I don't have children, but one thing I know is that you aren't meant to have favourites. I'm guessing the same is true for regional workers and cities.
At my interview, and any time I've been asked about what excites me about this job, I talk about the North West. When I applied to University I applied to four of the institutions that now form part of my patch. I'm not from the North West originally, I'm a Midlander (you know, that big area that isn't North or South), but I have found my home in the North West. On Wednesday I got to return to the city I went to university in, the city that saw me transform from a teenager who really couldn't cook, to a young adult with a star chart with lots of meals on it! It can therefore be said that I was probably most excited about this visit.
I arrived in Lancaster with plenty of time before my meetings so went to the Cornerstone Cafe which is part of Lancaster Methodist Church, where I was a member for 6 years. There I got cheap coffee, a tasty teacake and free wifi to put the finishing touches on the section I'm writing for the Student Sunday resources. I wasn't there long before people I recognised came in, and I used my lunch break to join them for their prayer meeting. They asked me about my work and prayed for me. About seven years earlier, in that very room, some of the same people prayed for me as I started my first grown up job. It was lovely to be back.
Soon after that I got a bus up to Lancaster University where I met a PHD student, Emily for a really nice and really cheap soup lunch in one of the cafes on campus. Emily is someone I knew in my final year in Lancaster, so it was lovely to catch up but also share about SCM and she even decided to become a member on the spot! (She was the first of two members I've signed up this week, the other being a Maths Student in Manchester that I met for coffee on Thursday.)
After lunch I went to the Chaplaincy where I met Kev and Kara the Anglican and Methodist Chaplains to talk about what we could do together and how we can support one another. They seemed very interested in the End Hunger UK campaign that SCM have launched this week. After a good chat, Kara took me to the University of Cumbria - Lancaster Campus Chaplaincy Office to meet Alex the co-ordinating chaplain there. Again we had good conversations around finding ways of working together and hearing about what goes on in Cumbria now - a few years after I graduated.
I decided against getting the bus back into town as I had the time to walk, and it was lovely to relive memories of my time in Lancaster. I even got to see my house group leaders getting off the train that I was getting on to return to Manchester. (November transport count: 15 trains, 4 trams and 1 bus).
I'll leave my tales from the rest of this week for another blog. I might even get into the pattern of two blogs a week - we'll see!
If you'd like me to visit your wonderful North West city please get in touch.