November 2011


Lest we forget’

When Joe Blackburn from Hodge Hill URC recently  preached for us here at Holly Lane and I asked him for some personal comments about Remembrance. He’s a chaplain with the Scouts.

Q: Aside from what we all think about at this time does Remembrance have a particular place in scouting history?


Joe: Yes. In Canon Hill Park is a memorial to all Scouts who gave their lives in both world wars and in subsequent wars and on November 12th

we’ll be holding a County service there. Traditionally we hold a service on the Saturday prior to the day when the churches remember the fallen of World War 1 and subsequent conflicts.  Peter Murphy from Pype Hayes church and myself are conducting it.  We’re expecting 5-600 people. The National Chief Commissioner will be there.

During World war 11 young scouts became messengers and ran errands.  Also the founder of the Scouts, Baden Powell was a soldier.

Q: Do  Scouts generally know that?


Joe:  Part of our work is to teach scouts about the history of the movement, how we came to do the programme we follow.  We focus on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of young people so that they can take their rightful place in the community in which they live. We keep up with the times but we still retain our basics like first aid and pioneering.


When I first joined more than 50 years ago we cooked everything over an open fire, now we use modern camping gear, but as youngsters work towards their proficiency badges they can cover all sorts of areas, first aid, music, computers, arts, theatre you can use your talent to get your badge and you can tackle things at lots of levels including the Duke of Edinburgh award.  I’ve progressed through the ranks myself including being Assistant scout Master of the 1st Erdington 15th of Birmingham, the oldest troop in Erdington.  Now I’m a chaplain in the organization.

I work closely with John McMahon from Holly Lane and Peter Murphy .  (In fact Joe’s been a sort of Scout mentor to both John and Peter.)


Q: What about the role of the chaplain in the uniformed organizations both civilian and forces.

Joe:  Chaplains are vitally important in the workplace, especially in the times we are in.  We’ve had 2 URC ministers go into the chaplaincy in the forces. Padre Kevin Jones has took up his post this year.  (I found the message below from Kevin Jones.  ((Ed))).

‘ After just under 18 years of ministry in local churches in the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church (most recently at Digbeth and Knowle United Reformed Churches) I have begun  a new ministry as an Army Chaplain. Following 6 weeks of initial training I took up my post as the Chaplain to 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards on 20th June.’

Joe continued:  Chaplaincy in scouting is there to make sure the youngsters don’t forget their spiritual development.  It comes under diversity now so  spiritual development means whatever faith in our multi- faith society.  In fact Peter and I have been developing ideas for a ‘Faith badge’ programme.  But going back to the question it is important to ‘Remember’. The first time they did a memorial service people were rejoicing, it was  the end of World War1- but consider those who do not and could not rejoice because they  lost someone. Nowadays women are soldiers too giving  their  lives,  so think of the children  growing up without mums and dads. People forget those children lose important experiences, whether that parent would have been good or bad.


I’ve got the last letter my dad  wrote in 1940.  He  died on June 15th 1940.   He was on the ‘Lancastrian’ which sank after Dunkirk. I was 3 and a half years old and never knew him.  Remembrance is always an emotional time for me.  People feel deeply about war look at how the people of Wooton Bassett have responded.

His loss has affected my life.  It has been a difficult road to travel, only God knows why; but I can tell you this, if I hadn’t had faith I don’t believe I’d have survived.  I know God’s there supporting me. Forces Chaplains  can share with the troops that support they get from the Lord. 

Church for me is a place and a movement where we glory in God and share together.  It’s a special time set aside to worship, to think, with people of like mind.  Without that you could easily loose your faith.   

You don’t feel a sense of belonging if it’s only you – like with a football club, a fan is part of it all, it is belonging.  You’re all of like mind in where you are headed, you learn about forgiving, you encourage each other, you build up your own strength and others.  The Scouts memorial service at Cannon Hill  is united in spirit with  other events private and public around the 11th hour of 11th day of the 11th month.

Erdington's oldest church celebrates 200 years

Our memories , and reports for  the anniversary  of the old  Cong’s building have had a very good reception.  The letter which follows is from Rev Bob Ash.  Do keep your memories coming; not only do I and our readers enjoy them, but  it’s good for our mental health and that’s the official word from the experts!

Rev Bob Ash JP, BA HONS, OSL

Dear Vera

 Firstly may I say what a pleasure it was to lead worship at Erdington yesterday and to be greeted by so many good friends, it always feels that we are coming home. I was pleased to read the Monthly paper and see that you are celebrating the church’s 200th anniversary and read of life past.  I too have a long association with the church through my father, Bernard Ash who in his formative days lived at 09 Wilton Road, Erdington, by the Police station and just around the corner from the church.  He attended the church with a neighbour and church member who many will remember, Jim Wareham who later married Clare.

 My father attended the Sunday school for at least five years as I have five books presented to him as prizes;  one is dated 1928 when he was nine called ‘The Little Brown House’ presented by M.N. Bloomfield, others were ‘The Ivory Idol’ presented by F.W. Rednall, ‘Derelict Gold’ presented by Bertram Denning.  I have enclosed a copy of the certificate in this book and a photograph of my father taken in 1931 aged 12.  You will see I have included a photo of myself at a similar age and hopefully, you can see the family likeness.

 I hope you find this of interest and maybe others too.

Yours sincerely,
Robert J. Ash



David’s “Heart of England Way” Walk, Summer of 2011  by David Lewis

 Well, I finally made it to Bourton on the Water a few months later than I had originally planned due to my leg and back problems, but nevertheless, all in one piece and feeling the better for it.  I crossed the little bridges and stood by the war memorial in the main street of Bourton on Thursday 1st September  at a little after 2.00pm and had my photograph taken with Pam and Sylvia who were waiting for me nearby. 

 It was a very pleasant day, warm, sunny and beginning to look like autumn and it was very crowded as the school holidays were still on.  It has been a much harder walk this year due to the fact that I was somewhat out of training, and also because it was all cross country walking at harvest time – styles {over 100 of them}, kissing gates {a good many of those too}; fields full of maize, wheat, potatoes and rapeseed, plus herds of inquisitive cows and flocks of Cotswold sheep.  The terrain was very hilly at times with spectacular views, but I’ve enjoyed myself enormously thanks to the efforts of my “support team” of Pam and Sylvia.  Thanks to all of you for your continued concern and support along the way.  Hopefully I shall be able to help the church and its charity to the tune of £750+.

Prayers for Cares 

This month we mark  a number of events which reflect our care and concern for others. First, the URC’s Commitment for Life project which  encourage all United Reformed and Local Ecumenical Partnership churches to take action, pray and give for people across the world

Work is done through Christian Aid and the World Development movement.  The URC is Christian Aid’s  biggest contributor.    Holly Lane’s partner country is Jamaica and impressive work is being done there.  Incidentally I recently received notice of  new initiatives  by Birmingham Jamaicans. They include supporting, within our city , the Jamaican vulnerable, elderly and those living alone; also to make greater efforts to involve young people including through the church. 


 I found a poem to mark World Mental Health day October 10th. It is by a young woman I met at a writers’  event at Erdington Library in the summer.

Bernadette Beckford’s  book ‘The Love of Christ through Prayer’ is dedicated to her friend’s mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.  It is also dedicated to those who suffer from a mental illness of any kind.  She says the book is to help others to know how to pray and to put their thoughts into action.

I made a good start today
And it felt just right
I made a phone call
To cancel an event
I felt it was a step forward
To begin again
And 11 years are now behind me 

God opened my path
And I stepped forward 

© Bernadette Beckford


Holly Lane Members Do It Again!


Chris and I recently enjoyed a super morning on the Malvern Hills on a sponsored walk for the Leprosy     Mission. The weather was glorious, revealing stunning views across Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

On arrival at our meeting point we met Allister du Plessis (Area co-ordinator for the West Midlands) who introduced us to a couple, Hilary and Steve, from Waterloo Road Chapel in South Yardley. It was soon agreed that we’d walk together and it enhanced the experience for us all. (I did take a picture of the four of us on the Worcestershire Beacon, but it's disappeared, probably never to be seen again, in our new laptop!)

 The title of this piece doesn't refer to Chris and me however, but to those of you who gave so generously in sponsoring us. The total was £245.20!!  It was particularly appreciated because recently there seem to have been so many events demanding your financial support at Church that I felt it an imposition    to ask for more. 



The Guild enjoyed a great time with Peggy Feltham who talked about the Smiles Foundation which helps children in Romania.  Peggy’s been a great traveller and worker for the cause and wherever she goes she takes her guitar with her.  Lifting spirits, bringing a little light through music, is one of the things she gives through her work.  Peggy told the Guild she won’t be doing so much travelling from now on, well maybe not so far afield, but she will undoubtedly continue  to spread the word and support the charity here.


One world week update

‘Living for One World’ was the theme dramatically explored in  the Churches Together special service at Six  Baptist church.  A short play, and the drama of seeing items which cost our world placed on a table brought home the picture of harm, and the desperate need for us all to do better. There was a decent turnout, good service, fellowship and fun  .

 You know Christmas is approaching when you see the posters go up for our Autumn fair.  Start your Christmas shopping early.  We’ve plenty for you to choose from and bargains.  It’s on November 5th.  Do come along and bring your friends too.  We look forward to seeing you.


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