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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Congregation ready to celebrate Cumbrian methodist church's anniversary

Worshippers young and old will turn out at Cockermouth’s Lorton Street Methodist Church on April 22 to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

The opening service at the chapel took place on April 26, 1932.

It currently has a membership of 123, with between 50 and 70 people regularly turning out for Sunday services.

Active member Jean Lothian, 80, of Victoria Court, was the first person to be christened there.

Her life has since been intertwined with the church, including her 21st birthday being the same day as its 21st anniversary.

She said: “I was brought up with the church as I have known it all my life.

“I have seen quite a few changes and a lot of ministers. I have gone right through it, from summer school teaching to the choir.”

One of the oldest people in the congregation is 90-year-old Elaine Leighton, who has been a church member for 21 years.

Elaine, of Fell View, said: “I moved up here from Middlesex when I retired. I came to this church and have been coming ever since.

“There is friendship and fellowship and nearly all my friends are from the church.

“It is a great achievement for it to reach 80 years.”

The youngest member of the congregation is 14-month-old Oliver Allison.

His father Philip, 40, of Towers Lane, said: “Oliver’s great-grandparents, grandparents and myself all got married in the church.

“I have been coming here for 30 years since I started at the Sunday school.

“Oliver was christened here in September and it is a family tradition.

“The church is very friendly and welcoming for both the young and the old and I like the community part of it.

“Everybody knows each other and supports and helps and it is like a community within a community.”

The roots of Methodism in the town go back to 1751, when John Wesley first visited Cockermouth.

The first society was formed in 1763 with 19 members.

A meeting house was built in 1796 and opened in 1797 as the first Wesleyan Chapel in High Sand Lane.

The meeting house still exists and is now known as Victoria Hall.

In 1841, it outgrew the building in High Sand Lane and moved into what is now the town hall in Market Street.

The Primitive Methodists moved into the High Sand Lane Chapel.

They stayed there until 1885 when a new chapel was built on New Street.

The Wesleyans outgrew their premises in Market Street and bought a plot of land on Lorton Street, where they opened their new chapel in 1932 with the opening service led by the Rev Dr Ryder Smith.

The current vicar is Sue Edwards, 60, of Fern Bank, who moved to Cockermouth from Liverpool in 2008.

She said: “There has always been a strong Methodist presence in the town and we hope we will be here for a good number of years to come.

“The thing that stands out is the friendliness of the people and they always have time to speak to you.”

Sue said the church was trying to encourage more youngsters to join the church.

She said they were planning a number of events for young people, including a film and game day.

The church includes the Mary Platt Pre-school, supports six charities each year, and since 2009 it has been a base for the North Lakes Foodbank.

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