The bringing together of the congregations of Cross Street URC and Bear Street Methodist Church (including the substantial rebuild on the Bear Street site) began on the 9th October 1988. As a local Ecumenical Partnership we have a Constitution which has been approved by our parent denominations and by our sponsoring body ‘Christians Together in Devon’. The congregation is approximately 2/3rds Methodist and 1/3rd URC but also includes Christians of other traditions. In Methodism we are part of the Ilfracombe and Barnstaple Methodist Circuit (16 Churches), the Plymouth and Exeter District and the Methodist Connexion. In the United Reformed Tradition we are members of the URC South Western Synod and the General Assembly of the URC.
In Methodism we have roots in the Wesleyan and Bible Christian traditions. The Christ Church building was formerly known as ‘Barnstaple Methodist Church’ which, in turn, was formerly known as the ‘Thorne Memorial Chapel’ after James Thorne of Shebbear (1795-1872) the founder of the Bible Christian Movement in North Devon. The building dates from 1876. (The Bible Christians were a separate Methodist denomination from 1815-1907).
In the URC tradition our roots go back much earlier, even before the Act of Uniformity 1662-1672. After the Act, the Dissenters of Barnstaple continued to meet in an old malt house behind Cross Street. Their situation was concealed, but they dare not sing hymns for fear they would be heard and sent to prison. Rev. Jonathan Hanmer (born 1606) was imprisoned for two periods following the break up of his meetings. The Dissenters Silver, now on display in Barnstaple Museum, dates back to this early period of nonconformity in Barnstaple.
The Church today
We declare ourselves to believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church and intend to seek the visible unity of the church in worship and mission. Both former congregations have covenanted to work, worship, and witness as one congregation under the new name of Christ Church.
To this end the planning of Christ Church was for flexible use of the sanctuary as well as other rooms. Services are led by Methodist and URC Ministers and Lay Preachers. We use both Methodist and URC orders of Holy Communion. The responsibility of providing an Ordained Minister alternates between Methodist and URC Churches when a vacancy arises. Regardless of which denomination the Church minister currently is; he or she is recognised and regarded as a Minister by the partner Church.
Christ Church has adopted an Eldership style of leadership who meet monthly and recommend policy and planning to the Church Meeting, open to all members, who have the final authority in decision making. Pastoral care of all connected with Christ Church is shared between Minister and a team of Church Friends who each have a group of people assigned to them. The Church Bible most often used is the New International version and in 2012 we welcomed the opportunity to start using a new hymn book, Singing the Faith.