Yesterday I joined a tour of St. Anne’s Church which was taking part in the National Heritage Open Days. Heritage Open Days is England’s biggest festival of history culture involving some 40,000 volunteers across the Country. Led by the Rev Hugh Bearn the tour was fascinating and very informative. Apart from covering the architecture and religious aspects of the church building visitors were given a wealth of facts and figures about the two hundred and seventeen year history of the church and how it linked not just to Tottington but the Country. We discovered why the clergy are buried differently to everyone else, how the name of the church had been subtly changed and what links Tottington with the Sound of Music!
A busy day yesterday started with me attending a special service for Churchwardens at St. Anne’s, Tottington. All but two of the dozen of the all the surviving Churchwardens attended. I counted the number of names on the board which lists every Churchwarden since the church was established at the close of the 18th century, I am the 80th name listed – although two or three have held office on more than one occasion.
Today, history is made as my wife Susan takes over from me as one of the two Churchwardens. She was elected as the new Churchwarden at the annual meeting last month and formally sworn in by the Archdeacon a week last Wednesday. At this morning’s service she will formally take over the symbols of office and will make history in doing so. She makes history on two counts. Firstly, she becomes the first woman to take over from her husband, and secondly, for the first time ever both Churchwardens at St. Anne’s are females.
It is a busy Sunday of Church Services today. Starting with St Anne’s there is the usual Communion Service – albeit in a shortened format and then there is the Annual Meeting of Parishners to elect the Churchwardens followed by the Annual General Meeting. After seven years in office I have completed my term as Churchwarden and so a new Warden will be chosen in my place.
Then, also today it is the annual commemoration of the losses sustained by the men of the town and surrounding areas who were serving in the Lancashire Fusiliers at the Battle of Gallipoli which is marked as it is every year by a special service of remembrance in the Parish Church so I will be heading down there are soon as I can.
Then, this afternoon it is back down to Bury town Centre for the annual Scouts St. George’s Day Parade and Service which will be held in the Parish Church.
Yesterday, There was no rain whilst I was out but when we had a finished a few of us paid a visit to the Greenmount Cricket Club where the first game of the season was taking place and it just so happened they were also holding a beer festivals X whilst we were watching the cricket there were hail showers!
In addition to the usual morning service today this afternoon there will be the Annual Christingle Service when the Sunday School present their nativity play to a church full of anxious Mums and Dads, grandparents and other relatives all hoping little Tommy or Freda does not forget their lines!
The Christingle service is always a special service. A sign that Christmas is almost upon us once again but I have to admit that as one of the Churchwardens I am always relieved when it’s over. As part of the service the children receive an orange with a lit candle in the middle and four dolly mixtures on cocktail sticks. The idea is to use the decorated orange as a teaching aid to help explain to children the meaning of Christmas. All those lit candles and small children! After the Christingle hymn has been sung with the main lights off so the church is illuminated just with the Christingle candles the candles are extinguished and I can breathe a little easier.
The collection is taken in aid of The Children’s Society and more can be read about the charity and Christingle here
I was delighted to be able to welcome the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester to St. Anne’s Tottington this morning when he joined our annual harvest festival service. It was a ‘Parade’ service with standards being presented by the various uniformed organisations and as is now traditional their members contributed a small mountain of food and drinks for use by the Booth Centre in Manchester. Unfortunately, the Lord Lieutenant had to leave after the service in order to get to his next engagement down in Bury which is a pity as he missed the superb harvest lunch buffet.
I have returned on the first train from London today in order that I can attend the funeral of the late Bill Jonson. a Councillor for over forty years, twice the Mayor, awarded the MBE and awarded the honour of being made a Freeman of the Borough; it was not for nothing he was known locally as ‘Mr Tottington’. Bill’s service to the people of Tottington and Bury was always conducted with dignity and humility. He was a committed Christian and he will be greatly missed by everyone particularly all the congregation at St. Anne’s Church in Tottington where the funeral will take place later today. A former Church Warden on two separate occasions I will be performing the same role today and if I can ever achieve a fraction of what the great Bill Johnson did I would be satisfied
Most of today has been taken up with a large confirmation service at St. Anne’s. We had 44 candidates including both adults and children. The service was conducted by the Bishop of Manchester Nigel McCulloch. Such a large number of candidates meant that our small church was filled to capacity with every available space taken and I was glad that we had had a full scale rehearsal last weekend to ensure that everything passed off smoothly