Dartmouth (Flavel Church)
Dartmouth Flavel Church is a Methodist/United Reformed Church situated in central Dartmouth
The town of Dartmouth enjoys a unique position on the banks of the famous River Dart, from which it takes its name and which is often styled "The English Rhine".
Dartmouth can justifiably claim to be one of Devon's most interesting and historic seaports. It was from this port that the ships of the Crusades set sail. It was also in Dartmouth that the Pilgrim Fathers assembled in worship for the last time before they began their voyage across the Atlantic in the Mayflower and the Speedwell in 1620 before being forced to returning to Plymouth when it was discovered the Speedwell was taking in water.
In 1341, the town received its first charter from King Edward Ill: a charter which granted self-government under a mayor and corporation, providing that two ships, each of 120 tons, were given to the services of the monarch.
Dartmouth has had connections with many famous sea-faring men Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh being among them Today Dartmouth is the home of the Britannia Royal Naval College that trains officers of many Navies of the world.
About our Church
Flavel Memorial Church is situated by the
Tropical Gardens, with good access to the council car park. It is,
consequently, very popular with a number of visitors during the busy
summer months, when the population in this attractive resort town
increases by 50-100%
Flavel Church has, for some years, been part of a joint pastorate with Brixham URC, with a single minister responsible for both churches. Dartmouth URC and Dartmouth Methodist congregations united in 1985 to become one 'United Methodist' congregation. The church building is some 110 years old, although there has been a church in the same location for almost 300 years. Flavel Hall is situated behind the church. As part of the mission of the church, the URC have agreed in principle to transfer the hall to a new trust to facilitate the building of a community centre incorporating theatre, library, exhibition space and meeting rooms for the church and other bodies.
There is a small but friendly congregation,
with a very small but active Sunday School, which meets during the
latter part of the morning service. Morning worship is at 10.45, the
minister officiating alternate weeks. There are no evening services,
but members of the congregation share in monthly afternoon services
at Dartmouth Hospital. Other special services during the year
include Harvest of the Sea, Town Service and Toy Service, with, of
course, the usual Festivals of the Christian Year. Holy Communion is
held monthly on the fourth Sunday.
Flavel Church's outreach centres around the coffee morning, held each Friday between 10.30 and 12.00, where warm fellowship is enjoyed between people of different denominations, and none. Flavel Hall is used on Tuesday night for 'Flavel Club' where children are introduced to the Christian faith through games, activities, talks and lots of fun.
Flavel Church has for many years supported Little John's House, a home for under-privileged children in Romania. Gifts from Harvest and Toy Service are donated to this cause.
Flavel Church has declined in numbers over recent years yet looks with faith and hope to God to direct their paths into whatever future He has in store for them.
(Click on the images to see a larger picture)
'John Flavel was the son of a well-respected Presbyterian
minister. He obtained his BA at Oxford at the age of 20 and was
appointed to his first post at Salisbury. In 1656 he became minister
at Dartmouth ("a great and noted sea-port"). But in 1660, when the
Act of Uniformity was brought in, he was ejected and began to teach
in a small dissenting academy in the town.
Three years later the Five Mile Act prohibited ejected ministers from living within five miles of any corporate borough. Arrests were commonplace. John Flavel's own father and mother were thrown into Newgate prison with their flock, where his parents died of the plague.
John continued to preach on beaches, in private houses, in woods, often escaping soldiers at the last moment, at one time riding his horse into the water in one Dartmouth cove and swimming it round the headland to the next to make his escape. Persecution became so bad that he took flight for London, calling all to prayer during a terrific storm off off Portland, whereupon a changed wind took the ship off the rocks and they were saved.
After preaching whilst in much danger in London he returned to Dartmouth but was closely confined to his house, certain magistrates carrying his effigy through the streets with the covenant and Bill of Exclusion pinned to it, to the derision of the crowd.
In 1687 King James II dispensed with the penal laws against noncomformists and Flavel was free to preach to his followers in peace. Four years later, after presiding, as Moderator, over an assembly of nonconformist ministers, he died suddenly after a stroke. Amidst "floods of tears and bitter lamentation" he was buried near the chancel in St.Saviour's Church, Dartmouth. The memorial stone bearing his name was later removed at the
behest of a small group of magistrates and re-erected in Flavel Church.
He was by all accounts a most effective preacher, one hearer remarking that "a person must have had a very soft head or a very hard heart, or both, that could not sit under his ministry unaffected." His lasting legacy is in the number of sermons and works that were published in his lifetime, and in the Flavel Church and Flavel Hall that still bear his name.
(Extracted from a longer paper on the life of John Flavel, available from the church)
- Minister: Revd Philip Nevard