Andy’s leaving service – 29thJuly 2018
A huge congregation from the whole of the circuit gathered
to wish Andy Laird well on his retirement. The service was attended by the
Mayor of Royal Leamington Spa.
We thanked Andy ‘for all sermons and prayers written, songs
and hymns chosen, liturgies crafted, connections with news and everyday life
woven together’ and all the aspects of the busy life of a minister. John Harris
preached from the front on the theme ‘Doing a new thing’ – for all of us and
not just for Andy. There was a formal
setting-down of the keys of all the churches for which Andy had
responsibility, and also a setting down of his diary – a clean one, since
everything is electronic these days.
Before the service, a ten-strong worship band led the
singing of a number of up-to-date songs, and there were two songs, Baptised with fire and Let us go forth in the peace of Christ,
sung by our own group of singers. The service ended with an organ voluntary and
a repeat of two of the opening songs by the band which then played with
As is the convention, Andy will not be seen in any of his
churches for a year, after which we may expect an occasional return to the
We retired to a sumptuous tea and a good time was had by
May the Lord be with you, Andy.
Swing it St Swithin – an informal entertainment, 14th July 2018
The programme was, as might be expected, largely about rain. Ironically we had already had our forty days of brilliant sunshine and the weather was due to break on the 16th. It’s a myth of course, brought about by the good Bishop Swithin of Winchester who requested burial under the eaves so that rain might drip on his grave.
The performers were our own, and the programme consisted of fifty minutes of song and readings – followed by strawberries and cream and some delicious shortbread. Sing it St Swithin was the title song and we went on to cover holidays, Noah’s ark and the shipping forecast. BBC BC was an OT forecast of plagues of frogs, lice and boils, and an alternative shipping forecast included forties, fifties, sixties and, from somewhere, Leyland Daf and Ginger Rogers.
Our resident members of the Harbury Folk Club sang the The Weatherman’s Song, and below, the picture immortalises a performance of The dog in the microwave. Frequent attempts to complete the tongue twister Whether the weather met with gales of laughter. It was certainly an unusual programme enjoyed by a rather small but appreciative audience (we were in competition with a rather exciting Wimbedon).
This evening was in aid of Action for Children and was organised by Dale Street’s support group for the charity.
Dance, twist and shout – Sixties style: 12th May 2018
These sounds were to the Heartbeat band, another successful Dale Street Action for Children event held at St Mark’s Hall, Leamington. Some seventy people were there, many to dance the evening away, and others to listen nostalgically to tunes they all remembered from a long time ago. No, it was actually pre-rock-and-roll, although one or two people had come thinking that it was just that.
The band was a five piece, several guitars, percussion and some very good vocals, nicely harmonised. The supper was a plough-person’s, a little more sophisticated than in the sixties when the food was not as varied as it is nowadays. Who was it complained there was no pork pie? The pate was particularly good!
The dancers-audience came from Dale Street, other churches, groups of friends and even an unattached few who had come just for this quite unusual evening.
Easter and beyond: Themed preaching
It was good for once to have a series of interconnected series of Sunday morning services. The plan was for four Easter people, Cleopas, Peter, Stephen, the women at the cross – and as an extra, David Greenwood told us how Thomas went to spread Christianity in India.
So often the events around Easter are so concentrated on our Saviour that we forget the unique personalities of those who were left, the real significance of the road to Emmaus, the exciting and important part played by the women disciples, and the changing emotions that they all encountered after Christ’s death.
All these services were presented with real authority, and it was obvious how much work had gone into researching them. There was a unity of purpose and we were able to appreciate the whole story and not just bits of it.
We remember Russell’s drawings and moments of interaction such as when Paul leapt up to make sure that Russell’s artwork did not fall over.
The idea of having a theme song that we sang for each session was clever – and it worked. These services were enjoyable, lively and left us thinking. And there was a good deal for the children.
Daley 40 Sketches May 3rd-5th 2018
What an achievement! Nearly 200 members of our own uniformed organisations were together on the stage for the finale of yet another packed-out show. The programme outlined the history of Daley Sketches (named after a long-dead newspaper) and the rationale – to ‘work in teams and perform in public’. This was a mix of singing and spoken sketches including the usual awful jokes, and everything was prepared in just six weeks.
The Beavers presented 12 days of camping to the well-known Christmas song, with five toilet rolls and seven smelly socks, The running gag was aptly named ‘Wogglebox’ and featured some engaging local filming and a lot of terse comment. The Brownies worked their way through votes for women, though velcro caused some hilarity among the Victorian costumes – ‘what a rip-off!’ Talking of which, all the costumes were consistently good and very varied, perhaps at their most colourful for the squad’s ‘South Pacific’ item, complete with goggles.
The ‘old leaders’ repeated their famous rendition of ‘If I were not a scouter’ from all those years ago. Forty years on it was perhaps a little more circumspect and unlike the original, no one was in danger of suffering lasting injury. Was it age or Health and Safety?
At a special service on Sunday afternoon, Andy emphasised the theme of togetherness and there was much about developing and using talents. Andy also reminded all those present that they had voices and that they should use them if they suffered from bullies.
Lent and Easter 2018 – The Dale Street Cross
Following our tradition of recent years, an empty cross was installed in the church on the first Sunday of Lent.
On the remaining Sundays during Lent, symbols relating to Christ’s passion were added to the cross.
On Easter Sunday, the symbols were replaced by colourful flowers brought by members of our congregation.
Churches without Walls – Hot Cross Bun distribution, 29th March 2018
At 8 o’clock the buns were packaged, and by 10 the team was busy greeting shoppers and giving out 250 buns in 40 minutes.
‘I had a family of six’, boasted June and many congratulated us on a ‘marvellous idea’.
Of course plenty of others thought it was yet another marketing trick and some simply didn’t like buns. One gentleman asked if we had a ‘ticket’ – yes we had, from the Town Hall and from Riverside – and we obeyed all the hygiene rules too.
Most buns went into shopping bags, though some children scoffed theirs immediately.
This was Dale Street’s project to further the Churches without Walls initiative. Next year the plan is to distribute 500 buns at the railway station.
Divertimento concert, 15th March 2018
You may not know it. But Divertimento rehearse every Thursday at Dale Street and that they are distantly related to the church via the Circle Singers who themselves were originally connected with a youth club in the 1960’s. This concert was called Sacred and Secular and included a section of Scottish music. Howard Skempton, one of Britain’s leading composers, was in the audience to hear two of his compositions. Paul Sudlow accompanied his settings of The Lamb and The Tyger, both written for Divertimento.
The concert was illustrated with pictures, notes and translations via Powerpoint, using the church projection equipment.
Action for Children, Beetle Drive, 3rd March 2018
Throw a six, you have a body – a five, a head and so on, until you have the complete beetle and you yell ‘Beetle!’ Divide fifty avid Beetlers into tables of four and you have a cacophony of rattling dice and excited shouts. There’s no challenge – anyone can win or lose and it is strictly all ages. Your score is when you add up the value of your beetle’s body parts. Winners and losers move on to another table and you start all over again.
We played six rounds to Nicky’s whistle at four o’clock on a snowy afternoon and the occasion was hugely improved by the arrival of fifty two portions of fish and chips. You’d think something as simple as this would be less than satisfying. No, the inventor of this little game deserved a medal for providing us with such an atmosphere of noise, speed and dexterity. Let’s do it again!
Hungry Beetlers help themselves to delicious fish and chips
The Greatest Show on Earth, 19th and 20th January 2018
Three performances of the Christmas musical, The Greatest Show on Earth, by Michael Kirkup and Derek Hobbs chased away the January blues. The church was transformed into the circus big top and the March of the Gladiators announced the arrival of a ringmaster, trapeze artist, clowns and all the rest – the trapeze artist became the angel, the clowns the shepherds and Mary and Joseph were the cleaners who opened the show.
Roger’s Herod was a mafia guy and his sidekick, Luigi, wore a black patch over his eye and who carried a knife. There was thunder and lightning, stars in the church ceiling, and a video of two scribes singing an annoying little song about the prophets.
Our production was a miniature one, cleverly arranged by Jo. It was fast, energetic, and very tuneful, accompanied by keyboard, bass and percussion. In all, 300 in the audiences hissed the villain and guzzled the sweeties thrown at them by the clowns. It reminded us that Christmas was still with us for the rest of January, and this was a fitting celebration.
Next morning, the big top and the layout of the chairs remained for all age worship, which David Greenwood based on what Jesus told us about bullies, and the cast finally put the show to bed with a reprise of the opening chorus.
Our wholly-committed cast thank all who helped them to make this a great success, especially to Andrew and Nigel who worked tirelessly on the set, pictured above, and the innovative lighting and sound. We are also grateful for support from other local churches - in particular, Whitnash Methodist Church.
Click below to hear part of the finale:
Simply Carols, 15th December 2017
People dropped in and out to sing carols and to eat mince pies with their tea. In fact many stayed for the whole session which was somewhat of a marathon of no fewer than 22 carols and nearly 100 verses. It was a delightfully informal occasion.
At the Sunday morning service next day, Jemima Strain presented the complete nativity story through a similar number of carols, though this time there were never more than two verses – and through a lot of chocolaty puns and much throwing of chocolate bars round the church. They say that people remember events, not routine!
On Christmas Eve there was a Konect 4 event with yet more throwing, this time a Pass the Parcel with more chocolate and lines of prayers enclosed in the layers. We wished each other happy Christmas at midnight communion and next morning the children presented their presents with aplomb and the service ended with Graham Howe’s God gave a present.
So ended a memorable and lively year!
200 years of Methodism in Leamington Spa – Action for Children Christmas event
‘And Glory Shone Around’, Immanuel’s Ground West Gallery Quire,
13th December 2017
This famous group of costumed singers and instrumentalists originated in Warwick and has revived the traditions of singing in rural parish churches in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During an excellent evening, they performed no fewer than five versions of While Shepherds Watched. The link with the 200 years project was one Thomas Jarman who was sent to Portland Street in the nineteenth century to improve our Methodist singing. The instrumental treat was some fine bass playing from a real live serpent (see Google, ‘serpent instrument’ and see below to the director’s right).
Go to www.immanuelsground.com to find out all about the quire.
This was not the first time recently that Dale Street had seen ancient instruments – a week before the church resounded to a day's Christmas music workshop with a bass viol, a curtal and a sackbut.
An evening with Peter Mills, 25th November 2017
Peter was a local preacher at Dale Street for many years until moving to Oban where he is now a locum minister with the Church of Scotland. He returned to talk about the history of Leamington from its early days as a settlement at the south end of the present town, and how the various non-conformist groups built their churches as the place developed. As schisms happened and were healed, many of the churches were abandoned and the buildings were either changed into dwellings or factories, or were demolished. Our church started life in Barnacle’s Yard off Satchwell Street, a less salubrious part of the town. It is now buried under the Priors Shopping Centre. Then, as member ship grew, It transferred to a building in Portland Street, which still exists. Growth continued and a school was added until it was necessary to move again, this time to Dale Street where the new church was thought at the time to be too big. Ironically, when this church was demolished, the council expressed surprise that its replacement was so small!
The Portland Street Building
Peter illustrated his talk with many interesting details, such as the public tea-drinking meetings. Joseph Arch was a celebrated local preacher who held a meeting when the church in Portland Street became an assembly hall – he had not expected the number of people who attended, which appears to have been a record for its time.
The former Dale Street Church
There are still people who remember the last service here when the choir sang two anthems. The organ was preserved for use in the new church, although there was a new console and electronics. It was re-voiced to suit the new, smaller building.
On Sunday 26th November, Peter was the visiting preacher and marked ‘Stir up Sunday’ with the collect, ‘Stir up the wills of the faithful people to bring forth good works’. For the children he had a bowl and a wooden spoon and told them that it was stirred from East to West (like the journey of the wise ones). The thirteen ingredients represented Jesus and the disciples. The 5p coin was probably a health and safety risk so would be better as a pound coin!
This weekend was a happy and enthusiastic one, and the lively singing on both occasions helped to make it so.
Parade Service – Shoeboxes, 19th November 2017
The church was full of the uniformed organisations and their parents for this annual collection of presents contained in brightly decorated shoeboxes and destined for anywhere in the world.
Graham Howe introduced the proceedings with a quotation from Ecclesiastes, ‘Anything you can turn your hand to, do with what power you have’. Indeed the scouts had done just that, raising £900 for their charities in a sponsored swim. But wait a minute – what were cubs doing wearing seven dwarves’ masks? It was all about personalities, and we watched a video of the guides demonstrating different personalities in a very ordinary setting. Maybe like the dwarves we were hardly perfect (who was grumpy?) and we sang a song to Graham’s words about it. In the case of Snow White it did not matter because they all teamed up together to keep her safe. We watched as the scouts completed their team building challenge, making the shoeboxes into a wall.
Graham retold the Snow White story and showed how everyone, whatever their shortcomings as personalities, worked together for good. How did this fairy story relate to our life as a church? All our different personalities were there to make up the whole picture until, as Graham put it, our Prince, the Lord, came for his bride.
(Did you know? The number seven in the Bible indicates perfection.)
If you walked into the community room you would have seen tables brightly laid out for a meal of sausage pasta and macaroni cheese – and you would have heard frantic noises of excited children coming from the hall. Enter the hall and to your left there was a dark cave erected in one of the adjoining rooms – full of excited children. Around the hall were more tables with activities such as playing musical instruments, producing pictures of fires in a wind, or making faces with play dough. Suddenly the organised chaos came to an end and the children sat down with a remarkable degree of attention to listen to Roger telling (not reading) a story – and then the eating!
It was so well planned, and such a lot of work had gone into making it work. The Mums and Dads seemed to be having just as exciting a time as the kids.
Quiz night – an Action for Children support group event, 14th October 2017
Although the uniformed organisations held a quiz and pizza night at their AGM the day before, some 40 quizzers turned up to form 8 highly intelligent teams. Nothing daunted by dingbats, flags of Europe, questions about the Olympics, pictures of 35 celebrities and some dodgy fitting of football teams into a highly improbable story, Dale Street and their friends proved they were not just good- looking faces. Scores topped the hundred mark and the winners – the Selby family – scored a huge 131. It is worth noting that they also came second the night before. Team names included No idea, The Drifters, Quizzicles and the Misfits. Generation 3 were not the only team to field Grandparents, parents and grandyoungers. We were so keen that we carried on quizzing while we ate our pizzas and at the end, one Year 8 was heard to ask when the next quiz was going to be. Much praise to the Whitehead family who organised this high-quality mind teaser of an evening which raised over £250 for Action for Children.
200 years of Methodism in Leamington Spa
Songs of Praise Circuit service, Sunday 8th October
John Wesley tells us to ‘sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead or half asleep, but lift up your voice with strength’. So it was that a sizeable congregation came together to do what Methodists do famously, sing (in this case) ten mostly well-known hymns and songs.
Three of our local preachers chose readings from the Bible and explained what they meant to them, and Andy Laird closed the service by warning us to be active in spreading the light. He also referred to the Churches without Walls initiative that this circuit intends join in a year’s time.
Most of the songs were stalwarts of Methodism, which was appropriate since 200 years ago the notion of singing them was still modern, and many tunes were unashamedly secular. So at least one of the tunes, to Thine be the Glory, was written in the eighteenth century and the rest stretched through the ages as far as the present time, with two Townend and Getty songs and also Give thanks to the Lord our God and King. Just one, StF407, Hear the call of the Kingdom, was less well known and caused some interest owing to its crusading, rhythmic style.
People love to come together and sing, and maybe we should give ourselves the opportunity to do this more often. It was a good example of what fellowship means.
Celebration Barn Dance 23rd September 2017
What a great event! Nearly a hundred people danced to the Dan Bones Ceilidh Band with Dan’s proud father Pete as caller. The church was cleared (there would never have been enough room in the hall) and the celebrations overflowed into the Community Room. The children danced too, and then the fish and chips! The St Johns Fish Bar of Warwick certainly lived up to its reputation and supplied 92 portions – this was followed by apple crumble and ice cream. Since this was harvest, what better than our own mouse, a ‘wee, sleekit, cow’rin beastie’ taking cover behind a piano and after a good half hour of kindly poking, disappearing we knew not where?.
On Sunday the church was back to normal – no fishy smells – a big congregation heard about the many efforts of our uniformed organisations to serve in the community. With Konect4 in the evening It was a grand weekend.
Church Anniversary Sunday 17th September 2017
As part of our celebrations of 200 years of Methodism in Leamington Spa we welcomed the Reverend Ian Howarth, Chair of the Birmingham District and our Member of Parliament, Matt Western. Ian amazed the children (and most of the rest of us) with his two everlasting candles that represented the 200 years of Methodism and also the inextinguishable light of Christ. He spoke of the tradition of maintaining the light and not the ashes.
Coming so soon after Sam McBratney’s recent sermon, we were left in no doubt that the wind of change was blowing through Methodism.
Then we all trooped outside for a celebration photo with Rachel standing bravely in the middle of the traffic
and then to one of our traditions – an excellent bring-and-share lunch.