How could I forget?

Ordination, Leeds 1956

Ordination, Leeds 1956. John is standing fifth right from the date placard.

When I was rummaging about the cupboard where all the photo albums are kept, I found a scrap-book I’d forgotten about. It begins with my first ‘Class Ticket’ and a letter from the minister inviting me to a meeting in the Vestry at 10.45 prompt on the morning of 31st July, 1949. This was his last Sunday before leaving Greenock. And it was the day when, along with some others, I would be received into Membership. I had become a Leader in the Youth Club on 2nd October 1948, but didn’t attend the Church until Youth Sunday on 24th April 1949.  By 1st September, which was the start of the Methodist year and still is, I was JMA Secretary and on the 11th I was teaching in the Sunday School!  Mr Osborn, the Missionary Secretary, sent me a nice letter and kept an eye on my progress. He would now and again invite me to meet him at the local tea room to look over my paper work which kept me on my toes! I was still rather shy and dreaded anything in the ‘books’ being wrong. However, I passed muster and gradually became more confident. The children who did the collecting were all keen, and when we entered the District exam the year it featured Mary Slessor we actually won the Shield which we kept for a year! I’ve already written about how, thanks to my wee sister and the Roxburgh Street Youth Club, l got to know John and our fate was sealed. We were both part of the group of course, but hadn’t really noticed each other until we wakened up!

The Scrapbook finishes with the Methodist Conference in 1956, held in Oxford Place Chapel in Leeds. During his time in College, John had been involved in the Mission Band which linked with the Headingly Circuit Church at Woodhouse Moor. The Minister was Eric Bareham and he and his wife had two young boys. John was around their house a lot and they became good friends. John’s Mum and I were able to go to Leeds for the Ordination Service at Brunswick Chapel, Leeds, and Elsie and Eric invited us to stay. We had a lovely time with them. The only Ministers’ houses I’d been to had been those of elderly Ministers and seemed staid and formal, and Elsie and Eric were a revelation!. Eric was often late for meals and the boys would shout to him because we couldn’t eat till he came and said the grace. He would come bounding down the stairs and as he came  into the room he’d be saying loudly ‘The Lord bless this and us Amen’! It was a really happy household and I looked forward to our home being like that some day. Elsie came to Greenock later and had a holiday with John’s mum. They got on well together in spite of the age difference.

On the morning of the Ordination, the ordinands had a meeting with the President of Conference who that year was Rev. H. Crawford Walters. He gave a talk with no doubt many good points for beginners, but John said the only thing he remembered afterwards was that Mr Walters said that seeing some ministers’ desks made him feel quite ill and advised them to always keep their desk tidy! My ticket for an informal gathering with Rev. and Mrs W. Russell Shearer who met wives and fiancées of the ordinands is in the scrap-book. There were a lot of us and I’ve no doubt they gave us some wise words too, but to be honest I can’t remember a single word that was said. Terrible, isn’t it?

At that time, many of the great names of Methodism were around, Dr Soper, for instance, who was famed for his open air meetings. One he did outside Leeds Town Hall had a Communist speaker about 20 yards away. After about 40 Minutes the Communist chap gave up talking to his four listeners and Dr Soper was talking to an audience of about 300. Rev. Kenneth Waights, who became our friend years later, was beside Donald  Soper on that day. Howard Watkin-Jones, Maurice Barnett and Leslie Weatherhead, to mention only a few, were also around.

Another cutting in the Scrapbook is from The Greenock Telegraph and headed ‘Constable’s son to be ordained’, beside a larger picture from the Methodist Recorder of the group of Ordinands, almost 80 of them.  Mum Mitchell and I had tickets to attend the Ordinands’ Reception in the afternoon at Oxford Place and the Ordination Service in the evening at Brunswick Chapel. Both were crowded out and very moving. There were 11 questions put to the young men and at one point they processed and each knelt before the President, and whoever else the ordinand had chosen laid their hands on his head. The Scottish Chairman Rev. Cecil D. Eades was John’s choice. John’s Mum and I both wept when he came forward and I should think many others did for their own. It was the culmination of a lengthy ‘apprenticeship’. It must have been a long service but it was a great experience. The singing was wonderful and unforgettable. And to bring us down to earth all of these young men would come away solemn and overjoyed to  have reached their goal to be equipped to do the work to which they had been called, but many of them would also be thinking of the happy wedding day awaiting them at last!

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