We walk in the footsteps of the many people who have worshiped at St Swithin’s down the ages. As we each make our journey of faith we keep company with each other and with those who have travelled ahead. People like William Wilberforce and others who made St Swithin’s their spiritual home; and the many diverse and wonderful people with whom we walk today.
It makes for an unlikely band of pilgrims, each with a story to tell, something to share of the love of God and something to learn from their fellow travellers. This wonderful, vibrant, higgledy-piggledy community is organic; God’s special creation brought together to speak of his generosity and to bear his fruit. The stories (below) that some of our community have shared tell of that fruit:
If you say the words ‘St Swithins’ to me, I hear: home, family, community. It isn’t a building, or a place, or a time on Sundays when there’s a service on, it’s a collection of people who again and again, through the highs and lows of life, show each other God’s love in a very real, practical and tireless way. I became part of the congregation 5 years ago when it was meeting at St Andrews School. I remember feeling quite anxious the first time I went. Fresh from an Alpha course that had solidified a growing sense of God in my life, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I experienced was a body of people whose faith underpinned their lives, who were enthusiastic, affirming and outward looking, who chose not to ‘shout at the darkness of life, but instead to illuminate it’ (borrowing a compelling image I heard at New Wine 2010). For me, it is an ever present backdrop to my life, punctuated not only by the energy of the Sunday service, but also by the vibrancy of the café, and the warm smile received when you bump into someone from St Swithin’s in the supermarket or on the school run. I often look around on Sundays, perhaps when worship is in full flow, or during a moment of prayerful silence and I feel such a rich sense of blessing to be part of this congregation.
We first came to St Swithin’s in September 2009. I had never been a Christian before, but dropped in one Wednesday lunchtime when the church was open for visitors, and was immediately struck by the friendly welcome and the beauty of the building. Jane and I went to our first service the following Sunday and we’ve been attending regularly ever since.
We both feel that this is a very special church. The welcome from other members is warm and genuine. There is a great sense of mission: to the people of Bath through the cafe, Activity Days etc; to Snow Hill and the London Road through the work we are doing to revive the community there; to St Andrew’s School; and to our overseas mission partners. Above all there is really deep and searching preaching from the clergy team.
We believe that God is moving in this place. He led us here that Wednesday lunchtime, and he has encouraged us to get involved in different activities. Jane is a lifelong Christian and St Swithin’s has helped us to share in our faith for the first time. The church has made a big change in my life; it has helped me to get to know Jesus and to see the point of loving my neighbour as myself. I feel at home here. I know I still have lots to learn, but I am proud now to tell people that I am a Christian.
Having lived all my life within reach of Walcot Parish Church, or St Swithin’s as it is now more properly called, it has always been the place where I “go to church”. As a child I was shaped by Sunday school and Bible Class, and attendance at the church school, now St Andrew’s, then Harley Street Girls’ School. Baptism and confirmation were a recognised part of belonging and a declaration of faith, so I became integrated into church life, finding valuable friendships, outlets for serving in the community, and inspirational Bible teaching.
I have known eight rectors over the years, each shaping church life in their individual ways, but always grounded in biblical truth and the good news of Jesus our Saviour.
The world has changed much, and the church has had to adapt its ministry to current needs. The building too has changed, surviving a landslip and the blitz, and now restored with the aim and purpose of revealing the love of God and the saving grace of Jesus to the present generation. Once that is discovered, “going to church” soon becomes a habit of life!
Experiencing St Swithin's Church has been a delight for this wandering Christian. I have travelled extensively and I am in Bath for careers opportunities. I have yearned throughout for a Church that would capture me. I feel from my first journey through St Swithin’s beautifully historic arch shaped doors, I have been warmly welcomed, truly engaged and gently challenged. First I noticed the light and glorious awe-filled space of the church buildings, and then the wonderfully vibrant, joyful singing. I love that the songs we sing are used as a means to embed the meaning of the service. I was especially captured as there seemed to be something extra, something that seemed ingenious to me: the services are interactive, the shape of the space changes, and you have the opportunity to move and engage in the space of the Church. I love that everyone seems to be involved, from welcoming you on the door, to being part of the music, to leading prayer, or working with the young people. What also makes the services a wonderful experience is the gift of oratory and ability to capture your heart and mind in the service. I leave every week glowing with the love I feel for God and his Son, and a gratefulness in my heart for being so blessed to find such a treasure to experience. I have been so captured that I have become involved with the singing and have been warmly welcomed into one of the Church’s home groups.
St Swithin’s feels like an extended family to us. We’re very much at home here. Claudia and I have been part of the church for 8 years now and a lot has happened during this time. We became members of the St Andrew’s congregation in 2003 shortly after moving to Bath from Germany. In 2007, it was quite an adjustment moving from the comfortable chaos of St Andrews’ school hall to the grandeur of St Swithin’s church once the renovations had been completed. But “church” is so much more than bricks and mortar. As Claudia and I look back, we’ve been struck by the strong, genuine sense of “family” at St Swithin’s.
Whether during the highs of life - when Max (4) and Louis (2) were born, or the lows - throughout my treatment for oesophageal cancer in 2009, the church has been an amazing source of support and encouragement. Not only our joys, but also our pain has been recognised, shared and communally carried - and that means a lot to us.
The church is on an exciting journey too. With the once-dead crypt coming alive with activity and a growing number of people joining us to worship, we look forward to what God has in store for our down-to-earth motley bunch of the faithful.
When we first visited St Swithin's Church at Walcot we were impressed by the welcome we received at the morning service we attended. We appreciated the way the service unfolded with an emphasis on the Bible teaching, time during the service for prayer, reflection, and music.
Having recently moved to the area we returned a few times over the next couple of months. We started to see the depth and caring in peoples' relationships and also understood that St Swithin's was a pioneering Church with significant changes happening. It is clear that the children’s work is taken seriously and our children are enjoying being part of the groups for their ages and return at the end of a service having had fun mixed with challenging thinking. The format of the services is varied and creative, often using inspiring music and multimedia videos. We certainly noticed the creativity in the wonderful carol service!
We are really pleased we have found a Church community that is quickly becoming a family and are looking forward to contributing to and being part of the journey that this family is taking in a prayerful way.
Maarten and Frances Westerduin
The summer of 1964 brought our family to Bath. A near neighbour, Mrs Butler, invited us to a Guest Service at St Swithin’s where her family had worshipped for many years. This was when Gordon Jones was Rector of St Swithin’s. We found a full, committed congregation with strong evangelical traditions, and we really liked the fellowship at St Swithin’s, and so that is where we have been ever since. Isobel was invited to help with Adventurers (Sunday School) at Snow Hill, where there were many children. She was soon leading for another twelve busy, happy years. When weekly services were held at Snow Hill, Mary Warne (piano) and I (violin) led the music. We still play together at the Parish Church.
I have always had a great interest in the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, having spent my first fifteen years in China as a son of missionaries. So I joined the OMF prayer meeting which I have led in recent years. My heart has been very much in Mission, especially in the Far East.
Some years ago I had the honour of being a churchwarden: a challenging role, particularly in the early days of discussing refurbishment. Weekly Home Group meetings are a blessing where we pray, have Bible study and friendship. It is great to be part of a church which is seeking to further the good news of Jesus.