I then looked at the Long Itchington minutes book, a huge tome of the history of the Chapel from 1827 to 1931. I was aware too that there were other Congregational chapels with a similar history to Long Itchington; for instance, Marton, Southam, Long Compton, Stockton and Moreton-in-Marsh. I speak now though about Long Itchington, which was going along quite well until the Church meeting in 1913 after which – and I nearly missed an addendum – in very faint writing it said, “lapse of meetings until 1920 owing to the First World War”. My thought was that for most of those Chapels, that would probably have been the only time when the Chapels were closed, except the present lockdown.
It must have been a very sad time for the people during 1913 to 1920 who possibly wondered if they would ever worship in their Chapel again and I can understand that feeling at the present time. However, I have given you this history story because it was not the end. At the Church meeting in 1913 before the close down, there were six people and in 1922 when the Chapel reopened there were twelve people and by 1937 there were so many worshippers that the Chapel wasn’t large enough and was eventually renovated and transformed. And, as is said, the rest is even more history.
Today, many of the Congregational Chapels are on lockdown, not because of a war like the First World War or even the Second World War but another kind of war – a silent kind which is just as dangerous. I ask the question, how did the Congregational Chapels survive? Last week, I spoke about Psalm 124. This week, we look at that again. In the Psalm, David says to Israel, the Lord was on our side. David is speaking to people. not to countries. Some of the people reading this will have had their own battles and haven’t always been able to prevent closure, but like Marton Chapel, the people who were so few they were unable to cope took their enthusiasm to Long Itchington. Psalm 124, saying God must have been with us to help us win the battle, is followed by Psalm 125 that begins with, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which can not be shaken but endures forever.”
PRAYERSToday, we look back to the beginning of many chapels in the 19th Century and we give thanks for the commitment of those who were servants of Jesus Christ and were determined to have places of worship. We pray for our own chapel as we wait for the virus to be overcome when we can once again worship together and show the commitment we have towards God our Father, when we say “Thy will be done”. We pray that we will be ready to follow your Son Jesus our Master and Saviour.
A prayer from the Prayer Handbook by Susan DurbarBlessed be God,
who is not alone in doing wondrous things, but who inspires and empowers people like us to love with compassion and to desire justice.
Who hears the voices of those in need, the poor and those who have no help and sends you and me to answer them.
Who has pity for the weak and who holds them as precious while nagging us to rise and do something.
Whose glory fills the whole earth, and whose power is shown in the ones who meet our weakness and our need for they do wondrous things.
And blessed be God’s people, who touch the earth with love. May glory fill the world as righteousness and justice are delivered from our hands.