‘Methoday 19’ was an interactive Exhibition of Norfolk Methodism, held at Mundesley Methodist Church in the North Norfolk Circuit over the weekend of July 27th and 28th, 2019. It was also sponsored and encouraged by the North Norfolk Circuit.
The Exhibition’s title echoed this organic motif –‘The roots and shoots of Norfolk Methodism’. There were six display stands: 1. How Methodism began and how it reached Norfolk. 2. A Snapshot of Methodism in 1851, focusing on the Religious Census of that year. 3. Memorable Norfolk Methodists – 22 mini biographies of men and women who “made a difference” in Norfolk and beyond. 4. The Life and Times of chapels in the immediate locality. 5. ‘Shoots...’ – what Methodists are doing in North Norfolk today. 6. Changing times – Norfolk Methodism in our lifetime, illustrated by photos, books, artefacts, cartoons, etc.
There was also an interactive facility for children, ‘Kids’ Corner’ with stories, activities and a larger-than-life ladybird and bumble bee (Deacon Brenda Hayes and Rev Sharon Thraves!)
The Exhibition was officially opened by Councillor Hilary Cox, who is an active Local Preacher and grew up in the Mundesley Sunday School.
We tried to encourage interactivity in various ways:-
a) Encouraging fuller understanding of our local Methodist history and heritage by highlighting significant events such as the impact of Primitive Methodism, the 1851 Census, the 1981 Methodist Conference held in Norwich...
b) Inviting reminiscences and indulging in a bit of nostalgia about significant events, chapels, organisations, anniversaries, Sunday school experiences, youth clubs, holidays, campaigns, missions etc.
c) Writing down appreciation for “unsung heroes and heroines” who had influenced people’s spiritual journeys and growth. (These were offered to God in the prayers of thanksgiving during the Sunday morning Service.)
d) Three “living biographies” were shown on DVD at intervals during the Exhibition – Sarah Mallet, a spirited woman preacher from South Norfolk who was encouraged by John Wesley; David Pilgrim, a Joyful News lay evangelist in the late 19th century who was one of the first two sent abroad (to South Africa); Sir George Edwards, famous Primitive Methodist preacher, social reformer, pioneer of TUs for farm workers, and Labour MP for South Norfolk. The three actors (suitably dressed) were Deacon Brenda Hayes, Jonathan Bloom and Rev Arthur Windridge. They performed their roles “live” during the Sunday morning service.
e) A Saturday evening ‘Any Questions’ addressing questions based on “Where have we come from? Where are we now? Where are we going?” The Panel consisted of Rev Sharon Thraves, Deacon Brenda Hayes, Bex Belshaw and Rev John Fenn. Alison Webster acted as facilitator and co-ordinator. Searching questions included how to engage more with young people, including witnessing via social media; Methodist theology and the present political scene; what will Methodism look like in 20 years’ time?; what more should we be doing about global warming and environmental degradation?
The Sunday morning service was led by Rev Sharon Thraves and Rev Gordon Webster. The three “visitors from the past” represented Methodist preaching, evangelism and global mission, and social justice, all very crucial contemporary tasks and challenges. We sang hymns written by people with a strong Norfolk connection, including Fred Pratt Green and Rosemary Wakelin (and a tune by R. Vaughan Williams who lived for a time in Sheringham).
The afternoon service at 4 pm was a full-blown Circuit occasion, totally filling the space between all the exhibition stands. This was led by Rev Sharon Thraves and the guest preacher was Rev Leo Osborn, a former President of Conference, who happens to have a retirement cottage at nearby Knapton. Leo inspired and challenged us using as his text the well-known Norfolk adage, ‘Du Different’. He based his sermon on Jesus’ proclamation at Nazareth (HIS equivalent of Norfolk?)
in Luke Ch. 4 and St Paul’s call for Christians to be renewed and transformed in Romans Ch. 12. Leo also dedicated a new Circuit prayer candle which would be circulating around the churches in the North Norfolk Circuit, encouraging prayers for one another as well as for others’ needs.
Free refreshments were served throughout the Exhibition, including eats with a Norfolk flavour. Donations and offerings raised £450 for Action for Children.
We were blessed to have the gifts, skills and committed spade-work of many people and were particularly grateful for the expertise and advice on displaying and presenting historical material of Norma Virgoe (District Archivist) and Peter Brice (local historian) – as well as their “hands-on” involvement.
Gordon Webster (for ‘Methoday’ organising group)