Today our church joined in the launch of the Prestwich Mission Partnership as St. Mary’s linked up with its two neighbours: St. Gabriel’s and St. Margaret’s. Legally the only change is that each member of clergy is licensed to preside at a service in the other parishes but there’s much that we can do to support each other’s churches and when joined together we hope to achieve more than we might have done alone. The 3 churches are quite different although the Priests in Charge are very much aligned with one another and could easily swap between parishes and feel at home. St. Mary’s has centuries of history and tradition, St. Margaret’s is a beautiful Victorian Church with a vibrant community around it. St Gabriel’s is the newest and smallest of the 3 churches being established in the early 20th century. It sits in the heart of the now predominantly Jewish area of south Prestwich and has inter-faith links with the Jewish and Muslim communities which I hope is something we can all draw on in these troubled times.
We’ve been going to St. Mary’s for over 4 years and are enjoying the fact that we are all firmly part of our church’s family. To celebrate the launch of the partnership we had morning Eucharist split across the 3 churches with Bishop Nigel, the Bishop of Manchester, in attendance. The recent snow was still lying heavy on the ground so my plan to cycle with Alex between the venues was scuppered. I did however find a more appropriate form of transport: a 30+ year old plastic sledge that my Dad dropped off with us a couple of weeks ago. A well used red vehicle that was akin to the Ford Capri of the sledging world (and its back end did step out quite easily on some corners this morning)
Being so close to Epiphany we had chosen the theme of Follow The Star as we went on our inter-parish safari. People had made stars and these were processed by the children at each of the churches. I had been on the committee that organised the event and offered to produce a flier to circulate amongst the 3 parishes. Rather than call on Catriona for assistance, I had managed to create something for myself, determined to keep it simple and produce it in Word so that other people could amend it as they saw fit. I went looking for some clipart to paste in, and as part of the editorial team for the church magazine I had learnt that an image that is going to be enlarged, reduced, duplicated and possibly reduplicated had to be black and white, with not too much detail in it. I searched using a ‘star’ keyword with no mention of ‘following’ or ‘walking’ and strangely on the first page of results appeared a cute little cartoon star with legs on it – perfect! There had been talk of a commemorative badge for the launch and a Deputy Warden from St Margaret’s had a contact that could produce them at cost price. I was expecting a simple button badge like those that were popular in the 70s celebrating the Sex Pistols, The Jam or CND but what was produced ranked alongside the splendour of the old cycle proficiency awards or my treasured Lego Builder’s club metal badge. It was a lovely surprise to see the finished piece with the simple image I had sourced (sourced sounds much better than copied).
Maria had yet another birthday party to attend this lunchtime, that of Chloe The (Nativity) Donkey and so Catriona took her to Bacup straight after the first third of the morning’s celebrations. Catriona dropped us at St Gabriel’s for the second part and Alex and I sat in with the Sunday School and learnt about St. Barnabus. Afterward everyone moved the final 2km to Holyrood and at this point I leapt into action with the sledge. We had allowed over 20 minutes for each transfer but I realised it would be tight getting there on time (on bike I would have beaten all the cars) so I set off at a fair pace climbing up the very icy pavements towards Scholes Lane. I pushed on until reaching the Heaton Park parameter at Bury Old Road, safe in the knowledge that there were no more roads to cross. I was peeped at a few time by passers by and it was hopefully the most exhilarating journey Alex will have to endure by sledge but he was happy and just clung on for dear life through the 20 minute workout. I eased off for the last few hundred metres so I wouldn’t arrive looking too flustered but my calves were throbbing. Alex was a credit to his parish as well as his parents as he was impeccably behaved through the last and longest service. This was due to the fresh air and his gratitude at being somewhere a little warmer together with a steady supply of Hob Nobs, but he also joined in the service dutifully carrying one of the 3 wise men to the front of church.
We then gathered for a Jacob’s join lunch and once recharged with carrot and coriander soup I was powered up for the shorter sleigh ride home where we could relax and watch the Jungle book before seeing Leeds knock Fergie’s flops out of the FA Cup – so a great day all round.