I was far too young to remember my first encounter with Wesley Hall, probably because I was still in the womb!
When your parents are as involved in the Church as mine were (and still are), you don’t have a lot of choice about whether or not you get drawn in yourself…and as a youngster I didn’t know any different! (a sentiment felt by a number of us “children” over the years). All I knew back then is that I had (and still do have) a lot of fun and laughs at Wesley Hall in the community that thrives there – particularly the friends that have become like family over the years.
I have so many fond memories of my childhood at Wesley Hall, whether it be at the annual Christmas Bazaars (aptly named if you ask me, after looking through some of the items donated to sell that we used to receive!); monthly Church Parades as a Beaver, Cub, Scout, Explorer and now Leader; early mornings helping Mum serve up communion breakfast to the Church circuit (trying not to burn the toast in the toaster); workdays to give the place a spring clean every now and then; Sunday School with audience participation hymns (“If I were a Butterfly” was/is a particular favourite!); Carol Services and Christmas Mornings with interesting sketches, choirs and musical arrangements (it’s all about the kazoos); rehearsals every Sunday for 7+ years for Showtime the Woolwich Scout Gang Show (they were only the years I was participating in the show, but I suspect I was there every Sunday for many years before then too and remember raiding the tuck-shop fairly regularly); and all the events in between that I haven’t forgotten but quite frankly are too extensive to list here!!
When I heard the news that Wesley Hall had been set on fire there were many feelings that went through my mind, as I’m sure they did many others who have benefitted from the church over the years. First shock (had I read that Facebook message right?), and then guilt over the fact that I wasn’t there that night at Scouts. Panic followed, at the thought of the Church being destroyed, and many happy memories with it. Then more guilt, because an event like that makes you realise how much you can take things for granted, often not appreciating what you’ve got until it’s gone… But, I was absolutely sure that whatever happened to the building that night, there would be no question that people would rally round and things would get back to normal again at some point. And I was right.
If anything, I felt that the shock from the fire acted as a catalyst to renew people’s energy and enthusiasm for Wesley Hall, and I think we have been stronger for it ever since. Plus, the Church has never looked so good due to the deep cleaning, repainting and renovations it had to get it back into operation after the fire! It’s true what they say, there is always a silver-lining if you look for it.
For me, Wesley Hall is far more than a building – it’s a second home – and I know that many other people feel this way about it too. Wesley Hall has a special feeling about “it” that is hard to describe. There is a sense of family about it, one that I haven’t found in many other places I go to. Having read some of the other interesting blogs with both recent (and less recent!) accounts of Wesley Hall’s history, I have got the impression that this sense of family has been the same for many people over the past 100 years, and I hope it will continue for the next 100+ years too.
As part of the “next Generation” I feel partly responsible for ensuring this happens – quite a daunting prospect but one that I think will happen naturally as Wesley Hall attracts people through its doors very easily these days with a thriving Scout Group (which I am still part of as an Assistant Cub Leader on Friday evenings), and many other clubs and groups using the hall. It’s always great when past Scouters or Church members bring their children, (or even children’s children now!) back to Wesley Hall, some don’t even live locally anymore – I think that says a lot about the fun and fond memories they have of their time here – and it makes me proud and happy to be part of “it”.