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From the Ministry Team: August 2004

I am indeed fortunate to be blessed with many friends, some Christian, some not, and I enjoy long and sometimes heated theological debates with my non-Christian friends discussing the existence of God, a belief in a ‘greater being’, the life and teachings of Jesus, and the ‘nothingness’ after death.  We discuss the world and its problems, the good that exists as well as the evil, and our expectations of life in general.

It was during one such discussion on life and how we live that a non-Christian friend said his mother (a Christian) had a motto in life, which he himself believed to be the foundation of how all people should live. That is that we should all live by JOY.  He said that his mother always would say to him, ‘JOY is the answer to a good and peaceful life’e explained that:

J is for Jesus; we must always follow Jesus, his life and his teachings.
O is for others; we must love and care for others as Jesus asks us to.
Y is for yourself; to love and care for ourselves, as God loves each and every one of us, because if you don’t do this, then you are as an empty vessel, with nothing to pour out, and nothing to give.

With all this in action, we should be filled with JOY.

Well, we know that life has its trials and tribulations, and it would be lovely to be constantly filled with joy, but sadly life is not always so plain sailing, and we tend not to walk around with a permanent ‘joy-filled grin’ on our faces.  But how wonderful life could be if we did at least show to the world the joy and wonder of a God who lives and reigns within each and every one of us; our faces aglow with the love which He gives to us all.

During August we celebrate the Transfiguration of the Lord.  This is in remembrance of the day when Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up a high mountain where they were all alone. There Jesus was ‘transfigured’ before them. ‘His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.’ (Matthew 17; 2-3)

Jesus literally is glowing with a brilliant light, so powerful, that it was ‘dazzling to the eyes’. This brilliance of Jesus’ appearance speaks to us of his purity and perfection. The transfiguration suggests a whole new way of seeing things, in which fresh connections make greater sense.  To have faith, the ability to live with incompatibilities, and to trust that when heaven’s windows are opened, the light which streams out will reveal a delicate and wonderful balance of a greater kingdom.  Jesus’ own resurrection reveals to us a foretaste of the new life of heaven, similar to, yet different from, this one on earth. In his transfiguration Jesus talks with (the dead) Moses and Elijah in their resurrected form.  This is revealed to them because a window is opened into heaven and Jesus is able to reveal the glory and wonder of God.

Each and every one of us are called to walk by faith and to exercise responsibly the free choices God gives us on the basis of what we already know of Him, and the love which he gives to the world. Sometimes we may, like Peter, James and John, be given mountain-top experiences, glimpses of glory, and wish life could always be like that, that is, on a ‘spiritual high’.  But we have to live in the world as it is, with all its restrictions and demands, joys and sorrows.  But Jesus’ transfiguration revealed to us all the promise of a greater love. What we can do today, is listen to Jesus and try to reflect his glory to the world in love and with great joy.

May the God of hope and glory fill us all with joy.

With my love and prayers.

Jackie Parry

From the Registers

Holy Matrimony
7 July     Harry Roberts and Sheila Richardson


Sermon preached by Fr. Neil on 27th June

On Tuesday of this week is the Feast Day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In St. Matthew Chapter 16 we read:

‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

It is obedience to this command of our Lord himself that priests have been entrusted with the ministry of forgiving sins for 2000 years. It is also at this time of year, Peter-tide, as we call it, that most people are ordained. It’s much easier to relate an understanding of vocation to priests or members of the religious life. How often do you consider your vocation as a Christian? You perhaps don’t. Who can blame you?

Is the call to follow the Lord an easy one? It most certainly is not. In fact the words in today‘s Gospel reading are extremely difficult and it is a harsh reality that as a true disciple, we have to be ready to go where God calls us to go.

But we want a certain amount of comfort and security very often in doing so. I have often listened to comments from clergy over the years looking a different parishes……. The house is OK but not much of a garden. The church is nice but the area isn’t.…… The people might be in need but where do I send my children to school? What I want seems to come first, what God wants second! Very often the business of following the Lord is muddled with our own individual cares and concerns, not all of them unreasonable.

But its not just clergy who can be picky about how committed they are. I don’t go to Church any more, the new Vicar is simply too high. I don‘t go anymore, the new Vicar isn‘t high enough… They don‘t use the right hymn book. They use the old service, I don‘t like that. There are too many children.… They expect me to get involved and put money on the plate. There are 101 reasons why people don‘t go to church.

Jesus said, ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’ Our commitment to God must be total,  no holding back.  We do not hold back  in  our  marriages, we do not hold back with our children, we choose our careers and stick to them. So too as a disciple, we go where God calls us, or we should do - no holding back. But, in our gospel, the man said, ‘Let me first bury my father.’ Jesus answered, ‘Let the dead bury the dead.’ In other words, make your choice. We cannot sit on the fence. ‘No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ The problem is, everyone of us looks back! The good old days were perfect. The old Vicar had it right... The last government wouldn’t have allowed this or that... In my day…... And so on.

We do not live in the past. We have to face reality here and now. Witnessing to Christ is a difficult slog at times. Isn’t that the way it should be? Are the most valuable things in life those which come easily?

Think about it: it‘s only because people fought with a passion that women got the vote, that women got ordained, that gay people are less and less being treated as second class citizens, that racist behaviour and racist comments are unacceptable, that oppressive regimes and governments are being overturned. None of this has come about through people sitting on their backsides and being half-hearted.

Why should the proclamation of the Good News require less effort?

How deep is our desire to respond to the Lord‘s call and to live the implications of following Him in our daily lives?

Will you follow me? says Jesus. He says that to those standing in cathedrals all over the world today being ordained. He says that to those in churches throughout the world being confirmed today.  He says that to the thousands upon thousands of people who will kneel or stand around the world and receive Him in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Pledging ourselves, as we have to, week after week after week. He says that to you and me. ‘Will you follow me?’

There are three answers we can give:

... NO
... YES

Today’s Gospel is hard and challenging. Jesus says the disciple is homeless, with ‘nowhere to lay his head,’ the disciple lets ‘the dead bury the dead,’ and never looks back. Sounds hard. But, only until we try it. Put God first in our lives, be loving, help others, and life takes on a whole new meaning. In fact, we step right into the kingdom of God.

That wonderful poem ‘Blame the Vicar’ by John Betjeman can have the last word!
‘Highness’ or ‘lowness’ do not matter -
You are the Church and must not scatter:
Cling to the sacraments and pray
And God be with you every day.

Charity Fun Day  Fr Neil

Grateful thanks to all those willing helpers who came along, some from very early morning until very late afternoon, to help with the Fun Day. The weather wasn’t kind to us, though rain didn’t get the better of us. Spirits certainly weren’t dampened and a staggering £1,150 was made for the four nominated charities. Staggering as it seems that this year we had fewer people offering to help. One person was approached I gather but said she wasn‘t going to get involved as she had not been asked ‘personally’ by the Vicar. I suppose every church has its prima donna! Each year the open planning meetings are announced and each year I appeal for new people to come and help with new stalls and ideas. Sadly, the same people were involved this year, with no fresh offers of help. Waiting for a personalised invitation to help doesn‘t really fit with the notion of everyone pulling together, working hard and doing their bit! Team work, I think it‘s called.

As always, representatives of the charities were there and they were more than grateful not just for the financial help they will receive but the opportunity for their cause to reach more of the public. It was good to have parents from S. John’s School too heightening awareness of their campaign to keep S. John’s School open.

So many, many thanks for those from our two churches who willingly gave of their time and their skills. Working together in this way makes a huge statement to the wider community and is certainly one way in which we can put the needs of others before the needs of our own church. Quite appropriate that the Gospel for the following day (for those who came to church) was the story of the Good Samaritan...!

‘Addition to Common Worship’

Optional Text for the Service of Institution of a New Priest

The Bishop's Letter of License having been read to the people, members of the congregation may come forward to present symbols of the priestly ministry, and to each presentation the Priest shall reply ‘Amen’.

A person shall present a loose-leaf organizer, with the words:
‘Receive the organizational tool of your calling, that you may be in the right place at the right time, with all the necessary pastoral gifts, and a sermon at the ready if needs be.’

A person shall present a mobile phone, with the words:
‘Receive the communication tool of your calling, that you may always be at the beck and call of your parishioners, even, since they pay the bill, on your day off.’

A person shall present a complicated questionnaire, with the words:
‘Receive your annual assessment forms, that your parish may consider from year to year the standard of your ministry, the quality of your preaching and the estimated growth factor that your ministry will have created in this church over the next twelve months.’

A person shall present a tall pile of documents, with the words:
‘Receive the ministry of your predecessor, and all his correspondence and unfinished business, that you may know the direction in which this parish is going.’

With renewed thanks to the PHARISAIOS satirical website. Many a true word...Ed!

100+ Club July Draw

1st Christian Tudhope
2nd Irene Salisbury
3rd John Chapman
4th Mike Powell

Letter to the Editor

P O Box 65, Bacup, Lancashire. OL13 9WB

Tel/fax: 01706 878691

Dear Editor

Every day another 100 people will start to lose their sight. Your support helps us rebuild a life devastated by sight loss.

The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) is the leading charity in the United Kingdom offering information, advice and support to anyone with a serious sight problem.

Much of our funding comes from the general public placing donations in our famous ‘Sooty’ collecting boxes; these will be a familiar sight to many of your readers in shops, pubs and stores throughout the North West.

I am writing to ask for volunteers to help empty Sooty and then count and bank his contents, so that the RNIB can continue to provide our many great services. This is interesting and rewarding work, volunteers can work as little or as often as they like knowing they are helping to support the many blind and partially sighted people in the area.

Any readers who feel they can offer a few hours a month and would like to find out more can contact me on 01706 878691 for an informal chat.

Yours faithfully,

Michelle Smith
Community Fundraising Manager

Holiday Club 2004

Any offers of help (even the odd day or half a day) still welcome. Please see Joan Tudhope if you can help.

A Reflection
on the Feast of St Edith Stein (August 9th)
(also known as St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross - Patron of Europe)

Edith Stein adjured her fellow sisters not to give their votes to Hitler, whatever the consequences, for he was the enemy of God and would pull Germany down to perdition with him. Two years passed, and Edith Stein, then in Holland, was summoned to the office of the Gestapo in Maastricht. Her whole future was at stake; still, she entered the office with the greeting: ‘Gelobt sei Jesus Christus’: ‘Praised be Jesus Christ’. For the Nazis, it was as if a bomb had fallen in their midst. On returning to the convent, she admitted to her prioress that, humanly speaking, her profession of faith was indeed imprudent, but that she had had to make it, for here was no battle of politics but the age-old war between Jesus and Lucifer.

It was at five in the afternoon of a bitter and bright 2 August that Edith Stein was taken prisoner. The community was assembled in choir and she was reading aloud what they would meditate on the next morning, when two SS men rang the bell. ‘In ten minutes Sr Stein has to leave the house,’ was their command. While the prioress protested, to no avail, Sr Benedicta returned to the choir, prayed for some moments and then went to her cell, where several Sisters helped her pack her few belongings - a blanket, cup, spoon, and food for three days, were all the SS men thought she needed. First she begged the Sisters to pray for her, then that they notify the Swiss consul; and for the rest, she was silent, the Sisters from Echt recall, as if her spirit was not in the cell but elsewhere.

There were about 1,200 Catholic Jews at Westerbork, of whom about 15 were religious. ‘The distress in the camp and the confusion among the newcomers cannot be described. But Sr Benedicta stood out by her calm and composure, going among the women, comforting, helping, bringing peace, like an angel’ a Jewish prisoner who escaped deportation, and so survived, remembers.

‘I am content with everything,’ reads one of the little notes she was able to write to her prioress from the camp. ‘A "science of the Cross" can be gained only if one is made to feel the Cross to the depths of one’s being. Of this I was convinced from the first moment, and I have said, "Ave crux, spes unica", "Hail, cross, thou only hope”.’ Yet even as she was ready to die, she was ready to live.

Three times on their way across Germany she was able to send a short message, through a former pupil, through a station master, through a stranger: ‘Greetings. I am on the journey to Poland. Sister Teresia Benedicta.’ No other last words than these were ever heard from her. But there is a great deal to indicate, though not with absolute certainty, that she was gassed in Auschwitz on 9 August, the vigil of St Lawrence, when the Church repeatedly remembers the words of Christ: ‘If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self, and take up his cross, and follow me.’

John M. Oesterreicher
‘Walls are crumbling’

Dates for the Diary

Sunday 15th August: The Feast Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary
 With games and Bouncy Castle for the Children
 Tickets on sale in both churches now!

Silly Season News

The Archbishop of Canterbury has endorsed a new translation of the Bible in which the characters are given ‘funky’ nicknames and speak in modern lingo. In the version by retired Baptist minister John Henson, Mary Magdalene becomes ‘Maggie’, Barabbas is ‘Barry’ and St Peter is ‘Rocky’ while the parables have been renamed ‘riddles’. God no longer tells Jesus: ‘Thou art my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,’ but: ‘That’s my boy! You’re doing fine!’

The Buddhist Experience  
Chris Price

To begin with: some history. In 1903, a British Mission to Tibet, in reality a military expedition designed to counter a non-existent Russian threat to British India, succeeded in reaching the forbidden city of Lhasa and ending Tibet’s isolation and much of its mystery. This Younghusband Mission also exposed Tibetan Buddhism to western investigation for the first time, and, through the uncomprehending and critical fundamentalist Christian judgement of  those whose reports came back, a harsh and damning image of that newly revealed faith was created. Tibetan Buddhism was seen by them as ‘A cloak to the worst forms of devil-worship, by which the poor Tibetan was placed in constant fear of his life from the attacks of malignant devils both in this life and the life to come.’

And indeed, the behaviour of the Tibetan armies in the face of British military might seemed to bear this verdict out. Urged on by lamas and monks, they put their faith in spells, prayers and incantations and were no match for organised military strategy. Much nearer our own time, the far more brutal and much more long-lasting Chinese occupation of Tibet, and the ousting of the Dalai Lama (whose descendant has just visited Britain) had the ironic effect of dispersing Tibetans abroad, and revitalising and reviving their faith. Their apparently primitive religion of ‘Chos’, the application of Buddhist Law introduced into Tibet by Indian gurus in the 10th and 11th centuries, and known as the ‘Thunderbolt Vehicle’ or the ‘Diamond Path’, became modified and softened in teaching and practice, so that the Tibetan Buddhism of today bears little or no resemblance to the ancient, primitive superstitions the British met on the high passes of the long road to Lhasa a century ago.

Almost all of this story was unknown to me until I read ‘Duel in the Snows’, Charles Allen’s account of the 1903 expedition. I read it in the wake of a visit to inspect some Tibetan Buddhists in the unlikely setting of a small and beautiful Scottish island last June. This Holy Island (not the Lindisfarne one, let alone the Anglesey offshoot where the boats go to Ireland), lies off the Isle of Arran, which is the southernmost of all the Scottish islands and a place of great beauty, and a lot of rain and mist. We took a small boat on a bright, warm day from Lamlash to visit this Holy Isle, to find that it was the annual open day of the Buddhist community there. The island has ancient Christian connections, but twelve years ago, a Tibetan Buddhist community, an offshoot of a full-blown monastery on mainland Scotland, bought the island (people do a lot of buying of islands in Scotland), and last year completed the conversion of its only farm into an International Centre for Peace and World Health.

It is impressive and intriguing: it’s fascinating to see chapel shrines with statues of Buddha in place of crucifixes or saints, and the incense there has a different smell. They were friendly and hospitable, handed out tea and (extremely) home made rock cakes, and showed off their peace garden: a touching display of homely, well-meaning text boards, bird-feeders, organic composting, little fairies (yes, really - see the photo!), meditation corners, lots of mandalas (not, not Mandelas) and beautiful views over the sea to Arran. Along the path leading to the other end of the island were several large carvings of the Buddha, boldly painted and with piles of little offerings at their feet. At the far end, in isolation, is an international group of Buddhist women on silent retreat. Not your average Anglican Quiet Afternoon - this lot are there for three years and three months. (If I hadn’t found the path to inner enlightenment by then I’d want my money back!).

There is an inter-faith dimension to the community. They advertise a forthcoming dialogue between a professed Buddhist nun and a Christian nun, and they happily point the way along the path to the cave of St Molaise, a 6th century follower of St Columba. We visited his draughty retreat, and drank from the attested healing waters of his holy spring. This writer will tell you of any long-term benefits, but it was a lovely draught on a hot day.

I‘m still not sure what Buddhists believe, but they certainly didn‘t seem to be under the influence of any malignant devils in 2004. They floated gently and serenely around, bare-armed and saffron-orange robed, with assorted Tibetan and Scottish accents and, far from seeming an alien presence on that beautiful island, they, their centre, and their home-spun invocations to peace, love, harmony and respect for all creation add something indefinable and magical to Holy Island, which made me want to find out more. On this brief acquaintance, they seemed enviably detached and uninvolved, radiating peace in idyllic settings miles from troublesome reality and not doing much that might improve things in Iraq or Sudan, but that‘s a superficial judgement.

We found them, and their retreat, enchanting, and would happily return. They don’t allow alcohol, but then we were only there for a few hours...

Benefits of living in isolated places, from the King of Samadhi Sutra.
To have fewer and fewer activities and to be far removed from noise and distractions.
To be free from quarrels and also to be free from harm.
To not let obscuring emotions increase and to not create causes for discord.
To always enjoy perfect tranquiillity and to keep body, speech and mind under control.
To live in a way that is conducive to liberation and to quickly reach complete freedom.

Words for the Feast of Mary
(August 15th)

The Blessed Virgin Mary Compared to a Window
(Written in 1944)
Because my will is simple as a window
And knows no pride of original birth,
It is my life to die, like glass, by light:
Slain in the strong rays of the bridegroom sun.

Because my love is simple as a window
And knows no shame of original dust,
I longed all night, (when I was visible) for dawn my death:
When I would marry day, my Holy Spirit:
And die by transsubstantiation into light.
For light, my lover, steals my life in secret.
I vanish into day, and leave no shadow
But the geometry of my cross,
Whose frame and structure are the strength
By which I die, but only to the earth,
And am uplifted to the sky my life.

When I became the substance of my lover,
(Being obedient, sinless glass)
I love all things that need my lover‘s life,
And live to give my newborn Morning to your quiet rooms,
Your rooms, that would be tombs,
Or vaults of night, and death, and terror,
Fill with the clarity of living Heaven,
Shine with the rays of God‘s Jerusalem:
O shine, bright Sions!

Because I die by brightness and the Holy Spirit,
The sun rejoices in your jail, my kneeling Christian,
(Where even now you weep and grin
To learn, from my simplicity, the strength of faith).

Therefore do not be troubled at the judgements of the thunder,
Stay still and pray, still stay, my other son,
And do not fear the armies and black ramparts
Of the advancing and retreating rains:
I‘ll let no lightning kill your room’s white order.

Although it is the day’s last hour,
Look with no fear:
For the torn storm lets in, at the world’s rim,
Three streaming rays as straight as Jacob’s ladder:

And you shall see the sun, my Son, my Substance,
Come to convince the world of the day‘s end, and of the night,
Smile to the lovers of the day in smiles of blood;
For though my love, He’ll be their Brother,
My light - the Lamb of their Apocalypse.

Thomas Merton

The Assumption

No painter ever caught the magic other going -
This was a matter of an inward growing,
Simple and imperceptible as thought.
It was no pageant wrought
Of sounding splendour, welter of gold bars
Of molten day, mad stars,
Flurry of quick angels’ winging,
Bursts of their laughter ringing
In wild bliss.
The simple fact is this:
Love conquered at long last.
Her eager soul fled fast
With a great gladness like a song
Unto to her Spouse above,
And her pure flesh would not be parted long
For sheer love.

Joachim Smet O’Carm

Lord, receive this offering of our service.
You raised the Virgin Mary to the glory of heaven.
By her prayers, help us to seek you and to live in your love.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Fishy Tailpiece

An American Christian group is lobbying to have the whale classified as a fish, because that is how the animal is described in the story of Jonah. ‘The Bible is God’s own words,’ says a spokesman for Concerned Christians for Educational Reform. ‘If the Lord says the whale is a ‘great fish’, it’s a fish. Period.’

Dear Lord...

Each single evening
As I’m lying here in bed,
This tiny little prayer
Keeps running through my head.

God bless all my family
Wherever they may be,
Keep them warm and safe from harm
For the’re so close to me.

And God, there is one more thing
I wish that you could do,
Hope you don‘t mind me asking
Please bless my computer too.

Now I know that it’s unusual
To bless a motherboard,
But listen just a second
While I explain it to you, Lord.

You see that little metal box
Holds more than odds and ends,
Inside those small compartments
Rest so many of my friends.

1 know so much about them
By the kindness that they give,
And this little scrap of metal
Takes me in to where they live.

By faith is how I know them
Much the same as you,
We share in what life brings us
And from that our friendships grew.

Please take an extra minute
From your duties up above,
To bless those in my address book
Filled with so much love.

Wherever else this prayer may reach
To each and every friend,
Bless each e-mail inbox
And each person who hits ‘send’.

When you update your Heavenly list
On your own CD-ROM,
Bless everyone who says this prayer
Sent up to


Prayer of the Month

Lord, send me the gift of patience.  Send it to me NOW. Amen

Back by popular demand ...
Following their highly successful show last year at S. Mary‘s,

... a variety show featuring young talented artists
 from across the North West

Saint Mary’s Church Hall
Thursday 26th August - Saturday 28th August
Tickets £4 (£3 concessions) available in both churches.

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