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Our newsletter, Tidings, is published 10 times a year to be available at the beginning of each month but, to give the editor a break, there are no January or August editions.  It is circulated to members and friends of three churches, namely Longbenton Methodist Church, West Moor Methodist Church and St. Andrew's Church (Methodist and United Reformed) at a cost of 40 p a copy.  Rev. Alison Wilkinson is the minister for Longbenton until the end of 2018 when she will be replaced by Rev. Janet Jackson.  Rev. Gavin Hume is the minister for the other two churches.

Here are some items from the December 2018/January 2019 issue, beginning with letters from Alison Wilkinson and Gavin Hume.

Dear Friends

Have you ever wondered what it was like for the donkey which tradition tells us carried Mary to Bethlehem?

I guess not. In fact this isn’t a clever preacher’s trick to make you think about the Christmas story from a new angle! It would be somewhat missing the point to invest all your time and energy contemplating the supporting act, and not to focus on the babe in the manger.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we out-Scrooge Scrooge, and say “Bah! Humbug! You aren’t doing it correctly,” to all those who invest so much in the trimmings of Christmas and miss the best gift of all.

Instead I’m saying that those of us who know the wonder and joy of the Christmas message need to celebrate with all

the enthusiasm and joy that greeted baby Jesus on that first Christmas

night; and, as we celebrate, let us invite others to do so too. I don’t believe the heavenly hosts who surprised the shepherds were in any way “going through the motions” or “not too bothered”. They were so overjoyed to declare their message that nothing could hold them back!

We are still some weeks away from most of the Christmas services to be held in our churches. Maybe now is the time to ponder, “Whom could I invite to come?”  

Not because you are trying to convert them, but instead because the message and joy of Christmas are just too good to NOT share. Wouldn’t it be great to have to get out extra chairs or squeeze a few more into the pews? Even if we don’t sound like a choir of heavenly angels, at least we could have some of their undoubted enthusiasm!

May the joy and peace of Christmas overflow from our hearts to all our friends and neighbours. 

Peace and Blessings this Christmas.

With my love and prayers for you all,



Dear Friends

I can still picture in my mind the Advent calendar I used to have as a child. The same one every year of course, and only pictures behind the windows, no chocolate! And I can remember how long December seemed to last, as I waited for Christmas Day. I remember the window for December 15 was a green barrel, and behind the

flap was the message: “Only ten days to go until Christmas”.

Those ten days seemed to take an age!

 Now it seems that I blink after the August Bank Holiday, and Christmas arrives before I know it.

Why does time speed up as we get older?

There have actually been some serious psychological studies done on this phenomenon, one concluding that our perception of the speed of time passing is based on the way our brain encodes new experiences into memory, but not routine or familiar experiences. As adults, our lives become more routine, we have fewer fresh experiences and we are not learning so many new skills, so therefore our perception of the passing of time changes.

Advent may arrive with an expectation of the same old routine, the same carols and readings, events and services. Perhaps there is a challenge for us to open our eyes to something new, to try to see things with fresh eyes, with the wide-eyed wonder of a child experiencing it for the first time?

The God of all eternity chose to enter into our time and space, breaking into the routine, surprising people with hope in the midst of the ordinary and mundane. So may the waiting time this Advent seem to take a little longer, because we are open to new experiences and surprises, and prepared to be changed by God breaking into our routine.

With every blessing,


A new Discipleship Group, to be called  “HOPE”

94 Weardale Avenue: 2 p.m. Wednesday January 16

Interested folk met in church over coffee on October 30. We had a very productive meeting, suggesting topics connected with our desire to do God’s work here at church, in the community and in the wider world. We agreed to take turns and meet in each others’ homes every two months initially. Our first meeting is to be at the home of Moira Simpson, on Wednesday January 16 at 2 p.m.. All are welcome!

We would like to call our group HOPE, which stands for Helping Our community Protect the Environment. We aim to be an active group doing new things that help us look after God’s earth and all its life forms. Why not join us and make being a Christian in the community more than just a title?

With love,                                 Moira, Margaret, Noreen, Wendy and Miles


Bryan Harwood (23.3.33 - 3.11.18) was born and brought up in High Heaton, and attended the Royal Grammar School before his National Service. He stayed on in the Army for a short time thereafter, receiving the Queen’s Commission as an officer. He continued as a member of the Territorial Army (TA), reaching the rank of Major in the Royal Artillery (101) Regiment. He saw active service in Aden in the 1960s and continued his involvement through the Northumberland Volunteer Artillery Association (NVAA) for the past 30 years.

Bryan was employed as Assistant Director of Housing for Gateshead Council prior to his retirement in 1988 and was always a champion of housing projects. He was associated with Jonnie Johnson Housing as Chairperson for a number of years. His other passion, aside from history, was countryside and wildlife conservation. He was a member of and volunteer for organisations including the YHA, RSPB, CPRE, Countryside Commission, National Trust and Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust.

Bryan was a keen sportsman in his younger days, playing cricket at county level and boxing at school, and then rugby for the Novocastrians (Novos).

He followed Newcastle Speedway from the 1930s, as well as rugby and football, attending many of their fixtures. Following their retirement, he and his wife, Moira, travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as the UK. They especially enjoyed family holidays in Tiree, Scotland, with their grandchildren for the past 20 years.

I know that Bryan was very grateful for all the support he and Moira received from everyone at St. Andrew’s Church, especially when his ability to attend events was restricted following the stroke he suffered in August 2017. He was a loving and supportive husband, father and grandfather who will be greatly missed by all his family and friends.                              Fiona Storey

Bryan Harwood was a valued member of Discipleship Group R. He married Moira MacMorron at Robert Stewart Memorial Church, Fenham, in 1958 and they brought up their children, Fiona and Graeme, in West Moor. Bryan supported Moira in all her church work at Christ Church and then St. Andrew’s, and came to worship with her every Sunday. After she died in 2015 and he became less mobile, he contented himself with attending the group, where he made thoughtful contributions to discussions. For several years he checked the local Christian Aid Week accounts, a painstaking task. We thank God for his love, reliability and courtesy, and pray that God will bless and comfort his family and friends.                    Ed.

Bryan was a passionate supporter of The Natural History Society, which for many years held its meetings at the Hancock Museum, and later, as membership numbers grew, in a lecture theatre within Newcastle University premises. Bryan, his late wife, Moira, and I attended their weekly winter lectures together for many years. Afterwards, at supper in my home, conversation often continued regarding wildlife and their environment. Bryan was always a pleasure to talk to. He was knowledgeable and his comments were interesting and well informed, and he also had a generous sense of humour. He loved his family and was a deeply caring husband, father and grandfather and a wonderful friend.

                                       Muriel Kirtley

"First Saturday" Coffee Morning   10 - 11.30 a.m. December 1

Thank you to those of you who supported our November coffee morning which raised £202.20, from which £200 was sent to pcdc who support destitute children in the Holy Land. We were happy to have with us James Kenyon who is the Secretary of pcdc and he was pleased that he was able to sell a good number of olive wood carvings. Our “Rainy Day” Fund is now extremely low so we have to build it up again. Do try to join us at the beginning of December to help us raise funds for our usual Christmas charity Emmaus.  I can assure you of a warm welcome and lots of chat with friends! For news from Emmaus, see page 24.                            Jean Green


Commemorating the end of World War 1

Thank you to everyone who submitted so many interesting articles and family memories of WW1 to add to our display in the church foyer and the memorabilia display in the hall during our faith lunch. Thank you also to Andrew and Shirley Thomas for preparing the PowerPoint presentation shared before worship on Sunday morning. 

 During worship we viewed over 200 knitted red poppies cascading down the church wall ending with an array of white peace poppies. A big thank you to all church members, their families and friends who helped by knitting the poppies and to

Betty Fellows and Margaret Wall who created and shared the idea.

Our thanks go to the members and volunteers of the Corner Club who made beautiful prayer cards decorated with poppies. These were placed on to bare branches (kindly supplied from Moira Simpson’s garden) to create a prayer tree. The tree was surrounded by an emotive display including old timbers, barbed wire and a soldier’s tin helmet and gas mask.

Finally, very special thanks go to students at Gateshead College who gave St. Andrew’s a gift of poppy artwork. The students, men employed by Nissan, receive tuition in metalwork and welding at the College and at the end of their training they complete a project. Their lecturer, Dave Dixon, whose wife, Jean, is a church member, wanted to create an arrangement of poppies for the 100 years commemoration. Jean had mentioned that 12 men known to the church had lost their lives in WW1. Dave thought of constructing the design in a circle, like a clock face. To represent each of the named men, a poppy was placed at each hour of the clock. Dave’s colleague Brian Dixon offered then to spray paint the artwork. All but one of the red poppies have a green leaf beside the flower, but at the 11o’clock position, the time of the Armistice, the leaf has been painted gold. 

“To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.”  

    (Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground)              Noreen Henderson


The Benevolence Fund again

Last month I wrote about how we use the money collected for the Benevolence Fund. Since then, I have seen a cash book which was kept over 40 years ago by the treasurer of the Poor Fund (as the Benevolence Fund used to be known), Edwin Smith. 

As now, collections were held at every service which included Holy Communion, and they totalled £56.70 in the year 1971. This was used to purchase 5½ bottles of communion wine, £20 was given to an India - Pakistan relief fund and smaller sums were distributed to benevolence funds held by the Brunswick Central Methodist circuit and by Forest Hall and West Moor Methodist churches.

At Christmas in 1971 the Poor Fund was used to make up Christmas gifts for deserving elderly members and friends of the congregation. 11 ladies and 2 gentlemen received 50p parcels, 4 ladies received 75p parcels, 4 ladies and a gentleman received £1 parcels, two gentlemen £2 parcels and a lady a £5 parcel. In addition to these gifts, 13 people were given plants.

What did these parcels contain? The smallest contained shortbread, Quality Street sweets, milk chocolate and other biscuits and other sweets to a value of 50p (10 shillings!). Just little treats.

The next size up (75p) was rather more sustaining, and included half a dozen eggs, 2 lb sugar, ¼ lb butter, ¼ lb tea, shortbread and sweets.

The recipients of the £1 parcels were given the same as the 75p ones, plus some salmon, a chicken breast and evaporated milk. The £2 parcels were similar to the £1 ones but contained a dozen eggs as well as twice as much sugar, butter and tea, together with instant coffee and margarine.

The notebook doesn’t say what the lucky recipient of the £5 parcel was given. I hope it included a Christmas pudding.                              Howard Burchell