Chapter Nine - Youth Work

Early Sunday School

When the Howard Memorial was built, the Sunday School consisted of 50 scholars and eleven teachers. In those days there was a Sunday School in the morning (36 attended in 1909 at 10am) and the afternoon (41 attended in 1909 at 2pm – but had to close for two Sundays in 1912 due to an outbreak of measles). Mr John Keech was the superintendent of the Sunday School at the time of the opening of the new building. For those who felt too old to attend Sunday School, short evangelistic services were held on Sunday afternoons. These meetings were the start of the Junior Christian Endeavour Society. Twelve members were present in 1910. In addition, The Band of Hope was held at the Chapel between 1888 and 1927 and on the books there were about 90 registered each year and most were aged between eight and twenty.

In 1910, at a Christmas celebration for Sunday School scholars, it was written; “On Jan 5th the scholars were invited to a Christmas tree, which was loaded with good things, through the generosity of several ladies from Bedford, Buns and oranges were sewed round, and a very enjoyable time was spent by all present”. In 1917 one entry in the Sunday School minutes reads on “Sat July 14th the scholars were taken down to Cardington Mill, a boat was provided and was greatly enjoyed by the scholars. Light refreshments were provided, no public tea was held owing to war conditions”. In 1918 the Sunday School consisted of 32 scholars with six teachers. 50 members belonged to the Band of Hope. In 1919 a Christmas tree was given to each of the scholars who were under the age of fourteen. It was decided that the Sunday School festival (annual Sunday School party) be held with a public tea including sweets, nuts, cakes, loaves, and tea, including prizes for attendance such as books, handbags and handkerchiefs. Book prizes included Robinson Crusoe, Little Women, What Katie Did Next as well as less well known titles like The Adventures of a Three Guinea Watch. To raise money for Sunday School prizes, a public tea and entertainment by the choir was given on 16th November 1919.

The Sunday School scholars were treated to trips away; in 1930 and 1931 the Sunday School went to Wicksteed Park and in 1935 they went to Clacton on Sea. In 1936 they went to Hunstanton and in 1938 to Skegness. In 1940 there was no Sunday School treat due to the war but evacuees attended the Sunday School. In 1947 a Sunday School outing was arranged to go to London Zoo, and in 1948 to Southend on Sea.

When Mr John Keech retired from his work with the Sunday School, he was succeeded by his son, Mr J K (known as Ken) Keech. Mr Keech was up at 5am every Sunday to light the boiler which is now buried deep below the toilet for the disabled! Even after he retired from the Sunday School, Mr Keech still walked down and switched the heating on (before the timer switch was fitted). During the 1960s Mr Ken Keech led the Sunday School and played the piano each week for the hymns and Mr Reg Goodship often told a Bible story using a flannelgraph (the modern technology of the day!) to illustrate and help the children remember. Mr Goodship has been involved in Sunday School life at Howard Memorial since that time, having taken over from his wife, Ruth (née Pestell) who used to cycle to the church each week to help Mr Ken Keech. Janet Goodship provided the music when Mr Ken Keech retired but increasingly the songs were accompanied by the guitar rather than the piano. Her brother Raymond also played guitar and accompanied the songs. Gospel sing-a-longs began to be held at various churches around the area and The Howard Group, accompanied by members of the Sunday School, would attend these, often packed like sardines in the cars (before the days of health and safety!!!). Sunday School Bike RideFamily services were held each fourth Sunday at 3pm when The Howard Group and members of the Sunday School would take part by singing songs. Ruth and Reg Goodship began the Youth Club in 1979. This continued for sixteen and a half years and as this became more popular, Sunday School attendance dwindled; in 1988 the Sunday School had 24 children attending and the youth club had 13, and the following year saw 20 scholars in the Sunday School and 40 on the youth club books, averaging 32 per week. In 1990 the Sunday School was renamed Pathfinders. The youth club finished in 1996 but restarted four years later in September 2000, after discussions with the young people on the future of the church; The Friday Experience (TFE) was born. This had 25 attendees in September 2004. Friday Fun Factory (FFF) began in June 2002 when Roz Addington arrived in Bedford and this was a club for lower school age children. The Friday Experience Xtra (TFEX) started two years later in September 2004 and was a club aimed at those too old for TFE! These clubs continue today.

As well as term-time clubs and Sunday morning meetings, the church, in conjunction with St Mary’s Cardington, has put on a holiday club each summer for the young people. The first holiday club began in 1993 and was called ‘Lightfactory’. The building was decorated with flashing disco lights and the different groups were named infra red, orange flashing beacons and ultra violet. The first holiday club at Howard Memorial Church was such a success, that these have continued each year. In 1994 the holiday club was called ‘Shipshapes’: “between 40 and 50 youngsters attended and the church was decorated to give a nautical effect”. 'On Fire' was the holiday club for 1995. At the end of 'On Fire' holiday club, a finale was arranged – a trip to Bedford fire station with 45 youngsters, then onto Priory Park for games and chips. ‘Chattabox’ took place in 1996, ‘Going Bananas’ in 1997 where the children went to Banana Island after travelling in an aeroplane being captained by the vicar; Rev Nigel Morrell. ‘Scarecrows’ was the holiday club for 1998. Megaquest’ was the holiday club in 1999 and the characters included in the drama were Logoff, Dumdum, Super-Harryo, Cronic and Flora Cruft. ‘Go for Gold’ holiday club was put on in 2000.

Sunday School

On 30th August 2001 the church put on a whole day of activities for the children instead of a week of two hour sessions as had been the norm for the previous holiday clubs. The year after that saw the normal holiday club format resume – ‘Light Factory’ was recycled, the following year was ‘Desert Detectives’ then ‘Jungle Jamboree’ and ‘Landlubbers’ in 2005. ‘Pyramid Rock’ was the holiday club for 2006, and at end of the holiday club, as a treat the children from the holiday club and their parents were taken to Hunstanton for the day on 26th September 2006. It was a lovely day where parents and children enjoyed seaside attractions, trips out on the sea, and sunbathing on the beach. Coming home on the coach the children were still energetic enough to sing the holiday club songs with gusto and then made up their own lyrics giving each person a line with something they had done during the day such as “Ray went to Woolworths” and “Luke went in the sea”! ‘Wastewatchers’ was the church’s most recent holiday club where the importance of recycling was highlighted as well as the way God can create something good from a bad situation.

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