Ecumenism keeps chapel open for 50 years

Published on: 30th April 2024

Luston Chapel


In 1974, like so many churches in rural communities then – and still today - Luston Methodist Chapel was facing falling attendance figures and struggling to stay open and viable. As it happened, the nearest Church of England church, St Peter & St Paul at Eye, about a mile down a muddy lane, was often inaccessible for some Anglican worshippers from the village. Rev'd Duncan Philips, then Vicar at Eye, wondered whether ministers from both faith groups could work together to keep the chapel open. Local Methodist ministers agreed to collaborate and thus began a system of alternating weekly services. 50 years on, and with the support of the Leominster Methodist and CofE ministry teams, Christians from both faith communities continue to enjoy services at the chapel and ecumenism has created a warm and welcoming faith community based around both churches.

This May, Christians from both denominations will come together to celebrate the 50th anniversary in events that physically demonstrate the ecumenical working arrangement by literally walking the route between the two sites. Beginning with a Saturday morning walk up the lane from the village pump in Luston to the Church at Eye, followed by a walk across the fields to the Chapel for coffee and cakes, the celebrations will continue on Sunday at the Chapel with the Methodist Superintendent, the equivalent of a Bishop, Rev Richard Hall, taking the service, followed by refreshments.

Rev Paul Arnold is the Methodist minister in Leominster and is currently responsible for the Chapel and for supporting the ecumenical worship arrangements: “The regular and ongoing shared worship in the Chapel and Parish church has allowed both congregations to meet, worship and work together in a mutually helpful and harmonious relationship.” He says, continuing, “It has been a privilege to see how the ties between the two communities have become ‘seamless’.  In these times when many of our smaller rural chapels and churches are finding it difficult to maintain congregations and a regular pattern of worship, the ecumenical example at Luston offers a model which could be explored in many other locations.  The temptation to ‘hold on’ and not consider any idea of change is understandable, but the model at Luston has been ‘going strong’ for half a century and can therefore claim to be very successful indeed!”

Rev Preb Mike Kneen, Rural Dean of Kington and Weobley, has also presided at the chapel in recent years and feels strongly about the benefit of ecumenical worship in the community: "I have fond memories of Luston Chapel. I believe the association with the Leominster Team grew because the Chapel was in the village, while the Parish Church is a couple of miles down the lane, so there was a sort of alternation between the two. We provided a ‘minister’ for Luston once a month on the Leominster Team Service Rota. It was (and still is, I’m sure) a great place to go, with a warm welcome from the congregation and the prospect of coffee and really good biscuits afterwards, so all the Leominster clergy and lay Ministers enjoyed our visits."

The 50th anniversary weekend is 25th/26th May. For more information on events please contact Rachel Nelson by email.

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