The Parish of Ponteland

2014 Events

We marked the Epiphany, the visit of the Magi to the Bethlehem, with a choral service on Monday 6 January. The choir sang Will Todd's 2011 composition "My Lord has come" and Benjamin Britten's "New Year Carol". This window is in St Matthew's church Newcastle.

Despite frost and possibly the lowest temperature of this winter so far, there was a good turnout for the talk on Saturday 11 January by Hannah Bayman – our local ‘weather girl’ from BBC Look North. She had come straight from the studio, but was quite unruffled and relaxed, giving us an interesting slant on her present post and earlier career. Initially, Hannah studied journalism, subsequently working in the Channel Isles, where she particularly enjoyed visits to the smaller islands of Alderney and Sark. After studying meteorology in Bristol, she had the chance to work in various parts of the country and chose to come back to her roots in the North East.

Hannah explained how the weather forecast was put together using national weather, radar and satellite maps. She also showed some fascinating slides displaying, among other things, the aurora borealis and a ‘horizontal rainbow’, plus an electric storm appearing to strike the Tyne Bridge, and electricity having a ‘hair-raising’ effect. Questions from the audience ranged from those about the Gulf Stream and about how the forecast had improved, to queries about Hannah’s working wardrobe. She answered all these in a relaxed, well-informed and charming manner.

The successful evening ended with wine and an extensive buffet; then we all went out into the horrible weather! The evening raised £840 for the work of the Children's Society.

(Report by Margaret Richardson, photo by Mike Brown).

We hosted the United Service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January, and were involved in the three lunchtime services. On Wednesday 29 January we started the first of a monthly series of Spirituality Talks. The Reverend John Gordon Clark led a session on St Francis. This window comes from a church in Alaska and shows Francis preaching to the animals (including animals he would never have seen in his native Italy).

On Candlemas, Sunday 2 February, we welcomed Canon Michael Hampel, the Precentor of St Paul's cathedral, to be our preacher. His sermon can be read here. Every member of the congregation had a candle, the choir started our worship with the carol by Robert Willis "In a world where people walk in darkness" and ended with a setting of the Nunc Dimittis by Paul Ritchie (who regularly plays the organ for us), and we celebrated together.

Peter our Vicar, had been off work for a few weeks following family bereavements. At the end of his first week back, he and Julie held Open House at the Vicarage in aid of the British Heart Foundation. A good number of people dropped in, £300 was raised, the kitchen was cleaner afterwards than it had been before, and there were enough cakes left over to sell after the Sunday service.

We have had very little snow this winter, but the snowdrops in St Mary's churchyard are as beautiful as ever.

A new Group for Ponteland was launched on Monday 24th February when the Mothers` Union returned to Ponteland after an absence of almost 50 years. We were delighted to have a special guest at our opening. Kitty Stredder a wonderful lady aged 103 joined us. Many years a M.U. member she is pictured with Anne Lloyd our Diocesan Finance Coordinator and Jennifer Snowdon our Diocesan President.

Our new branch members with Peter our Vicar and the M.U. Chaplain and standing between them Jennifer Snowdon our Diocesan President. Far right is Margret Robinson our West Deanery M.U. Leader. Sadly 2 ladies were unable to be admitted on the day as they were ill.

The next meeting is on Tuesday March 25th Lady Day service in St Mary`s at 10am followed by short meeting and coffee in the Church Hall small committee room.

Exploring Spirituality - 33 people came to our sessions about Little Gidding on Wednesday 26 February. A tiny hamlet in the middle of the Huntingdonshire countryside was home to Nicholas Ferrar and his family - they lived together as a community at the start of the seventeenth century. One of their visitors was George Herbert, priest and poet. In the 1930s T.S. Eliot visited too. Peter and Julie Barham told the story of these people, talked about Herbert's churches at Leighton Bromswold and Bemerton, and asked how our life (as individuals and a church) can be deepened by exploring their spirituality. This is the church at Little Gidding.

The churches in Ponteland worked together for a variety of events in Fair Trade Fortnight. There were coffee mornings at St Mary's, St Matthew's, and in Merton Hall. There were wonderful cakes, lots of fairly-traded goods, and the chance to add our voices to the continuing efforts to make our world a fairer place.

St Mary's was busy on Ash Wednesday. Half of Richard Coates Middle School (that's about 240 pupils plus staff) came to church first thing - we thought about our sin, our temper and our anger, and God's judgement, forgiveness and love. (The other half of the school had come on Shrove Tuesday morning). We have a service of Holy Communion every Wednesday morning, and usually have between 30 and 40 people. Today we had 52. In the evening a service of Choral Communion with the Imposition of Ashes had 32 people present - the choir sung a Litany for Lent, and Richard Farrant's motet "Hide not thou thy face from us, O Lord". The last three days have also seen services in Ponteland Manor, Grange Lea and Bradbury Court - part of the ministry to the residential homes in the village which we share with the other churches. Ponteland U3A are one of the many groups that meet in the Church Hall, and this afternoon Peter the Vicar had agreed to talk to them about "Why Vicars like steam trains". He hadn't noted the date when he said "yes" - but surely there is something appropriate about steam engines on Ash Wednesday.

Sunday 30th March was Mothering Sunday and we had a full church with the Brownies and Rainbows in attendance. Small bouquets of flowers were distributed to the all of the mothers in the congregation during the service.

On Saturday 4 April 113 people came together to sing Faure's Requiem from scratch. There were people from Alnwick, Newcastle, Hexham - some came as individuals, some with a group from their choir. They rehearsed for 3 hours in the afternoon, then performed a concert in the evening - with 70 in the audience. The day was led by Warren Smith, our Director of Music at St Mary's, and Paul Rudd played the organ. Our soloists were Hannah Barham and Tom Rowarth. The organisation was done by a small group, led by Eleanor Kenyon.£1200 was raised, which will be split between St Mary's Church and the West End Refugee Service.

On Palm Sunday a group walked from Richard Coates School, down Thornhill Road, to St Mary's with Jazz the donkey to commemorate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Those who couldn't manage the walk listened to the reading of the Passion Narrative in church - this is the story of Jesus' last week on earth. At Milbourne the congregation read the Passion Narrative together - eight different readers, three of them under 30 - and Charles was a wonderful Pilate. (Photo by Muriel Sobo).

During Holy Week we had a service of Compline every evening - Compline is the late night service of the monastery, a lovely quiet end to the day. We read the Passion Narrative from Luke's gospel, and linked them with the poems of George Herbert. The booklet is here, Peter's talks are here. A good number of people attended, and Herbert added a lot to our Holy Week.

On Maundy Thursday evening a communion service marked the Last Supper - Jesus' final meal with his disciples. At the end of the service, the lights are extinguished and the Altar is stripped - everything (communion vessels, candles, books, cloths) is removed. The congregation went home in silence, remembering Jesus and his disciples going out to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was arrested. Our Good Friday Choral Meditation was a quiet, thoughtful service. Then we joined members of the other churches in Ponteland to raise the cross on the Green outside. This photo (courtesy of Keith Robertson) shows church leaders and St Mary's choir after the service.

Easter Sunday was marvellous. Our churches looked beautiful, and were full for the main services. At St Mary's a congregation of almost 200 lit the Easter Candle, greeted the Risen Christ, celebrated the baptism of Megan, renewed their own baptismal promises, and took communion together. The service was enlivened by the calling of a paramedic - who looked a little shocked to be treating a patient while surrounded by the choir singing the Sanctus - we are glad to report that all was well. At Milbourne there were 70 people, including 10 children - just enough Easter eggs to go round.


On Sunday 27 April we had one service in the parish, and followed it with the Annual General Meeting. All the reports are here. Peter our Vicar was on Sabbatical for three months after Easter - you can read about his journeys at There were 75 services to be covered while he was away. Every person he had booked turned up - and on one Wednesday morning we had two retired clergy both expecting to celebrate Communion! Our thanks to everyone who helped.


Coffee Club had their annual outing on Wednesday 21 May. They explored St George's Church, Jesmond, a wonderful Arts and Craft church, in the company of Professor Richard Bailey. For more photos of this lovely church see


The annual Church Army Plant Sale and Coffee Morning took place on Saturday 24 May. £329 was raised. This year all our Summer Coffee Mornings (and we had one on 14 June for the Children's Society and 28 June for the Bible Society) were advertised in one leaflet as part of our Mission Action Plan.


On Tuesday 27 May the Mothers' Union visited Newcastle International Airport at the invitation of the Chaplain, Charlotte Osborn. 4.6 million people fly out of the airport every year, it employs 300 staff directly with another 13,500 linked jobs, and contributes around £650 million to the NE economy. Charlotte feels her role is to raise the level of awareness of God in a place not normally associated with this. She offers close support to staff and to members of the public, as she put it, using the tools of 'gaze' and 'conversation'. The Chaplaincy Room is used for prayer by members of all religions, for example Muslim taxi drivers, who have dropped passengers off at the Airport, will come in for their set times of prayers. We ended our visit with a service there, having been fascinated by a view of a part of our parish most of us have only travelled through.


Our Exploring Spirituality session on 28 May looked at the life of Julian of Norwich (1342-1416). She is widely regarded as one of the most important Christian mystics, as well as the first woman in England to have her writings published. In June we welcomed the Reverend John Gill from the Methodist Church to talk about the spiritual journey of John and Charles Wesley, and in July we looked at Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), a Benedictine monk who lived for many years in India. He promoted dialogue between East and West, especially between the Hindu and Christian traditions, and the practice of meditative prayer.


Ascension Day, Thursday 29 May, was celebrated with a Choral Communion at Holy Saviour, led by St Mary's choir.


On Sunday 8 June the Churches co-operated again to organise the most successful Ponteland Party in the Park. The main sponsor was Newcastle International Airport and the Town Council gave considerable support. Attendance was very good because of the fine weather. The attractions included Coates Middle School choir and orchestra, Ponteland Community Wind Band, Whistling Sheep and Ponteland Repertory Company. Jill Errington Dance School provided a display on the grass. The church service went well with the help of Coates Middle School. The Friends of the Park had a tent in the meadow and invited the Falconry Days. This was our twelfth year of Party in the Park and it is now a well-established event in the calendar. It was widely reported as a “good humoured” event in the Morpeth Herald, Hexham Courant and made the front page of Pont News and Views.

In June a regular monthly Prayer Meeting started for Churches Together. It meets on the first Monday of each month at 1.15 pm, in the Methodist Church. All are welcome. The ecumenical Searchlight Fellowship Group, which has met for many years at St Matthews, has now moved to St Mary's Church Hall, on Thursday evenings at 7.30 pm.

On Monday 23 June there was meal at "The Highlander" in aid of Vicky Hopley and her work at Mandritsara. Vicky emailed to say "It may well be warmer in Northumberland than it is in Mandritsara at the moment, where it is 20 degrees. Drums are beating and people dancing outside as this Thursday is the most important day of the Madagascan calendar - Fete Nationale (Independence Day), but people have already started celebrating. The market stalls are full of goodies (far more than at Christmas) and there are lots of geese and pigs for sale! ... Enjoy your meal, please raise a glass to Madagascar, now classed as the poorest country in the world that is not in conflict and say a prayer for the continued work of the hospital and church in Mandritsara."


The Parish weekend at Rydal Hall on 11 to 13 July was a super time. 25 people from both St Mary’s and Holy Saviour experienced sunny weather and enjoyed good fellowship. Friendships were renewed and strengthened, and a variety of activities were enjoyed: walking, croquet, and of course, the inevitable coffee shops. Many witnessed the ancient Grasmere ‘Rush Bearing’ procession and celebrations. Games and a quiz were organised in the evenings and Sunday morning saw many of the group enjoy worship with the regular congregation at Rydal Church.


On Sunday 20 July the plan was to sing a joint Choral Evensong with our choir and the choir of St Andrew's Corbridge, led by David the Vicar of Corbridge. Sadly we had hit the holiday season, and David was our only visitor! However 46 enjoyed a good service, and the wine afterwards was enjoyed too.


On Sunday 3 August we marked the start of the First World War with a Requiem Mass. Members of the church choir and visitors sung the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré, young people of the Army and Air Cadets attended the service, and the Mayor and members of the Town Council were also present. During the service the Mayor read the list of the 42 people from our village who died in the War and there was an act of remembrance. 143 people attended the service and many went back to the Hall for coffee afterwards.


On 10 August Holy Saviour was full for Choral Evensong sung by the Milbourne Singers. In a week which had seen two deaths in the village - one of a young person, another of a lady on her 100th birthday - it was good to come together as a community to hold them, each other, and the families of those who had died, in our prayers.


On Thursday 21 August a dozen people went to Choral Evensong at Hexham Abbey. The service was sung by 60 young people on an Eton Choral Course based in Durham - - the music was superb. It was lovely to see a group of committed, talented young people leading worship - our thanks to them. Peter was pleased when one of the young ladies leading the group came over and said "Hello, do you remember me?" He had prepared her for Confirmation seven years ago. After the service we went and had a meal at The Wellington in Riding Mill - with an extremely large piece of fish.

September's Railway Films were a little different. Peter our Vicar had researched the work of the Newcastle artist John Wilson Carmichael for his sabbatical, and talked about his life. He focused on his paintings and engravings with a railway theme - especially his work on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Line. You can see a slideshow of his paintings at 85 people attended and £220 was raised for the British Heart Foundation.

On Sunday 21st September we launched our new 'All Age Worship' service, to be held on the 3rd Sunday of every month. This first service was entitled Fresh Starts and it focused on Matthew and the fresh start he encountered when he decided to leave his old life to become a disciple and follow Jesus. We all considered how we would feel about making such a huge change in our lives and what obstacles would stand in our way. We looked at how we can implement fresh starts in more manageable and achievable ways and how we should try to embrace new beginnings with a positive and optimistic approach.

Our Harvest weekend was busy. On Saturday 27 September we worked with the local Macmillan group to hold a coffee morning in the Hall - £544 was raised to add to the total raised over the last few years. The church was beautifully decorated, and we welcomed visitors on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. On Saturday evening over 60 people came to a Harvest Supper and Quiz Night in the Hall raising £180 - and no one brought a camera. There were three services on Sunday - the evening service used the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, who we had studied in an Exploring Spirituality session earlier in the week.

Harvest Festival at Milbourne saw a packed church on Tuesday 29 September. St Mary's choir led the worship, two farmers read the lessons, and we went back to South East Farm for an excellent Supper.


On St Luke's Day, Saturday 18 October, we had a Healthy Church morning led by our friend and former Curate, Canon John Sinclair. He worked with us to think about the sort of church we want to be, encouraged us to celebrate what we have, and challenged us in the work that needs to be done. The morning will inform our Mission Action Plan and help us go forward.

The day after our Healthy Church Day our All Age Worship posed the question "MOT needed?" In this photo James is having his car checked by two testers (photo by David Butler, posted with parental permission).


Our Exploring Spirituality session in October was an exploration of World War One poets by Julie Barham. The theme continued on Sunday 26 October when, in the 10 am service, we remembered Lance Corporal John Wilkinson. He was serving with the Coldstream Guards and died in the trenches near Ypres on 29 October 1914 at the age of 24. He was the first man from Ponteland to loose his life in the War. Julie read Vera Brittain's poem "Perhaps" and the choir sang the Nunc dimittis by Paul Ritchie (with Paul playing the organ). Peter's sermon can be read here. As it was also Bible Sunday every member of the congregation was given a copy of John's Gospel, a reproduction by Scripture Gift Mission of the gospels given to the troops - more details at This material was used to make an exhibition in the Lady Chapel - material to help us think about the First World War.

Sunday 2 November was a busy day. Three lovely little lads were christened at the 10 am service - they were all extremely well behaved (as was the large congregation!). In the afternoon we welcomed 120 people to our annual All Souls' service - a service to commemorate those who have died. It is a quiet and reflective service. The names of those who have died in the last year (and any others requested) are read out, and everyone has the opportunity to light a candle. The choir sang a wide selection of music, and Peter preached the sermon - you can read it here.

The Church was full for Remembrance Sunday, and then several hundred people gathered at the War Memorial for a service organised by the Town Council led by the Ponteland Clergy. The Town Council had organised a weekend exhibition about our village's War-time links. It included this photo of The Reverend Augustine Hogg, who was a Dominican (Catholic) Chaplain. His father was the licensee of the Seven Stars. The photo was provided by Ponteland Local History Society. Our evening service watched a wonderful video from the children of Fair Isle School in Shetland who had researched those who went from island to War. You can see the video here

The Wartime theme continued with a talk about Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, "Woodbine Willie" in our Exploring Spirituality series. You can read it here, and the leaflet here.

November's All Age Worship service entitled "Clear Vision" set out to show how profound is the change that can be brought about by the team working in the Eye Hospital in Mandritsara. For £30 someone's sight can be transformed from not even being able to see the frogs in the toilet to being able to see fleas for the first time in years! Vicky explained how eye charts are used for those who cannot read - both children and adults. She showed a very moving video of Delia, a girl aged two who came into the hospital blind and left a couple of days later dancing with joy at her new found sight. We formed a Circle of Prayer with everyone linking hands, Vicky and her parents in the middle, so that we could surround them with our prayers. We finished with blessings read in English, French and Malagasy - the three languages that Vicky uses in the Good News Hospital Mandritsara.

The blurred and clear photos show typical before and after a cataract operation of someone in Mandritsara. The photo of Vicky with the eye chart and children is self-explanatory. The view over the roof tops of the hospitla shows a bit of the Mandritsara geography.

Vicky was our preacher on Advent Sunday, and then 40 of the congregation had lunch with her in the Church Hall. In the evening the choir sang the Advent Sequence.

On Advent Sunday the Church started reading Mark's Gospel, and we had an exhibition in the Lady Chapel. The pdfs of the material can be read here, Good News Gospel, Mark the Man and Reading Mark.

On Wednesday 3rd December Newcastle West Deanery hosted an Advent visit to the Cathedral. Transport was laid on to collect the attendees from various parishes and we were welcomed with a festive reception of Prosecco, soft drinks and mince pies. Following this we were taken on a heritage tour of the Cathedral before joining together for an evening supper of soup and sandwiches. We were then invited to learn about and discuss the plans for the upcoming development of the Cathedral. The evening ended with Compline and time for contemplation.

Year 5 at Richard Coates School, our Church School, have been working for the Archbishop of York's Youth Trust Award. Bishop Frank, the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, came on Friday 5 December to present them with their awards. The full story can be read in Pont News and Views

On Sunday 7 December we welcomed Tynedale Hospice at Home for their Light up a Life service. These services have taken place across Tynedale for several years, but this was the first time they had come to Ponteland. The service was led by the Reverend Janet Jackson, whose husband Michael was Vicar of Ponteland - it was lovely to welcome them back. The Hospice at Home - - does wonderful work, and we are glad to support them in this very special service of remembrance.

On Wednesday 10 December some of the children from the Cookery Club at Ponteland First School came to serve their mince pies to the congregation at the end of the staff. They (children and mince pies) were great.

(Photo posted with permission of the First School and the children's parents).

On Friday 12 December some families from the Children's Centre on Thornhill Road came for a Christmas service and explore of the church. Here some of them play with the Nativity set. (Photo posted with permission of the parents and the Children's Centre).

At the end of term, Irene Halliday retired after 32 years working with our Brownie Pack. You can read the full story here The Brownies did us a wonderful Nativity Play at our All Age Worship on 21 December.

On Christmas Eve we had our two Crib Services, at 3 pm and 4 pm. There was space at the first, but the second was standing room only - in all 100 more people than last year. The Carol Service at 7 pm is a traditional service of carols and readings led by St Mary's choir, and this was also standing room only. Midnight Mass had a good congregation and a strong choir of young people. On Christmas morning a good congregation celebrated the birth of our Saviour.

Holy Saviour, Milbourne, had a Carol Service on 21 December. One of the readers read the story of the Shepherds and the angels from her tablet - surely a first in the history of Milbourne. The church was full, with a wide age range. Christmas morning also saw a full church, and a celebration together.

The last Sunday of 2014 was quiet - as another year came to an end.





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