“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28
Most Victorian charities set up to help the poor and promote the gospel of Christ have either changed into something else or ceased to exist. Over one hundred and thirty years after it was founded, Chesterfield’s Ragged School is still open. There are no paid workers. Everyone from the board of trustees to the door stewards are volunteers. There is no trust fund or parent organisation. Freewill donations are all that keep the chapel solvent. Yet it remains. Regarded with respect and even affection by those who know it. The building is an unprepossessing survivor from an age long gone. The institution it houses is something else. And it still has the two manual pipe organ, purchased from Brampton Congregational church in 1930, which is used in most evening services to accompany the hymn singing.
However, the Ragged School has changed, mostly because it’s surroundings have changed and so has the world around it. The slum houses have all gone and so have the ragged children it was set up to teach. State education has replaced voluntary schools and church attendance has fallen. The Ragged School is now dwarfed by a multi-storey car park, bounded on one side by a coach station and on another, across an increasingly busy main road, by a retail park. There are no houses, no children and, since 1992, no Sunday School. The work does continue, the congregation still meets every Sunday evening at 6.30pm for a service, still takes part every year in the annual procession of witness on Whit Monday (late spring bank holiday Monday, the last Monday in May). We have added a Social Afternoon, from October to April, on the 4th Monday of the month at 2.00pm, with various speakers. See Services & Events page for details.
The Staveley Community Transformation (formerly Acorn Christian Ministries) team has used the Upper Room during the week for youth meetings and office space. They have now moved to Staveley and the Upper Room is now used on Mondays by a Chinese Elders Group and youth club.
Following work to install new windows, helped by a grant from the Midland Co-operative Society, the Eastwood Room is being used by various community groups during the week.
The Ragged School is still serving the Lord and the community around it.