Leyburn Meths

I seldom enter Methodist premises these days to worship, only to satisfy architectural curiosity or historical query. Nevertheless, I attended a Faith Mission meeting at Leyburn Methodist Church last week, and was impressed by the building’s furnishings. A giant organ bespeaking the old Methodists’ love of lusty hymn-singing, beneath which sat an almost equally imposing wooden pulpit, was all so very nonconformist. Yet the chapel was built in a gothic style, as though it were 1384 and not 1884.

Within, however, there were Classically styled Corinthian capitals. This is a peculiar combination of European style, combining two schools of art whose originals were never mated. Classically-built chapels were appealing to their Biblical heritage, whereas Victorian parish churches typically invoked the medievalism then deemed fashionable by cultivated minds. Leyburn Wesleyan Chapel evidently wished to rival the Gothicism of the nearby parish church with a few curt nods to the dissenters’ love of the New Testament world.

Even today, denominations and individual churches must decide the style in which they build, and I refer not just to the masonry and choice of coloured cushions. When we build congregations, disciple believers, teach the flock, we are building up and building out. In what style do we build? That which is currently fashionable, or that which is Biblical? The two are usually opposed. Current Methodism is building in the latest Equality style- highly fashionable but theologically questionable. The few token nods to the Biblical word are overwhelmed by the more stylish worldly wisdom.