Christ Church is a Baptist-Methodist Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP). This means we are a joint Baptist-Methodist Church, linking with both The Methodist Church and The Baptist Union of Great Britain. We have a combined history that stretches back to the early 19th Century.
This is our story.
Ramsbottom Methodist Church has been meeting since as far back as 1825. After some growth, they became too big for their one storey building and eventually built what became known as Market Place Methodist in 1874. This is the large building that sits opposite the urn in the centre of Ramsbottom (now known as Adderstone Mansions). The church continued to flourish as the century turned, and despite a Christmas Day fire in 1905, the building was well used and loved. Throughout the 20th century it was host to a number of large scale events including in 1925, the Easter Rally of the Wesley Guilds, which saw upwards of 1000 people pack the building. In 1957, Patmos Methodist Church (at the bottom of Peel Brow), sadly had to close and the two congregations joined together. The Methodist Church became the centre of the Crusader movement in Ramsbottom and eventually went on to hold an event many remember in 1971 when Cliff Richard came to town.
Ramsbottom Baptist Church has its roots in the Rossendale Valley: The Valley Baptist movement began in Bacup in 1672, extending its reach to Haslingden in 1775 and then from Haslingden to Ramsbottom in 1844. Fifteen people met up 21 steps on a back street in the centre of town. Ramsbottom Baptist Church was formed then in 1848, meeting first at the Oddfellows Hall and then eventually into their building on Bolton Road in 1862 (now also flats!). The church grew fast in the second half of the 19th century and set up a building fund to accommodate that growth (that building fund wasn’t used until the 1990s in the end!). Membership gradually declined in the 20th century and by 1971, the number of active church members was 47.
It was in 1971 that it was discovered there was a problem with the Baptist Church Roof. Surveyors were called in and the roof was examined. It seemed that over the years, because of the weight of the roof, and through the vibration from the passing traffic, the building had started to push outwards and stonework had begun to crack. The advice was to sell.
At this point, the Methodists and Baptists already had strong links and the Baptist plight was heard by the Methodist Church, and so the Baptists were invited to use the Market Place Chapel, and at that point Christ Church was formed. There was an official opening for Christ Church in 1972; the only condition on joining together was that a baptistery needed to be built in the chapel. It was dug out by one Baptist and one Methodist from the congregation, cementing their commitment to working together.
The Church began by having two ministers – one from each denomination, but eventually there was a move to have just one and the church began at the end of the 1980s to alternate between Baptist and Methodist ministers.
Working together the churches continued to serve the community of Ramsbottom and to see people come to faith. There were visits from people like Len Fairclough from Coronation Street and Woodhey High School held their Christmas Concert in the building. The church hosted a ‘Teach-In Week in 1985 as part of Mission Ramsbottom and organised a ‘Faith Festival’ in 1990.
The building was becoming a problem and despite major upgrades in 1991, the curse of the roof hit again. Dry rot was found in the roof beams and the walls and a large amount of work was done to try and fix it, however it had spread and it got to the point where the beams had to be jacked up to support the roof. The upstairs was put out of use and the area was hidden from view by a marquee roof and the congregation continued to worship under the ‘Big Top’.
The church did not have enough money to repair the damage and it was decided that selling was the best course of action. During that time the church continued to flourish; the baptistery was used for the final time in April 1995, with 3 baptisms as part of a membership service that welcomed 3 others into membership too.
The church began to worship at the Youth Club on Carr Street. Eventually the church building was sold and the church was able to begin to look for a new building. Through the sale of the Methodist building and through money in the Baptist building fund and various grants, a good sum was raised. Enough to buy a plot of land off Great Eaves Road from Bury Metro.
On a Sunday morning in February 1999, Mr Arthur Isherwood, who was the oldest member of the church, cut the first turf.... and then building began proper in May 1999. It took 27 weeks to complete and the church was able to move in just before Christmas 1999 with the official opening of the church building on the 8th January 2000.
And there we have been since....the vision of the new building was for it to be a neighbourhood centre; a place to be used by the community as a neighbourhood hub, and overtime we have worked for that vision to become a reality. It is now used by a number of community groups as well as normal church activities and not a day goes by without somebody being in the building.
Since 1997, we have been led alternately by Baptist and Methodist ministers, namely Rev. Gordon Hownblower, Rev. Christine Jewitt and Rev Claire Nicholls.
In january 2020, Richard Selby became the Methodist Lay Pastor for Christ Church and Edenfield, and will take us forwards for the next chapter of the church history.
We have much more we could say about our story so if you want to know more please get in touch!
With thanks to Harry Allen and John Leyland who have collated the histories of the Baptist and Methodist Church in Ramsbottom so that we can begin to understand how we ended up where we are today.