Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I Was Happy That Jesus Wanted Me for a Sunbeam

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I Was Happy That Jesus Wanted Me for a Sunbeam

Article excerpt

Byline: LES WALTON COLUMNIST

THE Methodist Church became a central part of my life when my sister Sheila and my father died when I was a teenager.

Apart from my mother and close family, it was the Church that cared for me. I attended Sunday morning and evening services, afternoon 'Sunday School' and the youth fellowship on Sunday evening.

Today many people may consider the idea of going every Sunday to Sunday School a bit odd or quaint. I have fond memories of Sunday School as an oasis of support, storytelling, singing, kindness and friendship - happy memories of some of the best moments of childhood. It's a world I recall with huge affection.

Sunday School had a crucial influence on my personal development. I remember vividly singing 'Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam' in Sunday School and wondering what it would be like to be a sunbeam.

Years later Max Schafer asked the question "What if all of the sun's output of visible light was bundled into a laser-like beam that had a diameter of around 1m once it reaches Earth?" The answer was, it would be like a hydrogen bomb going off, only much more violent. I am sure that was not what Jesus had in mind for me!

A big aspect of my early childhood at Sunday School was taking part in a charitable scheme called 'Sunny Smiles'. At Sunday School we were given a little booklet featuring detachable photos of 'unfortunate' toddlers.

We were asked to tout them around to friends and family in return for a contribution. The buyer was then given the photo of the toddler. I remember being shocked by a neighbour who warned me that 'it was hard to sell the photos of the really ugly babies' Two Sunday School events have left a lasting impression. The Sunday School Anniversary was the most terrifying, my 'birthday celebrations' the most disappointing. Each year I had to learn my 'piece' for the Anniversary. One year we were dressed as flowers and I recited 'I am a tulip' to my doting parents. I used to be absolutely terrified that I would forget my words. However, it was at these classes that I learned the confi-dence to stand up in public and speak at the anniversary services.

The other event was the weekly celebration of children's birthdays. There were no presents. The 'cake' consisted of a wooden ring which had holes in which candles were placed.

Every Easter I was bought a brand new spring outfit, by my grandmother Bella Walton, to wear at the Sunday School Anniversary - my most memorable being a Harris Tweed matching jacket and shorts. Bella used to take me to Burtons tailors in Consett. She would agree to buy the outfit and then haggle with the salesman. Bella never accepted there were fixed prices and in the end would always negotiate a reduction.

The first Sunday School may have been opened in 1751 in Nottingham. …

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