Friday, 2 July 2010

Cumbria Tour: Whitehaven (and Wigton)

We left Penrith for the beautiful drive across the top of the Lake District, stopping off for a walk and lunch at Mungrizedale (for those of you who care to know, the pie people have moved on, but the pub still does great pie). It was a lovely walk up behind Blencathra, although we almost lost Jonathan for a while up the side of the mountain.
After lunch we travelled on to Mirehouse, a very deprived estate on the edge of Whitehaven. It feels strange looking back on our visit to Cumbria, just before the tragic events that happened in the area days after we left - the bus crash and the shootings. Right in the centre of Mirehouse is a small green with a few shops, but also two churches, one of which is St. Andrew's Church, and their vicar Chris immediately stood out to us as someone full of the Holy Spirit and passion for Jesus. It is a long thin church, which presented a bit of a logistical challenge - fitting in a choir of 60+ and all of Sandy and Beth's technical equipment.

We left Sandy and Beth to it (at their request) and went to the seaside at St. Bees. Bill went for a swim and the rest of us threw stones at a milk carton. Then of course there was the usual tea drinking and cake eating.

In the evening we had a rehearsal with the choir which was really exciting as there were a group of 15 kids from St. Joseph's RC church in Whitehaven. They were really enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy it. Overall the effect was a wonderful Mirehouse choir with lots of power and enthusiasm trained by Angela. The altos, tenors and basses were a little outnumbered however by sopranos and children!

The next day we travelled to Wigton - about a 45 minute drive away. Wigton had put their own performance of Wildfire on a couple of weeks earlier as it wasn't possible to fit them in to the tour. We had lunch with the Ferriby's, who were the mainstay of the Wigton performance. It was great to be able to see them and share with them, and after lunch we held a meeting at Wigton Methodist Church - there were 30-40 people there, which was fantastic for a weekday. Roger did his talk on using musicals in evangelism and ministry, so hopefully they will take and use some of what they had heard in future.

We travelled back to Mirehouse and bullied Chris and Jane Casey into taking a couple of extras for dinner in the form of Roger and Ann. We then headed to the church for a brief pre-performance rehearsal only to find the audience arriving an hour early. It was so amazing - an incredible sense of anticipation.

After a brief rehearsal Roger led a prayer time. He had asked the kids from St. Josephs to bring a candle, which was a lovely touch, and it was a fabulous prayer time which was interrupted every now and again by people bringing in extra chairs for the audience.

It was absolutely crammed in the church when we went back in, and the soloists discovered their performing space had been taken over completely by wheelchairs - some improvising was needed! It was a fantastic evangelism opportunity, and some asked for prayer while others took Why Jesus leaflets. Roger and Chris found themselves greeting each person on the door in turn like a wedding lineup, and the comments were incredibly positive. Several people mentioned to rev Chris that they'd be at church on Sunday, and Roger was encouraged by someone mentioning to him that their life had been completely changed by the finale of Snakes and Ladders at the Bescot Stadium all those years ago.

What a fantastic evening - standing room only - and not even any standing room left! There were people sat on the organ seat as well as standing in the entrance porch.
An hour to go...
Time to begin!

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