Super's Message

 

Dear Friends,

It’s a couple of years since I visited the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley. For an interesting day out I can heartily recommend it. A 19th Century town centre has been recreated, original buildings from all over the Black Country have been dismantled and rebuilt in the museum grounds. There are workshops and a coal mine, steam pumping engines and a fascinating chem-ist’s shop, a working bakery and a canalside pub. Of course no 19th Century Black Country town would be complete without a Methodist Chapel, or two! ‘Providence Chapel was built in 1837 at Darby Hand in Netherton, Dudley. The tiny settlement of Darby Hand grew up in the late eighteenth century as a coal mining and nail making community at the side of the Dudley Canal. It was affiliated to the Methodist New Connexion which broke away from the main Methodist body in 1797 and was very strong in the area.


Providence Chapel played a central part in the life of the community for one hundred and forty years. It was not only a centre for Christian belief and practise, with a strong tradition of choral singing, it functioned as a social centre for the community with evening events and ‘pleasure days’ with a picnic or walk in the woods. Most importantly it provided education and welfare with Sunday School and adult classes on Sunday mornings and the Darby Hand Doctor’s Club ensured medical assistance to poor members of the congrega-tion.’ (Black Country Living Museum Trust Website)


On the day of my visit I spent a few minutes sitting quietly on one of the old pitch pine pews in the Chapel. I reflected on what its presence, or more importantly the presence of its people had meant to the community of Darby Hand. By its activities it enhanced the life of the community. Its very presence was like the salt that Jesus calls us to be in our day.
I found sitting in the Chapel to be very moving. I was reminded of some of the Chapels in the Peak District in which I had begun my preaching ministry. Even the smell of the pews, the felt runners and the slightly musty aroma of dampness in the walls, took me back to those little Chapels where loving and faithful Methodist people always encouraged me and always prayed for me. Of course nostalgia began to overtake me, I found myself thinking, ‘I wish it could be like this all over again’. The hard reality of course is that it can’t. The world is changing and Providence Chapel is now just a museum exhibit, a relic from the past.


Movement, progress and change are never comfortable. In the Church we are currently faced with all kinds of changes. Changes in worship, the most significant part of our common life. Changes in structures here in this Circuit as we move towards amalgamation with the Leicester North Circuit. Chang-es in ministerial staff and styles of leadership. But, we are a pilgrim people. Our faithfulness to Jesus needs to be made real in our 21st Century lives.

 Yours in Christ

David G Vale