Tag Archives: Heighington Co. Durham

Bumper Weekend of CMS Link Visits @ Co. Durham❤️

Yes, it was quite a weekend! Full of church visits and meeting lots of great people in Co. Durham, starting on a very autumnal murky day at St. John’s Church, Neville’s Cross, on the west side of Durham….

St. John’s, Neville’s Cross

The church is a modest building that’s currently got scaffolding in the chancel to deal with falling plaster, which kind of adds a new perspective to worship, but there’s also lots of colourful banners on the walls too. Last week, the church had a half-term holiday club on the theme of scarecrows, and several of the scarecrows and other artworks were decorating the church. It may have been a dull and miserable autumn day outside, but inside it was definitely warm and cheerful, full of light and joy!

Durham has been in News reports in the last few weeks with scenes of university students queueing overnight, desperate to get somewhere to live for September 2023 ~ it seems there’s way too many students for such a small city. Out at Neville’s Cross, there’s a big mixture of people who have made St. John’s their home – many connected with the diocese and/or university, including the theological college at Cranmer Hall. Spot at least one hospital chaplain, one ordinand, one archdeacon, one bishop’s wife, one retired vicar, one theology professor – and their families in the photos below. It’s always a challenge doing the sermon in such a place, trying hard not to feel too intimidated! 🤣🤣

The rector, Rev. Barnaby Huish is also in charge of other churches in the area and has deanery responsibilities, and he was also away this weekend for half term, so I didn’t get to see him. The services on Sunday were taken by Rev. Nicky Chater, assisted by husband Mike as lay reader. They kindly welcomed me to stay at their home for the whole weekend, along with their very lively dog and quietly assertive cat, though we missed the children, Harriet and Peter. Harriet has visited Taiwan twice, in 2014 with her father to celebrate the end of her GCSEs, and then with her mother after her A-Levels in 2016 (see that blog post here), such happy memories! Among many other things, Nicky is now diocesan chaplain to the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities – for more details, check out these articles in the Travellers Times and The Guardian ~ it’s a really amazing ministry.

Nicky and Mike Chater

There were 2 services on Sunday, at 8:45 am and 10:30 am (with a very talented music group playing for the second service, led by music director Amy) and there was also an afternoon event with Taiwan food and me sharing a PowerPoint about Taiwan. I also went to the church house group on Monday night where Jo the churchwarden led the discussion on topics related to my sermon, plus Nicky and Mike invited different church friends to meals at home. It was all wonderful ~ they are such a friendly and very lovely church! Special thanks to Adriel, from Singapore who provided a lot of challenging insights, as well as all the Taiwan / Chinese food …..

Yummy Yummy!

On Monday, I spent all day at Heighington, near Darlington, meeting up with so many friends, former colleagues and pupils. Heighington is officially my home church ~ having gone from there to Tanzania in 1990, and then on to Taiwan in 1999, all with the Church Mission Society (CMS), though this time we just arranged an informal visit, and the vicar, Rev. Lissa Scott was away on holiday. The village is very scenic, with a large village green, where they are collecting wood for bonfire night.

The day started with former head of Heighington Primary School, George Dixon, inviting me and our former colleagues round for coffee – George is nearly 89 and has the same enthusiasm for life as he always had, he’s still playing the organ and leading choirs, plus driving his caravan to the Lake District!

In the afternoon, I had arranged to go along to the Heighington Church Monday afternoon drop-in coffee hour, which attracts lots of people each week, including many who are not particularly part of the church. The curate, Rev. David Lucas was there, in charge of St. Matthew and St. Luke’s Church, Darlington, another of my link churches. There was also a 90th birthday celebration for one of the ladies, here they all are getting ready…

It was great to see so many friends, many were parents of children I taught at Heighington School – or pupils themselves, now with children in the same school. Thanks to Pat for organising it all, and inviting me to lunch, plus Gordon and Michelle, now returned from Canada, who invited me for tea. It was Halloween, and children and their parents were out on the streets tricking and treating. Ah, it was such a great day, just wish I had more time of course to talk to everyone!

Tuesday November 1 was All Saints Day, and I was invited to speak at the evening service at another link church, St. Andrew’s Church, Tudhoe Grange, Spennymoor, where the vicar, Rev. John Livesley and his family also welcomed me for tea. But first, I visited their former vicar, Rev. Neville Baker and his wife, Jean, now living right on the sea in Whitburn, up near Sunderland – we had such a lovely lunch and walk. Neville, now 87, reminisced about taking a group from St. Andrew’s to attend my CMS commissioning service in Heighington just before I left for Tanzania in January 1990, where he met my parents – he remembers everything in so much detail!

And so to Tudhoe Grange for the All Saints Day service. St. Andrew’s Church is unique among all my link churches in that it is affiliated with ‘Forward in Faith‘ and comes under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Beverley, and it’s really interesting for me to see how the church has moved considerably – and very happily – ‘up the candle’ (as they say!) since I was first linked with them. Everyone in the church says that Fr. John is so lovely that the congregation has willingly moved with him!

In this fairly unique arrangement, the vicar is in charge of 2 churches, as is common, but the other church is quite some way over in Bowburn, just outside Durham – and in a different deanery. Very noticeably, in between the two stands a brand new and very large Amazon Distribution Centre, complete with new roundabouts and roads. A sign of the times indeed. St. Andrew’s itself is built in an area of Spennymoor that originally housed workers of the old iron works. The air is much cleaner these days, and has become quite a desirable area to retire to, cheaper than Durham but easily accessible to the city.

St. Andrew’s, Tudhoe Grange

St. Andrew’s has just completed a reordering project in the left aisle of the church, taking out the pews and using 4 of them to make a big table (with new chairs coming from the old Darlington Memorial Hospital Chapel), installing a kitchen and toilet, and making the whole place so much more accessible and welcoming. With the church hall being hired out to many different community organizations, so the church can use their own space for things like messy church and children’s holiday club activities – there’s lots of children in St. Andrew’s these days! With many churches reporting how difficult it is to resume children and youth activities since the pandemic, it’s really encouraging to see the way St. Andrew’s has grown and flourished.

The All Saints service was led by a very lively and friendly retired priest, Fr. Michael Thompson, who turned out to have once been vicar of North Hartismere area of northern Suffolk, neighbouring benefice to my link churches in South Hartismere, and where my good friend and former CMS regional manager for Asia, Adrian Watkins, is now vicar, and where I’ll be visiting in a few weeks time. We had to take this photo for mutual friends in Suffolk – Betty Wells, this is for you!

Thanks to Fr. John, Fr. Michael and everyone at St. Andrew’s for such a warm welcome! They were having a big service for All Soul’s Day yesterday too, so the numbers were expected to be much lower for All Saints, and in the event, most of those in the church building were actually part of the choir and procession ~ with incredible anthems of choral music directed by Fr. John, himself a former choirboy of Manchester Cathedral. They raised the roof with such inspiring and beautiful worship!

Despite spending 4 nights in Durham and driving around the city, and spotting the cathedral in the distance, unfortunately I didn’t have any time to visit the city centre and walk around. However, I had spent 24 hours in York on my way to Durham, visiting my very energetic and lovely friend Shelagh, formerly with CMS in many different countries in Asia, and we walked around the whole of the York City walls on a beautifully sunny Friday afternoon last week. Gotta share those photos with you all ~ thank you Shelagh!

And finally, I left Co. Durham via a visit to a RC priest friend, formerly in language school with me in Musoma, Tanzania, and now in charge of 3 churches in Stockton. There was lots to catch up on, not least news of the pandemic and how he, his church, and his diocese have been affected. So many stories. He took me for breakfast, and this was it ~ what a wonderful way to end my visit to Co. Durham, a full English breakfast! 😋😋😋

Thank you everyone in Co. Durham ~ and thanks be to God for all His blessings! ❤️

St. Michael’s, Heighington and St. Matthew & St. Luke’s, Darlington, Co. Durham @ Home Church Visit!


Heighington, ah, Heighington! Just spent the weekend in my home church of St. Michael’s, Heighington, near Darlington, Co. Durham. Ah, what memories 😊 what friends 😊 what experiences! 😊 Here I was, from 1985-89, living here, working here and worshiping here.  All in Heighington.  And in the course of those 4 years I got to know quite a few people.  Children galore in fact, from teaching reception class at Heighington Primary School.  And teachers too.  The above top photo is of some of my former colleagues at the school, with former headteacher, Mr. George Dixon (third left), taken when he hosted us all to a coffee morning on Friday when I had just arrived.  And he also came to hear me speak at the service on Sunday.  Thanks, George ~ here he is (below right) with 2 other young, handsome, bearded men – and me – on arrival at the church for the service!


So now, here I am once again, back in Heighington. My last visit here was exactly 4 years ago (see that blog post here) and I know that, cos it was the Christmas Fair then, and it was the Christmas Fair again this time.  So a big welcome to Heighington!


It’s a really beautiful village at its heart, with a huge village green surrounded by quaint cottages and pubs, all set in the beautiful countryside NW of Darlington, Co. Durham….


And also a big welcome to St. Matthew & St. Luke’s Church, Darlington, also one of my link churches (originally totally separate, but now under the same vicar as Heighington), and I also visited them on the same weekend four years ago (see that blog post here).  On Sunday, we had a lovely cafe church communion service, where I spoke about Taiwan, and I mentioned my visit a few weeks ago to see their former vicar, Rev. Richard Rice-Oxley and his wife, Sylvia, now retired to deepest Lincolnshire.  Friendly people, moving service, lovely church!

So. We. Had. A. Great. Weekend!  Really enjoyed a visit with another former colleague, John and his wife to the Bay Horse in Heighington for lunch, where we were served by Kelly, former pupil of Heighington Primary School, who both John and I had taught.  Isn’t she lovely?!


Delighted to meet up with another 2 of my former pupils, smiling sisters, Helen and Claire ~ I taught them when they were 4-5.  Now, well, we’re all just a bit older!


I also took an assembly in Heighington Primary School, one for the children, and one for the parents and children of the school choir.  Thanks to Lissa, the vicar, and the school for organizing that.  The children’s choir also sang at the Christmas Fair on Saturday.  The fair was such fun ~ met lots of friends, families of my former pupils and well, overall lots of great people. And we had face painting – yes!

And then there was the Sunday service at Heighington.  Full of more friends, and led by the 2 very welcoming clergy, Lissa and Ruth.  Thanks to everyone for listening to my non-stop very fast sermon.  Almost ran out of voice by the end of the weekend!



Anne and Neville kindly welcomed me to their home for a very relaxed stay, lots of good food and endless cups of tea, ah they are so lovely!  This is me and Anne, and of course Santa!


Ah yes, a big thank you to all in Heighington and Darlington for your warm welcome and for all your support over the many years!  Much appreciated.  And thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings!


Heighington, Co. Durham

What a wonderful village ~ and what wonderful memories!

Heighington, Co. Durham is where I started teaching (Reception Class, aged 4-5) way back in 1985, and although I was there only 4 years, it was home ~ and a great place to be.  And it was from there that off I went to join CMS and so to Tanzania and Taiwan ~ so it’s my home church too….

Fast forward to last week, and there I was back in Heighington for a whole week, yippee! Staying with lovely friends, Anne and Nev, meeting up with new vicar Lissa, speaking in Heighington Church, a day in Heighington Primary School, plus catching up with lots of old friends, including many former colleagues from Heighington Primary School.

Finished my week with the Heighington Christmas Fair on Saturday, including tea and scones with old pupils, and with the new Mayor of Darlington and his wife, Gerald and Ruth Lee (us Lees get everywhere!) who also live in Heighington…

And finally to the Bay Horse to meet up with 3 more of my former pupils from Heighington – they were 5 at the time, and now, well, all grown up!

Thank you everyone for your wonderful welcome, gracious hospitality, delicious meals, teas and coffees, fun and laughter ~ plus your care and support over the years, all much appreciated!