It's thirty years since the Durrington Community Centre Church opened and, although no longer a member of the congregation they hadn't forgotten me - bless them - but invited me back for their birthday celebration. I felt
honoured to be remembered.
I wondered how many people I would know after all this time but, of the 30 strong congregation, I found I knew a good 50%. Some were like me, former Church members invited back for
the birthday. Others were faces I remembered so well from the Old Days. Faces were one thing but names were another matter. One old friend greeted me with a hug and a kiss and rejoiced to see me. "What's the name of the lady you were talking to?" my friend
Arthur asked me. I tell him I wish he hadn't asked that because I am trying desperately to recall it to mind. Half way through the service it comes back to me - of course, it's Mary, how could I possibly have forgotten? We used to sit together in the front
row and her daughter was one of my Junior Church (aka Centre Gang) youngsters.
I hesitate to call them "pupils" because they undoubtedly taught me a great deal more than I taught them. I still remember talking
to them about the need to recruit more leaders and what we could do about it. We could make "Wanted" posters, I suggested, or perhaps some of them might like to write about it in the Church magazine. One small mite looked up at me with large, serious eyes.
"We could pray," she suggested, gravely. I was humbled at a stroke.
The Community Centre Church has sometimes been called St Tesco's because the centre is situated in the supermarket's car park. When Tesco's
wanted to redevelop its building as a super Superstore, it needed the space occupied by the old centre building and had to undertake to provide a whole new community centre as the Price for its Ambition. Today was the first time I had been in the new building
and it was, indeed, most impressive.
After the short service we repaired to the lounge for a buffet lunch. I know it's not the right thing to say but you do always hope on these occasions, don't you, that
you will be on a "good" table. By this I mean one where the other people sitting round the table are convivial types, hopefully easy to talk to and - though this may be a bit much to hope for - fun to be with. Mr B and I often find ourselves on the "wrong"
table at lunch parties, generally because Mr B always rushes to be first in the dining room. Once we have sat down we are at the mercy of whoever decides to join us whereas if we had just held back a bit (I tell Mr B who looks as if he is listening to me but
the proof of the pudding will be in the eating) then we could have sussed out who was sitting where and joined some kindred spirits. We have lots of Christmassy type meals coming up where I intend to put my theory to the test. Always supposing Mr B plays ball.
On this occasion, I was ushered to a table by the Church Secretary who was anxious to make sure I was looked after and I have to report that I couldn't have chosen more welcoming lunch companions. We had a good old natter
as Mavis, Jenny and Linda moved from table to table bearing platters of sandwiches, quiche, hard-boiled eggs, onion rings, crisps, sausage rolls and cheese. Our conversation ranged from the delights of Canada to the way so many youngsters today say "haitch"
- it comes, said Audrey sagely, from watching too much "Neighbours" on TV. Long, long ago when the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was at Sixth Form College we were wont to meet for lunch at home and watch the goings-on in Ramsey Street. It's not something
to be particularly proud of - but I did so love those companionable lunches. And no, neither of us says haitch, not even in jest.
They say you should never go back but I think "they" are wrong. "St Tesco's"
was part of my life for the best part of 20 years. I remember in particular how church members looked after me when my Mum died, inviting me to sit with them even though I would cry all through the service. "We're so glad you came to sit with us" they would
say, to which I would reply, between sobs: "You can't be, not when I am such a misery." And they would pat my hand in silent sympathy and not say that I would feel better soon, which is probably the worst thing you can say to someone who is grieving.
Happy 30th Birthday, Durrington Centre Community Church. I am so glad I was there to join your celebration.