Church anniversaries

Church Anniversaries are deeply ingrained my my childhood memory. The small Baptist chapel that I went to as a boy (in the 1960s) constructed a tiered platform each year, providing seats for several dozen children. It was covered in white cloth that was reserved for the occasion. The rest of the church was bedecked with flowers.

For weeks before the Sunday School practised special music – hymns, mostly. There was always a visiting speaker – a Baptist dignitary of the day (I don’t remember much about them!) – and on the day we arrived early, shoes cleaned, hair combed, clothes pressed.

singersThen, at the appointed time, we trooped into the church, ascended to our allotted seats, stood to sing an opening piece, and the service began – centred on the visiting speaker. Everything led up to his (there never was a woman, as I recall) sermon. It was both the centre and the climax of the event. After it there was a prayer – an altar call – and a closing hymn, then greetings from local figures and presentations to prominent church figures, including the ladies (there never were any men as I recall) who had provided the tea – the whole thing took place in the afternoon and went on for a long time.

And the purpose of the whole thing? Entirely honourable; to celebrate the year that had passed, to be encouraged to ‘keep on keeping on’ and – extra to the regular monthly communion service – to keep the whole church in touch with the Christian tradition of which it was a part.

Those days are gone. I doubt there are many places around the country where it would be possible to get thirty to forty lively children to sit still on hard benches while somebody preached a long sermon, let alone to learn – and sing – three or four good old-style hymns.

It seems apparent that celebrating a church anniversary as such has never really been part of Tyndale’s way of doing things. Still, it seemed, as we (Rachel and me) talked about future plans and prepared to present to the church a ‘vision’ – an open church in three parts: to celebrate life-events, to offer hospitality and to explore life and faith – that it made sense to launch the vision at a point in time, to offer it in connection with a call to recommitment and to ‘attach’ it to a new regime of prayer.

What better than a church anniversary? April 6th was discovered – from some of the work undertaken by David Roberts and Dave Bell in the church archive – to be the most appropriate date; it marks the actual founding of the church as a separate entity (as distinct from the opening of the building) in 1868.

As you read this, the anniversary service will have just taken place. I can confidently say that there will have been no tiered ranks of hard wooden benches – and no visiting Baptist dignitary!

But there will have been, hopefully, a sense of thankfulness amongst us as we celebrate the life of the church; a readiness to recommit ourselves to its life from now on and a real interest in the ‘vision’ – and in the Tyndale Daily Prayer. Copies are available in the church for you to take and use.

So Tyndale continues – many more anniversaries to come…

Michael Docker