Chapter Eight - URC and Methodists Merge

Rev. Howard A Starr became the new minister after Rev. Douglas Smith in 1961 and he brought up the matter of the future work and witness at Cardington, and after discussion, it was agreed that he (Rev. Starr) put out a few “feelers” about the possibility of the Methodist Church in Cardington and Howard Memorial Church working together – little did they know that in just over 20 years the two would be united!

In August 1981 the decision was made to share the evening services with the Methodist Chapel down the road, alternating the venue. The Methodists still held their morning Sunday services and the Howard Memorial held their Sunday School. In January 1984 the Methodist chapel closed as it was found to be unsafe and was subsequently sold. At the first joint church meeting between the Howard Memorial Church and the Methodist Chapel on 18th June 1984, an official sharing agreement was made. At that meeting it was decided that instead of having a sale of produce after the harvest festival, the produce would be sent to St John’s Home Moggerhanger (a tradition which still continues today). There was a celebration on 3rd May 1986 due to the coming together of the two congregations and the Rev John Slow (URC moderator) and a Methodist chairman were invited.

Following the joining of the two congregations, many memorable events have taken place at Howard Memorial Church. ‘Music, Movement & Munch’ evenings in October 1984, 1985, and 1986 were well attended. The vestry and kitchen were decorated in April 1986 by the young people; both have been recently redecorated to incorporate a toilet for the disabled. There was an open air service arranged in Howard House gardens in 1988 with music from New Life. The open air services continued annually to the present day, taking place outside St Mary’s Church. During the summer holidays of 1988, 1990 and 1991 coffee mornings were held at Howard Memorial on Tuesdays when various people came to demonstrate crafts including wool spinning, corn dollies, dried flowers, calligraphy, silk flowers, and marzipan fruits. There were barn dances held in the Howard Reading Room in 1991, 1992, and 1993; “in 1992 57 people attended the dance and enjoyed refreshments afterwards”. Games EveningFrom October 1994 the church held games evenings, which continued until 2000, and in this year it was called “The Alternative Olympics”. Games such as table football, beetle, downfall, connect 4, rings, dominoes, snakes and ladders and pool were played.

In 2003 meetings took place between Howard Memorial Church and St Mary’s Church of England in Cardington to find ways of working together more closely in the future. As a result, a United Christmas Celebration has been held annually, alternating the venue between the Howard Memorial and St Mary’s with music and drama being provided by both congregations. In 2006 another joint venture took place - a Harvest ‘Fish and Chip’ supper in the Howard Reading Room was held with music by New Life. This was so successful it was repeated the following year and there are plans for another in 2008. A joint social event was held in April 2007, when the Howard Reading Room was packed with people of all ages competing in various games. There was a ploughman’s supper and medals were awarded at the end of the evening: “Great fun was had by all”.

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