Thrilled that she had been asked to hand out Bibles before the service this morning, sweet 9 year old Emily said to her Grandma, “The Prime Minister asked me to help him today.” “Really,” her Grandma responded. “Who is that?” “The Prime Minister!” answered Emily. “The one that talks like a cowboy.” And so our 15th Sunday here at Westoe Road was a day of celebrating the 130th anniversary of this church building. As was pointed out at yesterday evening’s Anniversary Tea, this weekend was not a celebration of this church body because that began in 1818. After meeting in a home and then later the first church building, Westoe Road built its beautiful new building in 1881. It is still a gorgeous building and has a prominent position right next to the Town Hall. It has seen two World Wars but was spared in the bombings of 1941 which destroyed most of the town center as well as the shipyards along the River Tyne which was the livelihood of many in South Tyneside. The church anniversary coincided this year with the annual Heritage Trail event that takes place all across Great Britain. Each year during the weekend of the Heritage Trail many historic buildings are open to the public at no cost. Westoe Road is considered to be one of the historic buildings of South Shields and so the doors were open each afternoon for people to come and enjoy a cup of tea and look around. Dennis was trying to count just how many cups of tea we have had this weekend and never did figure it out. It ended this evening with a Songs of Praise service that was enjoyed by all . . . and then another cup of tea.
As we always say, it’s been a busy few weeks. We have continued the study Jesus On Leadership with the deacons. They have found it to be great fun discovering their spiritual gifts as well as their personality types. As is always true, the Lord has blessed this church with a variety of giftedness in which to carry out His work. Needless to say, we have been so blessed to watch them as they busily take care of the needs of this sweet body of believers. There is an obvious spirit of compassion and cooperation as they care for the sick and encourage this flock to be fervent worshippers of the One True God. Because summer is not quite over, we had one last Garden Party in the beautiful garden of Joan Marshall’s home. There were lots of yummy things to eat, especially “cornets” (ice cream cones), as you can see in the picture.
School started back up this past week, so all of the normal activities will start rolling again this week. The guys are once again planning a get together and this time will be a Curry Night at a local Indian restaurant in a couple of weeks. We’ve been told jokingly that there are more Indian restaurants in South Shields than in the whole country of India. Hopefully, they will begin to add to their numbers. The ladies Bible studies will kick off tomorrow evening as Brenda begins the book of Ruth with the Modern Girls (20s, 30s, 40s). The 50 Somethings (some of whom are 60 Something) Bible study will be the 4th Tuesday of the month but they will also be doing the book of Ruth. Dennis is still contemplating the best timing for an evening study that the guys might be able to participate in as well as another noontime study for the older adults. Because the Colossians study was such a hit with the adults, Dennis will begin the book of Ezra as soon as we can establish a date. God continues to draw these folks into the study of His Word and they are loving it. 2 or 3 have started reading the Bible chronologically using a table that Brenda has put together. Julie Price informed Brenda last week that she was “quite cross” with her husband, Andy, because he was running off and leaving her as they are trying to reading through the Bible together and discuss it. Those are the kinds of stories that warm our hearts.
We had our first “Church Meeting” last week where they report on and discuss the things going on in the church. We were so encouraged to observe their love for one another and the unity of heart and mind that has been so evident since the day we arrived. One of their items of business was AIPM and whether or not they would continue to call interim pastors from America. It was a unanimous decision to continue with AIPM and so another pastor and his wife will have the blessing of serving this body come January when we leave to return to Abilene.
In the midst of all of the church activities we did have the opportunity to take the big ferry that we had been watching leave the River Tyne each evening and travel to Amsterdam. We left North Shields (across the River Tyne from South Shields) at 5 p.m. and traveled through the night across the North Sea to Amsterdam arriving about 9 a.m. the next morning. Amsterdam is not somewhere that we were either one very fond of, but we’re glad we went. We had to be back at the ferry by 4:30 to head back across the sea. The ferry was an amazing experience, sort of like a miniature cruise ship. We’ve watched it come and go ever since we got here so it was a lot of fun to finally get to take a little trip on it.
Really fun was the arrival of our dear friends Ted and Laura Dyer. They arrived on September 5 and covered most of northern England and southern Scotland in the 5 days they were here. We saw castles and beaches and churches and lakes. In the Lakes District we saw the home and burial place of William Wordsworth in Grasmere and the home of Beatrix Potter in Hawkshead. They got to experience England’s nice big motorways as well as tiny little roads where we all held our breath as we squeezed between rock walls and big trucks in the Lakes District. We enjoyed sitting in the 1000 year old Durham Cathedral and listening to Evensong and Scripture readings. It was a delight to have these experiences with such great friends. You'll find more pictures from our travels at the end of this blog.
We remain deeply thankful to our Lord God for sending us to this country. He has attached our hearts to its history and its people. Our flock at Westoe Road has become like family to us. They watch over our every need. They fix our garage door and our car. They show us how to operate the heating in our house. They give us directions and tourist information. The ladies are even teaching Brenda how to knit! What more could we ask for?! We join them in praying for God’s next AIPM servants. Whoever they will be, they have no idea what a blessing they are in for! We love the folks at Westoe Road so much and we consider our time here to be a wonderful gift from the Lord.
Pictures from our week with the Dyers . . .
Dennis and Ted find a friend at Alnwick Castle
Autumn colors are beginning in the Lakes District
Beatrix Potter's home in Near Sawry
Little country church just sitting all by itself out in the field
Typical scene in the Lakes District.