St. Faith’s Centenary Patronal Festival

The congregation leaving St Faith`s at the end of the Patronal Festival Service on 6th October 2000 and being greeted by (from left to right) Fr Neil Kelley (vicar of St Faith`s), The Rt Reverend James Jones (Bishop of Liverpool), Fr George Gilford (Assistant Priest at St Faith`s), and The Rt Reverend Emmanual Gbonigi (Bishop of Akure, Nigeria).  The flames provided a most spectacular sight outside the porch of the church and were the focus of much local interest.

Patronal Retrospect         Chris Price
(From the November issue of St Faith`s Magazine "Newslink")

Words and Pictures from a weekend to remember.  The end of over two years of events marking the Centenary of St Faith's was celebrated in style at the Patronal
Weekend of October 6th-8th. As some may remember, the actual centenary of the consecration of our church fell, of all days, on Good Friday last, so it seemed a
natural move to focus on St Faith's Day and go out with a bang.

All who attended (and well over a thousand total attendances were recorded at the various
services and events) will surely agree that we did just that. It would take half a Newslink to do full justice to all that happened, so a few impressions and some of my
photos (including this month's cover!) must take the place of many happy memories. A quite, solemn service of Benediction, with words from our first visiting preacher, Fr Channell of Cirencester, set the scene on October 5th. Then, of course, on the Patronal day itself, we filled St Faith's with people (320 of them), wonderful music and a matching pair of bishops. Bishop James of Liverpool preached memorably and movingly, recalling Lord Runcie and his place in our hearts, and making the traditional singing of  In our Day of Thanksgiving even more poignant than usual. He was joined by Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi of Akure, together with some of his visiting Nigerian party (those that could get visas, that is). Bishop Emmanuel addressed us briefly, then, at the end of the service, blessed the fine new Centenary Banners. The liturgy was colourful, reverent and deeply affecting, and the wonderful music (Mozart's Coronation Mass; anthems, and an inspiring range of hymns including the first airing of the Centenary Hymn) was provided from the back of church by the Crosby Symphony Orchestra, four excellent soloists and our own choir. The whole service, at heavenly length but never seeming long, was utterly unforgettable, even after the lavish food and wine for which we crowded into the Hall after the service was over. Its success bears further witness to Fr Neil's talents in the fields of liturgy and the planning and execution of music and worship.

Saturday saw A Night at the Opera, a concert of vocal items performed by four of Fr Neil's seemingly inexhaustible supply of imported musical talent. Paul Keohone (fondly remembered from the Easter offerings), Allan Adams, Carole Marnoch and Dervla Ransom (from Covent Garden and English National Opera), ably accompanied as always by one Neil Kelley, gave us a first half of operatic extracts, singly and in various combinations. Then, after more interval lubrication, they performed a range of lighter music, of which no-one present will forget Allan Adams' hilarious Have Some Madeira, M' Dear, complete with moustache and evil leering. But the whole evening was quite magical, and the audience (over 200) were carried away on a wave of lovely melody
from four wonderful voices. There was tenderness and power, poignancy and comedy, and even, at the end, a chance for us to belt out You'll Never Walk Alone. The rapturous applause throughout the evening, which passed by all too quickly, marked a truly unforgettable occasion. Crosby will rarely have enjoyed such a standard of singing, we must have it again soon!

Sunday's Dedication High Mass was a fitting conclusion to a not-to-be-forgotten weekend, as another full house worshipped with lively devotion, We were all sad to hear, a few days earlier, that Bishop Nigel McCulloch, so long a friend of St Faith's, had
been laid low on his return from Tanzania and had been ordered to rest. As a result, Fr Dennis celebrated the Eucharist while, at short notice, our very own Fr Charles (Billington) oldest surviving Vicar of St Faith's, bravely preached in his own inimitable and long- remembered style. This splendid and wonderfully worshipful service ended, as our Sunday mornings do these days, with the entertainment of the Notices: this time featuring the Junior Church's holding aloft of their portraits of the Vicar. These entirely recognisable images, currently on show in church, sadly cannot be reproduced in these pages (see instead the front cover!).

Following this, over 150 folk descended on Merchant Taylors' for a fine Celebration Lunch (school catering, to give the hardworked church catering team a break). Here, our many guests and friends had time to share memories and compare notes in a convivial and relaxed hour or two. Here, as throughout the weekend, it was good to welcome, among other friends, Basil Horswill from Canada, a (very!) old member of our choir making a pilgrimage, with his wife and friends, to join us eighty years on. He had contacted me through the internet: truly an example of Ancient and Modern at one! And then it was almost time for Festal Evensong and Solemn Te Deum. Bishop Rupert Hoare, Dean of Liverpool Cathedral, preached to us, and yet another colourful procession, wreathed in holy smoke, did the rounds of the church.

And at last it was all over. Reviewing in retrospect the years of planning and execution of our celebration, it is hard to believe it is at an end. We owe so much to so many people: Vicar, priests, readers, servers, choir, wardens, sidespeople, flower people, caterers,
embroiderers, cleaners, printers, shifters and builders, publicists, centenary committee members, and of course, worshippers. All the fine family of St Faith's (and not a few from St Mary's!) have done so much over the years to make it all possible. Looking back to the great service that marked the centenary of the Foundation, then fast forward to the great services that have just marked the ending of it all, it seems like a great arch spanning those years, as well as spanning the century before it. Surely that arch has touched heaven.

But neither time, nor our creator God, stands still nor will let us stand still. Time and again from the pulpit recently we have heard our proper thanksgiving for the past put into its rightful context of hope and endeavour for the future. Without that looking forward, our looking back would be merely self-indulgence, a luxury we certainly cannot afford. And so we give thanks once more, in the words of the Centenary Hymn, and pray for the years ahead. And once more Dag Hammarskjoeld's words may be written on the last page of our centenary book: 'For the past, thanks: to the future, YES!'

Lord, for a century of praise.
Here on this holy ground;
For Faith in whose strong sacrifice
Our watchword still is found,
We give you thanks, and ask your grace
For holiness like hers:
To serve your world and keep the faith
Throughout the turning years.

Bishop James in the pulpit during his sermon to a packed congregation.

Fr Neil Kelley (3rd from the left) after the service with his predecessors at St Faith`s, (from left to right) Richard Capper, Peter Goodrich and Charles Billington.
 (For details of the vicars see The Clergy page on this site.)

Bishop Emmanuel dedicated two Centenary Banners during the Patronal Festival and here is is seen with Audrey Dawson admiring one of the two banners. Audrey had the idea for the banners, worked on them and coordinated the work.
(For details of the banners  see The Centenary Banners page on this site.)

Basil Horswill seated in the seat he occupied as Head Choir Boy over 70 years ago. Basil visited St Faith`s especially for the centeanry celebrations from Toronto, Canada, where he now lives. He joined the choir in 1925 and was asked by Fr Neil to tell the congregation at the service on Sunday 8th October about his experiences at that time. He related that in those days choir boys were paid for attending choir practice and for the two Sunday services, earning two shillings (10 pence in the present British currency). Fr Neil informed the congregation that there were no plans to reinstate payment for members of the choir, not even as a Centenary gesture.

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