Wroxham URC celebrates 40 years!
Corrie Mould reports.
We have been so busy looking forward this year, hoping to get planning permission in September to have our own church building for the first time, that we almost missed the fact that it will be 40 years on 10 October, since our fledgling Church was officially recognised by the Presbyterian Church!
Looking back, Wroxham and Hoveton URC was started by the Minister at Trinity, the Revd Francis Jones, and several of its members who live in this area, some of whom, namely Geoff Christie, Elma Grieve and Elsie Paterson are still with us. There was quite a lot of knocking on doors and a monthly service, which soon became weekly, was started in Hoveton Village Hall with a Sunday School. We were known as Wroxham and Hoveton Free Church until October 1972, when the United Reformed Church was formed. Once officially established, the Church bought the Manse which we still have, and it was soon occupied by the Revd Neil Tolliday and his family. They were an Australian family who wished to explore the world, and after spending 2 years in Canada we were lucky to have him with us for 2 years. They left Australia with three children, and returned with five, the last one being born at The Manse.
We had soon formed a Youth Group, Ladies Fellowship, Social Committee and Discussion Group. In fact the Discussion Group realised the need for premises for young people in the area and spawned the idea that eventually became the Broadland Youth and Community Centre. By April 1972 it is recorded that the Church Membership was 71 and the number of young people in Junior Church was 46! The Revd Neil Tolliday was quickly followed by the Revd Geoff McGregor.
A search for a home of our own was always ongoing, but nothing suitable materialised. In 1975, when our minister was the Revd Dr Jim Hutchison, approaches were made to the Parochial Church Council of St Mary’s, the parish church in Wroxham, and we received a very welcoming and encouraging response. After some period of trial, much negotiation, and discussion among our own members, we finally moved in, but it was not until 1980 that a legal Sharing Agreement was formulated. The Sunday School moved into the Church Hall, some 300 yards away over a narrow railway bridge, which has made sharing services with them difficult, so we now have a service once a month together in the Church Hall.
Since then, the Revds Clive Davies, Richard Mortimer and Kenneth Lynch have ministered to us, and Vicars have come and gone. We initiated the formation of the Friends of Wroxham Church, which has now raised over £30,000 for the maintenance of the fabric of St Mary’s. However, we have always felt very restricted in our church activities and public image by lack of our own accommodation, despite generous use of the Manse and individuals’ homes, and of the rather dated Church Hall.
The Revd Kenneth Lynch spotted the potential of a van hire workshop in a perfect location last November, and intense work with architect, council officials and Synod will hopefully result in a purchase of the site.
Meanwhile, our church membership has remained fairly steady at just over fifty for many years, but, of course, children come and go. Now we have the Revd Matt Stone living among us as one of the Team Ministry, and he will be leading our special 40th Anniversary service in the Church Hall on 17 October at 11.15am, to which we welcome anyone who would like to celebrate with us. The service will be followed by lunch.