trust, the Joseph Rank Trust and the William A Cadbury Trust. For all of this we are immensely grateful with a total refurbishment bill estimated at over £700 000.
Building work began in February 2016, so we experienced eight months “in exile” at Hazelwell Church, the members of which made us very welcome. Gill Holmes kept a careful look out for us Sunday by Sunday, and pastoral visitors kept in touch with their flock! On 24th July we shared the anniversary of the centenary of the church together, when David, Bishop of Birmingham presided at the service.
When I walked past church yesterday the notice board still advertised “CAMBRIDGE ROAD METHODIST CHURCH COMMUNITY SPACE” with the building project being undertaken by Trendgrey. Completion is due on 11th August and, following a period of preparation, the first service will be held on 4th September with a social occasion on the Saturday evening. The church will be officially opened on 9th October 2016. It has been a long, sometimes tiring, sometimes worrying process, but those who have worked so hard to realise a dream on behalf of all our members can be rightly proud of what they have achieved. We set out in faith, have been uplifted on our journey and now have a church appropriate for worship and outreach in the 21st century.
CALLED TO SERVE AS MINISTERS
Rev. Herbert B Workman (1888-1891); Rev. F J Harvey (1891-1893); Rev W R Rice (1893-1895); Rev. A J Southouse (1895-1897); Rev. W B Simpson (1897-1900); Rev. A Winsor Yeo (1900-1903); Rev. J Addison Ingle (1903-1905); Rev. F J Clarke* (1908-1911); Rev. Ira G Goldhawk (1911-1914); Rev. F J Clark* (1914-1920); Rev. Archibald Lauder (1920-1924); Rev. James Mackay (1924-1927); Rev. T H Johns (1927-1928); Rev. H P Harris (1928-1931); Rev. G H Bainbridge (1931-1936); Rev. W Partridge (1936-1941); Rev. A Hanley Smith (1941-1942); Rev. John Talbot (1942-1947); Rev. W W Ensor (1947-1952); Rev. Brian H Reed (1952-1953); Rev R R Clements (1953-1960); Rev. H Chadwick Smith (1960-1964); Rev. Thomas Lee (1964-1971); Rev. Cledwyn Wood (1971-1978); Rev. Peter W Rodgers (1978-1988); Rev. Brian D Taylor (1988-1995); Rev. John Goodhall (1995-2000); Rev. Catherine Minor (2000-2001); Rev. Florence Gundala (2001-2005); Rev. Tony Malcolm (2005-2011); Rev. Nick Jones (from 2011......)
*The list of ministers at Hazelwell Church indicates that F J Clarke was minister twice, though the Cambridge Road records show a different spelling and was counted as two different ministers!
Lord, for the years, your love has kept and guided,
Urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way,
Sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided:
Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.