Norbury Baptist Church

History

A Baptist community in Norbury came into being at the start of the twentieth century. Forty eight people founded the church itself in 1922, with the original building constructed in memory of the son of the first minister, who had been killed in the Great War. By 1931, the congregation had outgrew the church building and a new one – the building currently used – was built, with the original retained as a church hall. The organ was installed in the early 1970s.

Appearance

Approaching the church from Norbury’s main road, there is a pretty little green in front of the church, which itself is built in a relatively modern style with a brick exterior.

The inside of the church is mostly whitewashed and rather plain, but banners with biblical messages are positioned on the columns, and a large banner extolling the beauty of creation is at the front of the church.

At the front-left of the nave is a pulpit (this was not used for the sermon during the service I attended), and on the right-hand side a projector screen which displayed the words to the hymns. Communion was served from a table at the front.

At the back of the church are tables where refreshments were served after the service, and one with various newsletters. There is also a shelf with what appeared to be recorded sermons on audio cassette, presumably available to borrow.

Clergy

The service was taken by a cheery male minister in casual clothes. A lady helped with the slides for the projector and gave the Bible reading, and four others at the front sang and played a clarinet during the hymns.

Congregation

The congregation numbered just over forty people, with slightly more women than men. The majority of the congregation (about two-thirds) were black, and in terms of age the congregation seemed to be mostly over forties, although there were some younger people present.

The congregation were all very friendly. Many welcomed me to their church, and there was a real sense of community amongst them all.

Service

I arrived for the 10:30 Sunday morning service, which started several minutes late (although in fairness, the church website does warn that this may happen).

The service started with hymns and prayers, with the Lord’s Prayer prayed relatively close to the start of the service. A Bible reading, Matthew 12:9-21 was given, followed by the sermon. In the sermon, the minister focused on the words of the Prophet Isaiah applied to Jesus in the reading, specifically “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,” reflecting on how negative terms (“will not”) are used to put across a vivid image in the same way they are used in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (love “does not envy, it does not boast” etc.).

Notices were announced after the sermon, and the congregation sung “Happy Anniversary” (to the tune of “Happy Birthday”) to an elderly couple whose wedding anniversary it was. After another hymn came communion. Pieces of bread and small glasses of grape juice were passed around the congregation, and after a prayer by the minister those partaking had communion at the same time.

After communion, there were prayers for the world, and the service concluded with a closing hymn and a blessing.

The hymns were taken from two different hymn books, handed out at the back of the church upon arrival, and the words were projected onto the screen at the front of the church. The NIV was used for the Bible reading, copies of which were in the back of the chairs.

The service lasted about an hour and a half.

Afterwards

After the service, refreshments – tea, orange juice, cake and biscuits – were served at the back of the church.

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