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CHAPTER 10
ALBERT HALL, PART 9: 1970 to 1979

1970

68th Anniversary, [19 March 1970], Report states that the centre of work of the Mission Staff was as follows:

Mission StaffCentre of work
Rev. John JacksonAlbert Hall
Rev. Bryan A. RipponAlbert Hall Institute
Rev. Derek Kendrick King's Hall
Rev. A. John Kiberd, B.A. Aspley Central Hall
Sister Joan Stockley
Mrs. Rose Taylor Albert Hall Institute Office

The Minutes of the Trustees' Meeting on 2 April 1970 recorded that the Coffee Cross Bar had been opened and dedicated as planned. It also recorded that the tender for organ maintenance from J.W. Walker & Sons Limited had been accepted.

The Minutes of the Trustees' Meeting on 16 November 1970 stated that Bridgeway Hall had requested to come into the Nottingham Mission Circuit. The Rev. John Jackson briefly outlined the position of their finances and staffing etc.

1971

At the Trustees' Meeting on 23 June 1971, the Trustees agreed that the Trust wanted the land right up to the rear of the Albert Hall, subject to the approval of the Chapel Affairs Department at Manchester. The Nottingham Corporation had offered the Trustees this land in return for an agreement for the Corporation to erect three or four buttresses alongside the Playhouse wall in the Albert Hall passageway.

At the same meeting it was agreed to retain the name Lecture Hall and to replace the names of the Church Parlour and Girls' Parlour with Nos. 1 and 12.

The Rev. John Jackson and Sister Joan Stockley left in August 1971. Mr. Jackson's new appointment was at the Whitechapel Mission in London. Perhaps one of the outstanding achievements in the Superintendent's ministry in Nottingham was concerned with the world of broadcasting. After his first television broadcast of the Sunday morning service, messages of congratulations were received from all over England. The children's address, remarkable for its originality, will be remembered for a long time to come. This success was followed by regular sessions of broadcasting on Sound Radio (including many "Thought for the day" slots on Radio 4) in which the messages, brilliant in their simplicity, endeared him to thousands of listeners. Many were reproduced in booklet form.

Mrs. Jackson gave quiet but faithful witness to the work of God in the less spectacular spheres of Church life. It required real dedication and a great amount of physical fortitude to stand at the rear doors of the Hall on cold winter nights bidding farewell to the departing congregation, as Mrs. Jackson did throughout the years. Only those who used the Buffet-Lounge regularly realised the amount of background work needed to ensure smooth running out in front of the counter, but Mrs. Jackson contributed in no small measure to this work.

When Mr. Jackson's successor took over in September 1971 it was reported that the Rev. John P. Horner, M.A., B.D., came from Northumberland, the son of the Manse and educated at Kingswood and Richmond College. His Circuits had been in Sussex, Cornwall, London and the north east at Corbridge where he had had charge of seven village churches for the previous six years. His wife, Elaine, was also a daughter of the Manse, a school teacher and had been running her own private nursery school at Corbridge. Their children are Richard, Ann, and Robin. Among his interests were music (especially Mozart), writing, mediaeval history, architecture and drama. Both Mr. and Mrs. Horner had been members of their local Drama Group. He stated that he believed in the prophetic type of preaching which had the authority of the Bible behind it and clearly stated the ultimate issues between God and man, life and death.

Sister Marjorie Watson who came from the Staff of Queen's College, Birmingham, (where Deaconesses at that time received their training) joined the Mission at this same time.

The Induction Service for Rev. John Horner and Sister Marjorie Watson was at 8 pm on Sunday 5 September 1971, conducted by the Chairman of the District, the Rev. Christopher D. Bacon, B.A., B.D.

The Wesley Guild programme for September 1971 contained the following:

13th. Story of a Reluctant Socialist - Rev. John P. Horner.
20th. Computers and Privacy - Dr. Eric Foxley of Nottingham University
27th. Women and Ministry - Sister Marjorie Watson.

At the time of the Trustees' Meeting on 20 October 1971 the full-time caretakers were Mr. Herbert Mottram and Mr. Ernest T. Hall; and the part-time caretakers, Mr. T.B. Moore and Mr. Gulliver.


"The Cross Bar" sign

Albert Hall Cricket Club, 1970s

At the same meeting the Rev. John P. Horner reported that a manse and its furniture were needed for Bridgeway Hall to replace the present manse, in Exeter Road, West Bridgford, because it belonged to Musters Road Church.

The Trustees' Meeting on 3 December 1971 was informed that Nottingham Corporation were about to make an application for the closure of Great Hall Street. In October 1972 the Trustees' Meeting agreed to accept the Corporation's proposal that the trustees rent the land at £25 per annum on a yearly basis, with six months' notice required, for one year and then reconsider the proposal.

Also (3 December 1971), the Methodist Conference had offered to leave, without charge, the wiring which had been installed for the Conference.

1972

Mrs. Margaret Easom commenced her duties as Mission Secretary on Monday, 31 January 1972. Mrs. W. Rose Taylor, who had served for 20 years as Secretary of the Mission retired on, and continued until, 31 March 1972.

The Methodist groups in the Albert Hall Circuit for the quarter ending 29 February 1972 recorded the following numbers on their registers:

Albert Hall
Rev. John Horner Tuesday 100
Sister Marjorie 110
Mrs. Watkinson 34
Sister Rosemary Wednesday afternoon 57
Sister Rosemary Wednesday evening 37
Young Adults Mr. R. Jones 57
Sister Marjorie Thursday 64
Mr. C. Mottram 107
Youth Fellowship Mr. Mabbott 38
604
Aspley Hall216
King's Hall100
920

The caretakers were provided with single-breasted two-piece grey suits, with embroidered letters A.H. affixed; white shirts; plain ties; and nylon jackets for general use.

The Assistant Organist, Mr. A.E. Jago, tendered his resignation for domestic and health reasons to be effective from 31 March 1972.

The trustees approved the appointment of Mr. Gordon Penistan as Assistant Organist, as from the first Sunday in August 1972. The Organ Sub-Committee's choice had the full support of Mr. F. Garnett (Organist and Choirmaster). A few months later (11 October 1972) their remuneration was: Mr. Garnett £200 per annum (in addition to "the usual perks"), Mr. Penistan £100 plus £100 expenses per annum. The Organist's fees for funerals was £3.

Sister Olive Lewin joined the Mission Staff in September 1972. It was from the Albert Hall that Olive Lewin had originally offered as a candidate for the Deaconess Order. After her training at Ilkley she served for nine years in the Westminster Central Hall Circuit, first at the Central Hall itself as one of Dr. Sangster's colleagues and then at their Church in Victoria, London. From there she went to Walsall Mission where she served for five years, and then to the Doncaster North East Circuit where she had been for ten years.

The manse at 131 Morley Avenue was sold by public auction on Wednesday 6 December 1972 for £3,600.

Mr. R.A. Winfield presented his report to the Trustees' Meeting in December 1972 concerning his meeting with Mr. E.W.S. Martin (Consultant Surveyor to Nottingham Corporation) regarding the conversations with the Nottingham Corporation to find a new site for the Albert Hall and Institute. The meeting agreed in principle with the re-instatement of the Albert Hall and Institute on the Wollaton Street/Hanley Street/Talbot Street site and authorised the continuation of negotiations. At a reconvened meeting on 13 April 1973 it was reported that Mr. Martin had made a further offer on behalf of the Corporation of £250,000 for the property and had stated that it might be possible to go to £300,000. Prior to meeting Mr. Martin, Mr. Winfield had made a further calculation of the value of the property and had again reached a figure of at least £700,000. He had, therefore, told Mr. Martin that there was no further possibility of the negotiations proceeding. Subsequently, the Trustees learnt through the Press and Radio Nottingham that the Corporation had withdrawn from the negotiations in view of the difference between their valuation and that of Mr. Winfield's.

1973

Mr. Jim Hall, who had come to the Mission on an "unofficial" basis to gain knowledge and experience of working amongst young people, was taken on to the staff of the Albert Hall as Youth Worker as from the beginning of June 1973. With him was his wife, Jessica, and baby, Wesley. His particular responsibility was for youth outreach, the training necessary to do this work and to be responsible for leading the "Prospect visiting" at the Hall. This was the following up of contacts made with people who were not in regular attendance at the Albert Hall, but who might become so after a pastoral interest was taken in them.

In September 1973 Rev. Brian Greet was welcomed as the new Chairman of the Nottingham & Derby District. Rev. John de St. Croix, though the Bridgeway Minister, took over the Circuit Superintendent's duties.

The Choir presented the Messiah on Saturday 13 October at 7.15 pm, augmented to probably well over 100 voices, with Brenda Tomlinson (Soprano), Christine Browne (Contralto), Stephen Hill (Tenor) and Graham Grammer (Bass).

In his autobiography, Donald Harrison tells about the affairs of the Mission.

On our return from a round-the-world cruise to Australia in December 1972, I became almost immediately closely associated with John Horner and the other circuit ministers as I was appointed as one of the circuit stewards with Albert Johnson as my junior colleague, a civil servant and local preacher, who held strong views on Methodist doctrine and on the importance of administration in the life of the church (as befitted a life-long civil servant). I was, therefore, involved with the stipends and manses of the ministers as well as general circuit policy. John Stacy-Marks, the minister at King's Hall, a bachelor, whose manse was in a pleasant residential area at the edge of the city, but not very near his church, argued strongly in favour of moving to the St. Ann's area, and we succeeded in negotiating the purchase of a newly-built house near King's Hall which had, in addition to the usual accommodation, two large basement rooms where John could run his youth club and other fellowships. As ever, circuit funds were depleted and it was an annual struggle, as stipends and costs rose each year with inflation, to extract the required assessments from the equally impoverished circuit churches.


Rev. John Jackson

Albert Hall Guild Anniversary


Group at the twenty-first anniversary celebration
Saturday 30 November 1974

Club members and helpers, 1968

The twenty-first anniversary
The cake being cut by one of the founder members, June Ashton.
Also in the picture are the Rev. John Horner [Chairman of the celebration],
the Rev. Kenneth Waights [who proposed the toast to the club], former minister of the Albert Hall Mission,
and Miss Marie Beazley, leader and secretary of the club [who replied on behalf of the club]
The Albert Hall Disabled Children's Club

Derek Smith, always enterprising, had the idea of asking Doug Scott, an Everest climber who lived in Nottingham, to give an illustrated lecture at the Albert Hall, without fee, the proceeds to go to circuit funds. At this stage an amusing incident occurred; I answered our front door bell one evening and a moustached young man outside said: "Good evening, I'm Scott of Everest". "Do come in", I beamed, preparing to discuss the lecture arrangements, only to find that this Mr. Scott was from Everest Double Glazing and not from the Himalayas. Our venture was a great success; the Albert Hall was filled and, although we shared the proceeds with another charity, we made about £1,000.

When I became senior steward myself, the same need for augmenting circuit funds continued and we realised that another major effort was required. We decided to hold a Circuit Fiesta in the large garden of a house at Wollaton, owned by one of the Albert Hall members who had offered it for such a purpose - a sort of garden party plus stalls, side-shows and games. To help us in the planning, Albert Johnson and I co-opted a representative from each of the circuit churches and we held a meeting at the house itself to decide what to include. The King's Hall representative, Mrs. Jean Tindall, proposed that we should have a Bingo stall as a lucrative source of revenue. Albert was horrified. As a die-hard Methodist anything even faintly connected with gambling was an anathema to him and he said so. This particular suggestion was gently dropped. The Fiesta was well supported, the weather was kind, and the financial result helpful but not enough to avert the annual battle over assessments; there were even murmurings from Aspley that they might have to withdraw from our circuit and transfer to another one. Albert and I solved the problems of circuit finance by two devices: Albert proposed that before our annual budget was drawn up we should hold an informal meeting with the Treasurers of all the circuit churches; and I devised a formula, based mainly on staffing and membership, by means of which each church's assessment could be calculated. Together these two schemes found general favour and the annual strife was subdued - at any rate for a year or two.

But already even more menacing clouds, affecting the very survival of the Albert Hall as a Methodist church, were looming.

The City Council had taken decisive steps to build, at enormous expense, a new public concert hall and we realised at once that this would remove a large share of our annual income from lettings; our buildings were ageing and the costs of upkeep and maintenance, augmented by inflation, were rising yearly. Falling income, increasing expenditure, and a dwindling membership, meant that we could not continue to pay our way much longer. Many expedients were considered: could we sell the Hall to the Council and use the money to convert the Institute into a church? Could we sell the Institute to developers and modify the Hall to suit our requirements and resources? Architectural and other professional advice was sought and legal complications were encountered; the Hall was a "listed building of historical interest" and nothing structural could be done to the outside; the Institute was freehold but the Hall was leasehold (albeit for a term of 999 years). At one stage an estimated £350,000 was made for the cost of splitting the Hall horizontally and other alterations which would give us a worship area upstairs and meeting rooms, service areas, etc. on the ground floor. Against this could be set the unknown proceeds of selling the Institute for conversion into offices or other purposes by a developer. Just as we were on the brink of reaching a decision on these options there was an unexpected upturn in our general financial situation which led to the temporary shelving of the renovation scheme.

At the Trustees Meeting on 24 October 1973 underleases were granted to Clement Pianos Limited, ground floor, and Mr. Commons, hairdressing saloon above, at 17/19 Derby Road.

As a result of dry rot in the Cross Bar, the whole of the wooden floor had been taken up and filled up with screed and covered with heavy-duty grey and red linoleum tiles. Eight tables and chairs replaced the previous fixed benches.

 

1974

The Trustees, at the Meeting on 8 May 1974, were informed that Mrs. Margaret Easom had resigned on doctor's orders, as Mission Secretary; the new Church Treasurer, Mr. R. (Bob) H. Jones, was appointed Trust Treasurer in place of Mr. A. Kingsley Austin who wished to relinquish office; and Mr. J.D. Miles had agreed to continue as Assistant Treasurer. After interviewing several applicants from as far afield as London and Hull, the committee appointed by the Trustees for the purpose, engaged Mr. Frank Drayton as Secretary of the Mission as from the middle of July 1974. Frank was a member of the Hall and though he had only recently joined the Mission, he soon exercised his gifts as a lay preacher and producer of the Youth Service demonstration.

The June Quarterly Meeting was the last to be held before the national Methodist restructuring took effect on 1 September 1974, to be replaced by the new Circuit Meeting (with a much smaller membership). The new body met at least twice a year, in September following the autumn Synod and in March. It had been hoped that one of the functions of the new Circuit Meeting would be the effective deployment of manpower, property and finance.

The Albert Hall Drama Group was officially constituted on 6 November 1974 with Eileen Flowers as Producer and Elizabeth Drayton as Secretary-Treasurer.

1975

Mrs. Mary Loweth wrote a hymn called Wesley and Mr. Donald Harrison the music for it.

1. How can I prove my sins forgiven
        Except through Him who died for me?
    There shall I find assurance given
        That love of God for all is free.
    I trust in Christ and Christ alone;
        Salvation's mine by faith, is known.

2. Now will my wayward spirit rise,
        New-born, unchained from death and sin,
    Prepared to own Thy sacrifice,
        A life for Thee I shall begin.
    God's grace is all, for all who claim,
        Believing in the Saviour's name.

3. Spare me no effort, mine the task
        To praise and preach Thy wondrous love,
    Whereof all men in glory bask
        In every age, O Pascal Dove.
    To live and love, and laugh in Thee
        Is all, Incarnate Deity.

Of Mrs. Mary Loweth's Wesley, Mr. Donald Harrison says that:

"This was written for a national competition organised by the Methodist Church and later submitted for a similar competition in the Bristol District. It was unsuccessful in both. It was performed as an anthem by a U.S. Forces choir in Germany and was also sung by the congregation of the Nottingham Central Methodist Mission in a service to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Wesley's conversion."


Mr. Donald Harrison's musical score for Wesley

Mr. Harrison also states that:."from time to time, partly from interest and partly arising from theory studies, I have composed a few short pieces:-

1. Hymn: Spirit blest who art adored (Words by T.B. Pollock)
2. March in B minor
3. Fugue in C
4. Part song: I wandered lonely as a cloud
5. Vesper: Jesus said: Come unto me (Performed four times by Albert Hall choir)
6. Unison for Communion (Organ)
7. Carol: One of the children (words by F. Pratt Green) (performed at Central M.M. in 1991 and 1992)
8. Hymn (Wesley) All glory to God in the sky (modern style)."

The February 1975 edition of the Messenger reported that its management and editorship was taken over by Mr. Raymond Ward.

The 9th Nottingham (Albert Hall) Girls' Brigade Company had been enrolled in 1950. The Company began life at the Broad Street Chapel, but when this closed it was offered a home at the Albert Hall by the Rev. Kenneth Waights. The Company served under three Captains (Mary Wilde being the Captain in 1975). A twenty-fifth birthday display was given on Monday 17 February 1975 at 7.15 pm in Room 1 when Mrs. F. Arnold presented the Awards.

Mr. George Jarratt retired as Trust Secretary and Albert Hall Property Committee Secretary with effect from 1 September 1975. His care, skill and efficiency during his terms of office in both appointments had been appreciated and respected. Mr. R. (Bob) H. Proctor was appointed to both offices from the same date.

Alice Jarratt recalls work in the Mission Office.

When the envelopes were typed for the invitations to the Mission Anniversary there was an awful lot of typing at that time of the year. Then, I believe, Joyce Holmes used to go in and help with that. She certainly went in when Bob Proctor was there. She came to my Golden Wedding Anniversary and I remember she embroidered a pale gold table cloth for me. I still have it. Margaret Champkins, Jean Martindale, Hilary Broughall, Lily Harrison and Frank, also used to help or worked there. Rose was there when I first went. She wrote out my marriage certificate, that was in 1934. She did it for everyone. Osborne Gregory used to say: "When Rose leaves, I leave". Everyone depended upon Rose. Bob Proctor was excellent but the work was not so demanding.

The Superintendent Minister, the Rev. John De St. Croix, left in August 1975 to take up a new appointment in the London area. The Rev. Fraser D. Smith took over the ministry of the Bridgeway Hall when the Rev. John de St. Croix left. Also in September 1975 the Rev. John Horner, at the request of the Circuit Meeting, resumed the superintendency of the Circuit.

Mrs. Eileen Hall recalls services at the Albert Hall.

Rev. John Horner was the Minister when I attended the Methodist services at Nottingham's Albert Hall.

I remember at the start of the service, when the Bible was brought in, the two Deaconesses came in and sat on either side of the Minister.

My most vivid recollection is of the Christingle Services. We all had to follow a circular route - up and down steps to collect the Christingle, have the candle lit, and return to our seats. Then all the lights were put out, with the exception of the two Christmas trees on the stage, and we sang Away in a manger. It was a truly moving time as the Hall was lit by hundreds of candles.

In the 1974 season the Albert Hall Football Club won the Division 4 championship and promotion to Division 3. In the 1975 season it continued to play in the Midland Amateur Alliance League and also in the various cup competitions, one of which was the Methodist Recorder Cup.

After sixty-six years as a church organist, twenty of them at the Albert Hall, Mr. Garnett retired on 16 November 1975. He became Organist Emeritus and was allowed to continue ex gratia to use his room and the organ for his pupils, so long as his successors agreed. Mr. Gordon Penistan, who was a former pupil of Mr. Garnett and had a wide experience in music of all kinds, was welcomed to the post of organist and choirmaster at the Albert Hall. His salary was £300.00 per annum.

George Fieldhouse provided the following statistics of the Bible (Authorised Version):

1977

In November 1977 it was reported that Miss Shirley Duffin (later Mrs Twist) was continuing to assist on the Sunday evening Bookshop in the Institute, with Roger Johnson taking over management from Jim Hall. It provided Christian literature, Christian records and cassettes, daily reading notes, magazines (Buzz, Crusade, etc.), and Christmas Cards.

1978

On the Day of Pentecost, 14 May 1978, Room 5 was formally opened as a Memorial Chapel. A set of beautiful furniture had been given in memory of loved ones, many gifts had been received, and the room had been completely redecorated and re-carpeted. The chapel was there for prayer and meditation, or for any service which any group or organisation wished to hold there.

It had become a very common practice at that time for those who lost loved ones by death to request that instead of flowers, donations be made to the Albert Hall. These gifts were placed in a Memorial Endowment Fund, held in an interest-earning deposit account and the money accumulated for the maintenance of staff in the time of a special need or crisis. The name of the person in whose memory the gift was given was then recorded in the Book of Memory kept in the Memorial Chapel.

Fresh flowers were arranged in the chapel each Wednesday. Mrs. Grace Hardy and Mrs. Elsie Knight were the stewards for the Chapel and anyone who wished to make an arrangement about flowers there were asked to contact one of them at least a fortnight ahead of the week they wanted. That arrangement was separate from the flowers for Sunday in the Albert Hall which were dealt with by Miss Rene Dove.

Mr. Fred Garnett celebrated his 86th birthday by playing for the evening service at the Albert Hall on the 16 April.

Richard Horner was selected for the British Orienteering Federation's Annual Junior tour and was a member of the British team competing in Denmark and Sweden in July 1978.

On Sunday 6 August the guest preacher at the Evening Service was Rev. Cedric Arnold, M.A., M.Litt., the son of Mrs. Florence Arnold, who was a minister in the United Church of Canada and who was on holiday in this country during August.

The Albert Hall Cricket Club celebrated its 50th Anniversary on Friday 6 October 1978 with a Dinner Dance at the Colwick Hall Hotel.

Mr. Jimmy Mayes, a member of the King's Hall choir, joined the Albert Hall staff, as a caretaker.

1979

The Church Council meeting on 6 June reported that Mr. Philip Mason had been appointed Assistant Organist.

July saw the Albert Hall Football Club complete what must be one of the most successful seasons in the Midland Amateur Alliance League by winning the Senior Supplementary Cup of the league and this was presented to them by Mr. Ron Greenwood, the England team manager. The championship was a very closely contested affair, the outcome of which depended on the last match of the season. The game ended in a draw and so the club had to settle for second place. This meant that for the first time in its fourteen year existence the Club would play in the first division of the M.A.A. The service at which the Cup was handed to the captain of the Albert Hall Football team by Mr. C.R. (Chick) Thompson was a very happy affair and it was good to have the team and their families present for the Service. Not the least memorable part of it was Mr. Gordon Penistan's rendering of the Match of the Day music on the organ!

As from September 1979 the Boys' Brigade Company came under the Captaincy of Mr. Richard Simpson, following the resignation of Mr. Peter Pacey at the end of the last session. He had been captain for eleven years and started his B.B. career as a Life Boy at the age of nine rising through the ranks to take over as Captain when "Eddie" Embleton resigned.

In 1999 Rev. John Horner said that he could reminisce endlessly.

Elaine had her own interest, teaching at the Raleigh Street Primary School, which she loved and went in for all sorts of things which they organised. That, in itself was a full-time job. She had a wonderful personal reputation in the Hyson Green area and Radford area where she worked, particularly amongst the Asian parents there. Margaret McKeeting, who was the wife of Henry McKeeting who became the principal of Wesley College, also worked there, so there was a tremendous Christian input on that particular site. But Elaine never got particularly involved with the Albert Hall. She came to the Sunday morning services. She didn't come to evening service because of the children.

When I came, Rose Taylor was secretary. Then to my great sorrow she gave up and Margaret Easom took over for a while, but she also gave up and Frank Drayton was taken on and then he gave up and Bob Proctor came. We had four in my time. It was a job that they learned as they went along. It was very different from my job but a very important one. Joyce Holmes helped when the others were on holiday. But Joyce's great mission was the Buffet. Evelyn Martin ran the Buffet when I came and then, I think, Joyce took it over.

The charismatic aspect of my ministry involved the "charismatic renewal", including the gifts of the Spirit, which had suddenly burst into prominence at the end of the 1960s just before I came to Nottingham in 1971.

I had got very much caught up in this and in an organisation called The Fountain Trust of which I was a member. So I came to Nottingham with this background and with involvement in the charismatic movement which was very strong up in the Tyne Valley. It was because of the results of this "charismatic renewal" that took place up and down the Tyne Valley which Ken Waights, being Chairman of the District and ex-Albert Hall minister, was very much aware of, that he suggested that I came to Nottingham. All through the Hexham Circuit people were coming to know the Lord and groups of young people were blossoming all over the place in an area which was very much in decline; a rural circuit. This, rather than the charismatic movement itself, was what caught Ken Waights's eye. Ken knew that there was a need at the Albert Hall for the young people's input. So he thought that if John Horner can do it here, perhaps he could do it there. It wasn't so much the charismatic movement as the fact of my involvement in it.

I was taken out of the Hexham Circuit by the Conference and put into Nottingham, though with Nottingham's approval. But there was never a strong charismatic involvement at the Albert Hall, not as it has come to Chapel Street, Penzance, for instance. What we did at Chapel Street was quite a different thing from what we did at the Albert Hall. The Albert Hall was very conventional, with Fred Garnett dominating the monstrous organ and the choir still struggling on. It was a very conventional Methodist service at the Albert Hall.

There was nothing untraditional going on at the Albert Hall at all, in my day. It was far too big a thing to change. You cannot change a tradition which is so deeply and so numerously entrenched as the Albert Hall. You just had to go along with it.


Mrs. Elaine and Rev. John Horner outside the Albert Hall, 1979
>

The "charismatic renewal" did not touch the older generation because they felt very threatened by it. They liked their religion within familiar structures and landmarks; they liked the predictable. Although it was not taught in the Sunday Schools of their day, it came to be taught in the early 1970s, but then the older folk really didn't want to know. I can remember a member of the Men's Class asking: "What is this charismatic business, that everybody is talking about?" So I gave them a talk about it, but it was quite clear that, although they were interested, very few of them really wanted to be involved with it themselves.

Tuesday night Bible class was one of the highlights of my ministry. Forty men came every week. They were so enthusiastic, so keen, so giving, so supportive and so clearly enjoyed it. They always chose the hymns. Towards the end, nearly every week somebody would be invited or would ask if they could give a testimony. I can remember people who you would not normally think would do that sort of thing, standing up in the Men's Class and testifying to what God had done for them, and that, of course, gave it a new dimension, a new depth, a whole new insight.

The Men's Class had its own Male Voice Choir, composed entirely of men from this group and I used to run this with Alf Jago (who was also a member of this group). That was another thing about this group. It went right across all the age groups, from the old guard Albert Hallers, right through to people like young Stephen Barlow (in his teens), Carl Cottam, and people like that in their teens and twenties; and the newcomers were there. We had a male voice choir which did three-part singing and we used to go around to the village chapels, in Leicestershire and so on, which had their Chapel Anniversaries, and we would sing during the service.

There were literally hundreds of ladies who came to the Albert Hall and who came up to the buffet after the service. They had their usual tables. It was obviously a great joy to them. The buffet was a mission. It was a place where people could come and meet with each other, talk with each other and just share their needs and find people to listen to them. Part of the Albert Hall ministry and mission was providing this easily accessible fellowship and companionship and caring. These are basic human needs just as much as food and clothing and that sort of thing. It was at that level that the Albert Hall worked.

The social services aspect of the Albert Hall, the physical ministry in terms of handing out goods or money or food, which existed during and after the 1939-45 war, no longer existed when I came. The Albert Hall was a place to which you came and where your need was met. It had a mission. It was like a surgery which you came to. We had a tremendous pastoral ministry with the Deaconesses, and so on, who went out to people's homes.

There was also the mission that came through Jim Hall, who was a charismatic. He set up the Cross Bar in the basement of the Institute. It was the Youth Outreach aspect. It wasn't a club; it was much more than that. It was an evangelistic outreach. A lot of the young people who were there then are now in other churches but did not leave Christ. They found fellowship in other churches; and those that have remained like the Gilliatts and Twists are still very much committed to the leadership life of the church. Meredith Evans is now a Deacon. This all goes back to Jim Hall. They themselves would admit this. This is mission at work, but a mission of a different type. It is mission of the gospel, if you like, into the lives of that particular generation. Jim and I worked together in Northumberland. This is how all this started. He was very much instrumental in what was going on in the Tyne Valley and I invited him to come down to the Albert Hall to be Youth Worker.

When I first came to the Albert Hall I had to justify to myself the fact that scores of people, hundreds of people probably, passed other Methodist chapels in order to get to the Albert Hall. Very few people actually walked to the Albert Hall. Most of them either came by car or bus. Finally I realised what it was that justified it; it came from the story of the woman who came to Jesus for healing. She would never have come if there had not been a crowd around Him. She was so nervous and unsure of herself. She could not even look Him in the face. She simply touched the edge of His garment. [Matthew 9:19-22 and Mark 5:24-34] It was the crowd that gave her anonymity and security. They could hide themselves and come and touch the edge of Jesus' garment. But if the Albert Hall was doing its job properly, just as Jesus turned round and asked: "Who touched Me?", and made this woman face Him, at some point people would identify themselves in the crowd, and from the crowd meet Jesus face to face.

We did that. A lot of people came onto the edge of things, who could never have had the courage to go to a local church. They knew the Albert Hall because they had been there for an Harmonic concert, or for something else. They knew the building; it was all very unthreatening; it was big and anonymous, and they could come into it without being disturbed or challenged in any way by it. But eventually the singing, the music, the word, the preaching got through to them and slowly they came to their own personal commitment to Christ. Now that is mission. That was the whole ethos of the Central Hall movement which was built upon certain principles and practices. One of the practices was that access must be straight off the pavement: no walk through a great yard. Secondly, it must not look like a church. Thirdly, it must be used for non-religious purposes so that people must get used to coming into it for other purposes . The Albert Hall changed from the penny pictures on a Saturday night, which people still remember from Rattenbury's day, to very much more upmarket concerts in our day but the theory and practice were still the same. They were coming into a building so that when you invited them on Sunday they would think: "Oh, yes, I know the Albert Hall". They knew where the entrance was, the layout of the place, and that still held. It was mission in reverse: a mission of people coming in rather than the Church going out. It still was a mission that was filling a very real need, both social and spiritual and, to an extent, a cultural need. I used to say that the Albert Hall was the most loved and the most hated church in the District. It was the most loved because those who came to it just loved it, while those who struggled to build up a congregation in their own locality hated the Albert Hall because it was like a gigantic magnet there in the centre of the city with tremendous pulling power from all over the suburbs. Once it was no longer the Albert Hall they did not want to make the effort. It was a different thing. It was a wholly different concept. It became another church. The Albert Hall was never an ordinary church. It had a magic of its own which was lost when the building was closed. You cannot replace that. You can't do the Albert Hall "thing" in another building. The building is integral to the whole concept of what the thing is about.

In my day there was an organ recital for a quarter of an hour before the service. This had shrunk from half an hour before. There was no programme of what the organist was going to play, as there had been in the past when they showed on the service sheet what was to be played.


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