A GUIDE TO CROWNHILL METHODIST CHURCH
1. The land on which the church stands was bought from the government for £150 in 1870, but Wesleyan Methodists had been meeting in other places in the area since 1799. A builder from Newton Ferrers built the original chapel of Pomphlett limestone with fire brick and Bath stone dressings at a cost of £450. The foundation stone was laid on 4th May, 1871 and the chapel was opened on 5th July, 1871.
2. The main doors lead into the newest part of the church, an extension which was opened in 1975. Notice the plaques referring to this above the main doors and the side door. There are also memorial plaques to former members below the blue glass cross, under the clock and on the flower stand. On the back wall next to the notice board are photos of the church officers. Above this display is a picture brought from Panama by one of our young people who took part in a Youth Exchange programme. In this part of the church we also keep the flags which are carried at parade services.
The side door leads into the vestibule where there is a cloakroom and toilets. The Minister's Vestry is also situated here and another memorial plaque can be seen on the door.
The sliding glass screens enable us to shut off the extension when necessary or open it up to enlarge the church, which we normally do for Sunday morning services. The screens are in approximately the same position as the original wall of the church and before the alterations a little porch jutted into the centre aisle.
3. There are several interesting features in the main body of the church. The foundation stone, which had to be moved from the front wall when the extension was built, can now be seen near the back, low down on the left hand side. On the wall above this is a representation of a fish, an early Christian symbol, which was made by one of our members.
Next to this is a framed tapestry consisting of 99 squares showing various aspects of church life and local places of interest. These were embroidered by several people in 1993.
Looking back from the front of the church, the rose window can be seen. In 1994 the original plain glass was replaced by a beautiful design in several colours of stained glass. A separate guide to the symbolism of this design is available.
In 1980 the front of the church was refurbished and the old pews which remained were replaced by chairs. The curtain at the front was hung over the stone arch but the large wooden cross made by a former member was retained. As in all Methodist churches it is an empty cross and not a crucifix. The large communion table and kneelers replaced a much smaller table. The window curtains were made to match the curtain at the front. In this area there are several memorial gifts including the font, the reading desk, a chair, hymn books and bibles, each with a commemorative inscription. The kneelers around the communion rail were embroidered by a group of ladies from the church.
The pulpit on the right is normally used for preaching and when it was moved from the centre about forty years ago, some of the same wood was used. On the pulpit fall the monogram IHS superimposed on a cross is embroidered. The letters IHS are actually the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus, although they have often been given other meanings. To the left of the communion rail is the lectern which is normally used by members of the congregation when reading lessons in the service.
4. The transept behind the pillar on the left was added to the church in 1907 at a cost of £500. This was built because the little chapel became overcrowded on special occasions. During the 1914-18 war it proved to be necessary every Sunday as many soldiers from Plumer Barracks attended worship. The stone plaques on the wall were placed there to commemorate the lives of Philip Ferris and William Weeks. In 1903 when the Church was at a very low ebb with only seven members, these two gentlemen gave devoted service as leaders of the little congregation. They were rewarded the following year when the membership rose to fifty one! Various banners may also be seen on this wall and at other places around the church. These are changed at appropriate times and seasons and have been made by members of the church. Notice also the mosaic of five loaves and two fishes which was made by a local secondary school.
The Allen digital computer organ is situated in the transept and was bought in the early 1970s to replace the pipe organ. The members of the choir normally occupy the chairs which are placed sideways here.
The stained glass window in the transept has a design in the form of a cross incorporating panels showing Christian symbols which were rescued by one of our members from Greenbank Methodist Church when this was demolished. At the top is a crown which is a symbol of Jesus' kingship. Below this is a Greek cross which has all the arms equal and like other forms of cross is a universal symbol of Christianity. Below this again is a fleur-de-lys, a conventionalised form of lily which symbolises purity and is especially associated with the Virgin Mary. The rose at the bottom symbolises Christ. On the left arm of the cross is the most ancient Christian symbol - a monogram consisting of the two letters chi and rho which begin the Greek word for Christ. On the right arm is the same monogram as on the pulpit fall, but without the cross.
The doors on either side lead out through small rooms to the church hall.