Salem Chapel, 1935: Digesting Sheep

I have found Martin Top’s Pulpit Announcement Book for the years 1935-36. Presumably, the Secretary was expected to share the forthcoming week’s meetings before or during a Sunday service, or it was passed to the preacher to share at some convenient point. Much of it is hum-drum, but I draw your attention to the week beginning January 27th 1935. You can judge for yourself what that week’s notices says about our chapel during that decade.

On Tuesday, a lecture was to be given by Lieutenant Colonel H.G. Bowes (FRCVS). These letters stand for Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the title of his talk? ‘The Digestive System of Cattle and Sheep.’ I have no doubt that the members and regulars of Salem Chapel were in for a real treat. As the Lt. Colonel waxed enthusiastically about bovine intestines and ovine bowel movements, his auditors may well have reflected on God’s creative genius. Maybe.

If that was not stimulating enough, and the good folk of 1930s’ Martin Top had remaining quantities of unspent adrenaline that the Lt. Colonel's talk was not able to consume, the Secretary had an ace up his sleeve: a protest. For that coming Friday night was planned a demonstration against the proprietors of the local Haven Temperance Hotel from being granted a license which would have allowed it to serve alcoholic beverages. This would essentially turn it back into a pub- the Black Bull- which it duly became, but not without the congregations of Salem and the Stopper Lane Methodists offering vociferous objection. The demon drink was the real enemy in the nonconformist mind. For locals who relished the prospect of a nice warm pint after a day’s toil on the farm, the local chapels’ protests would have been particularly unwelcome.

Those were the two notices. Those were the two mid-week offerings. A lecture on the workings of farm animals’ stomachs, and a protest against the rights of other people to go for a drink. Where is the Bible study? Where the prayer meeting? Where the tracting? It might be that these were so ingrained that they warranted no announcement; or, the chapel had taken its sights off God’s word and was more concerned with the peripheral, worthwhile though they might have considered them. I pray that our primary function remains the worship of God and the sharing of His glorious gospel. May we not allow ‘civilian affairs’ to dominate our chapel’s diary.

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. 1 Timothy 6:20-21, NKJV.

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:4, NKJV.