Chris and his family.
John, second from right, in his role as Chaplain to the Fire Service.
Everyone in Burghfield Common Methodist Church is welcome to contribute whatever gifts they have in the life of the Church. We believe in the “Priesthood of all believers”, and we know that God gives everyone gifts and skills to help others. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, put it this way when he wrote to the early Church : “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”(1 Peter 2:9)
We are blessed with many different gifts, after all as Paul put it, “If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without.” (1 Corinthians 12:17-22)
We all try to play our part. Ian prays with our preacher each Sunday morning. Tim leads our musical worship. Mike manages our property. Barbara, Sam and Simon keep things running smoothly. Brenda runs a monthly healing service. Laura organises our Sunday School. We bring our gifts and hope that we are led by the Spirit.
Our minister, Chris Evans, preaches most Sundays. He was ordained in the Methodist Church in 2012 and has worked as prison chaplain and school chaplain. About once a month when he’s not with us we are led by John Brown, who is chaplain to the the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, or we have the blessing of a visiting preacher from another local Methodist Church according to the ‘Circuit Plan‘. On occasional Sundays we have a local arrangement where members of the church lead the service and John preaches.
Our Life Together
As a small fellowship, our whole Church family contributes to the life of worship and service that we share together. We’ve grown a lot over the last few years, and find great joy in seeing the goodness of God at work in one another.
Our most important time together is on Sundays, when we worship, pray, think, share and spend time together. We really enjoy family meals together, typically feeding more than fifty in December, April and September. Like many churches we’re rarely all in the same place at the same time, but occasionally it happens. Some of our services at Christmas and Easter are so jam packed there’s no chairs left.
Through the week we have a range of activities which deepen our fellowship and faith, and we are committed to caring for one another and for those around us in need. We mean it when we say if there is anything we can do for you, we’d love to help.
The Methodist Church began its life in the ‘field preaching’ of John Wesley in 1739. Thousands of people would gather to hear Wesley preach, and he formed local small groups (‘societies’) to nurture the faith of those who had become converted through personal faith in Christ.
John Wesley always declared that his movement should remain within the Church of England, but the Church was keen to distance itself from him and his followers. Eventually, in 1784 he set up an annual ‘Conference of the People called Methodists‘, to ensure the continuation of the movement. In the end, the strength and impact of Methodism made a separate Methodist Church inevitable.
Methodism in the Reading area was slow to grow however! John Wesley ‘How many years were we beating the air at this town, stretching out our hands to people as stupid as oxen.’ This oft repeated phrase summed up the feelings of John Wesley when he visited the town in 1777.
Our Fellowship dates back almost 200 years. Reverend John Ride was a remarkable evangelist who was locked up in Winchester prison for “holding a missionary meeting” in Micheldever in 1834. Released without any charge he led open air services in Burghfield during the summer of 1835. When the regular congregation of believers grew sufficiently he formed our “Methodist Society” on November 17th 1835.
The fellowship depended on the hospitality of a local wheelwright in less favourable weather. The first Chapel was built in 1838, and was famous for its brass band. Nevertheless, with the extensive building at Burghfield Common, the chapel was too small and our current building in the heart of Burghfield Common was built in 1923. One historian noted that “The Burghfield Common Church… has attracted a loyal and devoted congregation throughout the years of its history. A happy, hospitable place, it has welcomed newcomers… on many occasions.”
Our church has much in common with the faith of our founders. We share Wesley’s personal faith, which he summarised in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
We share his his convictions regarding the heart of true Christian faith and his concern that religious rituals can sometimes be a barrier to spiritual growth:
I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. What was their fundamental doctrine? That the Bible is the whole and sole rule both of Christian faith and practice… that religion is an inward principle; that it is no other than the mind that was in Christ; or, in other words, the renewal of the soul after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness… that this can never be wrought in us, but by the power of the Holy Ghost… That we receive this, and every other blessing, merely for the sake of Christ… And that whosoever hath the mind that was in Christ, the same is our brother, and sister, and mother. (Thoughts on Methodism)
Like Wesley, we believe that the truths explored in the stories, poems, hymns and letters of the Bible point us to Jesus as God’s self-revelation, as the mediator between God and all humans, and as “The Way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
Like Wesley we believe that each of us is in need of renewal and transformation away from our self-centered-ness and towards a less selfish identity. As Paul put it, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), and “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Like Wesley we recognise that this change requires the power of the Holy Spirit who breathes God’s life into us. Jesus put it this way when talking to a religious leader, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6)
Like Wesley we believe that we are being built into one human family, where jealousy and tribalism fall away. This was what Jesus instructed, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35). It was what Paul preached: “[Christ’s] purpose was to create in himself one new humanity… You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens … you are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2) And it was what led the Roman historian Tertullian to note, “See how these Christians love one another and how ready they are to die for each other.” (Apologeticaus 39:7)
Nevertheless, much has changed since Wesley’s day. Science provides us with new insights into the wonders of the world around us. Economics provides a different lens upon our society, and globalisation produces new challenges and opportunities. We believe it is our calling to continue to respond to the gospel of God’s love today. This must involve new ways of exploring discipleship, of thinking about human relationships, of gathering to worship and of reaching out to those around us.
How to find us
Our Chapel is on the main road through Burghfield Common. We’re directly opposite the post office, 200 metres from the Esso garage (driving away from Reading) and 400 metres from Tesco (driving towards Reading).
Our official postcode is RG7 3QA, but that won’t bring you near to the Church! RG7 3BU won’t bring you straight to our door, but it’ll get you close.
You’d be welcome anytime.