This year Woodhouse Close Church celebrates 50 years of being an “Ecumenical Church”
September 1961 was the date and below is a history of what has happened over the last 50 years compiled by John Armstrong who was instrumental in all the legal and preparty work.
A celebratory service is to be held on Sunday 5th September at 6pm preceded by an afternoon tea at 4.30pm. The Chairman of the Methodist District, The Bishop of Durham and a representative from the United Reformed Church as well as invited guests will mark this important occasion.
Early days in the ecumenical partnership at Woodhouse Close Church
In the late 1960s Anglicans and Methodists were sharing the building but holding separate services and Sunday Schools. Prompted by Revd. Raymond Goadby, it was decided to amalgamate the Sunday Schools. At the time there was a small Methodist Chapel open at Tindale Crescent, pastorally cared for by a very progressive minister, the Revd. Clive Scott. When they heard about this they decided they should also join this uniting Sunday School (their Youth Clubs had already amalgamated after years of staunch rivalry). It’s worth remembering that at this time the ‘estate’ was much younger and there were many more young people and children around. The ensuing discussion determined that worship services should also be combined and Tindale Crescent Chapel closed. New national legislation (Shared Buildings Act) had recently been passed making such arrangements possible so we were among the first: at that time, we were called ‘an ecumenical experiment’. There was also, nationally, real movement and hope that the Methodists and the Church of England would formally ally themselves: sadly, this fizzled out.
In those early days pastoral support at Woodhouse Close was provided part-time by a St. Andrew’s curate and part-time by a Circuit minister. Around 1976 the congregation began a campaign for a full-timer to be appointed to offer pastoral support (without expressing any preference for Anglican or Methodist). Eventually the then Bishop offered to do so and appointed the Revd. Peter Baldwin. The Council offered a house at one end of Hardisty Crescent: it was all hands to the pump to clean and furnish the new ‘vicarage’. Peter proved a very capable and progressive leader, helping enormously in bringing people together. It was during his time, after a YMCA project along the road failed, that we persuaded the County Council to appoint Jane A as a community worker and the community project formally started.
In 2000 the URC in South Church Road closed and several members joined with us, with recognition of their URC status.