A once-flourishing protestant sect in Skelmersdale has disbanded after more than 200 years. A church that survived the industrial revolution, world wars and flu epidemics lost its entire congregation within weeks of one of them having lessons in the Alexander Technique, a favourite among actors and singers for the relaxed upright poise it gives them.
‘Much of our worship was in the Pentecostal style,’ said Pastor Brian Hodgson, ‘speaking and singing ecstatically with our shoulders back, hands raised, necks tensed and heads thrown back. We thought there could be no greater bliss, but then our choir leader Debbie tried this alternative treatment for her backache.’
A former worshipper described how Debbie returned looking tall and composed. ‘When we were about to assume the position to speak in tongues, she called out to us to inhibit that thought and instead to release our necks and allow our heads to rise and tilt forward slightly. Suddenly everyone felt really calm. Then instead of tightening our shoulders she told us to let our backs lengthen and widen and let our arms hang freely. I felt an inner detachment that I’d never felt before.’
Within weeks most of the 150-strong congregation had started Alexander lessons and were walking ‘with broomsticks up their arses’, as Rev Hodgson put it. ‘Suddenly no one wanted to damage their posture or tranquillity and it became just like the Church of England, but without the coffee mornings and sponsored bike rides to provide a sense of purpose. Last Sunday there were only four of us left, so I shut up shop and we went to the pub.
‘I wouldn’t mind, but it turns the simple business of staying upright and relaxed into something that intrudes into every waking thought. It’s worse than religion, and that’s saying something.’
A spokesman for the Alexander Society said this experience showed things were looking up, except that he couldn’t actually look up without wrecking his life.