Methodists recall good times as church closes
After 46 years of fruitful ministry, the Methodist Church in White Woman Lane has closed. Marion Baxter recalls some of its rich history.
In 1973-74 Wroxham Road Methodist Church was involved in an ecumenical ‘Step Forward Together’ campaign for the whole of the Norwich area. This campaign included asking people what they could contribute to the work of the churches, what they might like to see in the life of the church, and any ideas and projects for the future.
One of the suggestions from Wroxham Road was for the provision of worship in the White Woman Lane area. This resolved itself into a request to White Woman Lane School to allow their premises to be used. The Headmaster, Mr D Cossey, agreed for the use of the School Hall each Sunday, and in April 1975 the first Sunday morning Service was held, attended by approximately 10 people from various denominations, and led by Rev Arthur Windridge.
Until August 1976 Church Services were led on a rota basis by the Revd Arthur Windridge and five Local Preachers – Mr Albert Ward, Mr Ivor Harrowven, Mr Ivor Boulton, Mr Kenneth Lusher and Mr Charles Lemmon.
“My father was a Methodist local preacher,” remembers Alan Lusher, “and following the closure of the North Walsham Road fellowship, he was keen that a new society should be started to provide for the expanding population of Sprowston and Old Catton. He got together with other local preachers, and they established the chapel at White Woman Lane. It has been a powerhouse and much-loved fellowship for 46 years.”
From September 1976, 10.00 am Sunday worship at White Woman Lane appeared on the full Norwich Circuit Methodist Quarterly Plan. A Sunday School was formed from June 1975 and by January 1977 an average of around 20 adults worshipped each Sunday and nearly 30 children attended the Sunday School.
For 18 years the congregation met under the umbrella of Wroxham Road Methodist Church but then took on the challenge to become independent. In September 1993 the congregation decided to become an autonomous ‘Methodist Society’ - Old Catton Methodist Church – White Woman Lane. This brought about different challenges and also opportunities during the next 28 years, until from the beginning of the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 when Sunday worship had to be suspended.
We now had an elderly congregation whose numbers during this time depleted, and due to various healthcare reasons, others felt unable to continue transforming a School into a Church. At the end of April 2021, a decision was made to request permanent closure of ‘The Church in the School’ by the Norwich Methodist Circuit and was confirmed on July 7.
We wish to thank White Woman Lane School and the communities of Old Catton and Sprowston for their support over the last forty-six years.
The people have many positive memories: celebrations of Sunday School and Church Anniversaries; House Groups encouraging fellowship and Bible Study, links with White Woman Lane School, where members of the Church community have been Governors, school assemblies led by Methodist Church Minister, and fundraising for both Church and School charities, with help from pupils, teachers and congregation.
Other than White Woman Lane Junior School, many community links have been forged over the years. Redmayne View a residential home for the elderly, where a fortnightly Thursday morning ‘Art Group’ and monthly Sunday evening ‘Songs of Praise’ took place. Some of the residents also joined ‘The Church in the School’ for Sunday worship and assisted with the ‘Link to Hope’ Romania Shoebox Appeal.
John Wesley said: “The Best of All God is with us” and God has been with us as we have worshipped and witnessed through ‘The Church in the School’ in the community of Old Catton and Sprowston. In the words of a hymn by Charles Wesley, “We’ll praise him for all that is past, And trust him for all that’s to come.”
Pictured above are members of the congregation on the 33rd anniversary, April 20, 2008, with Rev John Fenn, Norwich Methodist Circuit Superintendent Minister. Below is White Woman Lane School with the church banner displayed on the gate.