Swaffham Celebration of Praise and Thanksgiving: Community of Christ – looking past the church’s door.
Walking past Swaffham Methodist church on the afternoon of Saturday 22nd June, you could be in no doubt of the truth of the old adage, ‘Methodism is born in song’ as the voices of the congregation of members and guests reached the rafters, the roof and beyond in hymns and songs during the Celebration of Praise and Thanksgiving for the completed regeneration.
Malcolm Reddington (husband to our former Minister the Revd Eleanor) had penned a new hymn which fitted fantastically well to the tune of The Seekers’, The Carnival is Over. Going by the singing, however, the carnival was very much not over and in fact in full swing!
We opened the church’s doors to some 100 guests and members and proved that with the new seating arrangement we could fit them all in, and comfortably. The celebration was led by the Chair of the East Anglia District, The Reverend Canon Julian Pursehouse and Revd Andrew led the prayers and interviewed the mural artist, Eddie Goodridge.
Devised by members of the Congregation, the Celebration included a short film, presented by Geraldine Allen and shot by Mike Hills, of more than 20 members sharing why the church had been important to them in the past, what it meant to them now and their aspirations for mission and outreach in the future.
A second video sequence captured the entire regeneration journey in pictures from the earliest repairs to the parapet, pediment and pinnacles (from which the Pinnacle Appeal took its name) right up to the present day with a photo of Revd Andrew talking about the mural to a group of 58 year 2 children from the local primary school. In addition to Malcolm’s hymn, Revd Liz Jolly had also written new verses which we were able to incorporate into the prayers.
Gracing the wall was a striking new banner with motif of a tree of life with leaves like tongues of spirit-fire and bearing the words: many lives – one spirit. Designed and made by Jo Trick it effectively echoed the beautiful flower arrangement created by Linda Burton.
Guest speaker, The Reverend Jennifer Potter, former Minister at Wesley’s Chapel, encapsulated the spirit of the occasion in the title of her sermon: Community of Christ – looking past the church’s door. She referenced Ephesians 2: 19-22, drawing out contemporary thought on “you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”
Among the guests were representatives of the companies who had carried out the work including two businesses with Christian foundation, Fullers Finer Furniture, who designed and made all the new oak fixtures and fittings and Cunnings Recording Associates, who installed the state-of-the-art A/V system.
Also on the Sunday morning, our Celebration was featured by Anthony Isaacs on BBC Radio Norfolk’s Sunday Breakfast programme. Anthony has taken a personal interest in the project and this was the fourth time it was featured. He has tracked the progress of the £350,000 project by taking part in fundraising at the Hymnathon, helping to find an artist for the iconic mural and visiting the church before and after the transformational work. We even had a mention on the regional news bulletin!
The new layout to the building proved itself once again as we enacted a speedy turn around between Celebration service and Celebration tea, transforming the space from worship to fellowship in minutes. And what a tea it was! The Events Team put on a magnificent spread, including many items generously donated by members of the church, and the serving of refreshments benefitted from the added facility of the new sanctuary servery. A special mention goes to Dorothy Ellis, Muriel Bean and Vera Dye for all their experience and expertise and also to Ruth Emery for a beautiful Pinnacle Appeal themed cake.
We feel immensely blessed to have been able to see the project through to this point. This, of course, is not an ending but rather the preparation for a beginning of being an everyday church, a community hub, a place of refuge and welcome. Sandra Simm summed this up in the concluding words of the church film when she said: “We have a great opportunity now to give people the something that they might be looking for.”