Forest Hill Methodist Church
Minister: Rev. Charles Ilunga
Church Address: Normanton Street, Forest Hill, LONDON, SE23 2DS
Telephone: 0208 291 6996
open 9.30am – 1.30pm Tuesday – Friday
Unlike many churches, Forest Hill Methodist Church is in a modern building on an otherwise residential street. One of the concerns when considering development of the site at Normanton Street was whether it would not be too out of the way.Thankfully that has proved not to be the case, and our membership now numbers 133. There is a tennis court/five-a-side football pitch to the left of the entrance gate, a few parking spaces and spacious gardens. Some of the stained glass windows remembering members who died in the 2nd World War were brought from the old church and installed in the new one, set with back lights, complimenting a very modern, attractive, stained glass window. We also brought along the old wooden cross even though we also have a shiny new one.
The original church in Forest Hill dates back to 1856. A “Central Methodist Church” was erected on the South Circular (A205) in 1913 and, after amalgamation with two other churches it became Forest Hill Methodist Church. In 1926, the Trustees, by means of gifts and loans from their own pockets, bought a piece of land to be used as a sports club in an effort to “hold young people”. It took 36 years to pay off the loans, and was a significant act of faith by all concerned. In the mid-1990s the sports club finally closed, so the church was left with a plot of land on Normanton Street that rapidly fell into disuse. At the same time the building on the South Circular found itself surrounded by light industries and in need of extensive modernisation. The decision was made to apply for permission to build a new church on the disused sports ground. After eight years of difficult negotiations with the local council, permission was obtained and part of the land was sold for public housing.
In October 2003 planning permission was finally obtained, to a great deal of rejoicing. In 2007 we became owners of fairly large premises in the heart of a growing residential community. The premises were named “Forest Hill Methodist Church and Centre” in hope of numerous community activities to come. These hopes have been more than fulfilled. As well as the chapel which is the heart of the building, there are two large halls, smaller meeting rooms and an office that is open four days a week 09.30-1.30. These spaces enable us to host a wide variety of groups and activities throughout each week, both church and community based: Guiding groups, parent and toddler groups, choirs, training courses, dance groups, sports clubs, art exhibitions, storytelling workshops, Local Assembly consultation meetings etc., a branch of Narcotics Anonymous. These lets enable us to maintain the building. Children from the adjacent school, some with disabilities, use the tennis courts/football pitch as an extended play space. Other churches also use the building, and an occasional school assembly is conducted in the church. The building is fully accessible and comfortable for all ages of worshipers and other users, and there’s no doubt that members enjoy coming to church.
The congregation is very diverse, with people originating from all over the world, as depicted by the multi-coloured wall in the Cloister area of the building. Like many other churches, a large portion of our congregation is elderly, and we are finding it quite challenging “holding” young people. Fluctuations in Junior Church attendance are a concern, but we pray that a way will be found to keep the younger worshipers coming, for they are an important part of our church and we are enriched by their presence and listening to their needs as young people trying to live out their faith in our world today.
Forest Hill Methodist Church Newsletters:
Sunday 11am – Morning Service – Young People, Junior Church and Creche upstairs