• A time for candles and singing 18 December 2017 | View comments

  • 18th December| By David Jolley

    The week has been dominated by weather – cold and frosty with some snow, windy so that banners have to be taken down, and rainy between times.

    But on Monday we walked – all-be-it with reduced numbers.

    Tuesday and Thursday were special days with carol services at Bowdon Vale for Dementia Conversations and then older people and a group with Learning Difficulties, who come to a regular pop-in.

    The chapel at Bowdon Vale was opened 1883, housing a congregation which had begun to meet at a cottage in the village from 1858. As I understand it, Bowdon had few residents until the mid-1800s when the Earl of Stamford sold land to rich merchants of Manchester, who built mansion homes on the sandstone ridge which provided clean air and inspiring views over Cheshire. The Vale from the west of the ridge to the shore of the Bollin River had been home to brick yards – still celebrated in street names – but few people. It became the place where smaller houses were built which would accommodate the gardeners, coachmen and washing women who serviced the mansion families.

    The chapel was built on land donated by a wealthy architect and his family. It is of a simple design but has been modified over the years by the addition of a school room, the inclusion of heating and lighting, though it still remains without a telephone line!

    Services in the chapel benefit from the atmosphere generated by its wooden pews (original), a wooden pulpit – salvaged from another chapel which closed 50 years ago, an alter rail inherited from another chapel, an organ (not the original pipe organ but still providing good sound). It is a four dimensional scrapbook of life in Methodism here and nearby.

    One lady compared the feeling with that at another nearby church which has lively activities but no special place for worship. ‘This feels like real church’.

    Ros, our minister, involved people by entrusting characters from the model nativity scene to them – and then to bring them to repopulate the model as the nativity story unfolded with short readings and the popular carols. Graham’s playing carried the tunes sympathetically so that there was time for reflection as well as cheer. The candles of the Advent Ring were lit one by one by other members in attendance. We were surely part of this.

    Food, fellowship and games completed these afternoons – But we have an eye to continuing Conversations next year – starting with the newly fascinating research of possible treatment for Huntington ’s chorea:http://web.stanford.edu/group/hopes/cgi-bin/hopes_test/huntingtin-protein-and-protein-aggregation/

    The final carols of this week have been sung on John Leigh Park – The fourth in an annual series of ‘Carols in the Park’ which is conducted by the talented ministry and music group from Altrincham Baptist Church. This is a short service of carols linked by the Christmas story and reflections on our lives of privilege and responsibilities toward others. We celebrate in the park which is a shared space where people of all ages and status come together for play, exercise and relaxation. This being the park’s centenary year we were especially keen to end the year in this way. The weather had been hard through the week – days frozen, days drenched and the forecast for Sunday afternoon was of rain, getting heavier and worsened by a strong wind from the west. It looked doubtful that we could put on the show, for people would be out in the weather for several hours setting up before the short event. It feels like a minor miracle that the forecast modified, the temperature rose, the rain stopped and the wind stayed calm until 5.20pm. Despite the forecasts about 200 people – all ages but well wrapped up – came along with cheerful faces and twinkling eyes. Children took the microphone for ‘Away in a Manger’, we had warm drinks and mince pies.

    Some things are ageless. It seems they can go on.


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