A TOP Methodist minister will be returning to his roots when he preaches at Norwood Methodist Chapel later this month.

The Rev Dr Martyn Atkins will help celebrate the 90th anniversary of the chapel being built on the site – overlooking Lindley Wood reservoir – on August 28.

Dr Atkins became a Christian at the age of 17 when he was welcomed into the local Methodist Church in Otley. During his youth, he lived with his parents at Norwood Chapel, where they were wardens, and he attended Prince Henry's Grammar School in Otley.

He went to train for ordained ministry at the age of 22, and met and married his wife, Helen, during that time. His first local church appointment was in inner city Leeds, followed by several years in West Yorkshire, during which time the couple had three sons and he completed his PhD.

Dr Atkins became chaplain and head of religious studies at a Methodist school in North Devon in 1991, then in 1996 went to Cliff College in Derbyshire, first as a tutor and latterly as the principal/president of the college.

He trained both lay and ordained people for ministry of various kinds during the next 12 years, teaching and writing mainly about mission, evangelism, preaching, then increasingly ‘fresh expressions of Church’ and Church renewal.

He was elected as president of the Methodist Conference in 2007, and a year later was appointed as general secretary of the British Methodist Church and secretary of the conference. He became team leader and superintendent minister of Methodist Central Hall in Westminster in 2015.

Dr Atkins has travelled widely over the years, preaching and teaching in many countries around the world, particularly within the world Methodist family. He regularly presents the live acts of worship and early morning prayer for the day on BBC Radio Four. He is listed in ‘Who’s Who’ and is currently chairman of the board of Fresh Expressions Ltd – a charity dedicated to developing and networking fresh expressions of church.

The beginning of Methodism in the Washburn Valley was started at Elsingbottom Farm in about 1900 by Mr and Mrs Shepherd. They were the tenants of the farm there, using the parlour for their meetings. The society later moved to Norwood Hall, with the banqueting hall in the upper storey of the Jacobean building used as a place of worship.

There was a growing desire for a permanent home in which to worship and, after a generous offer of land by Major Fawkes of Farnley Hall, plans were prepared and accepted for worship, and 12 months later the foundation stones were laid. The estimated cost of the building comprising chapel, Sunday school and a caretaker’s house was £2,100, so work went ahead.

The opening ceremony was performed on August 25, 1926, in the presence of about 600 people. The chapel was converted into use as a day retreat centre about 30 years ago. Methodist services are still held there on the second and fourth Sundays of each month at 2.30pm and the chapel is part of the Wharfedale and Aireborough circuit.