The early 1980s and late 1990s were difficult times. Lean years in terms of members and threats of closure – not a very easy time for anyone. Some people outside of our Church held the view that the Church was just being kept open for the use of the Scouts and Guides. This was not a view of the fellowship at Wesley Hall who were still working hard in the Church with the Scouts and Guides alongside us. We had to get through periods of soul-searching, self-criticism and working out what our strengths and weaknesses were, of reaching out to others for help and of prayer. However, this was a time of learning, because we realised that we did have strengths and that with the fellowship working together we could still function and we had work to do.
We needed lots of prayer and a Minister who would come in, shake us up and work alongside us. We found this in David Ashby. He encouraged us to identify our strengths, to use them to the Church’s benefit and to work together, to believe in ourselves as a Church and that we could achieve things together with God alongside us. The Church together with the Scouts was actually one of our main strengths.
So began a period of years when the fellowship transformed the building, commencing in the summer of 2002 with Group Scout Leader Barry Munden taking up the first board of the old hall floor. With about 20 other volunteers, old scouts, parents of children in scouts and church members, the whole floor was taken up in a couple of hours. Then the real hard work began with the laying of the new floor, the redecoration of the hall, and refurbishment of the Chapel and Vestry. Over the period 2002 – 2005 the building was brought back into good order.
On 6th June 2004, we celebrated our 90th Anniversary with a fun afternoon involving all organisations and groups who used the hall, including folk singing from Tideway, line dancing, jazz dancing, scouting skills and competitions. It was a very enjoyable afternoon. The day after, on the Sunday, a special service was held led by David Ashby, featuring a sketch “Wesley Hall This is Your Life” and followed by a barbecue.
By the Church’s 93rd Anniversary we had new chairs, new carpet and new faces. The premises was being used more and more by the local community: numerous one-off lettings, a Line Dancing Group on Wednesday evenings, Karate on Monday evenings, the Child Health Clinic on Wednesday mornings and on Friday evenings the whole place was full with young people and leaders in Scouting.
June 2011 was a dark time for Wesley Hall. One Friday evening the Church was damaged badly by fire, allegedly the result of an arson attack. The Chapel was very badly damaged, as was the chair store and kitchen, and the building was badly smoke damaged. We were heart-broken as in just a short half hour or so much of the work that had been achieved was destroyed. But the fellowship was as resilient as ever. With the assistance of the insurance company and hard work by numerous contractors, the Church was gradually repaired over the following few months. We were soon back on our feet and well and truly back in business!
Karen Gilham (Secretary) and Paul Nichols (Treasurer)