The original Congregational Church, with its traditional, tall and imposing spire stood on Swann Lane from around 1870 until it sadly burned down. The new Cheadle Hulme URC occupies a rather more modern building, but the traditional values are still very much in place – with a twenty-first-century twist.
Next year, Cheadle Hulme United Reformed Church will celebrate its 150th birthday. Safe to say, there will be cake – and much, much more!
The church started in a schoolroom in 1869, before the main church was built for the princely sum of £3,785. The church was built in a year, paid for in two – and stood in that form for over a hundred. It was a large, classic Victorian building, with a high roof, giant pipe organ and seating for up to 500 worshippers in wooden pews. The spire proved too expensive to maintain, and so was removed -leaving a modest tower – in 1961. The church survived World War 2, but sadly the roof timbers were burnt beyond repair by vandals just after Christmas 1978. The remainder of the stone structure was demolished, and replaced by a modern, octagonal multi-purpose sanctuary, which opened in 1982.
I Love Cheadle Hulme caught up with Don, a member of the church, and an elder for over 18 years, to learn more about Cheadle Hulme URC – and what it means to be part of it. Don says that the URC is a church ‘for the people, by the people’. It’s run by the Minister, Alan Poolton, and a dedicated and welcoming group of Elders. Reverend Poolton, Don and the other Elders – Glyn, Sandy, Alison, Bernie, Carol, Heather and Philip (who has been a church elder for over 60 years) – aim to keep the church very much as a centre of the community. Everyone is welcome, and the atmosphere is relaxed and informal.
But what is the URC? The United Reformed Church came about from a unification of the Congregational and Presbyterian churches, back in 1972. The Church of Christ joined in 1981 and the Congregational Union of Scotland in 2000. The URC is a trinitarian church (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) whose theological roots are Calvinist and is part of the reform movement throughout the world. Each local church within the URC is governed by a Church Meeting consisting of all its members. This is the ultimate decision-making body in the congregation. There is also an Elders’ Meeting which advises the Church Meeting and shares responsibilities with the minister. There are no bishops, however, regional umbrella associations – Synods – are co-ordinated by a Moderator, and nationally, by Co-Moderators of General Assembly, supported by a General Secretary.
As well as ensuring the church is right at the heart of the community, Cheadle Hulme URC also aim to ‘promote faith through actions and deeds’. Simply put, this means ‘doing’ – not just ‘saying’. Having a church to rely on, and a congregation which genuinely cares, can make a real difference to a community. Now, more than ever before, people need communities. They need support, a listening ear, someone to talk to and something to be part of. Families often live further away, people are moving around through work or have less time to socialise and meet new friends and neighbours. Promoting good health, wellbeing and social care is a huge part of the Church – any church – so Don and the URC take this responsibility very seriously and work together with the other Churches in Cheadle Hulme. They’re building a ‘Programme of Friendships’.
As well as all the traditional church services you’d expect, and specific services around Christmas, Easter, Mothers’ Day, and Remembrance Day Cheadle Hulme and Bramhall URC offer a venue for civil ceremonies, as well as wedding ceremonies. The church supports many causes and charities, including:
- * The Mae Gon Orphanage in Northern Thailand
- * Traidcraft – there is often a stall after Sunday services.
- * Autism Group
- * Lifeshare, supporting the homeless in Manchester
- * Stockport Without Abuse for victims of domestic violence
- * Rainbow Trust, the hospice for children at Francis House in Didsbury
There are also Open Days where people are invited to simply sit and chat, and annual jumble sales. Additional efforts are made for the British Legion, Leprosy Mission, Chelwood Food Bank in Adswood, and St Mark’s URC in Wythenshawe. All Churches Together in Cheadle Hulme support Christian Aid and help with various international disaster funds from time to time.
Other church clubs are the popular Toddler Group on a Friday morning, Film Nights, ‘Soup and a Sweet’ socials, country dancing and coffee mornings. Lots of groups also use the church – on a donation basis. Marple Childcare run a Pre-School, Fiona Watson School of Dance, baby sensory groups, badminton, Bridor Dance Academy, the Laurence Singers, and the U 3A. The church also has fantastic spaces available for hire for parties and many other purposes.
Maybe your relationship with the Church has just been about Christenings, Weddings, Funerals and Carol Services but Cheadle Hulme URC can give you so much more. There’s never been a better time to be part of it.