I’ve had a couple of really interesting church visits recently, quite different churches, comfortably within our fold and both beginning with a ‘W’. The first is a church where I met a delightful lady who told me she was a Tiller Girl, and had performed many times at the London Palladium, occasionally in front of the Queen and other members of the royal family. Where is it? To find out you’ll need to click through!
On the 21st May, 2017 I took the morning service at Woodford Green United Free Church. This was the annual service for the Forest Group. This might sound like we needed to change the oil, but no, it was a celebration of the local churches coming together as a group, sharing two ministers, Revds Richard Mortimer and Ulrike Bell, between the four churches. The Woodford Green church is a large, traditional building, as you can see from the photographs of the outside of the church and Ulrike in front of the organ.
After the service, it was good to talk to the members, elders and ministers. All lovely people, but I must admit that I was fascinated to meet a real live Tiller Girl. I guess men of a certain age will remember the magnificent line of dancing girls. The Tiller Girls were characterised by dancing entirely ‘in sync’ and whose ‘signature move’ was a high kick in unison. So, it was great to spend some time with Kath Denby and hear her stories of the stage, what a wonderful lady who still has a wonderful smile.
My other ‘W’ in the last few weeks was Woking URC. By contrast, this is a relatively modern, light and airy worship centre that was totally revamped about seven years ago. Woking is one of the few URCs who have a full-time minister, Revd Lucy Brierley, and a team of church workers, which includes Matt Barkley (past FURY Moderator) who is their Youth Worker. It seems that Youth Work is well covered in Woking as Phil Ray, one of the Wessex Synod CYDOs, is also an active member there. Hardly surprising that they
have one of the largest number of young people recorded in the Yearbook!
It is interesting to try to understand why these two churches are so different in size (not that size is the only measure of success). If you go back two or three decades both were large churches and now Woking, still a large church, is six times the size of Woodford Green (data from the 2016 Yearbook). In the latest census, while Woodford is more diverse they both have close to 60% of the population claiming to be Christian. Does having a full-time minister, or a full-time youth worker make the difference? Does the modern building make the difference? I wish I knew … because that could drive many decisions, including our investment strategy.