Runcorn Burning

I received the news today the ward building in Runcorn, Cheshire burned down on Saturday.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect some on my experiences in good ole Runcorn and the building which is now no more.  I do remember hearing they were going to start adding on a new addition for the building.  However, I do not know if they had started yet or if that had any part to do with the fire.  Perhaps somebody thought if they burned it down, they would get a whole new building.  Hopefully the church isn’t as slow in rebuilding this building as I know they have been in replacing other buildings.
I remember seeing pictures of the Runcorn Building being built.  There were pictures of John Byrom’s mother on the roof of the building when it was being shingled.  I can see other good Saints helping in the construction of their building.  I remember hearing the stories of John and Audrey McKee in helping build the Birkenhead Ward Chapel.  They still had the saw that he used to cut a pipe down in a hole one day.  He asked if the power was turned off and assured several times it was.  The saw proved that it had not been.  He had shared stories about helping build other buildings, the Chester and Runcorn Chapels included.  Even though he lived in Wallasey he traveled to help.  That is the way I guess they did it.  I can see the pictures of Ray Holmes and some of his family helping on a building, I am not sure if it was the Runcorn Building though.  I tend to believe it was.
In another month or so it will be 8 years since I was transferred to Runcorn.  It was there I was assigned to be Elder Hales’ companion.  I had only met the boy a half year before at Pizza Hut in Stretford on Preparation Day.  He was a new missionary and I would see him a couple of months before one of us was transferred elsewhere.  I arrived at 29 Handforth Lane early one morning.  Brother Wood (Rob or Bob, cannot remember) had driven me from Eccles to Runcorn.  We became terribly lost on the meandering roads of Runcorn.  At one point we found ourselves illegally on the busway.  We finally pulled into the flat to find John Pass there with his father, Doug, to welcome me.  They actually were cleaning up some of the front and fixing the shower downstairs.  It had been having some problems.  I remember embracing Brother Wood and the expression on his face.  I too had really come to love Eccles and was not looking forward to leaving.
I entered which definitely had to be one of the largest flats in the mission.  Three floors and it was all to ourselves.  Just weeks before the missionaries for Northwich had lived there.  That P-day Brad and I cleaned up the apartment.  We stacked mattresses upon mattresses in the 3rd flood bedroom.  I remember being astonished there was a weight room on the 3rd floor.
That evening Elder Hales took me to visit the Bennett’s and the Byrom’s.  The Bennett Family was less active.  We sat there visiting with them and that was the first time I ever heard or saw Britney Spears.  She was in a music video singing her One More Time song.  Of course the family had to stop all conversation and turn it up.  We watched.  After that, we excused ourselves and walked to the Byroms.  There we met the whole family and their friend Simone Keogh.  It would begin a relationship that continues even until today.
I am going completely from memory so I may be slightly off in some of the details, but I believe I am correct.  But Runcorn proved to be one of what I felt was my most productive areas.  Elder Hales and I struggled sloshing through the rest of 1999.  One day in the kitchen of 29 Handforth Lane we had a disagreement that would change our relationship.  Our impromptu Companionship Inventory would change the rest of our missions.  Through the week that followed we adapted to each other and our unity increased.  The Lord visibly blessed us in a myriad of ways.  The remainder of Elder Hales’ time and my own in Runcorn saw success regularly afterward.  Our teaching pool became full, we saw lives change, and baptisms started occuring every week.  They were not always ours, but they were the district’s.
Every week we would have our District Development Meeting in the Runcorn Chapel.  The Elder’s from Chester, Northwich, and the Sister’s would join us.  Every week the baptisms were held at the Runcorn Chapel.  It was only a few weeks later the Northwich Branch was created and split from Runcorn.  It was a very exciting time.  We had whole families who were starting to come out.  The chapel was becoming fuller and fuller despite the loss of Northwich.  The whole energy was powerful.  We were very fortunate to be there then.
It was from those friendships there so many other experiences have come.  I would never have entertained Elder Haight or met Elder Ballard if it were not for Runcorn.  My Mission President and I bonded during this time.  I still count Brad Hales as one of my closest friends today.
I remember watching from the weight room in the Handforth Flat the fireworks for Y2K.  We had the perfect view overlooking the valley between us and Frodsham, Helsby, and towards Ellsmere Port.  The fireworks were phenomenal.  In the next room was the bathtub we had shined and filled with water for preparation just in case something should go wrong and we should have no water.  We had a score of water saved there for the drinking or for the toilet right there if need be.
Just across the tracks was the home of the Stake Patriarch, Tony and Norma Johnson.  We spent many an evening on their doorstep or in their dining room.  They were very good to us on a regular occasion.  If it wasn’t for Patriarch Johnson I would not have met Elder Brough and years later be asked if he knew me at a Stake Conference in Logan, Utah.  I remember accidentally fluffing it one evening after dinner to the horror of the Johnson grandchildren.  However, Norma was very civilized and all went on as if had never happened.  It was only a squeek but enough for the kids to smirk.  I am grateful for those who understand our slip ups and keep moving on with life.
I remember many evenings sitting there while Elder Hales made phone calls and I planned for the next day.  I admire how humble he was for making the phone calls because I so much disliked it.  Every evening after the calls he would collapse in bed irritated by the Sisters and annoyed that I harrassed him about being on time for prayers.  He was a humble man and I can only hope all the lessons I learned are retained and applied.
I don’t remember how often, but it was that flat we would arise at 5:30 AM to go running.  We would run and both would be exhausted by the time we got back.  It was then to shower and get ready for the day.  I really enjoyed our scripture study.  Is it any wonder that all the future times we were roommates we carried on that tradition.  Together we finished the entire Standard Works in 2003.  That was a goal we made together and achieved.
Anyhow, Runcorn holds many fond memories.  Elder Hansen who now lives in Richmond, Virginia and whose wife Amanda worked with this summer, that association was started in Runcorn.  Sister Peterson in Oakley started association in Runcorn.  President Wightman called me in Runcorn as he became lost going the wrong way on a busway.
It was on the porch of the Runcorn building I played with the Fullwood girls.  It was in the choir seats of Runcorn I refused to make a hip beat of a hymn.  It was in Runcorn I did a solo in the Easter Cantata.  I think it is sure to say, the Runcorn Ward and Chapel will forever be remembered as a great increasing point for the fire which burns in my bones.
I have heard in recent years the Runcorn Ward has diminished in activity.  There appears to have been a great deal of tumult in the ward.  Even the Byrom Family, who I would never have thought to separate, has been split asunder.  A former Bishop went Apostate and now the building has burned down.
One thing is for sure.  It can only go up from here.  I wish I was in Runcorn now to be a part of the rebuilding.

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