Christianity

Christenings and Baptisms


One of the ways I serve my church is to be involved with families who bring their children for baptism. My role is twofold: first there is the administration side of things – have they filled in the application form? Have I booked a priest? Have I got certificates ready? – and so on. But for me, the other bit of my role is the best bit and that’s when we do the baptism preparation session together.

At the session, we bring together several families who are asking for baptisms and we have some activities and discussions around the different bits of faith and what it means to be baptised. Locally, here in North Manchester, it is more common for families to bring children to be Christened, and to be honest, even though I know there is a difference between being Baptised and being Christened, I don’t think I know enough about it to be able to explain it or argue about it!

So to make life easier, when I talk about “baptism” I also mean “Christening” and when I talk about “Christening” I also mean “baptism”. For now, at least. Wait until I’m further into my training and I might be able to split them and explain them better than I can now.

There is going to be a session of baptism preparation tomorrow evening, and we are going to be running out our “new and improved” version, which Hils (our curate) and myself have been working on. We have an icebreaker activity and some discussion activities before we get to the real crux of what we’re there for and that is the discussion and explanation about what the baptism service entails.

Our baptism invitation and instruction leaflet for families who want their children “done”, and a stack of coloured cards for cutting out for an activity at tomorrow night’s preparation session.

For babies and infants, this is the bit that parents do on their behalf, but for older children and adults they do this bit for themselves. And that is where they are asked about rejecting certain things and turning towards Christ, before they are dipped in the water and blessed.

I am always moved by this part of both the preparation and the baptism service itself. At the preparation, there is a moment of hush when parents think about what it is they are turning away from, and to whom they turn and there is a palpable awe in the air which is similar to the moment of baptism itself in church. It is a real sacramental moment, where God makes himself known in our presence and where his glory is revealed. It is fascinating to hear how the different families have arrived at this particular point, but the moment of baptism is always something special, wondrous and touching in so many ways.

I wonder what your experience of baptism is. Do you believe in it, or is it just another thing that we do with children along with the MMR jab to protect them in childhood? Have you been “done” yourself, or is it something you have never considered or thought about? What about the practices where you are in the world? In the Church of England, it is common for the font in churches to be used in baptism, but now and again, full immersion baptisms are done in small pools or even natural waters such as rivers or lakes too. How is it done where you live?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment below.

 

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Blogging

An Autumn Walk


I went on a walk with my husband today round our local park, Heaton Park in North Manchester.

I have loved this park since childhood. It was my old stomping ground and I enjoyed walking, cycling and sledging round it with my friends on many a happy occasion. We have climbed trees, went conkering, fell in ponds and streams, played football, flew kites, got lost in the woods, petted the horses and the peacocks, fed the ducks, played on the swings and tormented the council gardeners (sorry Dave!)  on the long, happy days of summer – and quite a few in the darkest winters too.

It is a great park, and it has loads to do and see. As a kid, the attraction was the wide open spaces that were adult-free and the endless time that we could spend there. Later on, when I had my own kids, the attraction was the great long pathways and open spaces where I could let them run free or ride their bikes in safety as we enjoyed the fresh air together. Even later on still, I am enjoying the park again for – you guessed it – its open spaces, the chance for clean fresh air and the gorgeous woodlands that take up most of its space.

My favourite bit of the whole park is the area round the boating lake, and this is where we walked today. I took quite a few photographs, but here are a couple of my favourites from today. You can see the amazing colours of the trees as autumn starts to take hold, and the glorious blue skies throw the autumn colours into greater contrast.

 

If you want to find out more about Heaton Park, please click here. For an even better view of it, why not pay a visit yourself? It’s a great place, I promise you.

 

Blogging

Bikers, Bells and Band


It has been one of “those” days today. You know the ones, where randomness happens throughout the day and you just have to shake your head and say, “well, that was a bit good!”

Well my day has been a bit like that.

First of all I went to Stay and Play this morning and saw absolute genius in action. One of our mums is blind, and she has managed her baby very well with the help of either her own mum or a carer who was there to help guide her around and to make sure that the baby was always looked after. The baby has now grown up a little bit and is toddling around quite happily on her own two feet, but today, the mum came without the aid of either her mum or her carer, instead relying on the help of one of the other mums (a friend of hers anyway) to get her into the church hall and to get her seated and so on. The genius bit was this:

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A set of jingle bells round the little girl’s ankle so that her mum could hear where she was in the hall and could track her movements easily. We were all astounded at how such a simple thing could mean such a lot – that not only could the mum enjoy some independence, but that the baby could also enjoy running around without getting too far away from mum. Of course there are always lots of people watching out and interacting with the mums and tots in the group so there would never be any real danger, but how’s that for a stroke of genius to help them both enjoy a bit of living!

Nature was also having a bit of genius this morning too. How’s about these couple of beauties?

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Still reeling from the gorgeous skies and cold, crisp air, came a demonstration of something deeply moving. At about 12 o’clock, there was an almighty roar of engines going past the church hall as a big group of bikers made their way noisily up the main road. About 15 minutes or so later, they all came back again, this time doubled in number, going half the speed and leading out a hearse and a funeral cortege down towards the crematorium. The flowers on top of the coffin were in the shape of a motorbike, and the flowers down the side of the hearse spelled out BROTHER in black flowers. What a sight, and what a gesture to witness. Here is a video of the tail end of the procession so you can see for yourself.

Then this evening, I had the utmost pleasure and privilege to sit and listen to the Pemberton Old Band as they were put through their paces at a rehearsal for an upcoming contest. I have been going there for the last couple of months with Ethan, who is playing bass trombone for them, and I have heard the piece they are playing take shape and get generally better and better each week. The band has a great sound and tonight they were pushed to really play proper pianissimo and fortissimo, which was fantastic to hear. There are another couple of rehearsals to go before the contest at the end of the month, and it promises to be a great performance. Looking forward to it.

So there you have it, a couple of things that have made up my day today. Random? Or simply a reflection of the eclectic life I have?!

Either way, today has been a good one.

 

 

Blogging

3 Things


Just a little something to get my bloggy head on again! If you fancy joining me please copy and paste my post into your own (new) post, and replace my answers with your own. If you’d like to let me know how you got on drop me a link to your post in my comments and I’ll visit you in return. Here goes!

 

Three names I go by
1. Pam
2. Pamelle
3. Mum

Three places I lived
1. Higher Blackley
2. Oldham
3. Blackley

Three places I have worked
1. ICI
2. Forsyth’s (music shop)
3. Middleton Technology School

Three things I love to watch
1. Stormy weather beating on the windows
2. Running water – rivers, waterfalls, the sea
3. Candle flames

Three things I love to watch on TV
1. Strictly Come Dancing
2. Sport – especially football, swimming, snooker, darts, diving and cycling
3. Masterchef

Three places I have been
1. Holy Island
2. Niagara Falls
3. A vineyard in the Loire valley

Three things I love to eat
1. Cheese and crackers
2. Chocolate pastry twists, especially if they are accompanied by a cappacino
3. My mum’s shepherd pie

Three things I am looking forward to
1. Going to bed with its clean bedding tonight
2. Playing carols with my band tomorrow night round the streets of Todmorden
3. Having a day of pure writing tomorrow

Three things I did this year
1. Appeared on a TV quiz show (“The Chase”)
2. Played in the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
3. Delivered my first sermon

Three things I’m going to do next year
1. Write more
2. Blog more
3. Enjoy life more

 

Right – over to you. See what your list of 3’s will be!

 

Share Your World

Share Your World


I am taking part in Cee’s “Share Your World” meme this week, and you’ll find my answers below. If you would like to join in too, click the picture and you will be taken to Cee’s host site. Welcome aboard!

Are you usually late, early, or right on time? 

I’m usually early but for some reason today I have been late for both things I had a meet time. I don’t know why! It was as if my clock was conspiring against me today and was thieving time from me in 5 minute slots. One minute I had 15 minutes until I needed to leave the house and the next I was 5 minutes after that time. How? HOW?! I hate being late. I think being late for something is the height of rudeness so to be late – twice – in one day today is something unusual and something of which I’m not particularly proud.

If you were or are a writer do you prefer writing short stories, poems or novels?

Well, I am a writer, and I prefer to write short stories but I have a dream one day of having the discipline to write a novel-length piece. I know it’s a simple matter of discipline because I have got notebooks and files and folders full of scraps of paper with notes for characters, plots, plot twists, story frameworks, little snippets of conversation and observation etc, but it all needs writing up, and that takes discipline. Which I lack.

I have written some poetry but it’s not very good. Or very poetic for that matter. I tend to write comic verse, or really predictable rhyme schemes that are not at all sophisticated but they entertain and challenge me so I will probably keep that up. Nothing worth sharing though!

Where did you live at age ten?  Is it the same place or town you live now?

I live in a lovely part of Manchester called Blackley. I was born here and moved away briefly when I first got married but I have lived here for the past 17 years and can’t ever see myself leaving it. I love this place and I love the people here. I wrote about my home town on this page if you want to read more about where I live.

Would you rather be able to fly or breathe under water?

Hmmmm tough question! I have a recurring dream where I am under water, but by getting my mouth up close to the underside of the surface of the water I can breathe quite easily. For some reason, in this dream, it’s important that I can breathe under water and it never occurs to me to put my lips up a bit further so I can breathe the air above. That’s the nature of dreams I guess. But, if had to make a choice of that or flying, I would have to choose flying. I’d quite like to be a bird, preferably one that flies long distances at higher altitudes, so not a sparrow or something. I’m more of an eagle or red kite kinda bird.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I am grateful for the safe delivery of my cousin’s baby William last Tuesday. He’s the first baby to be born on that side of my family for a long time and he is a little cutie pie.

This week, I’m looking forward to the clocks going back on Saturday. I love that “different” feeling on the day after the clocks have changed, especially when they have gone backwards in October. There is a different quality to the light during the day, and there is a different sense of settling down and being home-y as dusk falls a bit earlier. I think I ought to have been born as a grizzly bear because I would love to start hibernating at this time of the year. Just imagine what it would be like to close the door on winter, settle down with a cupboard full of food and lots of loving friends and family around you to share stories, play games, sleep and generally resting and restoring yourself for a little while.

A-Z April 2015

W is for Weather


It’s day “W” on the Blogging from A-Z challenge, and we have arrived at the biggest obsession my country has and that is the WEATHER.

If you saw my blog yesterday you will have seen the photographs I took in Blackley yesterday morning. You will have noticed how beautiful and blue the sky was and what a stunning Spring day we enjoyed yesterday.

This morning began in pretty much the same way: clear blue skies, bright sunshine, cold air and a little bit of a frost early on. Gorgeous, my favourite type of weather.

It stayed like this most of the day until about tea-time and then we were hit with Armageddon-like rain and wind. At one point, the rain was so severe the wipers couldn’t keep up on the car and I could see sleet in it.

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On the way back home, the rain stopped but the sky was giving us a demonstration of its awesome power with huge, towering clouds playing tag with sunbeams. I tried to take some photos to show you the contrast and this is one of the better ones I achieved:

 

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What it lacks in detail it makes up for in contrast, don’t you think?

Not long afterwards, they sky yet again gave us one more treat and this is a shot from my upstairs window:

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I don’t know if it’s because we are an island nation and we are the first port of call for any travelling Atlantic storms that we get such variances in our weather, but from the rapid changes I saw tonight and tried to capture for you, you can see why it is endlessly fascinating!

 

A-Z April 2015

I is for Irk


We have reached day 9 of the Blogging from A-Z challenge, and today is letter “I”. I have chosen to share with you some memories and a bit of historical detail about the River Irk. 

The River Irk forms the basis of lots of my childhood memories, usually the ones where I ended up wet, cold and laughing my head off.

River Irk
My “patch” of the river as a kid. The motorway roundabout wasn’t as big as it is now back then, and there is a big Sainsbury’s supermarket on the site where the old mill was. The river still runs past the site though although I doubt the monkey swing we built all those years ago survived the redevelopment.

The two main places I played in it or alongside it were along the stretch it ran through the old mill site (which is now a Sainsbury’s supermarket site), and further west where it ran through Blackley forest between Victoria Avenue and Blackley New Road. That part of the river was just on the other side of my primary school railings, and I was drawn to it long before I was allowed to play out on my own and go into the forest on my bike with my friends.

I never considered from where it came or where it was heading, I just knew my “patch” and loved being near the water whenever I could. I remember some very strange looking weeds and plants growing in it on the Middleton side of Victoria Avenue bridge which now I think about it were probably down to the amount of pollution in the river at the time. I’d heard about a chemical works further upstream, but at the time it never occurred to me to question why the water looked a funny colour or why the weeds grew to such huge sizes on that stretch.

My favourite part of the river was when it flowed through Blackley forest, on the other side of the railings from my primary school. (I wonder if the name “Bowker Vale” came from the vale the river cut as it went along?) It was one thing to watch it from the school playing field, but once I was old enough to go and ride my bike in the forest on my own, the river took on quite another delight for me. Building dams, trying to get across it on the stones and rocks on the river bed, climbing up trees and seeing how far over the water I could dangle before I got wet…oh the memories!

I’ve since done some research on the river and found that it isn’t really that long and runs for only around 10 miles or so from Royton, where it rises, to Manchester city centre where it empties into the River Irwell. I rises on Tandle Hill, and has several other streams and brooks that serve as its tributaries along its length including the Wince Brook which joins it in Middleton, the Moston Brook which joins it along Rochdale Road in a culvert, and the Boggoart Hole Clough Brook which is a little under a mile long.

The natural course of the river was changed a lot at the time of the Industrial Revolution to make room for the number of mill seats that sprang up along its length. It became massively polluted and down near the point where it joins the Irwell, Friedrich Engels noted at the height of the Industrial Revolution, that it appeared to be a stagnant pool of black foulness which was dangerous to health. It regularly overflowed its banks and helped spread cholera and other water-borne diseases in the cramped slums in that poor part of Manchester. In 1830,  The New Gazetteer of Lancashire said that “the eels in this river were formerly remarkable for their fatness, which was attributed to the grease and oils expressed by the mills from the woollen cloths and mixed with the waters.” There are still industrial and chemical plants along the banks of the Irk but the river itself has undergone a substantial rejuvenation in recent years and is much cleaner than it used to be, and as far as I know, there are no eels living in it any more.

If you ever do get a chance to go and walk alongside the Irk, the stretch between Middleton and Blackley is a lovely place to be and it’s well worth taking a camera with you too. If you fancy a different section then my old stomping ground through Blackley forest is equally beautiful. Not bad for a post-industrial water course deep in the suburbs of Manchester.

 

 To find out more about the River Irk, this article on Wikipedia will give you more information.