This weekend the congregation at Ongar United Reformed Church

were celebrating their 350 years of witness in thisEssextown. This was one of a number of events that they had planned for the year and this weekend included a Flower Festival. The church was beautifully and imaginatively decorated by the local Flower Club, membership of which included some of the congregation from the church. The displays depicted the stages of life from birth to remembrance.

Birth

 

Marriage

 

   

Retirement

 

 

 

 

The church is situated behind a row of cottages owned by the church – Livingstone Cottages – on the High Street. The name comes from one of the well known inhabitants

Livingstone Cottages

who lived there for a short time for it was from here that David Livingstone set off for his missionary journey to Africa. It is hard to think that this young man was so shy that when he went to a neighbouring village – Stanford Rivers – to lead worship he reportedly was so overcome by the sight of the congregation that he completely forgot his prepared words and rushed from the church!

 On display this weekend were a number of books, photographs and letters as well as a two grave stones. These are normally hidden from view in an alcove between the hall and the vestry and are the graves of Rev Isaac Taylor and his daughter Jane who was the author of “Twinkle, twinkle little star”.  It is suggested that Isaac Taylor was a strict disciplinarian and is quoted as saying that “Our freedom from such oppressions (The Act of Uniformity) should not make us forget what we owe, under God, to the piety, zeal and fortitude of that race who fought the battle for us”

The Ongar of 2012 is, of course, very different and the church I experienced was one where young and old have a welcome place. Young people have a special place in the life of this congregation who, together with the church in Epping, support a Family and Children’s worker. Following the service lunch was being served for people from the local community who called in to see the flower displays and share in the food. Ongar is a community where people know each other and meet in a number of different ways, the churches have covenanted together as Ongar Churches Together and it was good to see a church with open doors in the middle of the town and being visited by members of other churches and people who were members of none of the churches.

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