Monday 19 July 2021

Tough Assignment - Services, Revival Meetings and Anniversaries

There were regular mentions of anniversary services at all the chapels; those at Eton Wick being held usually early in October. Camp meetings were held most summers. These were outdoor meetings with plenty of singing to attract more than the faithful. In the early years of this century they were held in a marquee in Wheatbutts Field by permission of Toddy Vaughan, the Eton College master who lived at Wheatbutts. Chairs and forms from the chapel were carried the short distance to the field. Some chapels had their own Mission Bands and here in Eton Wick they broadcast news of the service by walking round the village singing hymns accompanied on the tiny harmonium. At the service itself the Mission Band led the singing and the responses. In 1894 the young people of Eton Wick were urged to 'form themselves into a working band .... to augment the Mission Band'. That year the Camp Meeting was held on 22nd July and Brothers John Lane, Ives, Bulford and Carter conducted the service. Only John Lane came from Eton Wick, the others were lay preachers from elsewhere in the circuit. No doubt they were accompanied by other members of their own chapels, just as the people of Eton Wick would have joined in the camp meetings at Maidenhead, Cookham Dean and Marlow. They were joyous occasions and the long walk on a summer’s day was part of the fun. Most people's horizons were much more restricted than today and a visit to Marlow was a real excursion. There was another aspect to these days, however, remembered with less affection, and that was the teasing given to at least one young boy by his school mates.

The circuit minute books also mention watchnight services, revival meetings and lovefeasts. The watchnight service is first recorded at Eton Wick in 1893 and would have been held on New Year's Eve as they were in the early years of this century. They were well supported, perhaps because of the social which preceded the service! In 1900 the circuit committee decided that revival meetings should be held in each chapel and a public lovefeast (a meal showing brotherly love) at Maidenhead.

The minutes also regularly report of School Anniversary services to be planned at each chapel, but there were other special services and meetings that did not merit inclusion in the minutes. Testimony meetings are well remembered events from the early decades of this century. Held after the Sunday evening service they were an occasion for publicly counting one's blessings, a time for sharing joys and telling others 'what the Lord had done for me since the last meeting'. To a few this may have been a great opportunity for saying their piece, but most of the congregation was not naturally so forthcoming. By encouragement and direct prompting, however, Mrs Tough made very sure that many contributed to the success of the evening, and most of them went home feeling all the better for having done so - in spite of 'their palpitations'. Methodists of those decades believed in public avowal of faith and the simple words, 'My boy' said by Mrs Tough was sufficient to persuade one young man to confess his belief to the rest of the congregation. The Rev William Folley had a different method, his way was to pace up and down the aisle, challenging the congregation in their beliefs with the words 'Either you go out of this door accepting or rejecting the Lord'.

The annual calendar also included a considerable number of other enjoyable activities, but fundamentally a means - of raising money for circuit and chapel funds. Building debts had to be paid and also the many smaller bills that were incurred in the everyday running of societies and maintaining the chapels. Financial help was also given to aged local preachers in need and other Methodist charities. For many years contributing to these funds in money and time was one of the responsibilities one had to accept on becoming a Primitive Methodist.

Circuit minutes January 1894: (Resolved) 'That Mrs Tough and Mrs Lane endeavour to obtain the loan of Dorney schools for a concert and to make all needful arrangements'.

June 1894: (Resolved) 'That the Young Mens class at Maidenhead give an entertainment at Eton Wick when convenient in aid of Circuit Funds'.

September 1895: (Resolved) 'That we sanction a river excursion to be managed by the Society at Eton Wick in aid of Circuit Funds and that we recommend each society in the circuit to do all it can to make the effort a success'.

March 1903: (Resolved) 'That sanction be given to the Eton Wick Society to have a special effort on Good Friday for the reduction of the Chapel debt'.

March 1913: (Resolved) 'That the Eton Wick Society be asked to give a tea and the Maidenhead Choir and Glee Party be asked to give a musical evening at Eton Wick.'.

The Eton Wick History Group is most grateful for the kind permission given by the Eton Wick Methodist Chapel to republish this history, Tough Assignment on this website.

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