By John Ellis
For the Victorians, Albion Congregational Chapel in the centre of the Lancashire mill town of Ashton-under-Lyne was one of the Nonconformist cathedrals of the North. In 1862 it planted a daughter church in Charlestown, a relatively poor area of the town, and so this year sees the 151st birthday of that church. On 21st July I was privileged to lead an All Age service in Charlestown to celebrate this, helped by Mr Happy.
The Charlestown church community makes a distinctive contribution to the Ashton-under-Lyne pastorate which operates as three congregations of one church with the Revd Alan Wickens as minister. The solid brick building is unexpectedly light and bright inside and is used flexibly through the week for a variety of community activities. The Sunday morning congregation included young men shaped by the work of The Boys’ Brigade as well as longstanding local residents. Afterwards coffee in the hall was supplemented by hot buttered toast.
The impression I formed was of a church family who knew each other well and understood the community in which they serve. Pastoral care was evident, natural and genuine. Different generations seemed relaxed with each other and everyone contributed to the life of the congregation as they were able. It felt like a good church to belong to. Mr Happy thought so too.