THERE must be something about Thursdays that says “soup”: when we were at Westcott House in the 1990s, the tradition was that tutor groups took it in turn to provide soup suppers for the college on a Thursday night, and the money that would otherwise have been spent on feeding us was donated to charity.
Here in the benefice, we have a soup-and-sandwich lunch after the Thursday 11-a.m. eucharist; this is known as “Breaking Bread”. (If you understand why, when it’s my turn to cook the soup, I have an urge to wear a pork-pie hat and call myself “Heisenberg”, you also watch too much television; if not, consider yourself fortunate that you have a better social life and more discerning televisual tastes than I have.)
Before the pandemic, children from Warton village school would come across to help serve lunch — the draw for them being the rather delicious home-made cakes with which we always finish off the meal. At the time of writing (who knows what will be happening by the time you read this), we have restarted Breaking Bread, and it is thriving; we are hoping that, once the school infection rates are low enough, the children will again want to be involved; the promise of chocolate cake may help.
Back in action
THE children of our other school, Yealand C of E Primary School, had an exciting day in early March when Sally Reynolds of Leighton Hall, Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire, visited them to help to plant an oak tree given to the school as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
I believe that cake also featured in the “Toast the Tree” festivities on the day, but I’m afraid I missed it. A few days earlier, I had been sitting at the desk, printing off material for our junior church; as I reached across to collect the sheets, pain, like the physical embodiment of the violent violins in the Psycho shower scene, stabbed into my lower back as it went into a severe spasm.
After a very long half-hour, my husband popped back between services and discovered my predicament. He had time only to bring me my crutches (I have them for flare-ups of my rheumatoid arthritis) and some anti-inflammatories before heading back to church, stopping by junior church to offer my apologies and the printed sheets.
Another half-hour, and I was able to peel myself off the desk and hirple out of the study with the help of the crutches. Two weeks on, and all that is left now is a niggling residual ache, a deep gratitude that I can walk upright once again, and a lovely, handmade, get-well card from junior church.
WE ARE fortunate to have a dedicated and talented junior-church co-ordinator and a group of lively, inquisitive, and engaged children. Each year, in Lent, they set a challenge for the benefice, asking us to support a local charity; this year, we are collecting food and essential items for The Olive Branch (www.the-olivebranch.org.uk), which works with people in need in the Lancaster area.
The charity saw referrals double during the first lockdown, and, given the economic pressures that we are all facing, demand for their services shows no sign of reducing. It has been heartening to see the generosity of response in the benefice — not only to our Lent Challenge, but to appeals for help for those affected by the war in Ukraine.
Of course, junior church is also a chance for fun. If time permits, we enjoy some rambunctious games. In the session before my back cried “Mercy!”, we had been playing a particularly lively game after which — not wishing to wreck any plans that the parents had for a peaceful Sunday by handing back hyped-up children — I led a short meditation.
As I spoke, their breathing gradually slowed, their faces lost the hectic flush of exertion, and they allowed themselves to relax, just in time for their parents to pick them up. Heading homeward, one youngster declared: “I want to hear you talk for a billion years.”
Not the usual response of those forced to listen to me, as my family will attest; I rather think that they were just ready for a rest — although they would almost certainly never admit it.
AND now it is probably time to allow you a rest: you have endured my blethers for, if not quite a billion years, certainly long enough. Thank you for bearing with me for so long; particular thanks to all of you who have written to me. I have valued hearing about your experiences, both bad and good, and I am delighted that you have felt able to confide in me; it has been a privilege.
You leave me contemplating what sort of soup to make for this week’s Breaking Bread; leek and potato is a strong contender, as it is always popular and would allow me to make use of a present sent to me by a friend — a lovely pot of “multi award-winning, natural sea salt” from “the mineral-rich sea waters” of a loch on one of the Scottish Islands. Leek and potato with a generous sprinkling of crunchy Scottish sea salt crystals sounds good to me.
God be with you and, should you find yourself near Warton on a Thursday, pop in for some soup: you will be very welcome.
Now, where’s that pork-pie hat. . .
Elizabeth Figg is an ex-QARANC officer, nurse, and midwife, now working as a freelance writer. Her husband is the vicar of Warton with Yealand Conyers in the diocese of Blackburn.