Don't be held by the past, but look to the future: Bishop's comforting words to former mining community

Published 15 April 2014
(Photo: Keith Blundy)
Bishop Paul Butler rededicates the miners memorial

The Bishop of Durham has led a service of commemoration to mark the 30th anniversary of a village pit closure.

Communities across the North East were badly hit when mines closed down in the second half of the twentieth century, with the Eighties under Thatcher being particularly tumultuous years.  Many communities have still not fully recovered.

The Bearpark Pit employed up to a thousand men and boys throughout its lifetime - most of the area's male working population - before its closure in 1984 after 112 years.

During that time, there was no major disaster at the pit, although 70 men and boys still died working the pit.  At the time of its closure, nearly 500 people were employed at Bearpark.

(Photo: Keith Blundy)
Members of the Parish Council and PCC with the Revd Canon Robert Lawrance, Bishop Paul and Roberta Blackman-Woods MP in front of the miners' banner

Bishop Paul Butler described the closure as a "tragic loss for everyone" in his sermon during the service at St Edmund's Church, Bearpark.

"We all know working in the pit was tough, hard graft. It was not glamorous. But it did create camaraderie and friendship," he said.

"Community life was focused around the work. Other activities, like the brass band, developed around the life of the pit. It was an entire way of life for every family and every person.

(Photo: Keith Blundy)
Bishop Paul Butler gives his sermon to commemorate 30 years since teh closure of the Bear Park Colliery

"The legacy of that community life remains so, as we remember, we remember those who died down the pit, or from health effects from working there. We remember and give thanks for the contribution that the mining made to the economy and life of the region and nation. We give thanks for the community life of Bearpark."

Village groups gave readings and a newly restored miners' memorial plaque was rededicated in memory of those who died in the pit between 1872 and 1984.

The bishop continued: "But as we, rightly, look back and remember and give thanks, we need to take care not to be held by that past. We can be nostalgic; we can glamourise what was a very tough life, we can long to bring it all back but in doing so we can find ourselves bound and hampered from living life fully now and hopefully in the future."

Vicar of St Edmund's, the Revend Canon Robert Lawrance said: "The service was a way of remembering and celebrating the community spirit which people feel the pit provided and which we are still struggling to find in this generation.

"It's very affirming to have the new Bishop taking time to be here. It means a lot to people."

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