At Pathways we often have visitors, and we realised recently that many people do not know that the cross on our logo is actually a real place which is a significant landmark for our community.
The 58m high chalk cross is situated on the Pilgrim's Way, on the slopes of the ridge above the A20. It is an eye-catching design cut into the hillside, forming a striking image against the green fields surrounding it.
In 1922 a collection was held to build a memorial for the 42 men who died during the first world war. The cross was designed by Mr C.H.Groom, headmaster of the village school. There was also a granite stone with the names of the men, which was moved to the churchyard in 1977. The eye catching cross was a problem during the second world war, and was filled in during that time to prevent the Luftwafte using it to navigate.
The cross now serves as a memorial to those who died in both the first and second world wars.
For us as a church, it is wonderful to have such a striking reminder of Jesus directly above the community centre where we meet. It makes for great photos, and is a fantastic place to meet and pray over the community. On a clear day, from the top of the cross, it is possible to see across Kent as far as the south downs.
As well as remembering those who died in the war, we look to the cross to remind ourselves that Jesus Himself died for our community.
Jesus gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice so that we could all have lives filled with freedom and purpose. Jesus is the head of the church, and we would not exist if He hadn't called us to be here. It is His life and presence with us that gives us hope for our community.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
Recently a few of us joined with others from our community to clean the cross and pull out the weeds that constantly attempt to grow on it. It was hard work in the hot sun, but it seems a small sacrifice for us compared to everything it stands for. Afterwards it was gleaming white in the summer sun. This is a reminder that 'weeds' can so easily creep into our lives and we can forget what is really important.
Let us look to the chalk cross as a reminder to always keep Jesus at the centre of our church and our lives. Let us regularly allow Him to search our hearts and remove the weeds of sin and distractions from our life so that we can shine brightly for Him.
By Jenny Needham
The Lenham United Reformed Church building in Maidstone Road closed its doors in 2013 and has now been knocked down to make way for new housing. The final URC minister was Rev Andrew Mills who many will remember for the numerous childrens holiday clubs he led.
The photograph shown here was taken in 2012, sixty years from the date the building was erected and 350 years from the date that the Reverend Thomas Shewell founded the first independent church movement in Lenham in 1662.
Thomas Shewell had been Lenham's vicar but in that year had made a stand against the second stage of the current Act of Uniformity. In May that year every clergyman had to formally declare his acceptance of the revised liturgy. Thomas Shewell was one of the twelve hundred who refused to do so, preferring to resign. He chose instead to preach the gospel at his own private school
Little is known about the next hundred years or so, but by the late eighteenth century and often to much opposition, travelling preachers would give sermons in the market place. Their popularity, however, led to the establishment (through the determination of a lady from Harrietsham) of the first actual Lenham Congregational Church building here in 1784. So many crowds flocked to it that the chapel had to be rebuilt in 1824 to seat 500 worshippers. This became an Ebenezer Chapel (meaning 'stone of help').
Attitudes have changed much since Victorian times when its minutes recorded the expulsion of a member 'for running footraces for money' thereby bringing ‘scandal upon the cause' – especially as the culprit refused 'to promise the church that he would discontinue ‘these disgraceful activities’.
In 1940 the Lenham Congregational Church, as it then was, and its school hall were completely destroyed by a bomb accidentally dropped from an Albacore biplane from 826 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, based at Detling. The aircraft was returning from a raid on Nieuport Harbour, where the bomb had failed to drop. Luckily the church and school hall were empty at the time, although Lenham resident Beryl Wiltshire remembers that her mother had a narrow escape. She was the cleaner and had only just finished her job there.
Undaunted, the church continued to function and a new building opened in 1952, the United Reformed Church. In front of the church there was a Memorial Garden of Remembrance. In the late 1960s two cottages standing in front of the chapel were demolished, and in their place the Memorial Garden was established in the early 1970s with villagers donating rose trees in memory of their loved ones. Behind the church lay its former graveyard which was in use until late in the nineteenth century. Many of the names in the early Congregational Church register are still familiar in Lenham today.
Only the building of the church has gone, however. The church itself continues, as the former URC members have joined with some Jubilee Church members to form the new Pathways Church. The new opportunities that have come through our link with Jubilee are already having an impact on village life, for example the popular Creative Arts Academy students helping at the Lenham family festival.
What do you do when you want to prepare your team for a church plant?
You take them away for a series of team building weekends, and throw in a few surprises too of course! This video is from our first camp together.
Gail Robinson shares her experiences in this poem:
The first stage of preparing for the church plant was to form a zone (or subgroup) of Jubilee church which met in homes in the Len Valley area, but was still fully part of Jubilee. We called ourselves 'Len Valley Zone' and this is the video that we made for the launch of the zone in April 2014.