History of the Church
A Little History
For more than a thousand years Hythe was just a very small settlement; ‘hythe’ is an Old English word meaning a gravelly landing place, and Hythe has a history as a shipbuilding settlement and a landing place as far back as 1295.
Until 1823 Anglican worshippers in Hythe had to travel to either the church in Fawley or to the church in Dibden. In 1823 a small chapel (seating 250) was built to serve the local congregation, but as the population increased, a larger building was needed, and the present one was built in 1874.
Accessed from St. John’s Street, it became a parish in its own right in 1841. The first curate was the Rev the Honourable Augustus Irby. The chapel was really too small for the whole of the new parish and at the first opportunity a new church was built to the rear of the old chapel but now facing into New Road and was consecrated in 1874, the church still provides an impressive backdrop as you enter the village.
A walk around the church building
If you walk along the back of the church past the notice boards (often with items of interest to all), until you come to the passage way (aisle in church language). If you then walk slowly forwards, you will get a feel for the whole building. You pass the war memorial on your right, and then come to the foot of steps. Stop just before these.
To your right, you will see the lectern - a wooden stand with a flying eagle at the top. During services, the Bible is read here. The Bible describes how God created the world, and that all he made was very good. God created human beings to love him and the world around, but they turned their backs on him. God sent various messengers, the prophets, to call people back to him, but they refused to listen. In the end he sent his own son, Jesus Christ, who through his life, death, and resurrection brought us back to God. The Bible invites us to make our own response to this story of God’s love for us.
You will also see a stand with some small candles. People often like to light a candle as they pray for an individual or a situation which is on their heart. You might like to do this too.
To the left, you will see the stone pulpit. This is where preachers explain the Bible, and suggest how we can respond.
Beyond the pulpit to your left, is a small altar-table, and a large stone font. This is used for baptisms. Water is poured on the person being baptised, as a symbol of God washing away the effects of wrongdoing in our lives. Promises are made by those being baptised (or on their behalf) - ‘I turn to Christ’, ‘I repent of my sins’, ‘I renounce evil’ - and they are then assured of God’s forgiveness.
Ahead, you will see the main altar-table in the church building. Here the Holy Communion is celebrated several times each week. It is the central act of worship for the Christian Church. During the service the death of Christ for us all is recalled by bread and wine being offered symbolically as his body and blood, and Christians eat and drink to claim afresh God’s forgiveness achieved by his death and resurrection.
Behind the altar-table you will see a cross. It is one of a number in the church, and is there to remind us that the death of Jesus on the cross for human sin is at the centre of our faith; its presence also invites a response from us to his love.
In the middle ages, before many people could read, stained glass windows told in pictures the story of our salvation. They still have the same purpose, even though almost all of us can now read books ourselves. Look up at the stained glass window in front of you. In the middle is a picture of Jesus as a baby at Bethlehem, together with the shepherds and the wise men worshipping him. Above that is the crucifixion of Jesus; on one side stands Jesus’ mother Mary, and on the other the evangelist John. Underneath you can also see the scene where the angel announces to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus.
In the right panel of the window, you will see John the Baptist (after whom this church building is named) both alone and baptising Jesus, while on the left you can see John’s mother Elizabeth, both on her own, and with Jesus’ mother Mary.
Look on the wall on the left of the main window. There you will see a smaller window with a picture of Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. This is a suitable place for this, since at main services the choir sits in the pews nearby. The window in the wall to the right of the main window depicts the events of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples as flames which lit but did not burn them.
On the same wall, but behind choir stalls, is another window in which you can see another picture of John the Baptist.
If you walk in front of the font, heading back towards the main door of the church. If you stop halfway down and look back and up, you will see a small modern stained glass picture of the ‘Lamb of God’. This is another symbol used in the Bible to speak of Jesus. In Old Testament days, lambs were used as sacrifices to bring symbolic cleansing of people from sin; in the New Testament, the same picture is used to describe Jesus’ death on the cross for us human beings. You will also see a dove depicting the Holy Spirit and a hand in blessing representing God the Father.
If you walk towards the door, you will pass a windowsill cared for by the Mothers’ Union, and another kept as a memorial window where people put flowers in memory of loved ones. On the left-hand side of this window you will see a recent memorial to a young man who lost his life on Mount Everest raising funds for local children’s charities.
At the back are the church library (from which you are welcome to borrow a book), and finally the children’s corner. Children are of course quite as welcome as adults in the worship of almighty God; but if they begin to get restless, there are things here for them to play with or read.