By John Ellis
On the first Sunday of Summer, with the weather markedly better than on Coronation Day 60 years ago, I travelled to the United Reformed Church at St Mary Cray on the borders of London and Kent. Their original building of 1851, paid for by the owner of the local paper mill, bore some resemblance to an Italianate temple so the church is still known as The Temple. The construction of a railway viaduct across the valley in 1858 started the change from a small village to a significant commuting and industrial community.
The Temple community today worships in a light and airy 1954 building constructed after war damage led to the original one being condemned as unsafe. It contains the Willis organ from the previous sanctuary but not the elaborate pulpit which, although stored during the rebuilding, suffered a terminal attack of dry rot. Halls of various sizes and vintages are well used by the community, helped by the church having its own car park.
A prominent feature of the Temple’s life has for many years been its youth work, notably through their thriving Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade companies; there are URC ministers serving us today as a result of the influence of these companies. This Sunday the Brigade work had an unusual effect on the morning service. The previous day their combined marching band had distinguished itself at national band championships held near Stafford, despite them having to leave home around 5am to travel there and not returning until after midnight. So around the communion table was a stunning collection of large silver trophies but the musicians themselves were mostly still in bed sleeping off their long day. Some of their leaders were made of sterner stuff and were in their places in good time for morning worship and to fulfil their many other tasks, not least as Elders and stewards.
The debt we owe to those who, in the midst of busy lives, serve selflessly and enthusiastically as officers and helpers in our Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade companies is incalculable.