Derry Hill Primitive Methodist Chapel, near Studley, Wiltshire
I can give no information about this former Primitive Methodist chapel for sale on a main road outside Studley in Wiltshire: I merely pulled up in a lay-by opposite, took the photograph, and drove on.
However, maybe I can offer some thoughts which such sights prompt about how we feel when we see a chapel closed down and up for sale, or already transformed for some other use, or simply demolished? I have been to meetings for people interested in Methodist history, and although I know that I may well be mistaken, I seem to sense a wistful nostalgia for a lost era which cannot be repeated – a resigned surrender to a situation beyond mending; perhaps like the psalmist Asaph in Psalm 77:
I think of God, and I moan… and I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”… I will remember thy wonders of old.
But how did the early Primitive Methodists respond in 1853, when after decades of advance a decrease in membership of the Connexion of over a thousand was reported? Here is what the Primitive Methodist Magazine brought to members’ notice:
The Conference appoints a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, to be held on the 4th of October 1853, on account of our decrease, and in order to promote spiritual and numerical prosperity, which it hopes will be devoutly observed throughout all the Connexion, and that the God of all grace will mercifully hear the united supplications of the societies, and vouchsafe rich effusions of the Holy Spirit through the mediation of Jesus Christ.
Now – how do we respond today? With a sense that there can be neither hope nor help? Or more like those who led the Connexion in 1853? Or even like Isaiah, touched with a burning coal from the altar, who prayed:
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
This article was originally published as Studley PM Chapel, and renamed in light of the information contributed below.