Topsham Methodist Church Annual Report 2015-16





1. To act as a beacon for Christ’s mission and maintain a safe and welcoming haven for all within the community of Topsham;

2. To recognise the centrality of worship in all our activities, ensuring that it is relevant to our mission and engages the whole congregation;

3. To offer strong and timely pastoral and prayerful support to our members and others who may be in need;

4. To work ecumenically with the other Christian churches in Topsham, thus celebrating our membership of the wider body of Christ;

5. To engage with the needs of the wider world, in Exeter and beyond, especially towards the relief of suffering caused by poverty, deprivation and political strife.


by the Minister, the Revd Paul Collings

In this, our 149th year as a worshiping community on this site, we have taken a fresh look at what it means to be a healthy church by using the work of Robert Warren in his Healthy Churches Handbook. It has been a question of looking at ourselves, our community and our commitment, and we have discovered that the truth has been staring us in the face all time.

Within the sanctuary area of our worship space are five stained-glass windows, memorials to the past, including the founders of our beautiful church as well as for those who left the port of Topsham, never to return. But we have begun to notice how the face of Jesus in the centre frame has faded over the years andthanks to the initial prompt of JP Hunter, a member of our congregation, we are embarking on a plan that builds on the past, recognises where we are as the people of God in this place and try to discern the call of Christ for the coming days. As such, we have given ourselves the challenge of “Rediscovering the Face of Jesus, in our Church, our Community and in our Commitment.”

There is much to thank God for as this annual report illustrates, but there is always the need to keep refreshing our view. Over time, we become unable to see clearly what is around us. In A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes instructs Dr Watson on the difference between seeing and observing by saying, “You see, but you do not observe.”

In Mark’s Gospel 4:12 we find a similar view expressed by Jesus, “Do you have eyes, but fail to see? Do you have ears, but fail to hear? Don’t you remember?” And later in 2 Corinthians 4:18 we find Paul encouraging the church with the words, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Perhaps, as we move into our 150th anniversary year we need to see beyond and have a clear 2020 Vision of Christ’s call.

I am blessed and privileged to serve the St Nicholas Family of believers and my prayer is that we may “Let light shine out of darkness,” may his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Oh, and by the way, we have commissioned a local artist to renovate our stained-glass window to clearly depict the face of Jesus at the centre of our worship.


In May 2017, St Nicholas will celebrate 150 years since the opening of the Church. Plans are well in hand for two services to mark this occasion along with, in conjunction with Topsham Museum, a churches exhibition with a focus on the history of non-conformism in the town.


We continue to enjoy the leadership of Revd Paul Collings, who leads ourservices at least once a month. We are delighted that Paul will continue to be our Minister until at least August 2018.

Our worship is enriched by a variety of local preachers, each with an individual approach to our time together. We have a team of organists who enjoy playing our fine organ and add to our weekly praise.

In addition to our Sunday worship, we meet for a fortnightly fellowship hour on a Thursday morning. Paul always introduces a topic, text or discussion idea, and from that initial thought, the conversation can take a variety of directions! We also use this time to plan upcoming special services and occasions, and congregational-led worship.


At present, St Nicholas has no Junior Church.

Younger members of a church can be cyclical. If families with children were to attend St Nicholas in the future, then we would have to, as a church, look as to how we would welcome them into our Christian family.


The pastoral care of St Nicholas is led by the Minister and a team of pastoral visitors, to ensure that the congregation and friends of St Nicholas are cared for and supported. A car rota enables those who have transport problems to attend Sunday Services.

The church is open on a Saturday morning for coffee, prayer and meditation. There is a prayer board in the church, where such requests are remembered and reflected on during our Sunday worship. Requests can be made for fresh flower arrangements for special occasions and anniversaries, and these are passed on to the ill and housebound.

The monthly newsletter keeps everyone up to date with news, activities and special occasions, along with thoughts from our Minister and details of work in the wider Methodist Circuit.

Sadly, we lost a friend of St Nicholas, Ethel Clee in 2016.


(a) Ecumenical Links

An ecumenical group comprising members from St Nicholas, St Margaret’s and Holy Cross meets annually to agree joint services and events during the coming year. For instance, 2015-16 saw an ecumenical service at Holy Cross during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and a service at St Margaret’s to mark the Women’s World Day of Prayer. St Nicholas joined with St Margaret’s and Holy Cross in the organisation of six Lenten lunches, two at each church, with proceeds to charities chosen by the churches; monies raised from the two lunches at St Nicholas benefited Christian Aid and the Methodist Church’s ‘All We Can’ fund. The traditional Good Friday Walk and the singing of carols in the town on the Saturday before Christmas gave witness to our unity.

St Nicholas and St Margaret’s held some joint services and St Nicholas contributed to the St Margaret’s Flower Festival.

(b) Community

A Friendship Group Coffee Morning is held fortnightly on Tuesdays at St Nicholas. The premises are donated by the church, and members organise the mornings. This is a very well supported and is important outreach which is enjoyed by all who attend. The Saturday coffee mornings, run on a rota basis by a band of committed church members, also continue to attract both regulars and visitors alike.

As in the previous year, the church held a St Nicholas Fayre in early December. As well as raising funds for the church, the occasion attracted community interest and the occasion for a social get-together over tea and cakes.

2016 will see a new event for St Nicholas: a community Christmas Tree Festival. Local groups, clubs, organisation and businesses will each decorate a tree, to be displayed in the church for three days. Donations from visitors and refreshments will be donated to local charities. A concert of Christmas music on Friday 16 December will form part of the Festival and of Topsham’s Christmas celebrations.

An active letting programme of the church premises has proved very successful and ensures regular use of the building. One particularly colourful highlight at the church was Topsham Flower Club’s annual exhibition.

(c) Charitable Giving


It has been an interesting year in our region for our Methodist Charity. We have a new professional fund raiser, Sara, who has come to the job with considerable enthusiasm and new ideas. Sara applauds the support from our church here in Topsham, and this year we have sent the sum of £837, which came from the AFC Sunday collection in July and home collection boxes. Unfortunately it was not possible to run the usual October coffee morning, but hopefully this will be reinstated next year. In the meantime our money will be well used to support the 26 centres in our region, four of which are in Exeter, and which provide so much relief to vulnerable children and families, care leavers and foster parents. Once again the loving and caring response from St Nicholas is very much appreciated.


During the year our members have helped raise £2786.44 through donations, a flag day, Lenten lunches, house to house collections and a carol service. Christian Aid Topsham as a separate organisation has now been disbanded. In future all monies raised for Christian Aid will be banked by the church organising the event.


St Nicholas has a long history of supporting JMA, a Methodist-led organisation supporting projects abroad in poorer, under-developed countries with youth in mind. Whilst we have no young members here collecting for JMA, friends continue to contribute and support this important work, donating £205 in 2015-16.


For the last seven years, the Church has supported the charity Samaritan’s Purse. Their project, Operation Christmas Child, co-ordinates and distributes shoeboxes filled with toys for children in Eastern Europe. Donations of toys and games from friends here enabled St Nicholas to contribute 17 boxes this year: marvellous support for a marvellous cause.


Friends at the church not only meet with the wider community of Topsham on a Saturday morning, but also meet monthly for a week day lunch, at a variety of venues. In the summer months, you will also find a number of St Nicholas’ members eating a hearty cream tea somewhere in East Devon! The Globe Hotel is the venue of our annual Church Christmas Lunch, always a convivial time of fellowship and fun.


Income for the year ending 31 August 2016 was £22,368 with expenditure of £19,543. This expenditure includes our contribution of £11,500 to Circuit funds.

Our many friends in the community support our weekly coffee mornings, which this year have raised £2272. Not only is this vital income to St Nicholas, but also a reflection of the church’s witness, fellowship and outreach. Our premises are also used by external groups, and the lettings income this year totalled £4891.

St Nicholas has also supported various Methodist links, namely: Action for Children, Methodist Homes, World Mission, Methodist Relief Society ‘All We Can’ and Junior Mission for All, totalling £1541 in this financial year

Average weekly collections for year 2015-16 were £193.

Monies we hold on Reserve and in Trust (approx. £32,000) are to cover any inevitable ongoing building repairs and maintenance, and shortfall in our income compared to expenditure. We also look to use our funds to continue our outreach within this community and beyond.

Full details of all income and expenditure, along with plans associated with church reserves, can be found in the church’s annual accounts.


St Nicholas is a Grade 2 Listed Building, and as such, requires on-going attention to maintenance and repair.

Various minor matters have been attended to throughout the year, including thereplacement of failing lighting in the main church and in the hall. The panel fencing in the garden at the rear of the property has also been repaired. It goes without saying that careful attention to the fabric of the Church premises is a continuing priority. We respect our obligations as custodians of this beautiful building, in order to continue our Christian witness within the Topsham community.


The immediate management of the church falls to its minister and its trustees, who normally meet twice a year as the Church Council. An opportunity for wider input by the congregation to the church’s affairs is provided by the Annual Church Meeting held in May, to which all members and friends are invited.

The trustees are responsible directly to the Methodist Church for the good governance and upkeep of the church, in effect through the Exeter, Coast and Country Circuit to which we belong. The Circuit has responsibility for 27 churches including ours, and it is the Circuit that Ministers are invited to serve, each responsible for one or more churches.

As at May 2016, membership of the Church Council at St Nicholas was as follows:

Superintendent Minister – Revd Stephen Santry*

Minister – Revd Paul Collings*

Other Circuit Ministers in Pastoral Charge

Church Stewards – Ray Hattrick*, Jeanette Brooks*, Kathy Niklaus*,

John Sharples*, David Batty*

Secretary to the Church Council – Jenny Davis*

Treasurer – Helen Brooks*

Pastoral Secretary – Jeanette Brooks*

Circuit Steward – Melanie Mock

Up to 15 members as representatives of areas of Church life:

Pastoral – Jeanette Brooks*

Property – Roger Brooks*

Social concerns – Rosemary Stephenson

Ecumenical matters – David Batty, Kathy Niklaus

Appointed by the General Church Meeting – Margaret Alvarez, Phyl Stobart,

Eileen Wannell, Derek Wannell, Jill Gullidge

As at May 2016, appointments at St Nicholas were as follows:

All those marked * above, plus:

Pastoral Visitors – Jeanette Brooks, Jill Gullidge, Rosemary Stephenson

Communion Steward – Jenny Davis

Ecumenical Representatives – David Batty, Kathy Niklaus

JMA Treasurer- Helen Brooks

Action for Children – Jenny Davis

Organist Rota Co-ordinator – Jill Gullidge

Examiner – Richard Collins

Hall Bookings – Paul Hicks

Flower Co-ordinator – Eileen Wannell

Newsletter – David Batty, Jeanette Brooks

Bible Reading Coordinator – Phyl Stobart

Coffee Morning Coordinator – Helen Brooks

Representatives to the Circuit Meeting – Helen Brooks, Roger Brooks

This annual report was compiled thanks to contributions from: the Revd Paul Collings, David Batty, Helen Brooks, Jeanette Brooks, Roger Brooks, Jenny Davis and Ray Hattrick.

Further information about church activities can be obtained from the Minister (01392-206229) or from any of the Church Stewards, ℅ St Nicholas Methodist Church, Fore Street, Topsham EX3 OHQ.

St Nicholas Methodist Church has its own web pages attached to the Circuit website. These include a monthly diary of services and other events. The main page for Topsham can be accessed at: