Katie (10) from St Anne's CofE school - get a close look at one of the exhibition displays. (Picture: Keith Blundy)
It is good to be able to share an encouraging weekend of ‘Encounters with Hope’ in Bishop Auckland.
The Town Council approached me to help with a dilemma: their nationally renowned, champion allotment growers’‎ annual Horticultural Show was receiving little interest from families and children.
The growers expressed their passionate desire for the younger generation to appreciate where their food and the most beautiful flowers come from, and that everyone could grow their own.  So St Anne’s Church at the heart of the Market Place, next to the Horticulture and Produce Show in the Town Hall, opened its doors to draw children, families, and visitors to encounter the glories of the earth’s flowers and produce.  This encouraged the Town Council, the Town Team, Durham Markets, and the Auckland Project to put on workshops, put up market stalls, dance and music entertainment in the marketplace. Thousands of families and visitors visited the show and were blessed. 
About 2000 people came through the church. 70 children from many schools participated in the church’s photographic competition of their flowers and gardens; the chaplaincy children of St Anne’s Primary School set up 2 prayer stations; a Cross of Hope was erected above the Garden of Eden floral display; a novelty cake decorating competition produced 2 extraordinary cakes; an Invention Challenge had 3 teams from Bishop Auckland, St Andrew’s Winston, and Auckland Project, create outstanding displays in 30 minutes; and more than 100 people worshipped at the closing service of blessing and praise on Sunday afternoon.  Innovations, a group of mentally-disabled adults, used foraged leaves and other items from Bishop’s Park to create an artistic interpretation of the Market Place.
Local environmentalist Mike Heslop transported most of his own wildlife loving garden into the church including bug hotels and a new bee-hive. Almost £400 was raised for the Food Bank by an ecumenical team representing Wear Valley Christian Centre, St Peter’s Byres Green, and St Mary’s Gainford: Rachael Masters‎, Charlie Scott-King, and Jacqueline Ferguson baked, decorated, and sold home-made cupcakes of fruit and vegetables.  Donations from the weekend also supported Archbishop Justin’s ‘Mustard Seed Appeal’.
How we thank God for bringing so many people together to celebrate His blessings.
Revd Eileen Harrop
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