2017 13 Thatcham Mission
Sun 21st May
The first event of the mission was a team visit to Thatcham Baptist Church (TBC) in the morning, where we had a warm welcome. We increased the size of the congregation by about 50%, and after the service, over coffee, there was a lot of chat between team members and church members.
Worship team at Thatcham Baptist
In the afternoon we brought out Hazel’s left over birthday cake, and served teas and coffees from our boat. Most of the team had some as well as some people passing by.
Team tea and cake
The churches of Thatcham came together for a very friendly canalside communion service in the evening. David Taylor, the pastor of TBC, played keyboard. It was a beautiful evening, enjoyed by everyone, as well as by a million mayflies who chose today to emerge in vast numbers.
Mon 22nd May
We had the first of our daily morning devotions as a team. Today it was at 9am and we led two songs acoustically, before a short word and a time of prayer. Then we planned who was to do what for the rest of the day. This was to be the format for these team gatherings for the rest of the mission.
We decided to join others of the team giving out leaflets in the Broadway, the main shopping area for Thatcham. There is a small central grass area between two roads, like a miniature park, where we pitched our gazebo. We were kept very busy at times, with a number of people crossing through the central area where we were based, and several choosing to rest on the park benches close by.
Leaflets in the Broadway
Back on the towpath later, some young girls from Rainbows came to visit the boats. They are a younger version of Brownies.
Rainbows visit the boats
Chris with kids on Kairos
In the evening we went to the Lamb for a pub meal and met six people on the next table who expressed an interest in what was going on. Later they came down to the canal to visit us on board Gabriel.
Tue 23rd May
The team meeting this morning was at 8.30am. Peter and Lin both had bad throats, and we were determined to keep away from them to avoid catching whatever it was they had.
We went to a coffee morning in the TBC, where there were a few people, mostly elderly. This event happens every week, with free teas, coffees and cakes, and the regulars come for a good chat. They weren’t expecting to be serenaded by two people with musical instruments. We sang three songs – The man who calmed the sea, Father’s Love, and Pilgrim. Although many were listening, some were chatting away and did not hear the message. The parable of the sower springs to mind, where some of the seed fell on stony ground. In hind sight we may have done better with something they might have known, such as the Battle of Jericho. As we got off the bus we
While we were engaged at the coffee morning, the boats were visited in two groups by Cold Ash Primary School, and later some of the British Legion came to have a tour of the boats.
Wed 24th May
This morning’s meeting was even earlier, at 8am, due to key people needing to be at a school assembly. Singing early in the morning is always a challenge, and we dropped the keys for the songs by a tone so that we could reach the high notes.
We noticed a greater spotted woodpecker on the trunk of a wooden electricity pole, level with Gabriel.
In the afternoon we visited “Ladies Circle”, an afternoon ladies group who meet at TBC. We sang several songs to them, including two hymns to start with. This time we included Banks of the Ohio, Jericho, and Oh When the Saints. We were well received, and stayed with them for tea and cakes. The lady opposite James had been born in Thatcham ninety years ago, and the lady next to him was 95!
As we walked back to the boats we passed a lady waiting at the bus stop and we chatted to her and gave her a leaflet and invited her to come and visit us on Gabriel.
The team had visits from Francis Bailey Primary School during the day. These school visits usually involve visiting four or five boats. They get a different bible story on each boat, as well as being told about what life is like living aboard, some of the history of canals, how locks work and so on.
In the evening a youth group came to visit, and spent some time with some of our youth workers. A home group from the church also came, which included a lady in a wheelchair. We managed to wheel her up the towpath to the lock, where we helped her on board Litania for a short cruise. At that moment, Remus, the other trip boat, had just turned round, and suddenly lost all transmission to the prop. They couldn’t stop, so they bumped into the stern of Litania, where, thankfully, the wheelchair lady had just sat down.
We had to leave Remus moored on the lock bollards, while we took a gentle thirty minute cruise past the Boats of Hope and beyond. Conversation developed, and James was able to give a short testimony to a man who was not yet a Christian.
Evening cruise on Litania
The view from the water
We went out for our wedding anniversary meal to the Lamb, where there was a curry night. It was not exactly haute cuisine, but at least we didn’t have to do the washing up!
Thu 25th May
Tony and Pat left early on Paws 4 Thought for a “lavender run” to Aldermaston to fill up their water tank and empty cassettes. They kindly agreed to take two cassettes from our boat plus some rubbish bags. We are being very frugal with our water so that it will last until the end of the mission. There are no facilities for boaters in Thatcham.
We were back to 8.30am for our morning meeting. When this was over we were delighted to meet up with Jack and Sandra from Aylesbury, who took us out for breakfast at the Wyevale Garden Centre. It was good to catch up with them and find out what had been happening back at Broughton Church.
Back at the boats we had more school visits, this time from Spurcroft Primary School.
Children heading back after their visit.
In the evening we had a gig at the White Hart, where we delivered two 45 minute sets, with boating songs, folk songs, and songs about the end times. Sadly there weren’t many pub customers present, although there was a table in the middle where people were joining in. We might a photo or a video to show here soon if one of the team would pass it to us.
We are doing it all again in Newbury, on Wednesday 7th June at the Old London Apprentice at 8pm.
The railway line is having overhead electric cables installed, and the level crossing at Thatcham is closed to cars overnight for several nights this week. On returning in Andy and Sue’s car to the level crossing, we persuaded some railway workers to carry our gear across the crossing, while we walked over the footbridge. This bridge is very high, to accommodate the planned electric cables. We had a good chat with some of the workers, who were all wearing orange Guantanamo Bay style boiler suits. They had their own technical train which came through, with lots of specialised equipment, and many orange men on board.
Fri 26th May
After the morning meeting we took a bus to the Broadway for Market day, and visited the excellent fruit and veg stall there. We followed this with a Chinese Thai lunch, which was very good. We found a bus which took us most of the way back to the boats.
Thankfully, the man from RCR managed to fix Remus installing a new coupling so that they had a propeller that turned once again.
There were more school parties visiting the boats, walking down the towpath past Monkey Marsh Lock, which is one of only two turf-sided locks in the country.
School group arriving
Kids on boats
Monkey Marsh Lock
White umbellifer (anyone know what it is called?)
Sat 27th May
After a dry week there was rain forecast for Saturday morning, our busiest day. We had prayed that it would pass through earlier and be dry during the day. In the end the rain came in the night – Thank you Lord.
Dawn over Thatcham
Our final team meeting on the towpath took place at 8.30am
Leading the worship
Worship on the towpath
Then it was our open day, with many boats open to the public. There was a free barbecue, and free boat trips on Litania and Remus, and everyone was having a great time. The people did not all arrive at once, so we were able to cope. We played our instruments from the back of Gabriel, using instrumental arrangements we had worked out over the years.
Peter and friends
We had worked out that the woodpecker we had seen earlier in the week was actually nesting in the wooden pole, and a young woodpecker was peering out of the hole, making loud tweeting noises, asking for food. I managed to take a photo, but Tim went into the field and took a much better one.
Link to Tim’s photo: https://www.onephotographaday.org.uk/woodpecker-in-a-pole/
In the evening we went to TBC to hear Tracey’s talk entitled “The Blind Boater”. With her guide dog Oakley, she is well known on the waterways.
Sun 28th May
Back to TBC in the morning for their service. Music led by a talented guy on a keyboard.
Thatcham Baptist Church
In the evening we had our testimony service, where we led the worship, just four songs in the end as people had a lot to share. This was the final event of the Thatcham Mission, and we ended up back at the boats, chilling out on the towpath with wine and nibbles.
Team chill out
Next: moving off towards Newbury where we start again on Friday for a further mission.