December 6th

Our first Sunday back after lockdown was December 6th when we held a Service of Lessons and Carols. This was very different this year as the Carols were on powerpoint and the Minister read the Lessons.

The Minister also conducted a Service of Carols, Nativity and Communion at Affetside Church on the same afternoon.


December 13th

This was our Nativity Service. Again, this was very different from the usual format with Alan reading the Nativity Story from Scripture and all of us watching a moving 15 minute video entitled The Christ Child. This combined with video carols and seasonal prayers was nevertheless a meaningful experience by all accounts.

December 20th

An enjoyable Service of Readings and Carols was conducted by Christine and Lynn.

December 27th

A short Service to mark the last Sunday of the Old Year was led by Lynn.

We thank Christine and Lynn for their conduct of our worship.



Just as there was some confusion around Tier 4and churches, so too with the latest lockdown. However, the advice regarding churches has not changed.  See below, an extract from the Government`s own website:


Places of Worship

You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times. 

You should follow the National Guidance on the Safe Use of Places of Worship.

One paragraph from those guidelines is worth highlighting as it relates to both the use of our Church and Hall for worship and is part of our own Risk Assessment for both spaces:

Introducing a one-way flow in and out of the premises with appropriate floor markings or signage, with restrictions on accessing non-essential areas. 

At the end of worship, this could include worshippers leaving one row at a time, in order to prevent crowding at entry or exit points.

In the Hall there is one way in and one way out, as defined in the Risk Assessment.

In Church, there is a requirement to vacate the room one row at a time, staring at the rear, in accordance with the Risk Assessment.

Failure to observe the guidance in the Risk Assessment means that the church is at risk of losing its Covid Secure status.



The First Sunday of 2021  was a Communion Service and marked the Feast of The Epiphany. 

It was led by the Minister. Our Opening Praise was the Epiphany Hymn "As with gladness, men of old." The Gospel reading was Matthew 2 vs. 1-12, the Visit of the Magi. Alan spoke of the star that led the Wise men and how that just as it was bad news for Herod, so it is good news for us and all in need of God`s grace and help. 

The Communion Deacons were Christine and John.

The Closing praise was another Epiphany Hymn "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning."

The service ended with A Christmas Blessing by Philip Stopford.



The Minister made a public appeal for portable gas heaters on Facebook, using his own page and those of Churches Together as well as Walkden Community. 

He is pleased to report that we have received two additional heaters and cylinders from local residents Joyce Colins and Peter Shorrocks.

We are very grateful for these generous gifts and have already put them to good use in the Community Hall. 



Alan was pleased to be part of an online video call on January 5th between representatives of Churches Together in England and ecumenical leaders from the North West of England, including Churches Together bodies in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire.

Alan was wearing two hats on the day as he is a President of Greater Manchester Churches Together as well as a member of Churches Together in England`s Enabling Group.



For a number of years now the Minister has been using a free website provided by BT for charities and other voluntary organizations. While it has been free and relatively easy to set up, it has had a number of serious and frustrating flaws.

One in particular has been the Gallery where it has been nearly impossible to upload new photos on any kind of regular basis. 

However Alan achieved a minor success recently and was able to upload two pics; one of the Sunday we re-opened for worship on July 19th 2020, which shows people gathering before worship and the other of himself and the harvest loaf he baked for our Harvest Festival on Sunday October 18th 2020.

For those who follow the Sunday Prayers week by week, the prayers for January 2021 now have a page of their own.

BT is ending its free service in May this year, so Alan is looking at other options so that we can continue with an online presence.



The Minister participated in the latest Ecumenical Coronavirus Roundtable Zoom Conference on Monday January 11th. This is organized by Churches Together in England but includes representatives from the Churches in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It is an opportunity to reflect on the latest information, both from denominations and government. Obviously there was discussion on the current lockdown and how that unlike last march, Places of Worship are unaffected. 



We were fewer in number than usual but still in the teens, for our worship for the Second Sunday in Epiphany. It was good to welcome new worshipper Lee, on his second Sunday with us, as well as familiar faces both old and new.

Alan had chosen to use the Gospel reading for the previous Sunday, The Baptism of Christ, Mark 1 vs 1-13 and our theme was "What next?".

The Opening Praise was "Lord for the years". The Lord`s Prayer was The Millennium Prayer version by Sir Cliff Richard. This was chosen as the tune Auld Lang Syne is appropriate for a new year.

Alan`s talk looked at how immediately after the spiritual high of Jesus` baptism he was led into the wilderness to share company with wild animals.

After the high of Christmas, we find ourselves in the anticlimax of January and a January of lockdown and anxiety. Yet, Jesus learnt that he was beloved of the Father and that he would never be left alone, no matter how challenging the circumstances. That is the lesson we need to take to heart in coming weeks and months.

The Closing Praise was the Gospel hymn "I know who holds tomorrow", a song of faith which reminded us that although we face an uncertain future, we can affirm that "many things about tomorrow, I don`t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand."

The service ended with a rendition of The Doxology.

The 3 additional gas heaters were in in action this week and contributed to a less cold environment.



On Tuesday January19th, Alan chaired an online meeting of the CF North West Area Executive. 

Reports were received on behalf of the Treasurer, Youth & Children`s Worker, Pastoral Care Coordinator, and CF Council representative.

Applications from churches for grants were discussed and approved.

Various Executive members reported back on the area churches with which they have been in contact.

Plans were discussed for the next Area Assembly and forthcoming Executive meetings, all of which will be online for the forseeable future.

The next Area Executive will be held on the 2nd of March.



We ask that you remember the following people in your prayers. 

The family of the late David Harrison

The family of the late Marjorie Simmons

The family of the late Sheila Taylor

Dorothy Coxon

Elizabeth McDonald

and all in any kind of need known to you.

"Father, Thou art very near us,  

Well we know that Thou dost hear us,

 And dost answer ere we call: 

May the prayer of faith now heal us, 

May the vision true reveal us 

One with Thee and Thou our all in all."



Alan participated in an online meeting of the National Ecumenical Officers of Churches Together in England, on Thursday January 21st. 

The meeting was chaired by Hillary Treavis of the Baptist Union and was attended by representatives of many denominations and networks of churches including the Congregational Federation.

Topics ranged from Charity Law with regards to Churches, through the Climate, Human Sexuality & Faith and Inter-Communion to Covid, among other things. 

It had been a year since we last met physically, in person rather than online but we are hoping to be able to meet properly for our June meeting which is planned for the Salvation Army Headquarters, London in June.


The Minister participated in a regular Ecumenical 

Coronavirus Roundtable online on January 25th.


The Minister visited the family of the late Arthur Paul Brookes on January 25th with regards to a funeral on February 2nd at Eccles Congregational Church and Peel Green Crematorium.


The Minister conducted the funeral of the late Arthur Paul Brookes at Eccles Congregational Church on February 2nd followed by Committal at Peel Green Crematorium.


The Minister participated in a regular Ecumenical Coronavirus 

Roundtable online on February 8th.



We regret to announce the death of Sheila Taylor, who with her husband Donald, were active and faithful members of our church for many years.

We extend our sympathies to Donald and to their sons, Peter and Stephen and their families and to her cousin Audrey and her sister-in-law, Betty.

The funeral took place on Friday March 19th at 12 noon, The Vale Crematorium, Pershore, Evesham.


"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be nor more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." 

Revelation 21 vs. 4




We were pleased to welcome both old regulars and new regulars to our Communion Service for the First Sunday in Lent.

The Opening Praise was the Lenten hymn, "On Jordan`s bank, the Baptist`s cry", which reflected the Gospel reading from Mark about Jesus` baptism and subsequent temptations.

The Gospel was Mark 1 vs. 9-15.

Alan`s talk picked up on the mention in Mark 1 vs 13b of angels in the wilderness ~ "and the angels waited on Him." God sends angels to us in our wilderness experiences but not necessarily the white robed and feathered variety. Often they are ordinary fellow human beings who share something of God`s love and grace just when we need it most. We too are called to be angels to others in their desert experiences.

The Communion Servers were Charlotte Harrison and the Minister.

The Closing Praise was "When we are tested and wrestle alone" which again reflected the theme of the reading, ending as it does with the lines,

"Saviour, surround us with circles of care                                 

Angels of healing, of hope and of prayer."

Following The Blessing, the Vesper was an unaccompanied 4-part setting of The Aaronic Blessing, "The Lord bless you and keep you."




The Minister participated in an online meeting of the Governors of Northern College (United Reformed and Congregational) on Friday February 12th.

The Minister participated in an online meeting of the Presidents of Greater Manchester Churches Together on Monday February 15th.

The Minister conducted the funeral of the late Joan Rawlins at Affetside Congregational Chapel followed by Committal at Overdale Crematorium, Bolton on Friday February 19th.

The Minister continues to post out a weekly Minister`s Letter, Lectionary Prayers and a Lectionary Poem to those who requested to stay on the mailing list. The readings and prayers are also added to the church website which is updated every week.

The Minister continues to contact members by phone on the list shared with deacons Dorothy Tomkinson and Christine Potter.



The Minister would like to express his sincere thanks to those members and deacons who sent get well wishes either online, by text or phone call during his recent self-isolotaion following a positive Covid19 test.




  • From 8 March, all pupils in England's schools are expected to return to class, with mass testing and wider use of facemasks in secondary schools and care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor provided that he or she is tested and wears PPE. 

The “Stay at Home” requirement will remain, but people will be able to leave home for recreation outdoors, such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support.

• From 29 March, groups of up to six people or two households will be allowed to gather in parks and gardens. 

The “Stay at Home” requirement will end, but many lockdown restrictions will remain (for example, people should continue to work from home where possible, and overseas travel will remain banned other than for a small number of reasons).

  • From 12 April, shops, hairdressers, gyms, outdoor hospitality and self-contained holiday accommodation may be able to reopen. There will be no need for customers to order a “substantial meal” (even a Scotch egg) with alcohol, though customers must order, eat and drink while seated. 

Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to15 (from 6).

• From 17 May, two households or a group of six may be able to meet indoors in a pub or other hospitality venue and cinemas, museums, hotels, performances and sporting events will also reopen. Most social contact rules will be lifted, though gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal. 

As well as funerals, up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes. Other life events that will be permitted include bar mitzvot and baptisms.

• From 21 June it is hoped that all legal limits on social contact will be removed, with the final closed sectors of the economy, such as nightclubs, reopened. 

The Government states that ‘This will also guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.’


From The Churches` Legislation Advisory Service 

forwarded by the Congregational Federation.



We continue to welcome a faithful band of old and new faces to worshIp.

Our Opening praise was a metrical version of Psalm 84 "How lovely is Thy dwelling place" which celebrates worship in the temple.

The gospel was from John chapter 2 verses 13 to 22, the story of "The cleansing of the Temple". In his talk, Alan reminded us that Jesus anger was justified and that anything that gets in the way of our worship of God is a distraction and needs to be driven out.

The Sacrament of the Lord`s Supper was served by the Rev Kennedy and deacon Charlotte Harrison.

The Closing Praise "Christ is made the sure foundation" reminded us that Christ is the centre and basis of our worship.

The vesper was a setting of the Doxology



The Minister chaired a meeting of the North West Area Executive on Tuesday March 1st, the main topic being the forthcoming online Area Assembly on Saturday March 27th.

The Minister conducted worship and celebrated Communion at Affetside Congregational Church on Sunday afternoon, March 7th.

The Minister participated in a regular online Coronavirus Ecumenical Roundtable on Monday March 8th.

The Minister made a pastoral visit to Rachel Pendlebury in Irlam on Monday March 8th in connection with the funeral of the late Mary Walton Pendlebury.

The Minister participated in a two-day online conference of the Enabling Group of Churches Together in England, on Thursday and Friday March 11th and 12th.

The Minister conducted the funeral of the late Mary Walton Pendlebury at Agecroft Crematorium on Monday March 15th.

The Minister participated in an online session as part of the Continuing Ministerial Development program on Wednesday March 17th. The session was led by the CF Learning and Development Manager, Rev Dr Walter Riggans.

The Minister participated in an online meeting of the Church Support Committee of the Congregational Federation, on Saturday March 20th. Alan serves on this committee not only as the representative for the NW Area but as Chairman of the Inter Church Board.

The Minister continues to post out a weekly Minister`s Letter, Lectionary Prayers and a Lectionary Poem to those who requested to stay on the mailing list. The readings and prayers are also added to the church website which is updated regularly.

The Minister continues to contact members by phone on the list shared with deacons Dorothy Tomkinson and Christine Potter.



We were pleased to see an increase in attendance on recent weeks and to welcome back Michelle after her hospitalization with Covid.

The text for this Sunday, from this week`s Gospel reading, was John 12 vs.24 "...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Our Opening Praise was the hymn "In the bulb there is a flower" by Natalie Sleeth.

The Lord`s Prayer this week was from a recording by Susan Boyle.

The Gospel reading was John 12 vs. 20-33, with the text coming from verse 24. Alan spoke about the paradox of dying as a pathway to life, looking at the example of the salmon which travels many miles back to its old hatching ground, where it spawns and then dies. Jesus calls to us to die to self if we are to find the pathway to a more fulfilled life. Only as we die to self and live for Christ, can we be said to be truly living.

Our Closing Praise was the appropriately entitled hymn "Unless a grain of wheat" by Sister Bernadette Farrell SJ.

In acknowledgement of St Patrick`s Day on March 17th, the Vesper was a version of An Irish Blessing sung by The Priests.



We regret to announce the death of Marjorie Simmons who was a regular supporter of the Saturday Coffee Morning and an occasional attendee at worship.

Marjorie`s funeral was held at Howe Bridge Crematorium on April 7th.

We extend our deepest sympathies to her daughters and their families at this time.

The Minister joined Marjorie`s friends; Doris, Pat, Rose and Joan outside Marjorie`s home on Whittle Street on April 7th to pay respects as the funeral cortege collected members of the family on their way to Howe Bridge.



We were pleased to see a higher turnout for our Palm Sunday worship on March 28th.

The service began with Palm Sunday Responses and the Opening Praise, "Ride on, ride on in majesty".

The Reading was Mark 11 verses 1-11, the story of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 

Alan`s talk looked at the fickleness of the crowd which on this day shouted  "Hosanna" and days later cried "Crucify". We too can be swayed by the crowd or distracted form the right path by other negative influences. We need to be on our guard and seek at all times to do what Christ would have us do.

Our Closing Praise was the rousing Palm Sunday hymn, "All glory , laud and honour".

The service ended with another set of congregational responses, sending us out into Holy Week in faith and trust.

The Vesper was a solo rendition of the hymn "God be with you till we meet again" from First Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.



There was the best turnout ever for Good Friday including young families. 

The Opening praise was a choral rendition of the hymn "There is a green hill far away". 

The hymns were interspersed with appropriate prayers.

The scripture reading was from Mark 15:21-41.

The hymn "Were you there when they crucified my Lord" was accompanied by a video vividly recalling the events of Holy Week.

The third hymn, "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me" rendered movingly by BYU Vocal Pont in a dramatic set portraying the Temple, also included video representation of the last days of Jesus.

The last hymn was a solo, "When I survey the wondrous cross" set to the haunting folk tune "O Waly, Waly" rather than the traditional "Rockingham".

Our service ended with prayer.



The Minister was involved in recording reports and items for the online North West Area Assembly, to be held March 27th.

The Minister was also involved in collating and preparing reports on behalf of the Inter Church Board for the CF National Assembly in May. These reports had been requested in advance by the General Secretary.

The Minister led the live online afternoon session of the NW Area Assembly on Saturday March 27th at 2pm. Alan was pleased to welcome Rev Suzanne Knockles, CF Joint President, to speak to us about the publication "Christ in all things".

The Minister led a Service for Good Friday on April 2nd. This was the best turnout we have ever had and included two young families. We reflected on scripture and hymns, with appropriate prayers and dramatic videos recalling the events of Holy Week in the life of Jesus.

The Minister led our Easter Sunday Communion with the largest number yet since the beginning of the pandemic. It was good to welcome back those who had been shielding or self isolating.

The Minister led a Communion Service at Affestside on Easter Sunday afternoon with a very good turnout of adults and children. The children left for a Sunday School session and at the conclusion of the service, returned to church for the awarding of prizes for their Easter Colouring-In Competition. The adults received bunches of daffodils to take home.

The Minister continues to post out a weekly Minister`s Letter, Lectionary Prayers and a Lectionary Poem to those who requested to stay on the mailing list. The readings and prayers are also added to the church website which is updated regularly. 

The Minister continues to contact members by phone on the list shared with deacons Dorothy Tomkinson and Christine Potter.




We were pleased to see an almost full hall for Communion on Easter Sunday, including all ages from 8 weeks old to mid 90s!

Our Opening Praise was the Easter Hymn, "Christ the Lord is risen today", with the organ, choir orchestra and congregation of First Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Gospel was John 20 vs. 1-18.

Alan`s sermon reflected on the 3 different responses of Mary, Peter and John in the reading to the empty tomb. Not everyone "saw and believed" immediately but they came to faith in their own  way and in their own time. John`s gospel did not judge them. So too with us today. Our faith may be far form perfect but God does not judge us. Easter reminds us that God has the final word and that word to us is one of love and liberation.

The Communion Deacons were Dorothy and Christine.

Our Closing Praise was "Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son", followed by a Blessing and a Sevenfold Amen.

After the Blessing we listened to the hymn "Because He lives" as we prepared to take our leave, encouraged by the good news of Easter.



It was good to welcome people to worship on such a bright Sunday morning with the sun streaming in through the windows.

Our Opening Praise was the hymn "I serve a risen Saviour", which Alan explained was  one sung often at his home church and not necessarily just an Easter hymn.

Our Gospel reading was from Luke 24 vs 36b to 48 and dealt with further post- resurrection appearances by Jesus to the disciples. 

The passage was looked at in terms of;

Encounter, Explanation, Eating, Enlightenment and Exit.

The first witnesses to the resurrection weren`t believed and none of them were perfect examples of faith. So too with us.    We are still called to be witnesses                       

despite our faults and failings.

The Closing Praise was a new hymn to a beautiful tune,

"Faith overcomes. The light of Christ is shining".

After The Blessing we listened to a rousing rendition of the old hymn "Low in the grave he lay" with the triumphant refrain "Up from the grave He arose!"



We remember in our prayers the family of the late David Harrison, father of Spencer. We think of Spencer and Charlotte, Louis and Oliver and wish them God`s peace and comfort.



It was good to see some more familiar faces back in worship.

The theme of the service was taken from this week`s Gospel reading "I am the vine and you are the branches".

The Opening Praise was the hymn "We are His Church" which included the lines, "We have been panted here by His design, to bear Him fruit".

The Lord`s Prayer, a setting by Malotte,  was brought to us by Boys` Aloud.

The Gospel was John 15 vs. 1-8 "I am the vine and you are the branches."

Alan reminded us that the relationship between ourselves and the Lord is vitally important but so is the relationship between each of us as fellow branches. Our interconnectedness is our strength. We cannot survive on our own as a disconnected branch.

The Closing Praise was the hymn, "I am the vine and ye are the branches".

The Vesper was "You are the vine and we are the branches."



The Minister joined church members and friends of the late Marjorie Simmons outside her home on April 7th, to pay his respects as her cortege paused on its way to Howe Bridge Crematorium.

The Minister opened-up at church on April 16th to allow access for the fire extinguisher company to carry out an inspection.

The Minister was happy to welcome back Mums & Tots for their first session back on April 19th.

The Minister chaired a meeting of the Deacons at church on April 19th.

The Minister chaired an online meeting of the CF NW Area Executive on April 20th.

The Minister conducted a Communion Service at Affetside Congregational Church on May 2nd.

The Minister participated in an online meeting of the Ecumenical Coronavirus Roundtable on May 10th, hosted by Churches Together in England.

The Minister has continued to provide a weekly Minister`s Letter and Sunday Prayers to those on the Mailing List, update the church website and undertake pastoral visits.


Worship on May 16th marked Ascenion Day, which was the previous Thursday.

The Opening Praise was "Crown Him with many crowns".

The readings were Luke 24 vs. 44-end and Acts1 vs 1-11.

In his sermon, Alan acknowledged that the Ascension raises more questions than it answers but neverthless pointed us to some encouraging truths. Jesus hasn`t ascended upwards physically so much as forwards spiritually.

He has ascended to the future and therefore goes ahead of us, so there is nowhere that we can go that Jesus has not been already.

Our Closing Praise was "Christ is alive! Let Chrsitians sing". The Vesper was "hail the day that sees Him rise". 


Worship on May 23rd marked Pentecost Sunday.

The Opening praise was "Spirit of God, unseen as the wind".

The reading was form Acts 2 vs. 1-21. 

In his sermon, Alan looked at fire as one of the many symbols of the Holy Spirit. We are called to be "keepers of the fire"        and to ensure its spread across our community and world. Alan ended with a quotation from one of Charles Wesley`s hymns on the theme of Pentecost,

"O that all might catch the flame!"

The Communion Deacons were Charlotte and Dorothy.

The Closing Praise was "Breathe on me breath of God" and the vesper was "Spirit of the living God, fal afresh on me."


The Opening Praise was "God, we gather as your people" with the rousing refrain, 

"Oh, may our hearts and minds be opened,

fling the church doors open wide.

May there be room enough for everyone inside.

For in God there is a welcome,

in God we all belong.

May that welcome be our song."

This was the theme of our worship, the reading being Mark 3 vs. 20 to the end, where Jesus asks the question "Who are my mother and my brothers?"

In his sermon Alan looked at the concept of family, how Jesus pushed the boundaries and how we are called to a ministry of welcome.

Newly elected Deacons, Pat Varley and Lynn Dolan were formally welcomed and installed with a Prayer of Dedication. Pat and Lynn`s first duties were to serve as our Communion Deacons.

The Closing Praise was "Let us build a church where love can dwell" with the refrain

"All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place."

The Vesper was the Doxology. 


The Minister participated in an online Day Conference of the governors of Northern College (United Reformed & Congregational) on May 14th.

The minister swapped roles with Chris Lawton, visiting organist

at Affetside Chapel, to allow Chris to lead worhsip and preach on Sunday May 16th.

The Minister chaired a meeting of the Deacons at church on May 19th.

The Minister has been in contact with the church`s insurance brokers to pursue a claim for `loss of income` due to the pandemic. The Congregational Federation has encouraged churches to do this as some congregations have been able to claim back thousands of pounds. We await the outcome.

The Minister conducted worship at St Andrew & St George`s United Reformed Church Bolton on May 30th.

The Minister repainted the living room and hall of the manse

during the week beginning May 31st.

The Minister welcomed and formally installed our new Deacons, Lynn and Pat during worship on June 6th.

The Minister conducted a Communion Service at Affetside Chapel on Sunday afternoon June 6th.

The Minister attended a meeting of Churches Together in Walkden and District, at Bethany Church on June 7th.

The Minister represented the Congregational Federation at an online meeting of National Ecumenical Officers on June 11th.

The Minsiter conducted worship and played the organ at Wharton & Cleggs Lane Church on June 13th. This was Alan`s first visit to the new church building.

The Minister has continued to provide a weekly Minister`s Letter and Sunday Prayers to those on the Mailing List, update the church website and undertake pastoral visits.