Wallington Baptist Church

History

(From the National Archives:) “The church was formed under the name Carshalton Baptist Church in October 1876 after a number of open-air preaching services conducted by Mr Brewood and Mr May of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Early meetings were also held at 2 Cambden Road and later at the Public Hall at a rent of £60 a year. Mr May became first pastor. Both Charles Spurgeon and his brother James are mentioned in the first minute book (-/1/1) in gratitude for their support. In 1878 Mr May resigned and in 1879 the Rev T W Scamell of the Pastors’ College, became student pastor. A building fund was set up about the same time. In 1880 the Rev James E Jasper was invited to become pastor and continued as such for 44 years until his death in 1924. The church was opened by the Rev. C H Spurgeon on 21 March 1888.”

Appearance

The church is built out of warm orange brick, inside as well as out. The inside of the church has a wooden ceiling, and stained glass windows with colourful patterns rather than religious imagery. A circular stained glass window is at the front of the church, displaying a Star of David – this is a symbol not often seen in Christian churches, and it may be used to represent the Trinity (two interlocked triangles), but I don’t know.

The inside of the church is not richly decorated. A few banners hang on the walls, and there are two small memorials to the dead of each world war, as well as a photograph of who I presume is the church’s founder. At the front of the church, beneath faux organ pipes, stands a projector screen onto which the words of the songs were projected. In front of this is a table on which is placed a Bible and a candle, and in front of this are the lectern and music-sheet stands for the band.

Clergy

The service was led by a male minister helped by a female worship leader who led a lot of the songs and some of the prayers. There was also a small band at the front which played along to the songs and as members of the congregation were arriving for the service.

Congregation

The congregation numbered between 50 and 60, and were very friendly. I was approached by several people asking if it was my first time visiting, if I lived nearby, if I’d like to stay afterwards for coffee, etc. Elderly people, ethnic minorities, and children seemed to each make up just under a third of the congregation, and there was a good balance between male and female.

Service

The service (which started at 10:30) was, in the words of one of the people who welcomed me, “somewhat happy-clappy”. It was divided into three main parts, each lasting roughly half an hour. The first part consisted of several contemporary hymns being sang one after another, with breaks now and then for short prayers or talks. Members of the congregation would clap to the music, wave their hands in the air, and play on tambourines and maracas in time to the songs (or, in the case of the children, just play on tambourines and maracas).

The second part consisted mostly of prayers, taking some different forms. Some were led by the minister, whereas others followed more of a “shout out what you want to say” format. Halfway during these, after a prayer for them, the children left to go into the church hall for a Sunday school type of meeting.

The third part of the service began with a Bible reading, Philippians 2:1-11. This was followed by a long sermon by the minister, based around the reading and on how Christians should live in compassion, truth, love, etc. After a final song, the service ended with a blessing by the minister at around 12:00.

Although I found the service to drag on a bit towards the end, overall I very much enjoyed it. The people there were very friendly and welcoming, and the singing especially was very uplifting.

Afterwards

Members of the congregation went into a church hall after the service for coffee, although I could not join them due to time constraints. A few others – including the minister himself – approached me and spoke to me before I left, making clear that I was welcome and inviting me to visit again.

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Wallington Methodist Church

History

The church was founded in 1908, and was actually celebrating its 105-year anniversary during the service which I attended. When founded, the congregation topped 50 people, hitting a peak of 400 in the 1960s and 70s.

Appearance

The inside of the church has mostly blank white walls with brick pillars and arches, with a wooden ceiling. At the front is an altar with some Union Flags behind it and a small font in front of it, with a cross, candle, Bible and flower display on top of the altar. Above the altar is a large stained glass window showing saints kneeling down to Christ. To the left of the chancel is a small pulpit with a banner emblazoned with a cross draped down from it, and further left from that in the corner of the church is a drum kit and piano. To the right of the chancel is a projector screen, and further to the right of that a small table with a cross on it. There are also a few banners and pictures dotted around the inside of the building, with noticeboards and toys for young children at the back.

Clergy

The service was led by a male minister. He was not wearing vestments, but was smartly dressed and had a clerical collar. Another man gave some notices at the very start of the service, and three girls came up to the front to sing.

Congregation

The congregation numbered about 80, with a roughly equal divide between men and women. Almost half the congregation was comprised of ethnic minorities, who tended to be relatively young, in contrast to the white members of the congregation who were generally elderly, although there were of course several exceptions to both. The congregation was very friendly – so much so that I could not sit down and write some notes about the layout of the church before the service without being interrupted by five different people approaching me and welcoming me, which was certainly a nice start to my visit.

Service

The service started with the minister – a former minister of the church visiting from the USA for the church’s anniversary – addressing the congregation on how glad he was to be there, and inviting them to worship and to celebrate 105 years of Wallington Methodist Church. After an opening hymn and prayers, there was a sharing of the peace and a talk on anniversaries and gratitude to God for his blessings before the Junior Church left the service to do their own activities.

There was then a second hymn, followed by the New Testament reading, Ephesians 4:1-8 and 11-13. Songs were then sung by girls who went up to the front accompanied by the piano to the left of the chancel and by a boy with a cello while the collection was taken. After another hymn, the Old Testament reading was read (Exodus 2:1-10), which tied in with the sermon that followed, which was titled “What’s Around The Corner?”

The Junior Church then returned and informed the congregation what they had been doing – reading the parable of Dives and Lazarus. After a final hymn, the service – which had lasted for about an hour – then ended with the minister blessing the congregation.

Afterwards

Tea, coffee, orange squash and biscuits were available at the back of the church. It being the birthday of one of the congregation members, slices of cake were also being given out. I heard mention of a church lunch later, which I was unable to stay for, but gathered that this was a special occasion due to the anniversary and not a weekly event.