Saturday, 10 October 2009
I ought to have mentioned that changes in demographics also led to the demise of east Bristol Methodism, (and Anglicanism)
The immigration of West Indians, and of South Asians changed the face of Easton. Growing prosperity and (white flight?) led to the children and grandchildren of old time Easton residents leaving for the new eastern suburbs of Downend, Bromley Heath, Oldland Common and Longwell Green. Others moved to the “new town” of Yate, some 8 miles east of Bristol.
West Indians were not welcomed by the existing congregations, so they formed their own. Tudor Road Methodist Church was sold to a (I believe) Church of God in Christ congregation as many as 50 years ago.
The old Redfield Methodist Church became a Sikh Temple.
My mother joined the Church of England, and her Church, St. Mark’s was in due course closed and merged with St. Anne’s, Greenbank. St. Mark’s Church (an interesting neo-Norman building) was converted into apartments, whilst the Church Hall became a Mosque.
St. Thomas Church of England on Fishponds Road was acquired by a Black congregation, as was the former Eastville Park Methodist Church, also on Fishponds Rd.
But in what we might call “Greater Kingswood” – the area where John Wesley preached - Methodism seems to have fared a little better. I’ve counted 12 Methodist Churches which yet survive. (These are in the areas of Kingswood, Hanham, Staple Hill, Shortwood, Longwell Green and Oldland Common.)
6:00 a.m. today
"Hey Dad. We've waited, and waited. Now open up that can of food, enough of this dry stuff"
"We are looking at the fridge. Can't you take a hint"
Friday, 9 October 2009
Wesley's "New Room in the Horsefair, Bristol, U.K.
Any history of “The people called Methodists” is inextricably linked with my home City of Bristol.
It was in the communities of Hanham and Kingswood, on the eastern fringes of Bristol, that John Wesley first preached in the open air, in 1739.
He was there at the behest of fellow Church of England Priest, George Whitefield, to preach to the coal miners who lived in a pitiable state, and who were ignored and despised by official religion.
Wesley’s first open air “pulpit” was at a place now called Hanham Mount - four miles east of where I grew up. He also preached at a place called Rose Green (now a housing development). Rose Green is but 8/10 mile from my childhood and young adult home.
It was also in Bristol that John Wesley built what he called a “New Room”, in the Horsefair. This was a place where he could live when in Bristol, and where he could preach.
In 1944 I was baptised in Eastville Methodist Church, Bristol at a time when east Bristol was hopping with Methodist Churches.
Within a 2 mile radius of my home there were at least fourteen Methodist Churches. I can name some of them from memory.
Whitehall Methodist Church;
Easton Road Methodist Church;
Tudor Road Methodist Church;
Bethesda on Church Rd, Redfield AND, just down Church Road, the Redfield Methodist Church;
Speedwell Methodist Church;
Eastville Methodist Church, AND, just up Fishponds Road, the Eastville Park Methodist Church.
Now, in this same radius, there are but four Methodist Churches.
Why the decline?
1. English Methodism had divided into more than three groups following the death of John Wesley. So there might be two or three “Methodist” Churches from “rival” groups in the same area. In 1932 the three main groups (Wesleyan, United, and Primitive) were re-united. Thus the “rivalry” ended and it was obvious that in some neighbourhoods a merger of formerly rival congregations made sense.
2. My own experience shows me that too many local Churches were dominated by older “gate-keepers” who were unwilling to allow change. For instance – in the 1960s I did some “local preaching” in east Bristol Methodist Churches, including the Eastville Methodist Church at which Mum and Dad had been married, and where I had been baptised. I was happy to be there for Dad and Mum’s sake, but it felt like a “time warp”. The local leadership led the congregation as if nothing had changed between 1935 and 1965.
3. English religion is tied up with “class”. The leadership classes of local Methodist congregations were separated from their local communities by issues of class: - e.g. “Middle Class” leaders in “Working Class” neighbourhoods.
4. Religion is more a matter of sociology than theology, no matter what preachers, pastors, and priests say.
This proud Bristolian, baptised in a Methodist Church offers you the following links.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Of course, from time to time I’ve had nightmares – and then awoke with a fast beating heart.
I also have funny dreams, and have frequently woken myself up by laughing. I call out and talk in my sleep – it’s altogether quite a performance.
In remembering the dreams I can usually make the connections, and suss out their origin.
The other night I dreamed that I went into “Easton Road Methodist Church” - a Church not too far from where I grew up (and a Church long since closed).
In my dream the Church became “Eastville Methodist Church” (also now closed) – the Church where my parents got wed, and where I was baptised in 1944.
My dream told me that I was there to baptise a baby. I found the wee child, wrapped tightly in a blanket, but left alone on a pew in the corner of the Church. I began to baptise the baby - with hot sauce. Naturally the baby protested, and immediately became one of my cats - glowering at me for the indignity of hot sauce on her head.
The cat turned back into a baby who kept saying “Mowl Hall”. My dad appeared in the dream saying that the baby had been born in a house named “Mowl Hall”.
At that moment I awoke, to hear my cat Ada outside my bedroom door uttering loud “miaows” - which of course had become “Mowl Hall” in the dream.
This all has left me thinking about Methodism in east Bristol - of which I will write tomorrow.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Monday, 5 October 2009
Her birthday reminds me of my visit to see her in Phoenix, AZ earlier this year. We went to the Desert Botanical Garden for a marvellous exhibition of Chihuly blown glass. You can read more about Chihuly on the following websites.
(The photo’s on this page were taken by Joyce - she sent them to me just a few weeks ago.)
Sunday, 4 October 2009