A Splendid Day for Shebbear

30th May 2009

Signifying Repentance, Reconciliation, Rejoicing. Roy Downs, Revd John Carne, Bishop Bob Evens
Maureen Ellis

A Splendid day for Shebbear published in MAP, the Magazine and Plan of the Shebbear Circuit Issue 36

On a most beautiful day, Saturday 30th May, Christians in Shebbear came together to make a symbolic Act of Reconciliation between the Methodist and Anglican communities. The backdrop for this was a Farmers’ Market held in the village hall, which in itself was a very successful event, having fourteen stalls. Many shoppers both from the village and holidaymakers were drawn in by the chance to buy delicious local produce.

At 11.00 a.m. Bishop Bob from Crediton, and the Rev. John Carne, Chairman of the Methodist District, having walked from St. Michael’s Church and Lake Chapel respectively, together with Rev. Martin Warren and Rev. David Wheeler, met in the village hall on the stage in front of the assembled shoppers. They were introduced by Roy Johns, who is a Baptist, a farmer, and Chairman of Shebbear Parish Council.

Bishop Bob apologised to Rev. Carne for the action of his predecessor in 1815 which led to the formation of the Bible Christian Movement in Shebbear. This movement was to spread world wide, lead to the building of Lake Chapel and the founding of Shebbear College, but it was also responsible for splitting the church and left a legacy of hostility lasting nearly two hundred years.

The Rev. Carne graciously accepted that apology, and admitted that the Methodists hadn’t always been easy to live with. (The Bible Christians eventually became part of the Methodist Church.)

Bishop Bob was in Shebbear on that day as part of the Diocese of Exeter 1100th anniversary celebrations, but for the Anglicans and Methodists in Shebbear it was a chance to formally place the past behind us, which in so many ways had already been done.

In the evening there was a Service of Celebration illustrating the ways in which the two churches work so closely together, presided over by Rev. Martin Warren and Rev. David Wheeler, and at which Bishop Bob and Rev. John Carne held our attention with an unscripted dialogue.

Paul Mason had put together a presentation for the Farmers’ Market on the history of Christianity in Devon, the events of 1815 in Shebbear and the subsequent division, and a shortened version of this was shown to the congregation in the evening.

The Shebbear Circuit Choir and the Waveline Christian Dance Group (both ecumenical in membership) contributed to the worship, and Chris Andrew spoke in his inimitable way about Rock Solid, the youth group, led by a Methodist but which meets in St. Michael’s Church room, which neatly summed up the way the two churches blend together in their work. A collection was taken for Farm Crisis Network.

Maureen Ellis and David Fisher led the intercessions and everyone met afterwards for tea, coffee and cake – it is Devon after all!
This very successful day was organised by the Ecumenical Group which meet regularly in Shebbear to plan ways in which we can all work together.

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