Whit Friday magic comes to Saddleworth
Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date published: 10 June 2022
Villagers throng Dobcross Square for a service before setting off to join other churches in their Whit Walk to Uppermill. Images courtesy of Paul Clegg and Laura-Daisy Bennett
As if by magic, brilliant shafts of sunlight bathed the excited audience on the village field as a brass band struck up the rousing “Hail Smiling Morn…”
The lusty tune is the much-vaulted curtain-raiser of the famous Saddleworth Whit Friday Walks, and it was heralded as a reassuring statement, shared for the first time since before covid.
And for hundreds of happy smiling villagers assembled for the United Whit Friday service in Uppermill, it was an all embracing signal of love as communities returned to a kind of normalcy in the wake of the pandemic.
After an introduction from Steve Banham, organiser of the Uppermill Music Festival, in an emotional address, Reverend Canon Sharon Jones, Team Rector, Church of England in Saddleworth, in a spiritual address, held the moment.
“It has been three long years since we were last here together,” she declared.
“It has been a difficult few years where we have known grief, sadness, suffering and regret… we have lost in many ways things in our lives we held dear and precious.
“Jesus commanded that you love one another as I have loved you.
"And it is love that has held our community together, it is the love of family and friends that has given us strength.”
Highlighting the values of Penticost, she said: “We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in Saddleworth with brass - because brass is about breath.
"And when God sends his Holy Spirit he breathes his life into us: life, love and joy and hope we express in our music and song.”
Congregations from Christ Church, Friezland, Saint Anne’s Lydgate; Uppermill Methodist Ebenezer; Uppermill Family Church; Saddleworth Sacred Heart and Saint William; Saint Chad, Saddleworth; Holy Trinity, Dobcross and Kilngreen Mission Church attended the 40-minute long service.
The opening prayer was read by Reverend Pat Gillian, Associate Priest, Church of England in Saddleworth, followed by a reading from Reverend Audrey Lee, Minister, Ebenezer Congregational Church.
Prayers of Intercession were given by Father Bernard Bickers Sacred Heart and Saint William, Uppermill, and the Reverend Mike Donmall, Associate Priest Church of England in Saddleworth, closed the service with the blessing before a rousing redition of the National Anthem.
During the service a collection was taken for the Christian Aid Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
Then, banners unfurled and bands playing, the followers returned to their home villagers for lunch and entertainment before the “Greatest free show on earth” …the arrival of up to 100 bands competing in the colourful Saddleworth and Oldham Whit Friday band contests.
In every sense, it had been a smiling morn…
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