The Northumbria Club held its autumn meeting on Wednesday, October 14, at the National Liberal Club.
After dinner the club chairman Ian Graham introduced the guest of honour, the Very Reverend Nicholas Henshall, Dean of Chelmsford, who was accompanied by his wife Christine, who was born and brought up in Ryhope.
Dean Henshall spent the early years of his ordained ministry in the Diocese of Newcastle, having been ordained by the Bishop of Newcastle. He spoke of being a curate in Blyth, before his appointment as Vicar of Scotswood.
His time in Scotswood was the main theme of his talk. He arrived to find a large Edwardian church, but with only 12 people attending regularly. He found an area blighted by long-term unemployment and loss of hope. The vicarage was burgled five times in his first year. He said the key was to see his ministry as not just to the Anglican parishioners, but to the community.
He and Christine began to be accepted; they sent their children to the local schools. He found to his surprise that evensong was quite a draw for the local children. He was able to give support to efforts to create local business initiatives. And he spoke of the many wonderful Tyneside characters he encountered in this challenging ministry.
There were setbacks, and he was clearly disenchanted with the city council’s plans for the redevelopment of Scotswood, which he saw as destroying, rather than re-building the community.
It was a fascinating talk: at times funny, moving, almost tragic, yet always engaging and stimulating.
Further information on the Northumbria Club, including details of our next meeting on December 9, may be obtained from our website www.northumbriaclub.com