Monday, 19 April 2010


In November last year Cumbria was hit by devastating floods that dominated the national news. Cockermouth saw rescue boats floating down the main streets, 20 bridges across the rivers Derwent and Cocker were significantly damaged or collapsed completely, and policeman Bill Barker was drowned as he was swept from a collapsing bridge in Workington.

The media attention may have now gone, but the evidence of the major impact on people’s lives is still all too evident. I visited the area on Saturday accompanied by Rev Richard Teal, Chair of the Cumbria District, to hear the stories of those who were affected by the floods, to learn how the local churches responded, and to assure them of the ongoing prayers of Methodists throughout the Connexion.

Lorton Street Methodist Church in Cockermouth continues to be open every day for coffee and support.

We were met there by local minister Revd Sue Edwards, supernumery minister Revd Keith Rushton and his wife Heather, together with Rev Nicola Reynolds, superintendent minister in neighbouring circuit but also the lead for Churches Together in Cumbria on the disaster planning group. As elsewhere in Cumbria, the Churches work extremely well together, and the flood has brought them even closer.

Funds have been provided to enable a small kitchen area to be installed in the entrance of the church that has now become more of a free cafĂ©. It has not only been a current help but it is also so they are “ready for next time”. We met Gloria who has been coming to the church every day since her home was flooded. She had gone out for lunch when the floods suddenly hit the town and has not been able to go back to her house since. She has now had to move elsewhere.

Local churches were at the heart of the emergency response. A disaster plan had been in place for a number of years and it was put in to action within hours of the seriousness of the situation being realised. Very quickly150 people had volunteered to help from local churches. It was noticed by everyone that the orange jackets of the emergency services were closely followed by the yellow jackets of volunteers from Churches Together. They worked in reception centres, sorted clothes, served meals, provided drinks on the streets and everywhere offered a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.

After looking around Cockermouth, and seeing how the many damaged buildings were being repaired, we travelled on to Workington and saw clearly how powerful the force of the river had been with the destruction of the main bridge. Next week a temporary road and bridge will be opened, which will once again allow people to drive between the two parts of the town, instead of having to travel an 18 mile detour. We were told that the separation caused by the loss of the bridges had caused a noticeable increase in the cases of depression seen by local GPs.

Keswick too suffered flood damage, including the Methodist manse, which is still being repaired.

The Churches response to the floods was impressive and will not be forgotten here for many years.

On Sunday morning we travelled to the Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Tebay Circuit where I was to preach at Soulby Methodist Church. We were joined by Revd Richard Teal and his wife Sue. As in the Lake District yesterday, the Eden Valley roads looked beautiful with long lines and groups of daffodils dancing in the spring sunshine. Soulby is a small village near Kirkby Stephen and only has a population of around 200, but today the church was almost full as people from nearby churches came to join us in worship. Following the service we shared lunch with church members and learnt about the many challenges facing this predominantly farming community.

Kings Meaburn Methodist Church, which replaced an earlier chapel, was built in 1932 and was the last Wesleyan Church to be built before Methodist Union. This afternoon we shared in their Church Anniversary. We were joined by others from around the circuit. We were welcomed by church steward Yvonne Booth who told us that for a couple of years she was almost the only member of this small village chapel. She faithfully opened the church every Sunday and a simple act of worship would take place. Gradually others came and now the church regularly sees between 6 and 12 people attending every Sunday. It was a sign of resurrection fit for the Easter season, and it was a privilege to preach there.

No comments: