Topsham Methodist Church Annual Report 2020-21





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

This annual church report is unlike any written in previous years. The onset and continuation of the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions have significantly affected all parts of society and not least the church. It soon became clear following the first lockdown in March 2020 that our normal round of services and activities would need to be suspended. However, this gave an opportunity to experimenting with online worship that eventually led to some 70 weekly Youtube broadcasts made available online. Over that period, our online congregation grew to three times the number who regularly attended in-person worship. During the same period we were also able to share two ecumenical online gatherings with our friends at St Margaret’s and Holy Cross.

Unable to meet for our fortnightly Thursday study fellowship, we developed online daily devotions distributed via email, Facebook and the Church website. This has continued since the easing of lockdown with over 100 people sharing this form of daily devotion. The themed postings have ranged from seasonal exploring of faith for Advent, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost as well as considering a journey through the Psalms, names and titles of Jesus, desert island hymns and a covenant people, to name but a few.

We are also grateful to J P Hunter’s Thursday Postings on the theme of ‘Faith in times of crisis.’

This outreach has opened our fellowship to a number of new people connecting with the church with some now attending our face-to-face worship.

The strength of the St Nicholas Methodist fellowship is how the inclusive pastoral cloak of comfort and welfare was cast far and wide, ensuring that all are held within the heart of the community of faith.

As we now move into a semi-settled period, where we consider Our Calling as we journey into the ‘new normal’, we acknowledge that things have changed, lessons need to be learned and new opportunities grasped.

At this time three quotes come to mind. Oswald Chambers advises that we should ‘leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him’; then there is Corrie Ten Boom who encourages us to ‘Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God’; and finally, Rick Warren declaring that ‘through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured’. We’ll praise him for all that is past and trust him for all that’s to come.


The Minister’s introduction above describes how worship within the St Nicholas family adjusted to the constraints applied by the Covid pandemic over the last year. Members of the Church were very grateful for the online services and daily devotions which maintained and enhanced their faith during the difficult times of not being able to meet in person.

As the Church moved out of lockdown at the end of the review year, there was a careful return to Sunday morning services, observing restricted attendence numbers, social distancing and other sensible precautions and there was special gratitude to the preachers who felt able to lead worship. The recommencement of fortnightly fellowship meetings was also under way.

Before the pandemic lockdown, and with fewer preachers available to sustain a full preaching plan within the Exeter, Coast & Country Circuit, it had become necessary for a local arrangement service to be held at least once a quarter at St Nicholas in order to ensure a weekly service. This position will continue post-lockdown and members of the congregation have shown their enthusiasm for helping to lead these times of worship. Participation in these services, both leading and listening, enhances a real sense of fellowship within the congregation.


At present, St Nicholas has no Junior Church. The Church however, makes provision for any youngsters who may visit, with puzzles, books and soft toys available.


Pastoral care at St Nicholas is headed by the Minister, the Revd Paul Collings and a pastoral team to ensure that the congregation as a whole is cared for and supported where needed.

The prayer board in the Church is widely used by the congregation and visitors as the building is open to various weekly groups and every Saturday morning for coffee. There is a quiet area for prayer and meditation.

Requests can be made for flower arrangements for personal occasions while special occasions are shared in the newsletter with other family news and supported with cards and flowers throughout the year. As a small church with an ageing congregation, folk tend to take very good care of each other throughout the year.


During the pandemic lockdown, the monthly Church newsletter continued to be produced but in an electronic rather than paper format. The electronic format is likely to be retained for the immediate future.


(a) Ecumenical Links

In more normal years 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. Inevitably, such links have been very limited during 2020-21. Sadly, it has not been possible to hold the more formal services and occasions that usually characterise the links that St Nicholas maintains with the other Topsham churches such as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, carol singing on Chapel Platt and the Good Friday walk of witness through the town. However, informal conversations have supported our continuing friendship with fellow Christians at St Margaret’s and Holy Cross, and the lightening of restrictions offers hope of returning to opportunities for shared fellowship in the new church year.

(b) Community

There was hope that St Nicholas might host a fourth Christmas Tree Festival in 2020 but the Covid pandemic made this impossible. Nor has the Church been able to open up its premises for use by local groups, a source of involvement with the Topsham community as well as a source of income. Late 2021, however, has seen the return of a number of regular hirers, including singing groups and a rock band.

(c) Charitable Giving


Like all charities, AFC have suffered considerably during the pandemic and we at St Nicholas are aware that we have not been able to fundraise for them in the usual way. We did not collect in the home boxes in December 2020 but hopefully this year we will and raise a good amount. We look forward to 2022 when perhaps we may be able to help more.


For many years, St Nicholas has supported JMA, a Methodist-led organisation supporting projects abroad in poorer, under-developed countries, with youth in mind. In 2019-20, the Church sent £133 in support of JMA. Despite the Church being closed for a considerable time, St Nicholas still supported these projects in 2020-21 with a donation of £50.


Despite pandemic restrictions on collecting items for children in need through our yearly Shoebox Appeal, St Nicholas continued this much loved and well supported project by collecting cash donations which were transferred to the Head Office of Operation Christmas Child, where shoeboxes were safely packed on behalf of us. The 2021 collection outcome will not be known by the time this annual report is circulated but in 2020 over £210 was raised for which all of us are very grateful.


After the restrictions of the last year or so we now look forward to starting again our social events over the coming year when it is considered safe for us to do so. We have missed all our usual activities but it is good that we have now recommenced our Saturday coffee mornings. These are important to enable us to welcome members of the public, not only from Topsham but the wider area into our beautiful Church.


Income for the year ending 31 August 2021 exceeded expenditure by circa £500. Our funds, the majority of which are held on deposit at Methodist Headquarters in Manchester, stand at £19,500.

In an unprecedented year, the stable finances of the Church are the result of unwavering support by members and friends of St Nicholas. With no other income streams, their regular contributions ensured that the Church continued to fulfil all its financial responsibilities. Many found new ways of contributing during the height of the pandemic. The most obvious one being electronic donations, when it was advisable for the Treasurer not to visit a Bank in person. Many friends now choose to continue their giving in this way.

With few lettings and coffee morning receipts, the Church did, and still can, commit to the annual contribution of some £11,650.00 to the Circuit. Also, in addition to JMA, support was sent to Action for Children (£125) and Exeter Food Bank (£141).

St Nicholas is a Grade 2 Listed Building, and with that, repairs and ongoing maintenance to the beautiful Church are inevitable. We have reserves to cover any general problems that may occur, and we balance this with funds to cover our outreach, our fellowship and our Christian presence in Topsham and beyond.

Thanks are due to everyone for their continual, and very generous, support of the finances at St Nicholas.

Full details of all Income and Expenditure, along with plans associated with Church reserves, can be found in St Nicholas’ Annual Reports. Please contact the Treasurer, Helen Brooks, if you have any questions regarding finance.


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

The last church year has obviously been very strange as far as the occupation of the premises has been concerned. For much of the time the building saw very little human activity and consequently received very little heat. Both of these factors are detrimental to the general condition of any property let alone  a Church in excess of 150 years old .

Nevertheless, St Nicholas has fared remarkably well during and since Lockdown with only relatively small repairs being necessary, as follows:

1) Replacement of three cracked/slipped roof slates.
2) Clean and repair cast iron guttering/downpipes to south roof slope.
3) Repair damaged stonework/rendering to south elevation.
4) Repairs to the parquet floor to the Hall, beneath the carpeting; further attention may well be necessary.
5) Repair to Kitchen cupboard.

The lack of heating to the main Church during lockdown has resulted in some damp to the internal wall surfaces, particularly to the north side. It is hoped that the main reason for this is condensation and that a more comprehensive heating programme in the coming months should deal with this..

Externally the cast iron gates and railings will require repainting in the relatively near future. Attention will also be necessary on a regular basis to the rear garden recently professionally attended to. The rear grass area will continue to need regular mowing .

Generally the Church ,bearing in mind its age and form of construction, is in a quite reasonable condition.


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 St Nicholas belongs. The Circuit has responsibility for 24 churches, and it is the Circuit that Ministers are invited to serve, each responsible for one or more churches.

Because of the Covid pandemic, the Church Council was unable to meet formally during 2020-21 but members maintained contact through online means. However, formally as at May 2021, membership of the Church Council at St Nicholas comprised:

Superintendent Minister – Revd Stephen Santry* (Revd Julian Albrow from September 2021)

Minister – Revd Paul Collings*

Other Circuit Ministers in Pastoral Charge

Circuit Steward – David Bradford

Church Stewards – David Batty*, Jeanette Brooks*, Neil Gaylor*, Kathy Niklaus*

Secretary to the Church Council – Jenny Davis*

Treasurer – Helen Brooks*

Pastoral Secretary – Jeanette Brooks*

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

Pastoral – Jeanette Brooks*

Property – ………..

Ecumenical matters – David Batty, Kathy Niklaus

Appointed by the General Church Meeting – Steph Dunleavy, Jill Gullidge, Rosemary Stephenson

As at May 2021, 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 – Steph Dunleavy

Examiner – Ian Cole

Hall Bookings – Paul Hicks

Flower Team – Jeanette Brooks, Jenny David, Jean Mansell

Newsletter – David Batty

Bible Reading Co-ordinator – Steph Dunleavy

Coffee Morning Co-ordinator – Jenny Davis

Representatives to the Circuit Meeting – David Batty, Helen Brooks

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

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:

The Minister also maintains a church blog at: