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Anne Mills is (still!) the Vice-President of the General Assembly
 
Here is her diary since her installation to the present day................

April 2019

Since my installation, on April 18th, I have conveyed greetings from the GA, at Bury, twice (once during the GA Feedback Service); at Wakefield, after their burglary; at Plymouth; at Evesham; and at Padiham, where Rev. Jim Corrigall was conducting his last service before his retirement. I attended the launch of Ann Peart's new book, at Luther King House; I wrote the review of this for The Unitarian; I attended the Summer Meeting of the Manchester District Women's League, at Stand. I acted as the Authorised Person for our first same-sex wedding at church---the very first such wedding in Bury! I emailed Fran Pickering, to offer commiserations and thanks, as she ends her time as editor of The Unitarian; I also emailed Natasha Stanley, to enquire about the future of this magazine. I visited Essex Hall, met some of the staff there, and enjoyed a positive discussion with the new Chief Officer, Liz Slade.

On June 15th, I attended the AGM of the North West Provincial Assembly, at Monton; this was preceded by a service, at which I presented the greetings of the GA to those present. On June 16th, I conducted the service at Bank Street Bolton, which was followed by an agape lunch. In the late afternoon, I attended an Interfaith Service and Peace Pole planting, at Rawtenstall, organised by the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry. On June 21st, I was invited to attend the Annual Dinner of The Hibbert Trust, which was held at Luther King House, in Manchester, where I gave the after-dinner speech.

July has been a less busy month---fortunately, because I have needed time to gather material for services later this year. On July 11th and 12th, I attended the 60th Anniversary Celebrations at The Derby School, Bury, where I was a pupil, from its inception, in 1959, until 1965. I was invited in my official capacity, and met and conversed with Lord Derby, the nephew of the school's founder, and with The Mayor and Mayoress of Bury, Councillor Trevor Holt, and his wife, Evelyn; I also spoke at length with the school's Head and Deputy Head. On July 13th, I attended the Formal Welcome of Rev. Shammy Webster, at Stand Unitarian Chapel, Whitefield, where I presented the greetings of The General Assembly to the congregation and offered some thoughts on Ministry, both of which were very well-received. The Mayor and Mayoress were also in attendance, on that occasion. On July 28th, I conducted a Flower Celebration Service at Bury, which was successful; footage of the service was filmed for inclusion on the special DVD, which is being compiled as a record of our 300th Anniversary events. During July, I have attended two funerals at Bury and one at Bank Street Bolton; all three services paid tribute to active members, who will be greatly missed.

August and September have been busy for me, not only in the execution of my duties, but in preparation for future events. Roger and I attended the service at Bank Street Bolton, on August 4th; lead had been stolen from part of their church-roof, and two rooms were badly-damaged by leaks; we went to sympathise and were made very welcome. On August 6th, I represented the church at the funeral of Daniel, our cleaner Aggie's son---a poignant occasion; the family has greatly appreciated the support given by our church. The following Sunday found me conducting the service at Rochdale which went well, despite the pianist missing two lines of music out of the first verse of one of the hymns! I acted as the Authorised Person at the wedding of Lorraine and Peter Hunter, on August 25th, on a beautiful late summer day, and a wonderful occasion it was. A NELUM Forum was held at Walmsley Chapel, on August 31st, and I was present; there is a clear mood for change, but this will need to be translated into action in order to succeed. September 1st involved conducting two services---at Ainsworth in the morning, and Rawtenstall in the afternoon; both were well-received, and it was a pleasure to spend time with both congregations. On the following Friday, I attended a Film Evening, at Rawtenstall, and thought it most enjoyable. September 15th brings services to conduct at Hale, and at Dean Row, in the morning; later in the afternoon, I shall attend an Interfaith Service at Rawtenstall; these are held once every two months and are becoming increasingly popular. I will be paying an official visit to Bury, on September 20th, on the first of our Heritage Open Days, and am looking forward to all the material to be displayed then.

The month ends on September 29th, when I have been invited to conduct the Anniversary Service at our church in Aberdeen; this visit will be combined with a holiday, which will reduce the travelling somewhat. In my spare time(!) I continue my routine duties at Bury, which are many and varied. Picking up from where I left off, last month, I can report now on my visit to our churches at Hale Barns and Dean Row, in Cheshire this occasioned a very early start for Roger and me! However, both services that I conducted went very well, and I returned home with beautiful flowers from both congregations; we were made extremely welcome. Rev. Jeff Gould kindly invited us to lunch, and it was good to chat and catch up with his news; he is nicely-settled in his new apartment and happy in his ministries; he sends good wishes to everyone at Bury who remembers him. Now---two services in one day sound like enough, but we also attended Rawtenstall's Interfaith Service, at 5 p.m. These services are becoming well-established, and friendships are being forged; I am in touch with a lady at St. Gregory's R. C. Church, in Chorley, and we intend to visit each other's churches there, in due course. Two members of Rawtenstall's Spiritualist were present for the first time, on this occasion, and very pleasant and interesting we found them. On September 29th, I conducted Aberdeen Unitarians' 186th Anniversary Service; they are a very friendly, generous and hospitable congregation---a pleasure to be with! Their Chairman, Dr. John Robinson, asked me, specifically, to convey the greetings of the Aberdeen congregation to everyone at Bury, and I am very pleased to be able to do so. Rev. Dr. Ann Peart attended our Women's League Project Evening, on October 3rd, when she discussed her latest book, about eminent Unitarian women; as the reviewer of the book for "The Unitarian", I helped to entertain Ann. On October 5th, I attended Kate and Ade's wedding, where I acted as the Authorised Person. On the following day, I conducted Padiham's Harvest Service, which went very well, and was invited to lunch afterwards. In the afternoon, we attended Ainsworth's Harvest Festival, conducted by Rev. Lynne Readett; afternoon tea was served, afterwards, so the weekend comprised a great deal of eating. I have already been warned to buy a size bigger in clothes, in preparation for next year!

My next duty will be to meet and greet our national President, Rev. Celia Cartwright, when she visits Bury to conduct our Harvest Festival, on October 13th. My calendar is already filling up with engagements for next year, so busy days are ahead! On October 13th, Rev. Celia Cartwright, the G.A. President, conducted our Harvest Service, and we were pleased to welcome Celia and her friend and mentor, Claire Griffel, to Bury. I acted as host for the morning, by looking after Celia, by reading the notices, and by entertaining her and Claire to lunch afterwards. Celia offered the greetings of the General Assembly to the congregation, and I was pleased to note that her words were much in tune with mine; we write our own speeches for services and events and make them as appropriate to the occasion, and the congregation, as we can. A two-week holiday in Lanzarote followed for me, and I was glad of the opportunity to rest and relax. On Remembrance Sunday, I laid the wreath at Bury; it was an honour to have been invited to do so; later, I watched a recording of Celia at the Cenotaph in London, and thought how beautifully she represented our denomination.

On November 17th, I shall conduct the afternoon service at our Flowergate, Whitby, Chapel; I am looking forward to seeing the church and to learning more about its history. On December 1st and 8th, I shall be at Bury, to attend our 300th Anniversary Service and our Candlelight Carol Service, respectively--- dates which have been in my diary for months, as I was determined not to miss either of them. In the first 13 weeks of 2020, I already have 11 engagements booked; the last of these takes place on the day that British Summertime begins, and comes just before the Annual Meetings, in April--- what a short winter this will have seemed, especially when I factor in my usual duties at Bury! service at Flowergate Chapel, where Roger and I were made very welcome; at the end of the service, we celebrated the Golden Wedding Anniversary of two of their members, with afternoon tea---a lovely touch. Flowergate Chapel is truly a hidden gem; it is not visible from the street, but tucked away behind a dull green, wooden gate, and its exterior notice-board is obscured by a street-lamp. This is a great pity, as the chapel is delightful---simple, and tranquil, with some beautiful stained-glass windows. We were able to try out a newly-prepared audio-tour, which took us round the town (not without mishap!) and gave much information about Francis Haydn Williams, a former Minister, and something of a revolutionary; see the Flowergate website for further details! December brought many services at Bury; on December 1st, at our 300th Anniversary Service, I welcomed visitors to our church, as well as conveying the greetings of those who had been unable to attend.

At our Carol Service, I sang with the choir, and also presented thoughts on how we might approach the Christmas-season. I attended services at Bury, on the 15th, 22nd, 25th, and 29th of December, and went to Padiham's Candlelight Carol Service, on the 15th---an excellent service, enhanced by the trees of their Christmas Tree Festival. An event of a rather different kind took me to Atherton, on Saturday, December 21st, when I attended the memorial service for the Pretoria Pit Disaster there. This occurred in 1910, with a new memorial-stone being erected 100 years later; the memorial-stone is inscribed with all 344 names of the miners who died when an explosion occurred, and the tremendous loss of life is commemorated annually; wreaths are laid, and the National Union of Mineworkers' banner pays silent tribute, too. Rev. Lynne Readett is the first Unitarian Minister to be asked to conduct the service of remembrance, which I felt was worthy of support---and very moving I found it.

January began busily, with two services to attend on the 5th: Brenda Catherall conducted her last service at Chowbent before she retired, and I was privileged to be able to present the greetings of the GA, to congratulate her on a highly-successful 30-year ministry, and to wish her a long and happy retirement; the day was also Brenda's 64th birthday, so she had much to celebrate. In the afternoon, I attended the service at Rawtenstall, when a triptych, specially-commissioned by the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry, was unveiled; each painting, by local artist, Joyce Wicks, had been inspired by scenes from the chapel-windows, and they were superb. Ade read a piece in which he argued that the hymn, "Jerusalem", was the perfect hymn for Unitarians, as it questioned everything and urged everyone to fight for freedom and right. Kate and Marian sang with Roundelay, whose music filled the chapel wonderfully---altogether, a different but inspiring service. On January 12th, I conducted my first service of 2020, at Bank Street Bolton where I received the warm welcome I have become accustomed to receiving there; they are always a most appreciative congregation.

The incoming GA Vice-President, who will serve from April, 2020, for a year, is Rev. Sue Woolley, who ministers to The Midland District; I have sent our congratulations; she will do an excellent job, I know!

On January 19th, I was present, at Bury, for the Junior Church Prize-giving. It was an honour to be asked to present the prizes, and pleasing to me, too, that all six of our Sunday School "regulars" were able to be present, and supported by family-members. I compared present-day Prize-givings with those I remembered from my youth (incredibly, in the 1950's and 1960's!) The children's eager anticipation of their books never changes, and I was able to bring the last prize I ever received from Bank Street to show them; I realised that my name was spelled wrongly, and I'd never noticed, in all that time! Prize-giving allows us to appreciate our Junior Church members' presence and gives us the opportunity to see how they've developed, during the past year. They are all a credit to us, as well as an important part of our church-life. Ashleigh-Jade has decided to remain in church throughout each service; she has been stewarding for some time now, and is keen to be involved in our readings---the first of which took place at the Prize-giving, and we thank her for that. We also showed our appreciation of June's hard work with the children, and her willing contributions were rewarded by a bouquet of flowers.

January 26th found me conducting the service at Stand Chapel, and it was good to meet the members there again. Owing to a misunderstanding over the start-time of the service, I was a minute or two late, but all was well, eventually, and I was able to reassure the congregation that, by the end, they had heard all the right bits, but not necessarily in the right order! No harm was done, but, nevertheless, I shall double-check, from now on! At the end of January, I found myself in print---twice! The article I had written about the Pretoria Pit Disaster appeared, on its own, on the back page, of that week's issue of The Inquirer; there is a spare copy in the stand, in the foyer, if anyone would like to read it. I had also contributed an article about "Simplicity" to the Midland Union magazine (MU Now); there is a copy in the lounge; I may use this as the basis of a service, in the future. February 1st brought the Manchester District Women's League Lunch, Service and AGM; my contribution was to conduct the service; on the following day, I conducted the service at Ainsworth---a cheering occasion, as several red-letter days were being celebrated; there were balloons, too!

February 9th saw me at Newcastle, to conduct morning-service at the Church of the Divine Unity, in the city-centre; the church-premises are magnificent, and the worship-area will easily hold 600 people. Sadly, this space is far too large (and expensive) for the current congregation, who use a lower-ground room for their activities, including services, nowadays. The building is up for sale, a good offer has been received, and this is under consideration; if the transaction is completed, this would enable the congregation to remain where they are and to refurbish their smaller premises, whilst the remainder of the building will be transformed into an Arts and Theatre complex. We used our time in Newcastle to do a little sight-seeing and found that the centre is attractive and interesting, whilst coastal resorts, such as Whitley Bay and Tynemouth are very beautiful, even if Storm Ciara was raging!

By the following Sunday, I had travelled to Kendal, to attend the Formal Welcome to their new Minister, Rev. Amanda Reynolds. I gave the Greetings from the General Assembly, plus some thoughts on successful Ministry; I also wrote a report for The Inquirer, which was printed in the March 7th issue. Rev. Beryl Allerton conveyed the Greetings of NELUM to the congregation, and Val Chamberlain represented our congregation. The GA Chief Officer, Elizabeth Slade, was also present, and spoke about her work, and her life as a Unitarian. This was a wonderful service, on a memorable afternoon; Mandy was delighted with the event and quick to express her pleasure; she is an excellent Minister and already much admired by her congregation.

Unity, Bolton, was the next service I conducted, on February 23rd; I had been asked to talk about my year as Vice-President, so, using my calendar-pieces, I constructed an address for them. They were very pleased, and even Roger commented on how interesting it had sounded---and he was there at the time! After that, I attended services at Bury, in March, as I had no official engagements until the 29th; this included chairing the discussion of the GA Motions, on March 15th, after the service. Unfortunately, Coronavirus took over, before then, and Ansdell and I were obliged to cancel the visit. My three Presidential visits in April have all been cancelled, too, by mutual agreement, and cancellations are now the order of the day. The cancellation of the Annual Meetings means that I will not be installed as the GA President, as I had expected, but will continue as Vice-President, until the Annual Meetings, next April. 

April 2020

Despite the restrictions we’re currently living under, I’m far from idle; there is still church-business to which to attend, and other groups with which I’m involved also make demands on my time. I was invited to write a service for Sheffield Fulwood and Underbank churches, to be used on April 26th, when I was booked to conduct a service at Upper Chapel; my service, now completed, has been sent to four ministers in the Sheffield area. Rev. Maud Robinson delivered the service I had written, and it was well-received. A similar written, read-at-home service has been requested for another church, for an Anniversary Service, on June 7th, as I’m not able to conduct the service in person. I find that this requires rather a different technique, as it must be composed for one or two people to read to themselves, or speak quietly, rather than being delivered by one person, to be heard by others; also, as it is shorter than a normal service, its message has to be more immediate, and its content very relevant to the current situation.

Celia Cartwright, Sue Woolley and I have suggested that that there should be a Presidential Team for the next year; the three of us will carry out such duties as are required, between us. I'm pleased to be able to report that this scheme has now been approved by Elizabeth Slade, the Chief Officer, and by the Executive Committee, and there will be announcements about this arrangement in The Inquirer, in UniNews, and on the Unitarians website.

When my Sheffield service was being delivered, Roger and I joined the congregation at Fulwod, via Zoom; on June 7th, my Anniversary Service for Chowbent will be sent by email and by post to the members of the congregation, and Roger and I will read the service at home, lighting the chalice-candle on behalf of all the congregation and remembering them in our prayers. Kendal's 300th Anniversary Service, on May 31st, had to be cancelled; instead, a different---but very enjoyable---service was transmitted by Zoom, and Roger and I joined it, but not, sadly, in person, and I gave one of the readings---a first for me!. For the time being, I keep busy with work for our church, trying to keep in regular contact with as many of the congregation as possible; I have duties connected with the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry; and Celia, Sue and I will be keeping in touch with one another, and with Liz Slade and Marion Baker, so that we can liaise with the EC, once a month. Padiham has now begun to transmit Zoom services, and I have logged on to three of these, so far, and have been impressed by how quickly the technology has been mastered. It has been interesting to sample Zoom services presented by other Unitarian churches---a chance to hear a variety of styles and material, without moving from home! I also take as many opportinuities to sample other Zoom occasions, such as Chat Sessions, Coffee Mornings, and Afternoon Teas; no chance of gaining weight, though, as I haven't yet had a bite to eat!

There is little to report,in August, as lockdown continues, and life proceeds according to the new normality. On the first Sunday in June, I produced the Sunday Service for Chowbent; this was a read-at-home service, to celebrate the chapel's 299th Anniversary, which considered the contribution made to Chowbent by Caleb Wright, a considerable benefactor of theirs, and of the local area; he was also the first M.P. for the new constituency of Leigh. Next year, I hope to able to be present in person, when Chowbent celebrates its important 300th Anniversary!

I continue to tune in to services and other events at Padiham, Kendal, Stand and Edinburgh, and enjoy the variety of material and style available. I have been invited to deliver a service for St. Mark's Unitarian Church, Edinburgh; as this will be via Zoom, I am quite apprehensive! Padiham's first Zoom service was subtitled "Be kind---it's an experiment!" I know the feeling! Kate conducted Bury's first Zoom service, on June 14th, from her kitchen-table; it was good to hear her voice again, and we found this a moving service, especially when each member was mentioned by name and formally remembered. Thanks to Kate for everything she is doing for us, in order to sustain us and help us through this difficult time; thanks, too, to Ade for dealing with the technical-requirements of Zoom. All went beautifully.

During Kate's leave, in July, I have offered to write a service for Bury, and this will be available for the 19th; details will follow, once Kate and I have agreed what is to happen to provide cover during her absence. I continue to work hard, on the congregation's behalf; despite our continued closure, there is still much to be arranged, and discussions and decisions are ongoing. As I write, churches are reopening for private prayer, but we are still a considerable time away from a full reopening; in some ways, I wish it could be soon, but a prime consideration must be that nothing should threaten the health of our members, many of whom are very vulnerable indeed. I send everyone my best wishes; be patient---we will be together as soon as possible!
There is little to report, this month, as lockdown continues, and life proceeds according to the new normality. On the first Sunday in June, I produced the Sunday Service for Chowbent; this was a read-at-home service, to celebrate the chapel's 299th Anniversary, which considered the contribution made to Chowbent by Caleb Wright, a considerable benefactor of theirs, and of the local area; he was also the first M.P. for the new constituency of Leigh. Next year, I hope to able to be present in person, when Chowbent celebrates its important 300th Anniversary!

I continue to tune in to services and other events at Padiham, Kendal, Stand and Edinburgh, and enjoy the variety of material and style available. I have been invited to deliver a service for St. Mark's Unitarian Church, Edinburgh; as this will be via Zoom, I am quite apprehensive! Padiham's first Zoom service was subtitled "Be kind---it's an experiment!" I know the feeling! Kate conducted Bury's first Zoom service, on June 14th, from her kitchen-table; it was good to hear her voice again, and we found this a moving service, especially when each member was mentioned by name and formally remembered. Thanks to Kate for everything she is doing for us, in order to sustain us and help us through this difficult time; thanks, too, to Ade for dealing with the technical-requirements of Zoom. All went beautifully.

During Kate's leave, in July, I have offered to write a service for Bury, and this will be available for the 19th; details will follow, once Kate and I have agreed what is to happen to provide cover during her absence. I continue to work hard, on the congregation's behalf; despite our continued closure, there is still much to be arranged, and discussions and decisions are ongoing. As I write, churches are reopening for private prayer, but we are still a considerable time away from a full reopening; in some ways, I wish it could be soon, but a prime consideration must be that nothing should threaten the health of our members, many of whom are very vulnerable indeed. I send everyone my best wishes; be patient---we will be together as soon as possible!

August has kept me busy, in ways that I could not have expected; September should be quieter---on paper, at least---and arrangements in October are still to be negotiated. I led worship, by Zoom, at Padiham, and at Edinburgh, on August 9th and 16th, respectively, and the services proceeded smoothly, from a technical point of view, and were received with much appreciation by the congregations concerned; it is always very gratifying when positive comments are expressed, and good to know that one's hard work has not been wasted. Padiham had invited members of Cross Street Manchester to join their worship, on August 16th; as I was unable to be present, I recorded a message of greetings and welcome for them, on behalf of the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry, and of the General Assembly. Brighton Unitarians celebrate their Bicentenary, on August 23rd, and I shall again offer greetings and congratulations to them, on behalf of the GA. The Presidential Team, which consists of myself, Celia Cartwright, and Sue Woolley, have access to a special email account and are jointly responsible for dealing with messages sent there. My involvement in the event at Brighton arose from such an email, as did a message of condolence to the family of a member at Stockton: Edna Anderson. It has been suggested that the Presidential Team should offer assistance with services, in order to help ministers and worship-leaders who are feeling very overworked, at present. My invitation to Belper, mid-September, has been cancelled, but I have offered to conduct a Zoom service for them, if they wish, and I am booked for a Zoom service at Kendal, at the end of the month.

On Sundays, Roger and I quite often attend the service at Padiham; all their Zoom services have been recorded and can be accessed on You Tube, including mine from August 9th. There will be services from other Unitarian churches to be found on You Tube, as well. Simply select the You Tube icon on your home screen, and, once you reach You Tube, type in an appropriate title (for example, "Padiham Unitarian Church Services"). In fact, You Tube offers a great variety of different types of entertainment: music, drama, comedy, lectures; and it is easy to access, as long as you have a suitable device. I should mention here that, for the Zoom services that I lead, I need a recording-studio; I have to make sure that the camera-angles are right; a plain background is a necessity; and different levels are needed for the chalice-candle, my service-words, my computer---and a glass of water, of course. I have found cardboard boxes to be very useful, and my recipe-book holder is just right; so far, nothing has overbalanced! I have no plans for a career in the film-industry, however.

I extend my thanks to Kate, once more, for everything she is doing for Bury Unitarian Church. Each week, we are provided with a well-written, well-delivered, service, and one that is relevant to our current circumstances, as well as being interesting and thought-provoking. I can't always manage to read my service at home, at 11.15 on Sundays, but I make every effort to read and think about it, before Sunday is over. I do this in the belief that all our members are doing the same, and I sincerely hope that this is so. Our efforts towards reopening for worship, this month, have been substantial and have required time and thought, too. Kate has done a magnificent job with the documentation she has collected together and circulated, and in the meetings she has chaired. Ade, too, has been busy, not just as our technical supervisor, but also as our Property Manager; there has been a great deal of work to be done, in this capacity. He is being ably assisted by our HARP Team (Howard, Ade, Roger, Peter)! Thank you to all of them.

If all goes according to plan, this month will bring live services to Bury Unitarian Church, again; these will not be what we have been used to, and you may not find them very satisfying, but they will mean that, in a small way, we shall be able to meet together, once more. If anyone had told us, in March, that it would be six months before we were able to come together, we would not have believed them, and this was not na´vety; we simply had no idea what was in store for us. In the hope that I shall see many of you, in person, at some stage during this month, I send you all my love and very best wishes, and Roger joins me in these sentiments.
 

Last month, I hoped for a quieter time; I should have known better! During September, I have conducted two Zoom services: one for Belper, and one for Kendal; such services are rather different from live church-services; they are shorter, for a start, and too much "talking at people" leads to a lack of concentration, after a while, which means that the "talk" needs to be separated by other worship-elements. I enjoy choosing my music for my services, rather than leaving the choice to a church-organist or pulpit-supply secretary; I can select music which highlights my theme, which is an advantage; at Belper, for example, in a service about Memories, I played the Bob Hope/Shirley Ross rendition of "Thanks for the memory"---a bittersweet song of reminiscences which recall the fabric of a life shared. You'll find it on You Tube. 

I was recently asked, in a way that presupposed the answer, whether I had been very busy; when I replied that I had been, this brought forth expressions of great surprise. I explained that I had various duties at Bury, with the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry, and with the Presidential Team. I keep in regular touch with Celia and Sue, and the messages that pass between us vary from the profound to the trivial! Recently, the password on our special account expired, as it does regularly, about once every two months; at that point, we have to contact Essex Hall, to request a new one; of course, we can never remember the new password; mine is written down, in several places, but always manages to be lost when I need it! Such is life! 

This month, I have spent a great deal of time reorganising October; I could see, beforehand, that it was going to be a heavy month, with 10 engagements altogether, and I thought it best to begin to plan well in advance. But what should I plan? Were engagements going to be cancelled outright, transferred to Zoom, or actually be held? Services would be different, depending on whether they were actual or virtual. In the end, nearly everything will be virtual, but negotiations have been lengthy and time-consuming---and are still unfinished. 

Roger and I attended the September service at Ainsworth, and enjoyed it very much; we are back there, in October, when I conduct their Harvest Festival for them. We participate in Zoom services, on most Sundays, and, on September 20th, were delighted to listen to the service at Padiham, conducted by their former minister, Rev. Jim Corrigall. One great advantage of Zoom is that it's easily possible to join other church-services, conducted by different leaders, and, as not all services are held on Sundays, at 11 a.m; a greater choice is available. 

As mentioned elsewhere, we have been holding actual services, every Sunday afternoon, this month; this, of course has added to Kate's workload, as it has to be taken into account. She is working very hard, on our behalf, to supply various forms of worship, to cater for everybody, and I do thank her most sincerely for all she is doing for us. Ade, too, is being kept busy, supervising the premises and stewarding services; thank you to him, too. The fact the we are able to be open at all is due to several people: those who make the decisions, and those who oversee the practical arrangements; thank you to them, also. In time, we hope to be able to relax some of the more severe restrictions, but a great deal will depend on what the government allows, and the present figures are not encouraging. We must be patient for a while longer, it seems. It has been good to see people at services, throughout September, and I hope that this will continue. Whether or not we have met recently, Roger and I send you our love and warmest greetings; we are trying to keep in touch, as much as possible, and, one day, we will all be able to be together again, I feel sure! Look after yourselves.

I knew that October would be busy---and I was right! At the very end of September, I conducted a Zoom service at Kendal, and it was enjoyable to feel to be amongst friends; the service went well, but, unfortunately, afterwards, when we were all put into breakout-rooms, our internet-connection failed, and we found ourselves cut off; the same happened, the following week, after the Bury service. As I mention, elsewhere, I conducted Ainsworth's Harvest Festival for them, on October 4th, and found it a strange experience, after 7 months without live services! I managed to introduce the traditional Harvest-hymns into the service without singing them all; at least we had the pleasure of hearing them played on the organ. Despite fears that attendance would be low (the service was nearly cancelled), we attracted a good number, and all went well.


Over the weekend of the 9th and 10th of October, I found myself Zooming to Newcastle: on the Saturday, I attended the Northern Unitarian Union's AGM and gave them a talk about the duties of the GA Vice-President, both before and after Coronavirus struck; I had a picture of one couple on my screen, whilst I was speaking, and found their reactions very inspiring; I wish my audiences always looked so enthralled! On Sunday morning, I led worship for the NUA congregations; there are only two: Newcastle and Stockton, in this very small district, yet they work hard and make a significant contribution to our denomination. Again, all was well, and a large number of participants was present; this time, I managed to socialise, afterwards, too!
The following weekend should have seen me in Scarborough and Whitby, but it wasn't to be; Whitby cancelled early; they are a small congregation, and are struggling; Scarborough was very late in reaching a decision; I'm not sure whether they have been having services at all, during lockdown, and October 18th should have been their Re-opening. Alas, even the lure of being addressed by the Vice-President failed to attract; their COVID-19 cases were on the rise, and they decided to stay closed! But the negotiations that preceded this decision were lengthy and time-consuming; it was a good job that I didn't have a service to compose, as well! I was, however, asked to contribute to Padiham's service, then, as they were entertaining members of their local Sufi community; right at the last minute, I wrote and delivered Greetings for the GA; a Welcome to the Sufis, and an explanation of what the GA was, and how it worked; and a Reflection on my life during lockdown. Last weekend was almost a re-run of two weeks ago, when I was the guest-speaker at the Yorkshire Unitarian Union's AGM, on October 24th, before conducting morning-service at York, on the 25th. The week that follows should be more restful---only 5 official meetings, plus a few informal ones---so far! Please note that, between November 1st and 17th, I shall be on leave; I feel that I'm in need of a rest and a break!
Kate is now back from her "holiday" and taking up the reins, once more; I hope she is feeling rested and refreshed; thanks to her for her efforts, at each end of October; thanks to Ade, for carrying out all his duties, too; there is much to be done, and we are grateful to both of them. As you will know, we are now on the Third Tier, in our pandemic classification, and our restrictions remain stringent; what a testing time we've endured! It's been very pleasant to see everybody who has attended actual services, and I hope to see more members, this month, as we return to our usual morning-worship time. Roger and I send our love and best wishes to everyone; let us hope and pray that, by the end of November, we will feel that we have made progress towards the "new normal".

 

November was, thankfully, a quieter month, which gave me the opportunity to relax, and to finish off various tasks which had been left in abeyance for far too long. Despite my "leave",  I was kept busy during the Remembrance period; I contributed to our own service, and to the one at Golders Green, on Remembrance Sunday; gave a reading at The Lancashire Collaborative Ministry service, on Remembrance Day, and two further readings at the Uni-sing! Remembrance session, on November 15th. I supported Ainsworth's Remembrance Service, on November 1st---which, sadly, meant that I missed Bury's last service before Lockdown 2, when the organ was played for the first time in more than 8 months, which, thus, constituted a memorable occasion. On November 16th, we Zoomed to the service at Sheffield Fulwood and Underbank, where Rev. Maud Robinson delivered her service with great conviction. November 21st was the date of Zoom Societies Day, organised by the GA, which I attended, as did Kate and Val. Findhorn was represented and provided a most impressive presentation; the other societies participating were the Unitarian Renewal Group, the Earth Spirit Network, The Peace Fellowship, and The National Unitarian Fellowship. Every session was interesting and informative, and all present agreed that a similar day, next year, would be welcomed. On the following day, I was invited to attend the service at Bank Street Bolton, which I greatly enjoyed: I have conducted several services there and always feel that I am amongst friends. Sadly, their organist, Keith, has died, very recently; Keith was a man of great talents and will be much missed. Later that day, I attended the LCM's Interfaith Service, where, once more, I met friends whom I had not seen for many months and shared readings, music, and conversation with them. I hope to attend the service at conducting the service then; Ralph served as the Minister at Hull but now lives in Melbourne each month. I am due to conduct Belper's service, on November 24th, and am looking forward to that. December seems as if it will be busy, again, and I have several engagements to attend, and for which to prepare. Once more, we enter into unknown territory; will we be able to open, or not? No doubt all will be revealed, in due course!     

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