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St John & St Mark Church, Bury

Open Group

The Open Group returned on 8th March 2017 and this year there are some changes.

Joyce Hopkinson, Phyllis Holt and Betty Roe have expressed a wish to share out the running of the group to new people. At this point we acknowledge the service they have provided to the Open Group over a good number of years, and say a huge thank you to them. Everybody is extremely grateful for their immense hard work to ensure meetings have been well organised and run smoothly.

So this year Ian & June Banks and David Robinson will take on more of the responsibilities. It will retain the familiar format and a programme of events has been put together consisting of both regular speakers and some new ones.

If you would like a programme then please speak to David. The price is just £1.00. It would be good if new faces could join us on the second Wednesday of each month in the Library room at 7.30pm.

The programme is as follows and all are welcome:

  • 8 March ~ Reverend Ralph Mallinson - Photography Evening
  • 12 April ~ Seder Meal 
  • 10 May ~ Margery Spencer - ‘The Odd Couples’
  • 14 June ~ Ian Banks - 'Ian's Curiosity Shop'
  • 12 July ~ Reverend Ian Stamp - ‘Funerals I have Known’ - Anecdotes
  • 9 August ~ David Andrew - An Evening with... 
  • 13 September ~ Sister Joan - Caritas
  • 11 October ~ Linda Thompson – Crafts Night
  • 8 November ~ Reverend Paul Sanderson - ’The Pennine Way’
  • 6 December ~ Christmas Party

Previous sessions - as recalled by our own correspondent

AUGUST MEETING: David Andrew was our speaker at the meeting on Wednesday 9th August, and led us through stories from St. John’s Gospel. He was assisted by Ian Banks who was our reader for the evening. David also introduced us to a book by the theologian, Marcus Dods. This particular copy was purchased by David from the Christian bookshop Exodus, which was based in Bury (remember that).

The stories David featured in his talk were of accounts of Jesus’ healing ministry and how he had made a difference to the lives of the people he had encountered. They included the story of the woman at the well, the healing of the man born blind and Lazarus. After Ian had read the passage for us, there was then a short reflection from David which included thoughts from ‘The Gospel according to St. John’ by Marcus Dods.

Members were also presented with a bookmark style print of the key phrases from the 21 chapters of the Gospel, including the seven ‘I AM’ sayings, to take away with them.

JULY MEETING: It was a great pleasure to welcome back our former Incumbent, Canon Ian Stamp to lead the Open Group meeting on Wednesday 12th July. Can you believe it is now almost five years since Ian retired? (Time soon flies). Wife Ann also attended and it was lovely to see her again. The theme for the evening focussed on funerals that Ian had led during his ministry, although there was the odd wedding and other events thrown into the mix as well.          

There was an opportunity at the start of the meeting to refresh our minds and hear stories from Ian’s early years and subsequent path to ministry. It was interesting to know that during his training and studying, only two sessions were devoted to something as fundamental as leading funerals. We then heard several anecdotes from Ian about funerals he had taken and had remembered significantly. Experiences included a grave that was not big enough for the coffin, resulting in the final section of the service to be taken with a near upright coffin, mourners who fired a volley of shots over the coffin at a Western themed funeral (blanks, but still requiring a police presence) and a funeral and committal that included the LS Lowry tribute song, Matchstalk Men, with all its many verses. Of course, there were also many, much more solemn occasions.

Weddings also featured as well and Ian humoured us with stories of misbehaving page boys and soon to be mother-in-laws who took charge of proceedings.

As well as the main Sacraments, we also heard of a visit to a lady who wished Ian to perform an exorcist in her home. Despite his reluctance, Ian was later surprised to hear that his visit and prayers had actually worked.

Later on, we were treated to some humorous Church notices. I’ll share a couple with you:

“Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.”

“At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What is Hell?”. Come early and listen to our choir practice.”

Other religious themed humour also followed.

Ian also kept us up to date with what he had been doing since his retirement. He resides in Heywood and enjoying time with Ann, children and grandchildren. Ian said that although now retired as a Vicar, he will never retire as a priest and looks after a small congregation nearby in Heywood. He has also just celebrated his 70th birthday on 20th June.

It was great to see Ian & Ann and there was a further opportunity to catch up with them over tea and coffee later. David Robinson

JUNE MEETING: The Open Group met on Wednesday 14th June for a talk led by Ian Banks with the title ‘Ian’s Curiosity Shop’ and a large wooden chest greeted us as we entered the library room.

Since our last meeting in May a lot of events have occurred both locally and nationally and we took some time to reflect on those during our opening service. We also remembered Open Group regular Wilf Coote, who had sadly passed away that same day.

Ian opened the meeting by playing some music from the popular 1950’s pianist Winifred Atwell. For somebody like myself, who rather ashamedly had not previously heard of this artist, it was apparent that she had a great influence on the music and artists of that era. He then played some other vinyl from his collection including a record banned by the BBC in 1957.

Next we had some photographs from Ian’s family tree, going back to his great-great-grandparents. Like we heard from Margery last time, Ian had looked into his family tree, and confirmed Margery’s findings that researching your descendants is certainly not straightforward and requires a lot of hard work. The findings took us back to a mariner in Australia.

Out of the chest came various artefacts, including a small frog ornament and perhaps rather appropriately, given that we had just celebrated Trinity Sunday, we were informed how in China, were he’d bought it, this came to represent the Trinity with its three stages of life. Two Persian rugs, which adorn the home of Ian & June, were also brought along and we took some time to study the symbolism of the motifs, including the Tree of Life.

We were also given the history of how an early 17th century map of the UK was originally drawn by an Elizabethan spy and came to be horizontal rather than vertical.

‘Ian’s Curiosity Shop’ was advertised as including ‘A Very Old Book’ and that turned out to be an early King James Bible, which had been passed down through the generations and was handled extremely delicately with a glove and rested on a cushion. This led us to a brief talk to close the meeting with a history of this version of the Bible, the various translations and translators and the consequences of the 1631 Wicked Bible with its infamous misprint.

It was an informative and enjoyable evening with the Treasurer’s Treasure Chest. David Robinson

MAY MEETING: We were delighted to welcome Margery Spencer to our group on 10th May, for a talk entitled ‘The Odd Couples’. Margery has previously given this talk to the Mother’s Union and looks at some of the most significant couples in the Old Testament as well as her own family history.

Margery opened by explaining that she has researched her own, and also Alan’s, family trees and the work that goes into this. It may look extremely glamorous and straightforward on shows like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ but from Margery’s account it is anything but, with lots of painstaking effort going into researching your ancestry. Despite there not being an office for births, marriages and deaths at the time, Margery explained she had managed to go back to the 1600’s with her research.

This led us onto the theme of the evening and the ancestry of the early Old Testament couples. Beginning with Abraham & Sarah, and the slave-girl who bore a son for Abraham, we continued through stories including Isaac & Rebecca, Jacob & Rachel and Ruth & Boaz. Like the story of the slave-girl it is quite apparent that some of the situations we heard would not be tolerated today. Monogamy was not considered to be the normal thing in Biblical times.

To conclude, we heard about Esther & Ahasuerus. The story of Esther explains the origins and meaning of the Jewish festival of Purim, which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman. One of the customs of the festival is the giving and exchanging of little parcels of sweets and foodstuffs, as prescribed in Esther Chapter 9. As such, Margery very generously brought each Open Group member a small bag of chocolate as a thank you for being asked to lead the group.

We also thanked Margery for coming along to the group, for sharing some of these stories with us and giving us an insight into her family background.

MARCH MEETING: The Open Group returned after the Winter break on Wednesday 8th March. During our brief service at the start of the meeting we remembered our friend Stuart Crowther, who sadly passed away in February. Stuart was the previous correspondent for the Church magazine and his contribution to the group will be greatly missed.

David had asked Ralph to lead the first meeting, and he very kindly accepted the invite. We were given a presentation of Ralph’s photography group, which he attends each Thursday evening at Tottington Library. We were given a brief insight into how he became involved as well as talking about the first camera(s) he owned.

Ralph came along with a memory stick containing about 70 photographs from various aspects of his life and different scenarios. He said that the group were sometimes given a set topic and to focus on those themes, which included abstract and portrait.

Several of the photographs were of images that were familiar to a lot of people; in that they were of local Bury life or photographs of Church members, which brought back happy memories for some. There were also images from holidays and time away, including the Vatican (the Pope was not in we were informed). Wildlife and flowers also featured regularly. As it was Lent, it was also appropriate for us to see photographs of a variety of crosses from difference locations and various styles.

The talk went down really well with those who attended and there was a good mix of photographs on display for us to see. There was input from others also, which all helped to make this first meeting of the year informative and enjoyable. Thank you Ralph for leading.

Since the meeting, David asked Ralph to forward two photographs he had taken, which the Open Group said they had been particularly impressed with, and asked if these could be shared in the magazine. The first is of the ELR and the locomotive is entering Bolton Street station from Heywood, making the short climb into the station; the second is of a glass bottle appearing to be suspended over Market Place in Bury opposite the Parish Church. It is in fact hanging from the window of one of the restaurants, which faces The Rock. There is no evidence of any strings attached. The white object behind the bottle is the roundabout outside the Church.   

      

There will be no Open Group on 12th April, as this is date of the Seder Meal in the Church Hall. Please speak to the Clergy or Ian & June Banks about this.

The next meeting of the Open Group will be on Wednesday 10th May and led by Margery Spencer for a talk entitled ‘The Odd Couple’. All welcome at 7.30pm in the Library.

DECEMBER 2016 - PARTY!

The Open Group closed the 2016 program of events with their annual Christmas party on Wednesday 7th December, attended by 19 members.  There was an opportunity for a drink and a chat on arrival between 6.00pm and 6.30pm.

A delicious meat and potato pie meal was organised by Betty Alty’s daughter-in-law Deborah and was enjoyed by all. Thank you to Deborah for coming along. A selection of desserts was also available, including the speciality home made trifle by June Banks.

During tea/coffee and mince pies, David Robinson had organised a testing couple of quizzes for members to have a look at.

Everybody enjoyed the food, fun and each other’s company.

Thank you once again to Joyce, Phyllis and Betty Roe for organising the party and for the rest of the 2016 program of events, and also to our various speakers.

NOVEMBER 2016 - IAN BANKS: STORY TELLING

Our meeting on 9th November was led by Ian Banks. The theme for the evening was “storytelling” and Ian told us that we would need to work harder than normal since there would be no visual aids or Power Point presentations! Just us listening and using our imaginations as Ian told us tall tales and short stories.

These often had a spiritual element and came from all over the world. Tales of rabbis and dervishes, Buddhist monks and slightly dodgy Anglican priests. We also discovered how wombat’s got their flat heads, how kangaroos got their long tails and about mice that bark.

Ian had enough material to fill the session, but there was also an opportunity for other members to tell their own stories at regular intervals. Some were brave enough to speak up and we heard a contrast of stories, including an experience by Archie Wardle from his time in the services when he was naked in Japan…

Towards the end of the evening, there was a look at David and Goliath – both the version that you read in I Samuel 17 and the untold version which has a completely different message.

Ian told us that one of his childhood inspirations was the author and story teller David Kossoff – and another was the comedian Dave Allan. This meeting was of a different nature to what we are normally used to and it was hugely appreciated by all.

Ian ended with the familiar words to this Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

May the wind blow strongly at your back,

May the rain fall softly upon your fields,

May you walk in peace and contentment wherever on your road you may be,

And may God hold you in the palm of His hand,

Until we meet again.

OCTOBER 2016 - LINDA THOMPSON: CRAFT NIGHT

As is now tradition for the Open Group, our October gathering involved an evening of crafts led by Linda Thompson. This is our opportunity to begin our Christmas preparations with an attempt at our own festive decorations. This year, it was a Christmas card. I think we can get away with it, as I did spot this year’s first Christmas cards in the shops at the end of July.

We were asked to craft a ‘stepped’ Christmas card, called this as the card was folded into a tiered shape. Linda arrived with a wallet for each of us containing articles including pictures of Mary & Joseph, the donkey, star and various Christmas greetings as well as the card itself, which thankfully was pre-folded into the correct shape for us.

For the next thirty minutes we were each given the opportunity to assemble our card with the aid of scissors, tapes and double-sided sticky fixers (I had to Google that one) available.

Linda was patiently on hand for anybody who needed assistance and thanks to her and each other’s support, we were all successful. Finally, the delicate task of placing it in the envelope; it just comes down now to what verse we will write inside and who will be the recipient at Christmas. I think we were all pleased with our end result. Tea and coffee was served as usual after the meeting.

Thank you Linda for leading our evening and you are booked in again for the same time next year. David

SEPTEMBER 2016 - CAROL HARTLEY: OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

The Open Group were delighted to welcome back our friend Carol Hartley on 14th September. Carol is the local co-ordinator of the Operation Christmas Child Appeal and has led annual meetings for us over the last few years providing us with an update on her work with the shoeboxes and in particular at the Borivos Baby’s Home in Belarus. Before Carol spoke, it was appropriate that David Andrew read us out an article he had seen in a newspaper marking the 30th Anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. This was poignant as many people in Belarus, young and old, helped by Carol and her team are still suffering from the effects of that disaster today.

Carol spoke about her most recent visit in April and the people she had met. The talk included a selection of photographs, which were passed around the group. It is evident from the pictures to see the joy on the faces of the children when they open their shoebox, which for us contain everyday items such as toiletries and sweets, but for the children at the orphanage clearly mean so much more. There were pictures of the children wearing their new knitted hats, which they put on straight away.

We were told about other situations Carol had encountered in Belarus, when the team had made a difference, such as arranging for the spectacles of an elderly lady to be mended after they had broken. Something we arrange easily for ourselves here meant the world to the lady, who could then see to read again.

Carol spoke about a girl who came from the Baby’s Home who she has become extremely close to. The young lady, now in her early twenties and training to become a nurse, will be married next year. Carol fully intends to be at that wedding.

We were also reminded that it is thanks to people such as ourselves that make this work possible, and Carol is extremely grateful to all of us.

There was a chance for questions afterwards and then an opportunity to purchase Christmas Cards and calendars towards the appeal. Thank you for attending once again Carol.