A place of identity

The North Northumberland Mission Partnership (NNMP) was the almost final place on my Moderator itinerary. NNMP consists of six churches – one a church worshipping in two places – spread over a beautiful and quiet corner of these islands of ours. This was a five day visit and I will add to the blog over the next three days. The theme which ran through all my visits was one of identity – this is an area where identity is important, no doubt partly the result of a history of being a border land where skirmishes and full scale battles between the Scots and the English are a part of the history, where indeed, the border moved from time to time.

Flodden Monument

Flodden Monument

It was against this background that my first visit was set. I went to the village and United Reformed Church in Crookham where I was to help to open a Peace Garden. Crookham is only a few miles from Flodden the scene of a historic and violent battle between the English and the Scots in 1513. The loss of life was appalling, in just a few hours more than 10,000 were killed. 2013 is the 500th anniversary of the battle but the PeaceGarden is not about celebrating the battle – it is about promoting peace. The intention is that the church, which the garden surrounds, should become a Peace and Reconciliation Centre with a speaker programme, working in conjunction with BradfordUniversity’s Department of Peace Studies. The church was well filled for the opening ceremony with explanations from the garden designer, the vision from Dave Herbert, the minister of the church and a talk from a local poet, Noel Hodgson. It was good to hear too about the co-operation across the borders of the two countries and across the United Reformed Church with the joint involvement at Crookham of Mary Taylor a United Reformed Church minister based in the Synod of Scotland. Everyone went outside to see the garden and a first for me, of cutting

Cutting the ribbon!

Cutting the ribbon!

the ribbon to open the garden!

The Clash, Conflict Erupts

The Clash, Conflict Erupts

The design of the garden takes you on a journey, colours designate the different areas. Black to indicate gathering storms where anger, fear and repression reign. Red for confrontation, grey for loss, white and gold for conciliation and finally The Garden of Renewal where despite the mess we make of it all, nature redeems us. Though we are also reminded

The Garden of Renewal

The Garden of Renewal

that we have responsibilities, nature cannot do it alone.

Tea followed with the lively sharing of news amongst locals and visitors from other churches in the partnership.

In the evening there was another first for me. The opportunity to sit in on a TLS group based in Belford and to join in discussions about the Servant Songs and what Isaiah might be saying to us about church today. I knew of the time and commitment required of TLS students and I have seen how people grow in faith and confidence as a result of their involvement but it was so good to get this first hand glimpse of the work in progress and I was grateful for their generosity in allowing me to join them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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