More than 400 people came together to celebrate the launch of a brand-new Methodist Circuit.
Sherfield School, between Reading and Basingstoke, was the venue on Sunday, August 31 for a family fun day that included, at its centre, a welcome and launch service for the Basingstoke and Reading Methodist Circuit.
The Circuit is a collection of 26 churches in the Basingstoke and Reading and their surrounding towns or villages and includes churches in Bradfield, Woodcote, Woodley and Oakley.
The celebration service was led by the Revd David Shaw, superintendent minister of the new Circuit, and the address was given by the Revd Dr Andrew Wood, chair of the Southampton District Methodist Church.
The day’s special guest was Cllr Roger Gardiner, the Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane.
Amid beautiful sunshine, activities included games, workshops, puppets, singing and Bible studies. A bouncy castle ran throughout the day and the final 20 minutes was devoted to adults who wished to jump around.
The launch event had been organised by a team of people coordinated by Marianne Sales.
Gill Lawson, who helped with the implementation of the new Circuit, said: “There were lots of things going on, it’s been great and the weather has been so kind.”
Speaking afterwards, the Revd David Shaw was equally delighted with the day.
“Today was to celebrate the fact that two circuits have come together we’re a new Circuit. In Methodist terms that’s – a new grouping of churches and a whole new group of people,” he said.
“I didn’t expect this to be so energising and uplifting.
“People will go back to their churches and say ‘yeah, we’re part of something that will work’ and they’ll be energised in the work they do.”
In the run-up to the Circuit’s launch, a pilgrimage took place, which saw a band of walkers visit all 26 churches in the Circuit. The walk started from Overton, which is in the Kennett & Test Valley circuit.
“We had a circuit pilgrimage – we walked to every church. We walked round and ended in the middle, we’ve eaten cake after cake after cake!” David laughed.
“There were five people who did it all, and probably 50 to 100 who dipped in and out of the walk and in excess 200 who helped churches provide food and accommodation overnight.”
David is also pleased with the atomsphere at Sherfield School, where much of the grounds had been taken over with marquees, games and tents.
“I did wonder how many people would come, but far more people than I dared hope came,” he said.
“Looking at their faces, their body language and the conversations they’ve been having, it’s just been worth it. I’m greatly encouraged and personal uplifted and the worship was brilliant. It was great to have freedom to worship God. It was brilliant.”
Now that the celebrations are over, the Circuit is looking forward to the journey ahead.
Edited to correct who organised the day.