parish of the upper skerne

Centuries-old tradition comes alive in Bishop Middleham

The old Mexican tradition of Posada (a Spanish word meaning ‘inn’) is now being celebrated in Bishop Middleham.

Villager Neil Stevenson explained this week: “It’s a tradition that dates back 400 yearsto a time whenyoung people dressed as Mary and Joseph travelled from house to house in the weeks leading up to Christmas, would ask for a room for the night and tell people about the arrival of Jesus.

“On Christmas Eve they would visit the local church to re-enact the nativity and place figures of Mary and Joseph in a crib.

“Modern day Posada uses nativity figures to travel from place to place. This gives each household in a community the chance to make time to think about Jesus this Christmas time. We hope local people will enjoy hosting Mary and Joseph for a night or two”

Neil added: “The travelling crib at St Michael’s Church in Bishop Middleham set out this week and will be staying at households across the village each night. It will visit older folk, families, Happy Days Playgroup, Rainbows and Brownies amongst others. There is a message book to share with others on the journey, a prayer and Christmas chocolates for everyone, too”.

He thanked St Michael’s C of E Primary School and The Village Post Office for their support and said that church members wanted to send Advent blessings to all members of the local community.

Sedgefield Tree festival ‘a stunning success’

Tyne Tees television personality Pam Royle has described this year’s Christmas Tree Festival in Sedgefield’s ancient St Edmund’s Church as ‘a stunning success’.

She praised those who had produced the 47 ‘absolutely splendid’ displays and commented: “I thought the first festival two years ago was really wonderful but this year you have really excelled yourselves with some truly imaginative interpretations of A Carol for Christmas”.

Pam, a popular visitor to Sedgefield, officially opened the festival and headed the judging panel which included her husband, Mike, and church members Melanie and John Fordham

Lay Reader Michael King later described the free, six-day event as ‘a great example of the community spirit evident in Sedgefield’.

There was special praise from both Pam and Michael for those who sponsored the trees and also for organisers John Burrows, Anne Eyley, Audrey Flanagan, Michael King, Julie and David Latheron, Brenda Moore, Julia Rowsby and Rachel Stephenson who welcomed Pam to the festival.

Winners of the local voluntary organisations section were: first: Sedgefield Harriers with a much-admired display of the Twelve Days of Christmas which featured characters and birds created from wooden clothes-pegs. Joint second were ‘Escape’ and Sedgefield Women’s Institute, with St Edmund’s Choir, Sedgefield Squash Club and Sedgefield Flower Club equal third.

In the business community section, ‘Peridot’ speciality gift and interiors shop in  Sedgefield took first prize with an exquisite, all-white and silver display depicting ‘In the bleak mid-Winter’. Joint second were ‘From Loft to Loved’ and Sainsbury’s Sedgefield store and in third place were Clifton Lodge Vets and ‘Betty’s Boudoir’.  Judges added an extra award for the Number Four Teashop with its dramatic interpretation of ‘We Three Kings’.

The festival will benefit two local charities – the Great North Air Ambulance and the Church Roof Appeal to replace lead stolen from the church in 2017. Though sufficient funds have been raised to cover the cost of replacing the lead with a stainless steel lead lookalike, money is still needed for restoration and redecoration work in the interior of the North Transept which was damaged by water seeping through the roof before the lead theft was discovered.

A short service of carols and prayers in a crowded St Edmund’s Church before the traditional Snow Parade on Saturday afternoon was led by Michael King and Panny Pighills with Alex Ord as accompanist.

Footnote: Parish Administrator and Festival team member Rachel Stephenson said later that a review of the festival early in the New Year would include visitor requests to make the Christmas Tree Festival a biennial event.

Sedgefield’s Great War: a new book by Alison

When she is not hard at work dealing with business matters for the Friends, our secretary, Alison Hodgson, enjoys nothing more than delving into the history of Sedgefield and its former community.

Her most recent research has led to the publication of a book to mark the end of the Great War which includes an insight into how life at home was affected by the conflict.

It has already been voted a great hit by readers.

‘Sedgefield during the First World War’ was produced with the support of Sedgefield Local History Society.

It’s Alison’s second book on the history of the town, costs just £6 and is available by emailing her at or from Sedgefield Council Offices, the Post Office and Hardwick Park.

Local History Society secretary Norma Neal has described the book as “an invaluable addition to the material we are assembling about the history of our town.”

Spring start on repairs to Sedgefield Church roof

Repairs to the roof of the North Transept at Sedgefield’s centuries old church - which was twice attacked by ‘avaricious lead thieves’ in 2017 - will begin in the Spring, it was announced this week.

Reader Michael King confirmed that sufficient funds were now available to cover the estimated £30,000 cost of repairing the roof at St Edmund’s and safeguarding its valuable 13th century timbers.

“The roof has been made watertight and will withstand the winter weather”, said Mr King.

Donations by well-wishers of £10,067, an insurance payout of £10,000 and a single grant of £10,000 have made it possible to start work on replacing the lead with a stainless steel lookalike which is not as attractive to thieves. 

Any surplus or further donations will be used to help redecorate the walls of the church which were badly stained by rainwater seeping through the timbered roof before the theft was discovered.

Church officials say they are extremely grateful to the many people who have answered the appeal for donations to carry out the repair and “who have clearly demonstrated how much they value St Edmund’s”.

Choir member ‘lookalikes’ at Sedgefield Tree Festival ?

The choir at Sedgefield’s ancient parish church will double in size during the Christmas Tree Festival at St Edmund’s – thanks to the efforts of current choristers.

They have been hard at work crafting miniature choral members in striking purple and white robes and one gentleman in a cassock and surplice to illustrate their ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ display – and which even features one member’s pet black cat.

Several people who have had a sneak preview of the figures comment on how much they look like current and recently-departed members of the choir.

The festival will have 47 displays on the theme of ‘A Carol for Christmas’.  It will be opened at 10am on Saturday, December 1, by television personality Pam Royle and will be open to visitors until Thursday. December 6.

Admission is free but donations will be welcome. All profits will be shared between the Great North Air Ambulance and St Edmund’s Church Roof appeal.

Christmas hampers will aid refugees and asylum-seekers

Asylum seekers and refugees in the Tees Valley will benefit from Christmas hampers provided by caring members of St Edmund’s Church in Sedgefield.

The hampers of basic foodstuffs and toiletries will be forwarded to ‘Justice First’, a voluntary organisation in Stockton, as they have been for a number of years.

Church Reader Michael King said this week:” The hampers are always well-received  by asylum seekers and refugees who have very little money, particularly if they are nicely wrapped because this adds to the pleasure of those who receive them. All the hampers will be delivered and distributed in good time for Christmas”.

Staple items like tea, coffee, sugar and soap (but no tobacco or alcohol) are especially welcome and can be packed into a shoe box or similar container and delivered to St Edmund’s before Sunday, December 9.

Further information is available from Michael on 01740 620910.

Anne’s Angels set for Tree Festival

Hand-made miniature angels will grace the Friends’ display in this year’s Christmas Tree Festival at St Edmund’s Church.

They have been produced as part of a quilling exercise by Friends’ committee member Anne Eyley who has been learning the craft under the watchful eye of church member  and experienced ‘quiller’ Delene Rogers.

They have been made to illustrate the carol ‘Angels from the realms of glory’

Anne has described her new hobby as “a fascinating pastime . . .  something quite new for me and really relaxing.”

Large angels produced from willow and made by Anne and friends will also feature in the Christmas Tree Festival display which will be opened on December 1st by popular television personality Pam Royle.

New clergy for the Upper Skerne

Church members throughout the parish of the Upper Skerne (which covers Bishop Middleham, Fishburn, Sedgefield and the Trimdons) are celebrating the news that they will soon have a new full-time Rector and a part-time Vicar.

A statement released at the weekend said:

We are delighted to make the following announcement:

The Revd Geoffrey Short, currently Team Vicar in the Parish of Christ the King in the Diocese of Newcastle, has been appointed as the new Team Rector of the Parish of the Upper Skerne, subject to the usual checks.

Also, that the Revd Elizabeth Bland, currently Team Vicar in the Aycliffe Team Ministry, has been appointed as Team Vicar of the Parish of the Upper Skerne. This appointment is on a 0.5 basis.

The Bishop and the Archdeacon have asked us to say that they share our delight at these appointments.

We hope that Geoff and Elizabeth will be licensed at a joint service to be held in January. The date has not yet been agreed.

Please remember Geoff and his wife, Paula, and Elizabeth and her husband, Steve, in your prayers in the weeks to come, as they prepare to embark on this new stage in their ministry.

Friends of St Edmund’s AGM

Friends of St Edmund’s will have an opportunity to hear about a year of ‘great progress and a few frustrations’ at their annual meeting in the Welcome Room at St Edmunds at 7pm on Tuesday, October 30th.  It’s also an opportunity to have a say in the election of officers and committee and to plan the social programme for the coming year.  Chairman Ron Eyley said this week: “The Friends work hard to help those whose role is to safeguard the church for future generations. We are very grateful to the many people and organisations who support us in all we do”. 

Harvest Thanksgiving at St Michael’s

On Sunday, 14th October, members of local farming families joined the regular congregation of St Michael's, Bishop Middleham, for a service of Harvest Thanksgiving. This year the church is supporting the work of the local Foodbank. Generous contributions were received and these will be taken to the Foodbank organisers. As always, the church had been splendidly decorated by Yvonne Houston and her team of helpers. The corn sheaves were donated by Mr Frank Dove.

Harvest festival will aid refugees

Refugees and asylum seekers throughout the Tees Valley area will benefit from this year’s Harvest Festival service at St Edmund’s Church in Sedgefield.

Anyone planning to attend the service at 10am on Sunday, October 14th, is asked to bring non-perishable food items which will be donated to Justice First, a small voluntary agency based in Stockton.

The celebration of harvest will be led by Lay Reader Michael King who said this week: “The service will have two focal points - celebrating what those of us in this part of the world have and thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves, especially asylum seekers and refugees in this country and around the world”.

Harvest Festival is always a popular service and is open to everyone in the community.

Further information is available from Michael on 01740 620910.

Sedgefield WI marks its century of service

The ‘war to end all wars’ was still raging in the early part of 1918 when a group of women in Sedgefield banded together to form the then village’s Women’s Institute.

In the century since those dark days, the WI has played an important and increasingly-popular role in community life.

And on October 10th, members of the Women’s Institute will celebrate the contribution they have made in and around the Sedgefield area during the past century with a special service at St Edmund’s Church they have labelled “It’s never too late to say thank-you”.

WI Joint President Audrey Flanagan explained this week: “Our aim is not only to recall the work that members have done in our community during that period but also to give thanks for the work carried out by women in their communities across the world.”

To mark their centenary, WI members have produced an eye-catching banner with a list of all their activities on one side and the names of 2018 members on the reverse.  It was made by a team headed by Kathleen Heasman.

Audrey is pictured (right) with the banner and Sedgefield WI Secretary Christine Dunn.

Guests at the service, which begins at 1.45pm, will be the Rectory Row School Choir, the Mayor of Sedgefield (Cllr Mrs Mavis Wayman), and Mrs Judith Alderson of Bishop Middleham, current Chairman of the County Durham Federation of WI.

Audrey added: “The service is open to everyone.  There will be a warm welcome for anyone who wishes to join us on this very special occasion.”

Information and Regular Events

Bookings for Baptisms

All baptisms can be booked through the Parish Administrator at the Parish Office on 01740 620274 Email . Explanatory leaflets about the system are available at the back of each Church.

Bookings for St Edmund’s Church

To book any event/service at St Edmund’s please contact Brenda Moore on 620758. This applies to every event, please don’t assume all regular annual events are in the Diary – you will need to check with Brenda.

St Catherine’s Friday Café

St Catherine’s hold an informal drop-in café on most Fridays in St Catherine’s Church Hall between 9.30 and 12.00 noon, all are welcome.

St Alban’s Luncheon Club

If anyone from the Trimdon Grange, Village or Station would like to come along to the Luncheon Club at St Alban’s , Trimdon Grange on Wednesdays please contact Irene Grint on 01429 880366. The session lasts from 10.25am – 1.25pm; a bus can pick you up & drop you back home. Also if you would like to help with this club please contact Irene

St Edmund’s Aumbry Candle

If you would like to donate towards a candle, which would burn for a week, perhaps in memory of a loved one or in Thanksgiving for a particular event, then please see Brenda Moore. The suggested donation is £5

Trimdon Bereavement Support Group

We aim to provide a supportive environment for the bereaved. We do not give advice - we do listen to you. We do not tell you what to do - we hope to help you to work it out yourself. All are welcome - of all faiths and none. Come and join us in church and we’ll have coffee (or tea!), a natter and a light hearted activity. If you have a favourite, uplifting poem, bring it along to share. We look forward to seeing you on the first Tuesday of the month from 7-8 pm. Please contact Joan Clifford on 01429 880346 for further information

One step Forward Sedgefield Bereavement Support Group 

On Thursdays from 3pm to 5 pm in the Welcome Room, there is weekly drop-in support group for anyone needing to talk about their bereavement. Trained listeners are present - we offer mutual support for those who have lost someone close to them. All welcome. Please remember the group in your prayers.  For further details, please contact Panny Pighills on 01740 620909.

Bookings for Weddings

St Edmund’s & St Catherine’s - Please call at St Edmund’s for wedding bookings on the 1st Thursday of each month from 7.30 pm, Judy Evans is available by phone on 01740 621706, e mail   .St Alban’s & St Mary Magdalene’s Please contact Mrs Doris Robson on 01429 881183 to arrange to meet in St Mary Magdalene church to make a booking. St Michael’s- please contact Mr Bill Armstrong Tel: 0191 377 3847

Bishop Middleham Bereavement Support Group

The Bishop Middleham Bereavement and Loss Meetings (BALM) take place on the first Wednesday of every month from 7 to 8.30 pm in Bishop Middleham village hall. The meetings are informal and are run on a drop-in basis, so no appointment is needed and all are welcome to come and talk to trained listeners about their bereavement or other loss.  If it will help, bring a friend or family member along for extra support and reassurance. For further information please ring Janet Deane on 01740 656391.