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Who are we?
Wade Street Church is a local ecumenical partnership based in the centre of the historic city of Lichfield, next to the new Garrick Theatre and amidst shops and businesses. The area around the church is already earmarked for an ambitious new residential, commercial and leisure development within the next 5 years.
The building was opened in 1812 and is one of the very few examples in the Midlands of a Georgian non-conformist chapel. In the gallery upstairs is a set of box pews thought to be the only surviving example in the region and there are other parts of the church which have remained more or less unchanged for nearly two centuries.
However, the church building is not a museum! It's a place where people meet regularly to worship God, to encourage one another, to help meet the needs of the community, and to tell other people about the fact that Jesus Christ is alive today and making a difference in the world.
The people who meet there each week are fairly ordinary people who live and work in and around Lichfield. There are getting on for 200 people who regularly take part in the activities of the church: elderly people, young people, families, children, single people, professional people, manual workers, people without jobs - in fact, all the different sorts of people you'd find living in any part of the city. We are drawn from all Christian traditions (and none), but find our unity in our worship of and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Sunday services usually take place at 9am and 11am and are quite informal, with plenty of music, special items for the children in the mornings, a friendly atmosphere, and teaching from the Bible dealing with the issues which face all of us in our everyday lives. We see much of the teaching as helping people creatively to relate the message of the Bible to life in a post-modern world. During the week there are all kinds of other things that go on as part of the church's life and the members of the church are themselves involved in all aspects of the life of the local community - as well as having a keen interest in global justice and political and social issues.
During the week there are Bible study groups, prayer meetings, a Toddler Group, a youth group - Unite, children's events and many other events which happen on a more occasional basis, including groups for those who want to explore what Christianity is all about. Details of these can be found on the weekly newssheet page.
Wade Street Church supports the wider Church through being part of the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union. We are also members of the Evangelical Alliance and Churches Together in Lichfield, as well as active supporters of TEAR Fund, Christian Aid, The Baptist Missionary Society, The Council for World Mission, Youth With A Mission and The Lichfield Christian Schools' Work Trust.
A church at the heart of the city
with Christ at the heart of the church
A Brief History
The roots of Wade Street Church go back over 400 years. At that time, some people became unhappy with the Church of England and the many ways in which the bishops and priests tried to impose things on the life of the country - and particularly on those who went to church (most of the population in those days). Those who were unhappy decided to form their own churches called Nonconformist Churches (because they didn't conform to the same rules as everyone else), or Independent Churches (because they were separate from the Church of England, which was so closely linked to the King and the government). The authorities didn't like this, and there was a certain amount of persecution of the Independents. (If you look on the walls of St Mary's Church, in the Market Square, you will discover plaques which tell of the fate that befell those who did not conform.)
There was an Independent Church in Lichfield in about 1654, but it did not last very long. In 1790, though, a small group of Nonconformists began to meet in an old warehouse in Sandford Street. It was a damp and draughty building, but the people kept coming and eventually employed a minister. The first minister didn't stay long, and was soon replaced by a man named William Salt in 1804. The church was now known as a Congregational Church, because decisions were made by the congregation as a whole, not imposed by the minister or a bishop (although at the time many people confused it with the Methodist Church - and some still do!).
|A STRANGE TALE|
In 1808 a very strange incident occurred. William Salt preached a sermon at a morning service and afterwards one of the people from the church - a 19-year old tailor's apprentice called Henry Fairbrother - committed suicide. The people of the city, who didn't like the Congregationalists anyway, were enraged and assumed that it was William Salt's fault. So they went to lynch him. The magistrates were called and William said he would preach the sermon again to show that there was no reason to blame him. In a packed courtroom, William satisfied everyone that the sermon was not the cause of Henry's death - and some people were so impressed that they gave money for the Congregationalists to build their own church.
The new building was opened in 1812. It is still standing today and the outside is more or less unchanged. It is a Listed Building because it is one of the few examples of Georgian Nonconformist Chapels in the Midlands. Within three years it was so full that a gallery was added at the back. In 1824 the side galleries were added and the original box pews (which were rented out to rich people until the 1920s) are still in place on one side. About this time, a house was built on the back of the church for the minister to live in (it was demolished in the 1980s). Behind the pulpit, which stood at the front of the church, was a secret door so that the minister could escape out the back when the church was attacked by those who did not like the Congregationalists (which unfortunately happened quite often).
You will notice that there are very few adornments in the church - no statues, no stained glass windows, no candles etc. That's because the people who built it did not want anything to distract them from their worship or what the minister was saying. The minister stands in the centre of the church at the front when he (or she) is preaching, to emphasise that the Bible is central to the Christian faith. Upstairs there is a small room where the minister gets ready for the service. It is called a vestry, because it's where the minister would put on special clothes called vestments.
Over the years the church grew and then declined. In 1972, the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church joined together at a national level to form the United Reformed Church (and the Churches of Christ joined in 1980), so Wade Street Church became a URC. Then in 1994, the church here joined up with the Baptist Church to form a Local Ecumenical Partnership - a church in which people from more than one denomination worship together.