It’s our 250th church anniversary coming up in June and we’ve been asking for memorabilia. One of the gems is a St John’s Church Bury Parish Magazine from April 1968. Amongst the adverts for Brian’s Chippy on Argyle Street and Cunnane’s ‘high-class fish, fruit, poultry and vegetables and fresh flower shop’ on Malvern Avenue, we have some very revealing letters and editorials uncovering what church life was like here 52 years ago.
The Reverend Arthur Hulse was Vicar at the time. His letter starts: ‘To some folk, recent comments by one or two lively correspondents in our magazine columns (and in the local press) may have indicated that we were indulging in some Communist Self Criticism at St. John’s! But these letters and comments may well have caused some of us to think deeply about our own sense of awareness of the meaning of public worship, of the purpose of preaching sermons (long and short)… I hope that we may be led to see our role as Christians in the latter half of the 20th century. We need to be people who are full of faith in God; who have a zest for life in God’s world; who want to share with others what we so richly enjoy.’
With public worship currently suspended due to Covid-19, Arthur’s words seem to echo down the years. What does ‘being church’ look like when some are self-isolating and when we can’t gather together for worship? Arthur’s suggestion of being full of faith, having a zest for life and sharing with others seems a good place to start. Just make sure you follow the hygiene advice when it comes to sharing!
And the letters and comments that he refers to? It seems there was a dispute about what hymns were being sung!
A “Joyful Soul” writes: ‘On February 25th I was present at the Annual Thinking Day Service for Guides at Bury Parish Church. What a wonderful selection of tuneful hymns we sang. How I wish you could have seen the Rector leading the clapping to the beat of “He’s got the whole world in His hands’ – the only modern song incidentally… What a contrast when I attended Mattins at St John’s the following Sunday. Admittedly we are in Lent, but is every Lenten Hymn a tuneless dirge?’
Elsewhere, the Secretary of CEMS (Church of England Men’s Society) wrote: ‘The removal of parochial boundaries by the inclusion of the men from Christ Church Walmersley must be good for the Branch. New blood will add to our strength and wider membership will insure against abandonment in the future. The men of St Mark’s must be encouraged to join us also.’
It wasn’t until 2010 that Christ Church Walmersley and St John with St Mark’s came together in a single Benefice. So, this was good foresight by the men!
Tatty cassocks and Folies Bergere
Meanwhile we read that Head Chorister David Pollard‘s voice had just broken and that in future he would be playing the organ. The old cassocks being used by the servers were very tatty. People were being encouraged to attend the upcoming Annual Parochial Meeting. £11-5-0 was raised for Missionary work thanks to a Whist Drive at the Curate’s house. The Curate was the Reverend A Coleman.
We also learn that the high-class Revue ‘went with a swing. Nina and Frederick have nothing on our Hayriders and as for the Can-Can Ballet – well the Folies Bergere just don’t know what they’re missing!’