Let me begin with a confession: I knew very little of the village of Halton until I was asked to celebrate communion and preach at Halton United Reformed Church (November 4, 2012). As is usual, I wanted to know more about the area in which the church is located. I was fortunate to be hosted by Angela and John Blowes who provided hospitality from Saturday evening in their delightful historic cottage. John (husband of Angela the church secretary), who picked me up from Lancaster train station, started my historical induction with an “express tour” of Lancaster Castle and the history of Halton which continued around the dining table and late into the evening with other guests.
I learnt that Halton is a village dating back way back into the 11th century with some evidence of a Norman motte and bailee castle present in the village nearby the banks of the river Lune. Tradition has it that the cross standing in the churchyard of St. Wilfreds is believed to have been carved by Norsemen over 1000 years ago. Also, coins attributed to Canute now in the British museum, were discovered on Halton Moor in 1918. Even the remains of a Roman altar were discovered in Halton. Its later history includes 19th century textile mills especially given the water power of Lune. John Blowes, an engineer, and engineer who specialises in harnessing energy from water, was an ideal tour guide for me – which continued with an early Sunday morning walk before I journeyed on to Halton United Reformed Church.
It was the anniversary service of Halton URC and I shared in a service of table and word with the Revd Yolande Burns whose other charges include Bolton-le-Sands and Hest bank. Some members of Hest Bank were also present. It was a very well attended service which included many children and young people. These were animated young people, very much involved into the worship life of the congregation. I was impressed with their reporting back (from church school) their discussions on the theme of “gladness and generosity” around which the whole service was shaped. The table fellowship (communion) in which all (adults, children and young people) shared, continued as the sacramental dimension of meals was extended to the community table meal which included a generous choice of homemade soups, rolls, and plenty conversations.
Among the memories of this visit that will remain with me are: a very warm group of people exuding warm hearts; the children and young people who seemed very much at home in church, staying on way after everything came to an end, and who had no electronic gadget in their hands; the lively and delightful singing of the congregation; the keen interest shown by many about what a moderator of General Assembly does (especially our visits); an awareness of the need for change in what it means to be church today; and a loaf of bread specially baked for the communion service and which I would place as the most tasty communion bread I shared in, ever since I journeyed from Curacao to the United Kingdom. Halton United Reformed Church does not think of its future: this community is actually doing something about it! The Christian faith is much alive here!