Topsham Methodist Church Annual Report 2016-17





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

So we did it! With all our planning, the long anticipated 150th anniversary celebration took place in May. What a year. A successful Topsham Museum exhibition, the three anniversary celebrations of Sunday School reunion, the town and Circuit services suitably marking the 150 years of ministry and mission at St Nicholas Methodist Church.

We also now have a permanent reminder of our anniversary theme of rediscovering the face of Jesus Christ in our Church, our community and in our commitment through the artistic skills of Nick Wharton in the reinvigoration of our stained glass windows.
Through all this celebration we must remain mindful of the need to press on with our call to serve our community in the name of Christ. Looking back has to be measured against our need to build upon a foundation of faith and, in the words of St Paul, to press on towards the goal set before us. What does this mean for us? Simply put, we cannot rest on our laurels.

Be thankful, yes, rejoice in the victories of the past or in the words of the hymn writer:

THIS, this is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend;
Whose love is as great as his power,
And neither knows measure nor end.
‘Tis Jesus, the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise him for all that is past,
And trust him for all that’s to come.

We live in a time of significant change, and for many, a world of uncertainty. It is so easy for us to become paralysed as we stare into the confusing glare of our present world situation. Yet, we have the constant assurance that the one who has been with our society for 150 years has promised to be with us to the end of the age. Christ’s call is the constancy amidst the confusion, his faithfulness that carries us beyond our faults and even our failings, and his assurance enables us to sing alleluia above the noise all around us.

We continue to give thanks for God’s presence in Christ within our community and ask him to strengthen our resolve to work with him as we share his Good News as we follow his lead.



What a lot of work was done in preparing for this great event by so many members: the repainting of the railings, the restaining of the entrance door and tidying up of the garden; the flowers to be chosen and arranged by the usual dedicated team and which were much admired; the excellent illustrated history, Founded on Faith which sold well as did the St Nicholas pens! Then there was all the thought and imagination which the Minister and our members had shown in organising this important celebration of the opening of St Nicholas. It was decided to hold three services: one celebrating Sunday School, another for the Topsham churches and a third for the Circuit, as well as a tea party and gift day for our Church family.

Sunday School Service

Organised by Jill Gullidge, a special service for past members of the Sunday School was held on 14 May. We sent personal invitations and contacted as many as possible, including some in their 70s and 80s! We invited them to send their memories, which many of them did. On the day, the Church was almost full. Paul’s service was a perfect mix of fellowship, reminiscence and thanksgiving, and he brought it to life with a ‘memory box’ which everyone enjoyed. The hymns were chosen by the members and, after the service, there were displays and photos to look at and personal reunions, memories and laughter to share over coffee and cake.

Ecumenical Service

On 21 May we invited our Anglican and Catholic friends led by the Revd Louise Grace and Mgr Harry Doyle, who both took part in the service. We were delighted to welcome Tony Yates and the St Margaret’s Church Choir, who sang Parry’s anthem, I was glad. The Chair of the Plymouth & Exeter District, the Revd Graham Thompson preached a very relevant sermon based on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, and also rededicated the sanctuary windows. Two St Nicholas members presented an informative and entertaining dialogue about the history of our Church, which was repeated in the evening.

Evening Circuit Service

Later on 21 May, the Church was full with friends from all over the Circuit. Paul in his inimitable way had chosen hymns which could be sung to such well-known tunes as Auld Lang Syne and the Dambusters March. Our splendid organist fot the evening, Wensleigh Palmer made sure we sang with gusto! The Revd Steve Santry, the Circuit’s Superintendent Minister delivered the sermon and linked it to the newly restored face of Christ in the central sanctuary window. After the service, there were the traditional cups of tea and coffee shared with the many who stayed after a most upliftng service.

Gift Day and Tea Party

Because of disappointing weather, the tea party had to be held in the Church rather than the garden, but what a happy occasion it was. We were able to share in the birthday of one of our members, David White, sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and enjoy Ruth White’s cake as well as all the other delicious goodies on offer. It was a time of true fellowship.


The week of celebration was a time for reflection and to recognise and give thanks for all the dedicated service given to St Nicholas over the past 150 years. The Church, like Topsham itself, has seen many changes, but with the support and guidance of our minister, Paul Collings, we look to the future with hope.


We continue to enjoy the ministry of the Revd Paul Collings, who leads our services at least once a month. We are delighted that Paul will continue to be our Minister until 2022. 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.

Local arrangement services are now held on a Sunday at least once a quarter. Whilst initially it may have appeared daunting to lead our own services, friends here have embraced the concept. We have willing volunteers to take a part in our morning worship, and we are grateful to Paul who ‘points us in the direction’. We now make these a real occasion, serving coffee afterwards for a further time of fellowship.


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 Church is led by the Minister and a team of pastoral visitors, who ensure that the congregation as a whole are cared for and supported. There is a quiet area in the Church on Saturday mornings for prayer and meditation. The prayer board is widely used, and all prayers are reflected on, and remembered in the Sunday worship.

Requests can be made for fresh flower arrangements for personal occasions, which are passed on to the sick and house bound, as are Easter, Christmas and Harvest flowers. Cards and letters are sent for many reasons and occasions throughout the year. A monthly newsletter is also available; this ensures that everyone is up to date with Church family news. A Sunday morning car rota is available for folk who find it difficult to attend worship.

We were saddened at the death of Colin Long. For many years, Colin audited our accounts for no charge, saving us great expense. Many friends will remember his late wife, Sylvia, who was a faithful and very active member here at St Nicholas. We sent our condolence to their daughter Penny, and grandchildren Heather and Matthew, former members of our Junior Church. Later in 2017, we very sadly lost John Sharples, one of our Church Stewards; his funeral (held at St Margaret’s Parish Church to accommodate the numbers) was attended by over 350 people, a tribute to his very full life and his friendship to so many. And as the end of the year drew near, Audrey Newman, a long standing member who will be remembered for her kindness and concern for others, died in Birmingham to where she had recently moved to be near her family.


(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, January saw an ecumenical service at St Margaret’s during the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with the theme of ‘Crossing barriers’, while in March Holy Cross hosted the annual 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 the Methodist Church’s ‘All We Can’ fund with donations totalling £308. The traditional Good Friday Walk and the singing of carols in the town on the Saturday before Christmas gave witness to our unity. All the churches worked with Topsham Museum in the latter’s major exhibition in 2017 on the history of the town’s churches. Additionally, 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 meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays in the month at St Nicholas (without cost to the Group). It is a very lively group of about 20 folk, mostly over 70 years young. We share in quizzes, singing, poetry, etc over coffee and biscuits. Birthdays are always an excuse for cakes! The Group’s members are all very supportive to each other and meet regularly after meetings for lunch at a local hotel.

As noted in last year’s annual report, 2016 saw St Nicholas holding a new community event, the Topsham Christmas Tree Festival. 22 local groups, societies, clubs and businesses provided and decorated a tree, which were displayed around the Church. The three days in December were a great success, with many visitors enjoying the displays, with a coffee and mince pie, and a special time of community-coming-together. During the Festival, St Nicholas hosted a concert of Christmas music, with carols and three local choirs singing their choice of music. Our organist, John Brindley gave a wonderful contribution on the piano and also accompanied the choirs. Having to find extra seating spoke for itself! During the Festival, the quite wonderful sum of £800 was raised through donations and these monies were split between FORCE and Hospiscare. Through popular demand, the Festival and concert will be repeated in 2017, with donations split between Action for Children and the Alzheimer’s Society.

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


The caring attitude of our Church family not only to each other but for the wider world, has once again been reflected in the wonderful and astonishing amount of money we are able to send each year to Action for Children. We have this year sent a total of £656 to AFC. This money is used to support the 26 centres in Devon who in turn support children and families in crisis, help disabled children and foster parents, to name just a few. We are proud of the work carried out by the charity which has its roots in Methodism. The local professional fund raiser, Sarah, is very grateful for our help, which in turn helps her in her difficult job as fund raiser for Dorset, Somerset and Devon.


Christian Aid Topsham as a separate organisation has now been disbanded but the Exeter branch (with the help of local supporters) co-ordinates an annual flag day in the town for which St Nicholas has acted as the distribution and collection point, while individual churches raise funds for the organisation through other events.


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 £159 in 2016-17.


For the last eight 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 19 boxes in 2016 – marvellous support for such a worthwhile cause. We are grateful to Dr JP Hunter and family who have agreed to co-ordinate the appeal in future.


We have the reputation as being a very welcoming and friendly Church and this is borne out with the support we receive for our various social activities. Our weekly coffee mornings give an opportunity for outreach and we have regulars who, although not actual members, seem to appreciate the welcome they receive. Food seems to play an important part for our Church family and we enjoy a monthly lunch at The Globe, several cream teas during the summer, a lunch following our Harvest Festival service, a special Christmas lunch at The Globe and, in April 2018, a return of our spring tea party and concert which is always most enjoyable.


Income for the year ending 31 August 2017 was £27,071 with expenditure of £24,070. This expenditure included our contribution of £11,125 to Circuit funds.

Our many friends in the community support our weekly coffee mornings, which this year have raised £2021. Not only is this vital income to St Nicholas, but also a witness, fellowship and outreach. Our premises are also used by external groups, and the lettings income this year totalled £4787.

Monies recovered via Gift Aid amounted to £2366. This really is ‘free money’! For every £1 given to St Nicholas, we can claim a further 25p from the Inland Revenue. Many thanks are due to those who Gift Aid their weekly offering and other donations. Church members and friends who are tax payers are encouraged to join the Gift Aid Scheme through the Church Treasurer. Additionally, weekly offering envelopes – even if a giver is not in the Gift Aid Scheme – can be provided. Average weekly collections for year 2016-17 were £216. The generosity of members and friends here at the Church really is appreciated.

St Nicholas has also supported Methodist links, namely: Action for Children, Methodist Homes, World Mission, Methodist Relief Society ‘All We Can’, Junior Mission for All, and external charities Force and Hospiscare, totalling £2231 in this financial year – a wonderful total from a relatively small church.

Our utility bills amounted to £2687, with maintenance and repairs to the building totalling £1717.

Monies we hold on Reserve and in Trust (approx. £35,000) 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. Questions regarding our finances can be directed to the Treasurer.


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

Various minor matters have been attended to throughout the year, and we will need to address some crumbling external stonework and small damp issues in the hall. Perhaps the largest project undertaken this year was the restoration of the faces on the stained glass in the sanctuary area of the Church. Re-enforcing our statement of ‘Re-discovering the Face of Jesus’, it was fitting that this work was completed in time for the 150th anniversary services.


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 2017, 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 – David Batty*, Jeanette Brooks*, Ray Hattrick*,

Kathy Niklaus*, John Sharples*

Secretary to the Church Council – Jenny Davis*

Treasurer – Helen Brooks*

Pastoral Secretary – Jeanette Brooks*

Circuit Steward – Melanie Mock (subsequently David Bradford)

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, Jill Gullidge,

Phyl Stobart, Eileen Wannell, Derek Wannell

As at May 2017, 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 Co-ordinator – Phyl Stobart

Coffee Morning Co-ordinator – Helen Brooks

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, Jenny Davis, Jill Gullidge, Ray Hattrick and JP Hunter.

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: