The following email was received by Fr David on Friday 20th March 2020 at the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdown.
I wonder if you realise... the nature?.. of the parish you 'preside over?'
Circa May 2018 those on duty on the Church door made a stranger welcome.
The Vicar reinforced this, offering rival facilities, followed by gestures of friendship, aided and abetted by the Organist. These included an invitation to, and transport to/from a breakfast gathering. Other participants extended the existing welcome with invitations to social outings, again providing transport.
Soon, the Vicar's wife 'got in on the act' by playing host to a 'games evening.'
The 'reserve minister!' added an invitation to make use of the stranger's interests and skills.
Not to be outdone, the Vicar and Organist/Lay Reader offered their considerable Information Technology skills, to date, refusing payment.
In conjunction with the 'alternative organist', members of the Church Technical Team have offered to assist with the sale of a new railway themed board game at local markets.
Similarly, the local tradesmen and shopkeepers continue to make the stranger welcome, whilst providing service above and beyond usual standards.
Even the council have been supportive, including a welcome grant just for occupying a hitherto empty property.
During 2019, Willington Photography Club exposed the stranger to the scenic delights of Staindrop and Durham, before an invitation to their Christmas celebration.
A family of fellow newcomers 'celebrated' the New Year by providing the stranger with a full festive roast dinner.
In early 2020, the Bell ringer provided transport to/from a local warehouse, and in common with the others, refused payment.
From the moment the stranger first entered the building the two ladies 'running' the Willington Public Library have consistently provided an appropriate welcome, together with lots of appreciated advice and assistance. In their rare absences, 'relief colleagues' have risen to the challenge of maintaining such a high standard.
This afternoon (20/3/2020) the stranger's neighbour knocked on the door to announce the arrival of two ladies bringing three bags of free food/toiletries, etc. Many of the items are not needed and, with help from one of the congregation, will 'find their way' to the local food bank.
This 'Weardale welcome' has also included: Photographic opportunites at Hunwick Cricket Club, and Willington Football Club, afternoon teas, quiz nights, a model railway exhibition, and craft fayre.
A well-known source of information on the internet claims that Willington hasn't recovered from the loss of its colliery in 1967. I beg to differ."