Meet the team at St Mark’s URC, Amble
By Sue Swanston
Amble, – the friendliest port – is a small town (pop 6025 and growing) set among beautiful coastal scenery and on the estuary of the River Coquet with the Cheviot Hills not far away. Some of the best beaches in the country are within walking distance of the town, although, more often than not, you need your thermal underwear and woolly hat on to cope with the wind blasting off the North Sea (This article was written, of course, by ‘a soft southerner’). Recently there have been major building works in the town, including the Harbour Village which consists of 15 retails pods and a Seafood Centre where you can visit the lobster hatchery as well as buying fresh, locally-caught fish, we also have an award-winning high street and numerous new houses.
A major problem in the town however (and for the Church too) is parking – well, actually, lack of it. The town was mostly built in late Victorian times, so all those terraces have no garages or private parking spaces. Amble’s increased popularity (as a place to holiday in, or to visit for the day) has made it a little awkward for the car parker, and a delight for the parking attendants – please beware!
St Mark’s has been a presence in the town for over 130 years. We have been in our current building since 1894, as a Congregational Church until 1972, when we became St Mark’s United Reformed Church. Since 2010 we have been led by Revd Alison Mills in a part-time, non-stipendiary Ministry.
A small number of extended families has formed the larger part of the congregation since the beginning. Today we are a small (21 members, with 15 as an average congregation), ageing (average age 73) and extremely generous group!
We support a number of local and international charities on an annual basis; for example we are the largest sponsor , by far of the 3T charity in Bangladesh,, which Trains Teachers to Teach. We also contribute to the ongoing costs of a nursery school in Kenya. We have strong links with Commitment for Life, and support a village in Bangladesh through ActionAid. Donations are made to appeals when disasters strike across the world, as well as to other events, especially when members’ grandchildren have sponsored walks / swims / haircuts, etc. On two occasions, one of St Mark’s more adventurous members has been sponsored to abseil down the side of Alnwick Castle (her former home, as a teacher in training!) in aid of the local hospice.
We are a FairTrade Church and our FairTrade man, Mr George Hall, has a stall at all our events as the main supplier of fairly traded items in our area he also takes goods to other events, especially those run by our ecumenical neighbours, Coquet Churches Together.
We ‘share’ our building with a WeightWatchers Group. The East Coquetdale Local History Society, our Over 60s Group and until very recently a language group (set up to help refugee families settle more easily into the town). As a small and ageing congregation we are unable to physically carry out much of the ministry we feel called to do in and for our local community, but we are able to ‘gift’ the building to ‘our’ JellyBeanz Toddler Group, Amble Ranger Guides, and the Amble Foodbank, as well as The Puffin Lounge (a dementia-friendly drop-in afternoon). In this way our work to extend the Kingdom of God in this place, continues.
For a number of years now, on the first and third Saturdays of each month, St Mark’s has organised coffee mornings which are attended by members of every denomination in the town, as well as people with no particular church affiliation, they are good social times for the local community. WOW (Worship on Wednesdays) puts worship and meditation into the heart, and middle of each week, in Amble – a small group praying for the people and concerns of our area.
Each week, around 250 people use our buildings and facilities.
Every other year, we run Amble’s Variety Show – the town’s big effort for Christian Aid. So far, and each time we have managed to raise £1000+. The quality of the entertainment gets better and the quantity of people wanting to take part in the show increases each year, too.
Just for you ‘Footsteps’ readers, here’s a heads-up for the 2020 date; – Saturday, May 16th, 6.30 pm at St Mark’s. We’d love to see YOU there, too.
Our worship style is fairly relaxed. We have our own minister to lead worship twice a month; sometimes we are fortunate to welcome visiting worship leaders and sometimes we lead worship ourselves. Three or four times a year, for example, we hold a Songs of Praise service, when everyone can suggest their favourite hymns, readings, poems, etc. Hosting joint and ecumenical services (as well as those with a more ‘civic’ emphasis) is done as part of our sharing the work of Coquet Churches Together. As a designated and committed Inclusive Church, St Mark’s will again remember (for the third consecutive year) those of the world-wide Transgender community who have died because of persecution, on grounds of their gender.
St Mark’s dreams include a vision for future-proofing and re-modelling a building which is fit for all of our ministry and
activities (with toilets which are a pleasure to use and lots more storage space – and perhaps much, much more!)
I write this article as the Church Secretary of many years standing and, in the full recognition that the congregation will probably kill me for saying this, we are a vibrant, hard-working bunch and full of boundless energy!!!
If a stranger walks into St Mark’s, we hope we would be recognised as ‘a place to belong’ because we try to live up to a relational theology in which our ministry to each other and for God is borne out in our mission statement:
We care, we love, we serve and we welcome all in the name of the Lord.