A Corner of the Vineyard
by Denise Johannsen
Missionary work moved at an amasing rate. The chapel was filling [as] less active members were returning. The branch pioneered The Reach Out programme where members would meet on a Wednesday evening, and after earnest prayers, would go out and visit less active brothers and sisters. They aimed to seek out and bring back to the fold, the lost sheep. The Stake Presidency were so impressed that they asked Blackburn to make a video on how the programme was achieved. Sacrament meetings, the chapel was bulging at the seams. Average attendance was around 230 per week. It was time yet again to move forward.
by Denise Johannsen
1990, the government is informing the citizens of Britain that they are now out of the recession. Exports are up, firms are expanding, therefore more employment. This was quite correct. It was a fact that some businesses were enjoying an upsurge in profits. But, on the other hand, many were still struggling, with some still going bankrupt. Blackburn, as per usual, fared worse than some other parts of the country. But nevertheless, there were success stories here too. Unemployment had fallen. The town was looking a little more prosperous, although there were still many families struggling to make ends meet.
The country was still on a downward slide. Both moral and spiritual aspects of society falling to an all time low. Everyone was now talking of the year 2000; looking forward to the prospect of a new century. Amazing inventions, almost daily astound the human race. Giant leaps in the world of medicine, Many cures were found for common ailments, but, alas, still no cure for cancer. Neither, unfortunately, as yet for AIDS, a sexually transmitted, rather nasty disease, which inevitably ends in an ignominious death.
Entertainment--not much change from the 80s [with] night clubs and bars being found favourites. The family outings to the country side and many other great British institutions still flourishing.
The housing market was suffering a slump at this time, partly due to the vast rise in house prices. The average terraced was selling for the princely sum of 40,000 (BPS). One wonders what the people of the nineteenth and twentieth century would have to say about this.
There was an air of great excitement as members prepared to leave the old building. Lots of work had to be accomplished at both places. At the new chapel, everything had to be cleaned, chairs wiped down, etc. Also, plenty of furniture removing was required. The workers were eagre and willing. The thrill of it all. Pure ecstasy was experienced as they wandered around the chapel and, with awe, surveyed the beautiful classrooms, cultural hall, baptismal font, kitchen, and lovely chapel area.
Oh, these wonderful faithful saints, who had tended the Lord's vineyard--tending it with such love and care. For a hundred and fifty years they had toiled, serving the Lord by hard work and diligence to build up this part of His Kingdom here in Blackburn; never allowing the tree to die, but forever lovingly watering, pruning, nourishing, until at last it was finally baring fruit, and they, able to begin the harvest.
It was July 22, 1990, the long awaited day had arrived. The day Blackburn saints had dreamed of for so many years. Tears welled up in many eyes, as thought went back. Back to fond memories of brothers and sisters long gone, dear, faithful friends, who had struggled beside them, who had served the Lord with all their might, mind, and strength. [They were] striving together with one common goal--to see Blackburn become a ward and to have their very own chapel. Sadly, the sands of time had run out for these special valiant spirits. They were called home before the dream was realized. How they would have loved to have lived to see this day; to have sat in this beautiful chapel. Then, smiles of recognition and understanding, as the Spirit whispered, "Do you think that Heavenly Father would exclude them from this momentous occasion? They are here. Can't you feel their presence?"
In November 1990, came the icing on the cake!! It was the first Saturday night conference of Preston Stake, to be held in the Blackburn chapel. Blackburn had arrived; now they were on their way. Members made a solemn vow that they would serve, study two chapters of the Book of Mormon daily, visit the temple regularly to strive to become more righteous [and] more spiritual, to reach heights they had never before attained; to make Blackburn Branch a beacon, a shining light, not just to Blackburn town, not just to Preston Stake, or to the Church in Great Britain, but to the world!!
The leaders set a shining example, from President Jolliffe downwards. They urged, they inspired, they planned, they organised, [and] they streamlined. Every brother and sister caught the vision and worked hard. They were united [and] they were as one mind.
|Front entry into Blackburn Ward chapel|
|The front of the chapel|
Another milestone had been reached in the history of the Blackburn saints. Sunday, November 21, 1992, this day would go down in the annuls of history--the creation of Blackburn Ward. Realisation of yet another goal--yes success was sweet. A burning in every one's bosom as President Pinnock (served as a counsellor in the area presidency) predicted that he would be back this time in 1993, at the creation of Accrington and Blackburn wards, if they continued to work as hard as they had been doing over the past two years. President Jolliffe was called to be the first bishop.
Accrington. But, if Zion was to be established in this part of the Lord's vineyard, it had to be.
November 22, 1993, the year had passed so quickly. President Pinnock was yet again seated on the stand. Emotions were running high. They had done it!! Blackburn was splitting with Accrington. Never before in the history of the Church had wards split in such a short time of becoming a ward. Alex Duxbury was chosen by Heavenly Father to be the new bishop. He was to lead the saints onwards to further victories.
It seemed like Blackburn could not fail. They were going from strength to strength. Their fame had spread through the length and breadth of Britain, but it didn't stop there. Their recognition had spread to the First Presidency in Salt Lake City, Utah. Blackburn was standing on the edge of another threshold, another plateau was to be reached. Their eyes set firmly on their next goal, which was to split with Darwen.
It has been eighteen months since the split with Accrington. A different year to 1993. The ward had reached a great height of spirituality. With the parting of the brothers and sisters from Accrington, this spirituality had obviously decreased by half. Now they had so many new members [who where] humble, sweet souls, fresh to the gospel. But this had brought a new challenge--to help these brothers and sisters grow, that they too would attain this spirituality. To help Blackburn in this quest, the stake has sent Brother and Sister Halliwell from Chorley, and Brother and Sister Leyland, from Rawthenstall, together with their families. July 1995, the ward is still united in love and spirit. The spirituality is growing. Some of these dear brothers and sisters have already made it to the temple and received their endowments, been sealed to their spouses and to their children for all time and eternity. Others are literally counting the days until they too can go to that Holy House. They too are now playing their part in the eternal plan.
There is no turning back for Blackburn. They will go forward year after year, reaching plateau after plateau. Nothing, absolutely nothing will stop them now. Nothing they can't or won't achieve. They have Heavenly Father, the Saviour, all the prophets and all the host of Heaven, building them [and] willing them on. THEY WILL SUCCEED. THEY WILL WIN THROUGH!!