Churches Together in Otley

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History of The Churches in Otley              contents page

Note: the detail below is from the 2002 edition
 of Otley Past Present and Future

Churches Together in Otley


Until the introduction of Methodism to Otley in the 1750s, the Parish Church would have been the centre of religious activity in the town. During the reformation in England the monarch replaced the Pope as head of the Church but the organisation remained Episcopal (administered by Bishops), as was the Roman Church.

By the 1920s, a multiplicity of religious groups had settled and built churches in the town.

A detailed historical study of Otley would probably show the influence of the rise of Methodism on the community of Otley in the eighteenth century and the effect of the influx of the Roman Catholics from Ireland in the nineteenth century.

In the 1960s and 1970s the present day United Reformed and Methodists were formed and in 1966 most of the churches agreed to work together within the organisation of the Otley Council of Churches. The following Churches and groups are now part of the organisation, which changed its name in 2001 to the Churches Together in Otley– United Reformed Church, Methodist, Salvation Army, Roman Catholic, Church of England, Quaker and New Life.

There have been many spiritual initiatives from the Churches Together over the years including special unity services, processions, and Songs of Praise on the first Saturday of each month. At Easter in 1992 the churches presented a community street play called Son Rise which was written and produced by local people. Currently members from all churches come together for breakfast and prayer on the first Saturday of each month.

In the 1980s groups of people from all the churches met for study at Lent and at other times and were well prepared for the changes in Church Unity structures in 1989 linked with the Swanwick Declaration, in which the leaders of all the churches at national level made a commitment to work together more than previously. For many years the local church ministers have meet on a regular basis for mutual support and to check that they are, where possible, fulfilling the needs of the people of the town. In addition to the witness of voluntary work carried out by many Christians in the town, the Churches Together has been active on many practical levels in the town as well as being represented on other town organisations.

The cross on the Chevin, which was installed for the first time in 1969, has now become a well known and loved Easter symbol of hope. The cross, which was replaced after 31 years for the new millennium, was the brainchild of the Otley Council of Christian Churches and is a fine example of a co-operative initiative, which has become a source of comfort and inspiration to many people.

The divisions of the past can still be seen in the differences of detailed theology and practice between the churches, however there is an understanding by each church that all are journeying in the same direction, albeit on different routes. The variations between the churches are seen as offering creative choice for people in their search for God.


Time-Line of Church Activity in Otley

Circa 1200

Archbishops palace near site of RC church

Circa 800

Parish Church built




Start of Methodism


Methodist chapel at Green Lane


Methodist chapel at Nelson St


Congregationalists to Otley


Methodist Church in Boroughgate


Congregationalists built Salem Chapel


The Methodist Primitives built Newmarket Chapel


Catholic Church built


Methodist church in Westgate


Salvation Army formed


Methodist rebuilt in Boroughgate


Salvation Army to Otley


Duncan Cathedral replaced Salem Chapel


Formation of Bethel from Methodism


Bethel settled in Mercury Row


Salvation Army moved to Newmarket


Primitive & New Connection joined


Methodist congregations unite


Chevin Cross made


Formation of the United Reformed Church


Bethel moved above Senior Citizens Club


Formation of Otley Council of Christian Churches

1999 -2000

New Chevin Cross put up for Millennium Celebrations


Otley Council of Christian Churches renamed to the Churches Together in Otley