By Vic Chalfont
Hearing these days of the churches having various problems and falling congregations, I thought it might be of interest the part churches used to play in everyday life. First lets look at Sunday, this day was always regarded as special as meals were a bit different, there was a Sunday roast and a treat for Sunday tea. You wore your Sunday best and shops and most other places were closed and only essential services working, the kids were sent to Sunday school and Mum at least went to church often morning and evening, the rest of the day was spent quietly.
For the local businesses man it was good advertising to be seen going into church with his family, it was said many a deal was struck in the church porch after service. The local gentry attending church had their own pews which they paid for and they expected their domestic staff to attend. And I am told that it used to be the rule at my own church that the gentry entered by the south porch and the workers by the north, I do know up until the eighties some kneelers who had free pews stamped on them.
Then of course the church choir, this is where youngsters learnt the rudiments of music, in fact today many well known singers say their careers started in church choirs. During the week there were various organisations for the ladies, young wives clubs, mother’s union to name just a few. Then men’s fellowships and for young people many varied clubs, boys brigade, church lads brigade, scouts and youth clubs, and of course girls clubs such as the girls brigade. Most of these young peoples clubs involved various methods of physical exercise, especially gymnastics, thus helping them keep fit besides trying to keep them on the straight and narrow. Temperance was all the rage with temperance clubs such as The Band of Hope where to become a member youngsters had to sign the pledge.
As a member of these various organisations you become entitled in the summer to go on their annual outings, for the children a day at Hampden Park or some other town with park facilities so races and sports could be partaken, followed by a slap up tea. Adults also went on trips to various places again with a posh tea, this was possibly the only day out in the year for some. Then during the darker evenings, social evenings in church halls were organised. Beetle drives and picture shows with the good old magic lantern. Culminating in December with the Christmas party and for the children the prize giving for various achievements.
With regard to the outings I was told of one church, now closed, who on their annual outing for cleaners and volunteer workers, filled 2 coaches! Churches also ran,
in name anyway, football and cricket teams and for the ladies stool ball and rounders. I understand some famous football teams originated as church teams, this of course was the fit and able, for the elderly and infirm there were parish visitors or in some cases a parish nurse.
Finally, on a recent brief count I found that of all the churches in this area no less than 25% of them are now closed for their original purpose and others have been partnered with a neighbouring church.