Without a doubt, the very best thing about Wakefield is definitely the very lovely people of Sandal Magna Parish! The parish includes St. Helen’s Church, Sandal Magna and the nearby St. Paul’s Church, Walton, plus the area of Portobello. Among many other things, they run a wonderful community shop and cafe, known as The Spring, it’s a great ministry. I was in Sandal this past weekend, which included bonfire night, so we started the visit with Sandal’s community bonfire and fireworks. All free, and ah it was fun!
In contrast, the very worst thing about Wakefield is, also without a doubt – for me anyway – the journey there and back. On a map, Wakefield looks to be in the middle of a huge urban sprawl of West Yorkshire cities and towns, with motorways, bypasses and roundabouts that confuse even the best satnav, and in autumn with the dark and rain, means that any journey from here to there is, let’s face it, not one of life’s greatest pleasures! 😭🤣 And if it involves driving round the Bradford bypass on a Saturday afternoon when Bradford City are playing at home, well, it’s almost the stuff of nightmares ~ which all means that I’m so happy to actually arrive, that I appreciate their warm welcomes even more! 😊😊
Sandal Magna is on the south side of Wakefield, along the Barnsley Road, and St. Helen’s Church (named after Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great) may be dark and austere on the outside, but inside it is warm and welcoming. There’s lots of beautiful artwork filling the church, on the altar, in the side chapels, and the children’s area is especially colourful, check it out below!
Much of this art and all the many projects were introduced to the church under the artistic leadership of the much-loved previous rector, Rev. Rupert Martin and his wife Sally, who retired last year after 26 years at Sandal. They’ve now moved to Bristol and long ago invited me to visit – but I’m running out of time, and Bristol is way off my beaten track. Sorry Rupert and Sally! They were also responsible for the Tree of Life Memorial Garden at the back of the church, which continues to this day, though there are ongoing challenges maintaining the stones and clearing the weeds around the stones ~ fortunately it’s still looking good!
When Rupert and Sally retired, the church and diocese made the wise decision to sell the large and lonely Sandal Vicarage, which was old, cold and sandwiched between the church and a car dealership. The diocese is in the process of buying a house for a new vicarage, but no news yet. Their new vicar, Rev. Hannah Smith was only installed 2 months ago, check out this report of the event here in the Wakefield Express. A big welcome to Hannah! Everyone is so pleased to have a new vicar at last, and so happy that she’s settling in, listening and learning all about the parish, visiting all the congregation, and getting to know everyone. Please do pray for Hannah, she is very clearly called to this new ministry, and has many gifts that will help develop and lead the church forward. Currently she’s living in temporary accommodation in the parish, and it will be good for her to be able to settle into a new vicarage once the sale is complete.
Hannah is assisted by Ruth, who runs the church office…
A big thank you to Neale and Olivia who kindly welcomed me to stay overnight in their home, and took me to the fireworks too. Here they are in front of the church, and inside the church with John the organist and Andrea, one of the churchwardens….
There are 2 Sunday services, one at 9:30 am and one at 11:00 am. I did the sermon for the first service, which had a much larger congregation than I was expecting – and a talented choir too….
Followed by coffee in the rooms at the back of the church….
And then I rushed off to St. Paul’s, Walton for their service at 11:00 am. Walton has a strong lay leadership team, and really good church premises…
The service was led by lay leader, Susan Lee, who informed me that there were 2 Lees in the church, herself and Rose Lee, so the 3 of us had our photo taken together. Ah yes, the 3 Lee sisters!
The service was the only service at St. Paul’s that day, and had lovely music, and beautiful flowers!
After the service, we had a shared lunch, their first one since the pandemic. The food was delicious, especially the puddings! Hannah and a group from St. Helen’s also joined us for lunch, after which I gave a short talk followed by questions. There were lots of good questions!
And finally, off I went with Hannah to visit Mavis, one of the original overseas mission committee in Sandal who set up the CMS link with me as long ago as 1989. In those days, the committee was chaired by Derek Wales, the connection then being that the Diocese of Wakefield had a companion diocese partnership with the Diocese of Mara, Tanzania, which is where I went for language school many moons ago. This is us with Mavis and her good friend Teddy….
Ah yes, such a great weekend, renewing friendships and reconnecting with all the lovely people of Wakefield. Thank you to everyone in Sandal and Walton for a wonderful weekend and for all your support over the years, so very much appreciated!❤️
PS This is the live stream of Sunday’s service on YouTube, my sermon starts at about 20 minutes in. I’ve just watched it, the sermon is definitely a little wacky, but anyway, do check it out!