Thousands join Whit walks

Date published: 16 June 2014

THE Rt Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, literally carried a host of Saddleworth villages on his shoulders for his home coming ...

Draped across his shoulders was the Saddleworth Team cope — a specially embroidered Bishop’s golden cape — capturing in fine needlework each of the Anglican churches in the community.

It was a coat of many delicate colours, glinting in the bright sunlight, and setting the seal on Saddleworth’s Whit walk celebration.

The cleric is a local boy who made good, with a childhood spent in Freizland and Mossley. And he wore the elegant mantle of his recent promotion to high office with pride, walking in a procession of witness with locals down the lanes and roads they shared as children.

He chatted to families old and young and shook scores of outstretched, welcoming hands on his personal pilgrimage to address an open-air service in Uppermill.

Earlier the villages and hills reverberated to the sounds of brass bands and marching feet as the communities walked to the gathering point at King George V playing fields.

Saddleworth’s smallest church in Kiln Green, Diggle, saw the Rev Duncan Rhodes (79) lead his congregation on a route he has taken every Whit Friday since he was five.

He recalled in 1944 when his brother John dressed as an airman and locals Jack Holden and Harry Bradbury dressed as sailor and soldier respectively to represent those away at the war.

“Whit Friday is definitely in the blood. Long may it continue, that is what Saddleworth Christian culture is all about.”

The Bishop of Manchester beguiled the Uppermill service with his own memories of Whit Fridays.

He went on: “The Whit Walk is the one time of the year we had to do church outside of the building.

“Christian faith is by its nature public. From our food banks and street pastors to our action on justice and climate change, we act out, individually and together, what it is that we believe.”