Page 12 - Moravian Messenger March 2022
P. 12

 Hall Green United Community Church
 The Congregational Church in Sparkhill was founded in 1902 and moved into purpose-built buildings in the 1930s. I first attended on Christmas Day 1962 because I needed to impress a girl who worshipped there! It was a successful church for many years and joined the fledgling United Reformed Church in 1972. But by 1974 the congregation was dwindling and spending more time on maintenance than mission. The church meeting took the decision to close the church. However, before that closure happened, we were approached by the Birmingham Moravian Church with a view to amalgamation.
The Birmingham Moravian Church had been formed in 1968 to formalise a growing number of Moravians from the Caribbean who had been meeting together for many years. They had been worshipping at Ladypool Road Congregational Church but knew our buildings because they had used them for weddings. After negotiations the two churches combined to form Sparkhill United Church in 1975.
The new church was served and led by a succession of Moravian ministers but maintained its close ties with the URC. In fact, some of our ministers served URC churches in the district and one, Rev Geoffrey Tate, became chair of the URC district. Although the church prospered, the buildings that we occupied didn't. Although only completed in 1934 it had numerous design faults, leaked badly and was impossible to heat. In 2006 the church made another bold decision. To demolish our buildings and build a new Community Church. However, as soon as Birmingham City Council heard about it, they had the building listed so our plans were ruined.
We looked at refurbishment, but it would have cost over one million pounds and would still not have given us
the facilities that we wanted. Finally, the leaks
and the cold got the better of us, and the
congregation moved up the road to Hall Green Methodist Church in 2007. The plan was for us to worship in their hall, while they continued to meet in the church, and we shared refreshments afterwards. It soon became clear that this was a ridiculous idea and in January 2008 we started to worship together every week.
Led by our two ministers, Rev David Howarth and
Rev Peter Bates, we signed a Declaration of Intent
later that year and a Sharing Agreement in 2013.
On the 19th of October 2014 we adopted a new constitution and officially became Hall Green United Community Church.
The Hall Green Methodist Church was formed in 1924. They
© Br Blair Kesseler
were a vibrant, active and forward-thinking community who welcomed the newcomers in wholeheartedly. The new church continued with two ministers, one Moravian, one Methodist, until we settled with one minister responsible for the whole church. The first to take up that challenge was Rev Lorraine Shorten, who arrived in September 2017. The challenge for any minister here is to be committed not only to their own denomination, but to the other two and Lorraine tackled that head on and with great success.
One of her first challenges was to oversee the huge regeneration plan for the buildings which completed the first, and major, stage in late 2018. We now offer our local, very varied, community facilities which, pre-pandemic, were used by many different groups. Bookings are now returning, and our local community gives us positive feedback.
The church members have embraced their membership of three denominations and are kept up to date with a weekly newsletter and a quarterly magazine. These also helped to keep us all involved during lockdown.
Led by Sr Lorraine and a dedicated tech team we were able to continue worship and regular prayer groups throughout the pandemic. Services went on Zoom almost immediately and we now are meeting back in the church buildings but continue live on Zoom. We believe that these hybrid services are now a vital part of our ongoing mission.
Like most churches we face challenges going forward. Our membership declined during COVID, but we remain the largest Moravian Church in the UK and one of the largest Methodist churches in the Birmingham district, so we have much to
build on.
Like every congregation we stand on the shoulders of Saints, too many to mention. One, however, stands out and that is our late brother, Ashton Mackintosh. He was there at the birth of the Birmingham Moravian Church, helped negotiate the agreement that formed Sparkhill United Church and was a firm supporter of the union with the Methodists. We have also been served by many outstanding ministers and laypeople over the years.
HGUCC looks forward to continuing to serve the people of our locality and being an integral part of three great traditions.
Br Blair Kesseler
  The Moravian Messenger
Official Journal of the Moravian Church in the British Province. Published monthly by the authority of the Provincial Synod.
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