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St John & St Mark Church, Bury

Open Group

For the next session, Geoff Stokes will lead a musical evening for us on Wednesday 9th May at 7.30pm. All are welcome and we are also grateful for small raffle prizes for each evening. We meet in the Barritt Room (formerly the Library).

Previous sessions - as recalled by David Robinson, our own correspondent:

APRIL 2018 MEETING: It wouldn’t be an Open Group year without a talk from our Treasurer Ian Banks, who led our meeting on 11th April. The selected subject this time around was - himself. Believe me, there is always something new to discover about Ian and this year was no different. The purpose of the evening was to find out what he does during the day when he is not around Church but before that we heard a little about Ian’s early life; born in Aberdeen in fact and spent most of the early part of his life around the South coast regions of England. He also talked a little of his Scottish heritage and there was an opportunity for us to see photographs of family from those early days.

Ian spent some time in France in the early 1980’s at University and brought along his student card from that time. He had hair then! We didn’t get a lesson in the French he had picked up during that time but we had an assurance that he knew enough to get by on holidays.

We heard about Ian’s move to Bury in the late 1980’s, his settling into St. John with St. Mark Parish and about Mayer Hersh his landlord when he first arrived In 1990 he was asked to help out with the Treasurers role for a short while! There was a recollection of times and experiences with former Incumbents and Parishioners, which stirred up memories and discussion for other members of the Open Group.

The latter part of the meeting allowed us to hear about Ian’s day job at Schawk, where he is the Sales Director for the office based in Salford as well as globally responsible for a well known drinks and food company. His firm is responsible for design, photography and printing plates for several well-know companies. The next time you buy a packet of crisps or some chocolate have a look at the design. The chances are Ian's company had a part to play in the packaging.

We were told how the job sends Ian across the world to help with requirements for countries such as India, where a lot of the produce is sold on outdoor street kiosks so the inks have to withstand greater heat and light. Several pieces of equipment were brought along so we could see the effects of different types of light on colours and we had a look at some of the printing plates used in the process. Some snacks were brought along so we could see the different designs on packets across the globe - but as tempting as they looked, sadly they were not for consumption tonight.  

We enjoyed an informative talk from Ian and learnt a lot during the evening

MARCH 2018 MEETING: The Open Group resumed for their first meeting of 2018 on 14th March and we welcomed Reverend Keith Trivasse to lead us for our Lent evening. Keith has been worshipping with us for the last couple of years and leading our regular services as a retired priest, and we value his ministry. However we did not know a great deal about Keith’s journey to faith and priesthood so we invited him to talk to the group to find out a little more.

We heard how Keith began his life in Eastbourne and his early days as a member of the Brethren Church and subsequent baptism, which was of course full immersion.

It was not until Keith’s move to Manchester to study at university that we discovered he had found his true home after attending a nearby Church for an Ash Wednesday service. Confirmation followed and then later Keith put himself forward for selection and ministry. We heard about the different situations experienced as part of that selection process.

Two Curacies followed in Prestwich and Warrington and it was the former where Keith began his work with the Jewish community and interfaith work, which was itself described as ‘a calling within a calling’. We already knew about Keith’s work with the Muslim population and how he had helped to found the Muslim-Christian Forum in Bury. This was driven by his later ministry at St. Thomas Bury, the Parish of which is predominantly Muslim.

This group still exists but is requiring new leadership to help move this along.

After Keith had spoken there was an opportunity for a question and answer session around further aspects of the interfaith work, sermon style (you have probably noticed how Keith is great at preaching without the reliance on notes), favourite hymn choices and worship patterns and of course marriage to Margaret.

The group enjoyed the evening and felt we had learnt a lot. Thank you, Keith.

Apologies to regular members of the Open Group who have not received their annual programme of events for the year. This is because we still have a couple of slots to fill. However it is intended for us to meet on the second Wednesday of each month (excluding August). Speakers for later in the year include Elizabeth Brennan (John & Margaret’s daughter), who will discuss her work as a Religious Education teacher, and Nigel Silvester will talk about his life and faith. We also of course have our customary craft evening with Linda in the Autumn.

DECEMBER 2017 MEETING: The Open Group closed the 2017 program of events with a pre-Christmas get-together on Wednesday 6th December, attended by around 20 members.  After drinks at 6.00pm, we were served a delicious meat and potato pie meal by Betty Alty’s daughter-in-law Deborah, which was enjoyed by all. Thank you to Deborah for providing this.

Later there was an opportunity to participate in a couple of festive themed quizzes over mince pies, mints and coffee, with some small prizes available.

Thank you to all who helped in any way, either by setting up tables, serving food or providing raffle prizes; also to June Banks for the lovely home-made trifle.   

I would also like to thank everyone who spoke at our meetings last year and for those who attended. There will be no meeting of the group in February and our next scheduled meeting will be Wednesday 14th March. Further details will be available soon. David Robinson

NOVEMBER MEETING: On Wednesday 8th November, Paul Sanderson led our evening on a talk along the Pennine Way, which he completed with his brother as part of the Lands End to John O’Groats route. We had a very good attendance this evening with the room being full. Paul opened the evening with a brief history of the Pennine Way, from the initiative in the 1930’s to its official opening 30 years later in the 1960’s. The route, the backbone of England, begins in Edale in Derbyshire and ends just inside the Scottish border. It took Paul 18 days to complete the 267 mile route, walking a range of distances each day (an 11 mile day was regarded as a day of rest).

Our talk included a range of photographs taken across the 18 days, of stunning scenery and landmarks on the route. Of course our first photo was at the marker point by the official start in Edale. Over the course of the evening we were treated to some of the key highlights and pictures of the 18 days. There were some spectacular images and interesting anecdotes.

As well as parts unknown to some us, some of the route includes areas that were familiar to people, and there were bits we had covered separately in our own Church walking group, such as Blackstone Edge and the Aiggin Stone and Stoodley Pike and its monument. Paul also told us about the different accommodation they had stayed at, including pubs and a former Post Office. Paul explained about the wonders of an ankle support bandage he had been forced to purchase following an injury near Stoodley Pike. This was worn for over half of the journey and he even brought the very same worn out support bandage to the group for us to see (his one and only prop of the night).

We heard about ‘Pierre’, who appeared at several points on the route and also occasional pints of Theakstons Old Peculiar, when it was available, which was quite often.

There was also a guest appearance from Sir Tony Robinson who was near the northern end of the route working on a TV documentary at the time.

Our talk was complete with a photograph at the sign marking the official end of the Pennine Way at the hotel in Kirk Yetholm.   

It is clear that a lot of planning and effort goes into these long distance walks.

Thanks to Paul for the time spent in putting this talk together and for leading the evening for us. David

OCTOBER MEETING - As with the last couple of years, Linda Thompson volunteered to lead our October craft night. Our challenge this year was to create two Christmas cards, as last year we had worked so quickly to do the one. They may have been out in the shops for a couple of months now but it is a little bit more special making your own.

We only had a small number present therefore we sat around a table, creating a more sociable atmosphere, where we could talk and assist each other. Linda advised we were the pilots for these cards, as she was doing the same evening with the Mother’s Union the following week. 

We had two designs, one was a robin and the other was a reindeer, and we were provided with double-sided tape, scissors, glue, double-sided sticky buddies and Linda’s helping hand.

There were also some packs for Open Group members not present at our meeting who may like to do some homework.

Dave joined us for drink and biscuits later on in the evening and we presented Linda with some flowers for attending the evening.  

We were pleased with our end result and the only thing left to decide is who we will send our cards to at Christmas. (Will you receive one?)

David Robinson

SEPTEMBER MEETING: On Wednesday 13th September the Open Group welcomed Sister Joan to talk about the work of the Catholic charity Caritas, which has been supported by St. John with St. Mark for the last few years.

We were given a brief history of the charity from its forming, to the many projects it now runs across the Salford Diocese, including Cornerstone, which supports homeless and vulnerable adults in Manchester and also the Lalley Centre, which featured in a recent BBC documentary ‘Sister Rita to the Rescue’.

Sister Joan also told us about the ‘Big Sleep Out’ organised by the Cornerstone project in support of the many thousands of people who endure sleeping rough on the streets.

We then went on to hear about the work of Caritas locally; the Bury centre is based in the St. Joseph’s Presbytery on Peter Street. The main project in Bury is currently Red Door, which has set up a centre on the Chesham Fold estate to provide support for people facing various problems and challenges. Red Door provides the opportunity for individuals to speak to volunteers to discuss issues including welfare, homelessness, bereavement and general information. The project also stages an art club and has now begun a Christmas Lunch.

After hearing about the work of Caritas, Sister Joan led us in a reflection on homelessness before answering questions about the work of Caritas and Red Door. We provided Sister Joan with a food parcel and donation for Caritas as a thank you for coming to the group.

Caritas Red Door is always on the look out for volunteers who may be able to give time by simply helping to make cups of tea or being there to talk to people. Sister Joan provided us with some copies of the annual review of 2016 and there may still be some copies available at the back of our Church if you would like to know more.  David Robinson

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.