‘Why I Believe’- Sunderland and Billingham Stakes Share Faith With Community

by Sarah Edwardes


Recently in Billingham, part of Stockton-On-Tees, euphonious voices were heard singing in the chapel, sweet testimonies were shared, and the spirit was felt in abundance at the ‘Why I Believe’ musical service.

The service was organised to share with people in the community what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, and what their faith is rooted in. The goal was also to convey that we follow Jesus Christ and his teachings, and that we are a Christian people. It was also a chance for congregations across the Stake to join together and celebrate our faith.

Connor Duncanson, Branch President of the Peterlee branch, who led the choir with vigour, remarked that, ”The idea to do a musical fireside came from attending a musical fireside in Sunderland Stake. I came away thinking Billingham Stake should do something similar, but with greater involvement from members. Choosing the music for the choir came very naturally. We wanted music that would centre around the Saviour and why we believe in him.”

The night was a success, and members of different ages, backgrounds, nationalities, male and female, and missionaries currently serving in the mission field came together in unity and love to share their message through singing and music.

President Duncanson shares that, “Having the member and missionary choir was invigorating. With over 50 people in this choir, the faith of the singers shone through very evidently. The soloists also sang beautifully and intentionally, with songs relating to the love of God.”

Deeply touching testimonies from members of the Billingham Stake were shared and prayers were offered. Sarah Brooks-Lauder, who was baptised and joined the church last December and now attends Billingham Ward, prayed for the first time in front of a large congregation. As did Kehinde Olelaken Adetula of the Hartlepool Branch. What was particularly special was that two stakes came together, Sunderland and Billingham, and the audience got to hear two Stake Presidents testify and declare their firmly held convictions about why they were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They gave all that were listening to their words guidance and direction.

As the musical service came to a close,  the choir reached the crescendo of ‘I Know That My Redeemer Lives.’ Like it says in Psalms 66:1-2, the choir had made “a joyful noise unto God” and had sung “forth honour in his name”. It was if angels of heaven filled the room and the Saviour Jesus Christ was present watching over all that were in attendance.

President Duncanson shares that, “Upon reflection, I feel in my heart these words- through this event we built bridges of understanding and cooperation. All left edified. All left with a great understanding of God's love for them. All left filled with joy, because each felt the Holy Ghost testify to them of the truths being said and sung.”

Those in attendance at the ‘Why I Believe’ service were also delighted to be joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Stockton-On-Tees, Jim and Pauline Beall. Councillor Beall, having been born and raised in Stockton-On-Tees, is a man who is passionate about helping the community and local people. He has a great wealth of experience in the social care sector, having worked in this field for 33 years previously. The care and compassion of him and his wife Pauline shone through as they visited Billingham Chapel.

Sam Cox, Billingham Stake Relief Society President, reflected on the night when she said, “It was a pleasure to be able to welcome the Mayor and Mayoress of Stockton-On-Tees into the Billingham Chapel, as we celebrated together being a part of this faith community. ‘Why I Believe’ has such a depth to it, yet through beautiful music and the words spoken, we felt a witness of the love that Heavenly Father has for us. What a blessing it was to have an evening where the focus was on our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Solid Foundation in whom we believe.”

The Mayor and Mayoress shared great enthusiasm and awe about the music and testimonies they heard, and were extremely grateful for the invitation. When they were presented with a Book of Mormon, the Mayor mentioned that he already had a Book of Mormon sitting on his bookshelf at home but would be more than happy to take another. He commented on the beautiful artwork that can be found in the Book of Mormon. It was a fantastic evening to share in belief and faith with each other.