Newsletter – July 2020

Len Bower

I defy you not to smile when you see this happy photograph of Len Bower celebrating his 100th Birthday – by all accounts a very enjoyable day despite the present restrictions. Len always has a smile and cheerful remark – how we all look forward to seeing him again and being together again as a family.

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From Clare

‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.’ 1 Peter 2.9 (NIVUK)

Dear friends,

Some people, by the Holy Spirit, regularly get pictures. I have occasionally. As I’m writing this, on the Sunday just gone, on a warm, dry but humid day, I had a fleeting picture. I had listened to the podcast with Communion, then, as it’s not easy to listen to my own sermon, turned to a URC Daily Devotional I’d missed. It was a piece about climate change which was written on a passage about Noah’s flood. I then turned to the next one in the book, searching for re-assurance, Psalm 147, with the reflection written by Rev’d John Proctor, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church and former Principal of Westminster College, where I finished my ministerial training.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

As I finished reading, I turned my head, and in the corner of my eye, I saw a single raindrop splash into a large puddle or pond – the picture was so fleeting, I couldn’t tell which. I found this free image on the internet to illustrate.

Maybe it was a raindrop which began the great flood in Genesis, a drop of destruction; or maybe it was a drop of assurance that, from the Psalm, God is in control, and we have nothing to fear. God is the author of the seasons, He sends the rain, makes the grass grow and feeds the animals and birds.

As the raindrop fell, it created ripples of water, and from that, I pondered the ripple effect of each of us. Maybe God is saying something in that. Maybe God is saying, having read the bit on climate change, that each of us has an effect on our climate, and should be thinking more carefully about the impact of our lives.

As we’re in the midst of a campaign to remind us that ‘Black Lives Matter’, on Twitter earlier on today, I saw a thoughtful counter to those who say every life matters, which of course, is also true. The counter, although it took Jesus parable of the shepherd searching for the one lost sheep out of context, pointed to the 99 sheep being safe, and the need to put effort into our focus on the one, which in the current campaign, is the injustice to the Afro/Caribbean community in the UK as well as elsewhere. That drop in the pond becomes that campaign which ripples to change the lives of many.

Or maybe God is saying in that picture I saw, that each of us is so special, that each of us makes an impact on the world in which we live, however meagre we think that is. Sometimes we need to hear that, that we are so special to God, each and every one of us. We may not think we have done much in our lives, that we haven’t achieved much, but as every drop in a pond makes a rippling effect, so our lives have affected the people we are, or those we have been connected with: families, work colleagues, neighbours and beyond. The ripple effect goes on through generations, long after we’ve gone. We don’t walk this earth without making a ripple.

As Christians, as disciples of Jesus, in how we live our lives, that ripple is our witness to Jesus, a ripple that goes on to eternity. To bring us from Noah to the present day, walk tall, you are made in the image of God, and you reflect Christ in all you do.

With love in Him,

Clare <><

Coffee & Conversation
On Tuesday 16th June we had our first online Coffee & Conversation. We certainly had lots of good conversation, so thank you to those who joined in.
In July, I’m on leave the week it would normally be held, so am proposing to hold it on 14th July, 2pm on Zoom.
A link will be sent out nearer the time.

Prayer meetings
Prayer meetings have continued throughout on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, all praying quietly in our own homes. This month it will be on 8th July. Margaret Madill has been producing prayer sheets sent around by email. Please let her or Aleck Brownjohn know if you’d like one


SUNDAY (In lockdown)

The bells are silent, quiet and still,
Not calling us to worship.
No cheery greeting at the church door
No organ music soaring
No uplifting hymns with voices raised together
No bowed heads in prayer
No fellowship in bread and wine.
Alone we worship, hesitant in thought,
Hearts heavy, missing loved ones,
Grieving, perhaps alone,
With failing strength and lonely too,
Alone we pray.
Pray for our future, our church, our world,
Pray for being restored—together.


And on a lighter note – – –

( missing our grandchildren )

Tiny hands and smiling faces
Hugs and kisses, happy places
Morning coffee, lots of treats
Fun and games and packs of sweets
Piles of toys and books to read
Meals together, mouths to feed
Playpark fun with scooter races
How I miss those happy places !
Day is ending, bath time fun
Bedtime stories one-to-one
Then early morning—in they run
Another happy day begun.




John Wilkinson passed away in March at the age of 86 years. His widow, Patricia, has sent us an appreciation of his life and also a little of the fascinating history of his family which is so linked to the history of our church. John’s grandfather, Hugh Mackay, turned the first sod before the church was built and of course there is the Mackay Room at the church which is named after him.

John Gordon Wilkinson was born in Leeds on January 14, 1934 – the second child of Gordon and Nancy Wilkinson. The family lived at Holly Bank in Headingley where Gordon was a GP for many years.
Nancy Wilkinson was the daughter of Hugh Mackay who lived at Bramhope Hall – now demolished and the site of the Bramhope Post House. Hugh Mackay and his wife had three daughters, Nancy, Sheila and Patricia. His sister Margaret Fergus was a churchgoer and also, I presume, was his brother Ernest and they all attended Cavendish Road. Hugh Mackay was a Deputy Lord Mayor of Leeds (I have a picture of him in some splendid robes) and he owned a number of properties in Headingley. After the death of his wife he lived in a flat in the Grange, Headingley (one of his properties) with his widowed sister Margaret. Hugh Mackay died in 1966 – the year John and I got engaged so sadly I only met him once. John’s parents eventually moved to the Grange.

John’s mother Nancy was a regular attender at St Columba’s until her death – her memorial service was held in the Church Hall as the church was undergoing some repairs at the time. John used to go to St Columba’s from time to time but as a family we went once a year on a Sunday as near as possible to Nancy’s birthday (May 30th) and we did the church flowers for that particular Sunday. John’s sister Ann, who lives in Scotland, and I took it in turns to do the flowers and as many family members as possible came to the service –this included John’s brother Richard’s family members as well – in the early years after Nancy’s death, Richard’s daughter, Emma, also took it in turns to do the flowers. Unfortunately, due to health problems we have not been able to do the flowers for a year or two, however I fully intend to start again hopefully in 2021 in memory of Nancy and now also in memory of my husband John.

John went to prep school in Grange over Sands, Cumbria, followed by Charterhouse in Godalming. He did his National Service after school followed by several years in the TA. He went to work at the family brickworks, ‘Samuel Wilkinson & Sons Ltd.’ in Elland where he was head of Sales. Following the sale of the brickworks, John went to run an iron foundry in Pudsey – ‘Sloan & Davidsons’ – where there was a family connection through his mother – Nancy’s mother was a Sloan. When the foundry closed down he joined ‘Hargreaves Foundry’ in Halifax where he worked until he retired in his early 70s.

We married in 1967 and had three children, Sarah, Samuel and Elisabeth and then four grandchildren: Samuel with daughter and son Harriet and George, and Elisabeth with son and daughter Stanley and Nancy. John was a devoted family man and derived a huge amount of pleasure from and was very proud of all his children and grandchildren. John was a keen hockey player in his youth – he played for Horsforth Hockey Club and he was a life member of Alwoodley Golf Club in Leeds. For 59 years he was a member of Zetland Lodge, one of the Lodges who meet at Castle Grove Masonic Hall in Headingley.

He suffered from a few health problems over the past six years but came through them all – he lived life to the full until the last few days and was only in hospital for a few hours. His death was swift and peaceful as he would have wished and from the many cards and letters the family and I have received from those who knew John they nearly all say that he was a gentle man, kind and thoughtful to everyone, high or low – a man who always looked for the best in everyone – with a wit and humour which lightened every occasion and a man with a twinkle in his eye. We have been lucky to have had him as a husband, father and grandfather.

Patricia (Wilkinson)


HOULGATE (nee Johnston)

Agnes Watson

on 30th May 2020, peacefully at Hampden House, Harrogate, aged 98 years.

Formerly of Harrogate and Leeds.
Wife of the late William and Jim, beloved by all nieces (including Gwendoline and Jo) and also by Godchildren and many friends.

No flowers or letters please. Donations for Headingley St Columba United Reformed Church may be sent to: The Treasurer, Headingley St Columba URC, 70 Headingley Lane, Leeds LS6 2DH

Nancy’s family requested that we place the notice of her passing in the Newsletter. Nancy last attended a Service at Headingley St Columba at Christmastime. Her niece, Gwendoline, made the arrangements so that she could join us and visited from Chelmsford to be with her. Gwendoline said that the day had meant a great deal to them both. Members have visited Nancy in Harrogate where she was comfortable and well cared for. Nancy wished for her Funeral Service to be held at our church, but, sadly this was not possible under the present restrictions. However, the funeral party was able to come to the church where members were able to pay their respects to a faithful friend and join in the prayers said by Clare before the service at Lawnswood.



During May the money that had been collected since December 1st 2019 was distributed to the five charities supported by the church. As you will realise all fund raising came to a stop once the church was closed so that amount was not very much but it was felt that it should be distributed nevertheless. Therefore £100 went to the Retired Ministers Housing Trust; £45 to Caring for Life; £45 to Wheatfields Hospice; £33 to the Leeds Samaritans and £30 to the Bible Society. All the cheques have been presented to the bank so our gifts are being put to good use.
Thanks are due to my fellow fund raisers and to all of you who donate to the stalls and who buy from them.

Money can buy a house, but not a home.
Money can buy a bed, but not sleep.
Money can buy a clock, but not time.
Money can buy a book, but not knowledge.
Money can buy food, but not an appetite.
Money can buy friends but not Love
Money can buy position, but not respect.
Money can buy blood, but not life.
Money can buy insurance, but not safety.
Money can buy religion, but not salvation.

There has been time to think a lot about our priorities in the past months; Beth Pickersgill has sent in these words to bring some into focus.


As some of the more rigorous rules of the ‘Lockdown’ start to ease, Doreen has put down her thoughts on how we may feel about the past months. No doubt, the path ahead may not be straightforward but it is not too soon to celebrate the good that has happened along the way.

We might say ‘we’ll look back in anger,’ now
But that we must never do.
For out of the shock and the fear of death
A strong sense of helping grew.
A strong sense of caring and being kind
And doing the things we should,
And when it was over we all should feel
We faced it, the best we could.
And now, life is better than it has been,
Even though we suffered long.
The folk round the corner became our friends
With a bond that is firm and strong.
The people who shopped when the world was dark,
And we never did learn their name,
Turn round with a smile and say ‘How are you?’
Things can never be the same.
And someone unseen with a pleasant voice,
Phoned to people on their own,
Just knowing that someone could really care
Was something they’d never known.
So, ‘look back in anger’ if you must,
(It hurt everybody here),
But when people really start being kind,
What else can you do but cheer?

Come on then,
Let’s have it for all of us . . .
Hip – Hip – Hooray

Doreen Sowden 2020

four ladies