Sunday, 24 February 2008
How good to see a village chapel still in use for its original purpose, instead of converted into a conversation-piece residence or filled with giant multi-coloured plastic vehicles for a playgroup. This is the 1846 Great Dalby Methodist chapel in Leicestershire, with some kind of service most Sundays including one for 'All Ages' followed by an afternoon tea at four o'clock. I was brought up in and around non-conformist places of worship like this, gaslit Evangelical mausolea in terraced city backstreets, bare-boarded Strict Baptism in hidden Chiltern villages. And whatever my father could inflict on us on holiday, which once included a Salvation Army Citadel in Hythe and an isolated Primitive Methodist in cornfields near the Norfolk coast. Here we doubled the congregation on the two back rows, staring at fifty or so children gleaned from all over the countryside turning round in their seats and singing their Sunday School Anniversary hymns at us. As a twelve year old I remember squirming with embarrassment until it belatedly dawned on me that the girl immediately in front of me was in fact quite pretty and wearing pale blue gingham. A welcome distraction from Wide, Wide as the Ocean and a tedious sermon.