FOREST HILL METHODIST CHURCH 'EMBEDDED IN THE HEART OF OUR COMMUNITY'

The thump of football, young voices shouting to one another, tell that the 5-a side football pitch is in its daily use by boys and girls with their teachers from the adjoining school.  At the same time, inside the building toddlers are playing and singing in the lower hall; teachers are attending a training session in the upper hall, or on another day there may be doctors having a meeting.  Bible Study and Tuesday Fellowship take place in the afternoon. In the evening there might be a yoga session, a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous, rehearsal by a community choir, meetings of Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers, a Ward Community Meeting, a Church Council meeting, or aother church denomination holding their service.  Had it been an evening or a Saturday instead of football there would have been a tennis club playing in the same place and children and young people having dance lessons in the upper hall.  Weekday afternoons see school children in the lower hall for an after school club.  Group training for people trying to get into employment take place in the building.  AMAUDO, a Methodist charity in Nigeria started by Ros Colwill, has for years had an office here.

The local Police Community Support Officers often drop in for a chat, attend our events, and meet with children and young people groups.

These are just a few of the ongoing daily activities in the modern purpose-built building that is Forest Hill Methodist Church and Centre, bringing numerous people in and out of the church premises.  Many other one-off events take place:  children's parties, art festivals, music examinations.  Needless to say this entails a great deal of cleaning, juggling, and fitting in to make it work.  It also makes money for maintaining the building and grounds alongside what is done voluntarily by church members.

We are fortunate in having a building designed not only with a church at its heart, but also with fully accessible community spaces, spacious garden, a paved pitch for football which doubles as tennis courts, making the premises ideal for holding large events.  The Lord has used Forest Hill Methodist Church to provide these facilities in this place for His purpose, and the church is going its best to honour this gift.  Since it's been built the Circuit has seen fit to hold its annual Summer Fair here to raise funds for Missions work, making full use of the building and open areas to sell, buy, eat and dance.  This is one of the highlights of our year, and thousands of pounds have been raised for Mission funds over the years.  This year's fair will be held on Saturday 25th June.

Elsewhere in our church community, involvement and participation is actively encouraged and supported.  Young people play Junior Steward roles in the life of the church.  Lily Carcas, our musical director, in her 80's still gets together an occasional ecumenical choir and musicians to "Sing the Seasons", commemorate famous hymn writers, celebrate the Wesleys.  Her next planned venture is a concert this year in honour of the Queen's 90th birthday.  Lily and musician John Collis actively encourage and support young and not so young musicians to develop their skills and confidence as accompanists.  This nurturing is an important part of church and community work.  The Worship Group introduce new hymns and songs in Sunday services.  Lay Preacher Muriel French, at the grand age of 97 still sees herself as having a contribution to make to the Circuit.

Pastoral work has increased considerably as many members get older and less able to support others, often now needing support themselves.  A very active member of the church now acts as a temporary pastoral assistant, supporting the Minister, giving time to consider how we move forward with this essential role.

All these activities and facilities bring the community to us, and although not all attend church services, visitors often want to see the worship area, sometimes staying for quiet reflection.  Their visits also enable us to serve them in the truly Christian way by facilitating, enabling and supporting.

We feel thankful that the work that was started all those years ago has grown in this way.  As we approach our 10th year in this building, with unavoidable leadership changes approaching, we trust that the Lord will go before us and guide us as always.

BRENDA ONATADE & IRA FERNANDO

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