This weekend I’ve been in Manchester celebrating my home church’s centenary. The church congregation really pulled out all the stops to celebrate it! Everyone who had been to the church in the past 100 years, who they could find a means to contact, was invited to a weekend of celebrations. On Saturday night we had a three course formal meal and we were entertained with two soloists by two young women who had grown up in the church and songs from the Jamaican Folk Emsemble. There were speeches – the first from Adrian who has attended Manley Park for 40 years, and the second from Tom Stuckey who was our minister in the 80’s. He’d overseen groups of student ministers, when the Methodist Church used our church to experiment with new, more practical based, teaching methods. Many of the students that Manley Park assisted in training in the 70s and 80s have since risen to the dizzy heights of positions at Methodist Conference – one of which is Alison Tomlin who is the President Delegate, and will preaching there next Sunday. Many of these past students came to the meal on Saturday night and to the service which again Tom led on Sunday morning. During his speech on Saturday night, Tom read a poem that had been given to him when he became President of Methodist conference. I can’t remember the exact wording, but basically it said to turn from a small person reciting poems at church into the President of Methodist conference, it doesn’t matter how much faith you show, all you have to do is attend lots of meetings! In the service the next day I gathered Tom had led more meetings than he had services, when he accidently said “The next item on our agenda is… I mean litergy.” It certainly generated some laughter!
I attended Manley Park for the first 18 years of my life, but I found out many things about the church over the weekend, that I never knew before. Like there used to be a traditional pulpit and pipe organ – in my entire life there has been a foot high stage and an electric organ. The congregation has put together a booklet with articles detailing the history of the church and the community activities that have been held there for the past 100 years. It was really interesting to read first or second hand accounts of the history of the church that I thought I knew so well. On the page featuring our church weekends away, that we had when I was younger, there were numerous photos including a posed group photo. Except that half the people in the photo weren’t looking at the camera – they were looking at a cute, blonde, one year old who could be seen crawling out of the shot! Yep, that was me! The aspect I found funniest though, was that neither of my parents were among the people watching me!
Another impressive centenary project that had been completed is the banner that will hopefully be shown below… Each of the squares on it were made by a member of the congregation, past or present – I gather that squares were sent in from far and wide and they represent different aspects of our church’s life.