Return to the Front Page




Bury Unitarian Church


Our Anne Mills is the Vice-President of the General Assembly
Here is her diary since her installation to the present day................

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. I shall return to Kendal (hopefully!) at the end of May, to help them to celebrate their 300th Anniversary.

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 who knows where that will end? The cancellation of the Annual Meetings means that I will not be installed as the GA President, as I had expected, although I will assume my duties (if there are any!) from April 9th.

The coming year, I suspect, will be different from what I had envisaged! 






Return to the Front Page