Retired teachers keeping churchgoers connected with handwritten messages

Hellesdon lockdown community heroes Keith and Dot Lilley.

Keith and Dot Lilley, from Hellesdon, with The Messenger, which Mr Lilley writes for parishioners of Mile Cross Methodist Church. - Credit: Danielle Booden

A pair of retired teachers are going back to basics to support their isolated church community by delivering handwritten messages and homemade treats.

Married couple Dot and Keith Lilley, 74 and 73, from Cottinghams Drive in Hellesdon, are dedicated parishioners at the Mile Cross Methodist Church on Aylsham Road.

Mr Lilley, who grew up on Soleme Road on Norwich's Mile Cross estate, attended the church from a young age.

An old photo of Keith Lilley, from Hellesdonm, who grew up on Norwich's Mile Cross estate.

An old photo of Keith Lilley, from Hellesdon, who grew up on Norwich's Mile Cross estate. - Credit: Danielle Booden

His wife, whom he met at Coventry teacher training college between 1966-69, started going after they moved to Norwich for a teaching job in the 1970s.

Keith and Dot Lilley, from Hellesdon, on their wedding day in 1969.

Keith and Dot Lilley on their wedding day in 1969. - Credit: Danielle Booden

For the past year Mr Lilley has delivered 50 copies of announcements from birthdays to wedding anniversaries, and prayers and hymns to people's homes on his bike each week in a bid to keep the Methodist congregation connected.

He writes the document which he made up, called The Messenger, as the couple were aware many people did not have emails or the internet.

His wife bakes cakes, biscuits, scones and sausage rolls which are delivered to around eight isolated people from the church each week.

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Mrs Lilley, who taught in Arden Grove First School in Hellesdon and the former St Michael's Middle School in Bowthorpe, said: "During lockdown we all felt isolated from everyone. The Messenger keeps people linked up.

"Keith gets some exercise by getting on his bike and it is nice to do something for other people. A lot of people say if they did not get The Messenger they would not know what was happening in the church."

Lockdown community heroes Keith and Dot Lilley from Hellesdon.

Keith and Dot Lilley, from Hellesdon. Mr Lilley has written The Messenger once a week and his wife has baked cakes for members of Mile Cross Methodist Church during lockdown. - Credit: Danielle Booden

She added she had always loved baking and wanted to support others.

"It has been nice because I've tried some new recipes," Mrs Lilley said.

The 74-year-old said the couple, who married in 1969, moved to Norwich because the city was "calling her husband" adding: "Once a Norwich boy, always a Norwich boy."

Mr Lilley was headteacher of Morley Primary School St Michael's Middle School before retiring in 1999 and he plays the organ and piano for the Methodist Church services.

Mile Cross Methodist Church on Aylsham Road, Norwich.

Mile Cross Methodist Church on Aylsham Road, Norwich. - Credit: Archant

The couple, who have three daughters, also help out with the foodbank at the Methodist church, Sunday School and social gatherings for the elderly.

Mrs Lilley said: "I think the sense of community has got better in lockdown."

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