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Rain fails to dampen spirits

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date online: 12 June 2017

GAZING skywards the man with the booming voice challenged the elements.

Because this specially invited guest at Saddleworth's Whit Friday united service was absolutely determined it would not rain on his parade.

And the charismatic Archbishop of York beseeched the audience, huddling under a glittering sea of umbrellas, to join his plea.

John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu came to the edge of a stage, waved his hands at the sullen clouds and said:"Tell the rain to go away ... go away!"

And, in unison, they all bellowed:"Rain, go away!

And it did ...

Just seconds before the Archbishop began his innovative interactive address, the intense outburst simply evaporated to be replaced by sparkling sunshine.

I joined the Most Reverend and Right Honourable man of the cloth when he first arrived and beguiled scores of villagers in Dobcross.

He marched into the ivy-clad square to the inspirational tune "Hailing smiling morn," part of the traditional Whit Friday fabric.

His entourage included his chaplain, the Rev Dr Daphne Green, Saddleworth's new team rector, Rev Canon Sharon Jones, flanked by members from Holy Trinity church whose officials originally invited him to the celebration.

They were backed by members of Saddleworth ATC, Sandy Lane Community Church and Dobcross Silver and Youth band.

And with a few well timed jokes linked to his deep seated beliefs, the Archbishop captured the hearts and minds of this rugged hillside community.

Addressing the congregation outside the pub in the village centre, he said:"We love a smile, of belonging together.

"We love a sense of community celebrating all that is good in one another."

A collection was taken during the service for Oldham Young Carers.

Then, accompanied by Sunday school children, a swell of villagers and a swirl of proud banners, they processed to Uppermill.

Along the way, he chatted, engaged parents in conversation and was in every sense, seen by locals as God's good guy.

And when the open-air service with other villages got underway, he involved the clergy in the rhapsody of the event.

The Rev Dr Andrew Lunn, Methodist chair of Manchester and Stockport, Fr Bernard Bickers, Sacred Heart and St William Uppermill and Rev Hilary Edgerton, from Saddleworth Team helped throw handfuls of brightly coloured balloons to the crowd.

Then the crowd were encouraged to blow into the balloons before releasing them skywards.

Said the Archbishop: "While the breath of life was in the balloons they were able to fly ... the spirit lives in us."

And, at one point, he invited six year old Thomas Le Marrec to join him on the stage.

Thomas was visiting with his mother Sarah, who was born in Uppermill, and now lives in France.

After highlighting money can become a distraction, the Archbishop presented him with a £5 note.

Said his delighted mother:"Thomas was very brave going in the stage, particularly as his first language is French.

"But he loved the experience and it was wonderful to have such an emblematic figure to take the service."

Other clergy taking part included the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, who hails from Mossley.

And Rev Duncan Rhodes, celebrating 75 years of making the walk from Diggle, said:"Its been a wonderful day."

Later, after he shared lunch with the children at Holy Trinity CE primary Dobcross, the Archbishop took stock of his visit.

"Saddleworth is a beautiful place - I particularly liked the walk along the river."

And what of the rain? "I've stopped it before," he enthused, adding:" But rain can be so refreshing."

For the record, it didn't rain in Dobcross for the rest of Whit Friday and crowds at brass band contest enjoyed a mild, balmy evening.

Who knows, perhaps John Sentamu can bring his own particular kind of sunshine to Whit Friday again next year?


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