Sixty years of church unity in South Holland

The Way of the Cross: Martin Almond played the part of Jesus in the 1986 and 1991 productions.
The Way of the Cross: Martin Almond played the part of Jesus in the 1986 and 1991 productions.
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Gosberton Baptist minister Steve Weatherly-Barton experienced a period of homelessness in his childhood.

During that time, spent living with his grandfather in Essex, he saw just how divided communities could be.

He says: “On a Sunday morning you had church folk on one side of the road and chapel folk on the other. It was like two different worlds.”

However, as his ministry grew Steve began to realise that among Christian churches, “the things we hold in common are far more important that the things we occasionally disagree about.

“It seems to me if the Christian church cannot demonstrate strength and understanding and unity then you haven’t actually got a lot to say to the world, because we are living in a divided world.”

Years on from that difficult time in his life, Steve is taking part in an event marking the anniversary of a remarkable transformation in terms of churches within the communities of South Holland.

Steve is clergy chair of Churches Together in Spalding and District, which celebrates its 60th anniversary next month.

A 60th anniversary service and celebration is to be held on Sunday, October 19 at Spalding Grammar School (3pm), followed by refreshments at The Lighthouse Church.

It may be 60 years old as an organisation, but Steve, appointed clergy chair earlier this year, still believes there is work to do.

He says: “What we need to do at a local level is really get to know each other’s ways of doing things. The danger is we come together and compromise so no-one gets offended. I think it’s important we keep our distinctive identities, but open our doors to everyone.”

Churches Together brings about collective worship, so for instance, the annual Walk of Witness on Palm Sunday is held at Spalding parish church, but involves people from all the churches.

But lay chair Bob Earl points out that the organisation is also bringing people together from different churches to act collectively, such as the launch in 2012 of Street Pastors.

Bob says: “The churches working together is a great thing and shows the community it’s not about this group or that, it’s about God’s people coming together, showing the practical love of God in our own community.

“I am really excited for the future about what God is going to be doing in this area.”