The Parish Magazine
of Saint Faith's Church, Great
Saint Faith’s Prayer for
God of unchanging power, your Holy Spirit enables us to
proclaim your love in challenging times and places:
give us fresh understanding and a clear vision, that together we may
respond to the call
to be your disciples and to rejoice in the blessings of your kingdom;
we ask this in the name of Him who gave His life that ours might
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If you would like
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the Ministry Team
On August 6th we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. This
strange, mysterious, rather frightening event that took place away in
the hills, was a sign – was something with a message – for Peter, James
and John. A sign that their leader, teacher and friend was, in some
mysterious way, the reflection of God. Indeed, more than a reflection;
the love of God, the compassion of God, the truth and the creativity of
God – all this was embodied in a human form, the incarnation of God
himself. This was the realization that had swept through Peter and
brought out his great cry of recognition and adoration – “You are the
Christ of God!” (Luke 9 : 20)
Now he and the others – the “Inner Circle” of the apostolic band – are
being given confirmation of this “great leap forward” here, on the
Mount of Transfiguration. And we may also see here that they are being
given a sign, a foretaste, of the glory that is to come, to help them
through the panic, horror and pain of the Master’s arrest, trial and
terrible death upon the Cross. Something they could recall in the days
of darkness and the nights of despair.
How natural that Peter should desire to hold on to that fleeting
glimpse of glory and splendour; he wanted to have them enshrined
together, Jesus, Moses and Elijah, as they were in the light and glory
on the hill-top.
But that was not possible; yes, Christ was revealed for a moment in his
power and majesty, but the painful lesson had to be taught that his
final triumph and glory could only come through his own voluntary
suffering and death, and the desolation, humiliation and fear of the
disciples had to be endured before they could themselves come to share
in the triumph of the resurrection.
We find it equally difficult, do we not? Difficult to accept the
paradox and contradiction of finding life by losing life, gaining life
through dying, coming through to victory through defeat, understanding
power through weakness, finding wisdom through foolishness.
And yet we are being shown, in all sorts of ways, just this kind of
contradiction. The example of Jesus is the supreme example of this; and
through it, God teaches us, as Jesus taught his disciples, to learn to
look at life and death, the world and ourselves, as through God’s eyes
rather than our own, and to listen to his beloved Son, his Chosen One,
and follow him.
We shall not fully understand the Light upon the Mount of the
Transfiguration, until we see, after our resurrection, the glorified
Christ in his everlasting Kingdom. But even now, the Mount of the
Transfiguration, for us, reminds us of the importance and the need for
quiet contemplation, for placing ourselves in the love and power of
Christ and entirely in his hands, to learn the lessons of that love and
For us, the Mount of the Transfiguration is the great example of the
Upper Room, the hill-tops and all those remote and quiet places, away
from the busy world and the rush and bustle of everyday life, where the
saints have communed with God and taught us how we can find him
in the solitude of prayer and quiet meditation.
With every Blessing,
“First sunday of every month: 6 – 6.45
in church, 7 – 11: lion pub, eucharistic worship – stunning music -
Don’t worry – it’s not happening at St. Faith’s… at least not yet!
These headlines are to be found on a banner hanging from the railings
of Liverpool Parish Church (Our Lady & St. Nicholas) where after a
period of consultation and discussion they are beginning to hold a new
service, in the Eucharistic catholic tradition, entitled “Six at
Nicks”. It is one of so many examples of churches who share our
catholic tradition but who also share a vision of a church seeking to
grow, expand and develop, taking into account the place people really
are at in the 21st century.
I have recently marked my 16th anniversary of being a deacon and the
way the Church has changed in those 16 years is staggering. I remember
the outcry there was about more shops being open on Sunday and I was
among many to sign the “Keep Sunday Special” campaign! It seems like
For decades St. Faith’s has enjoyed a reputation for very much being in
the forefront of anything new in the Church. It is a reputation I hope
we can retain rather than lose.
Exciting things are planned for our future and following on from last
month’s Vicar’s letter I now intend, with this article as the second in
such a series, to include something in every edition of Newslink to
keep people up to speed with our plans and hopes for mission. The day
we have nothing to say about our mission is the day we turn the lights
out and shut up shop!
Five people from among our two churches will in September begin the
“Mission Shaped Ministry” course being run by the Diocese. Please pray
for them (Fred Nye, Jackie Parry, Cynthia Johnson, Kari Dodson and
Diana Waters) and for the success of the course which is already
oversubscribed. I hope it will bring some new ideas to our own
situation as well as learning from success stories in other parishes.
There are plenty to listen to! I hope the course will also affirm and
encourage us in the many good things that are already happening in both
parishes. A number of parishes this year have followed our lead and
begun an over-65’s Holiday Club!
The Ministry Team will again be having its annual away-day in the
autumn. This year we are not going to talk about money and buildings
but we are going to be selfish and concentrate on ourselves, or rather
the need to be revitalized and challenged in our own vision for
ministry. If we are to lead effectively then we have to start with
ourselves and look at what makes us tick spiritually and what excites
us (or doesn’t!). If we aren’t excited then we are not going to excite
anyone else! We are fortunate that we will have with us for the day Fr.
Damien Feeney who is Assistant Missioner in the Blackburn Diocese. Fr.
Damien is part of the “Leading Your Church into Growth” team which has
run successful conferences for many years. He has also been involved in
a response, from a catholic perspective, to the report “Mission Shaped
Church” and some of his articles on modern catholic Eucharistic worship
have been published. I am grateful to him for agreeing to come and help
us in our thinking.
Lastly, the Ministry Team at its last meeting agreed to invite Phil
Pawley, Liverpool Diocesan Missioner, to come and work with us in one
of his specialist areas which is about working on Inspiring Worship
Services. Phil comes from a very different background to our own but is
a passionate ambassador for Jesus Christ and for the Gospel. I think we
will find what he says challenging, and possibly uncomfortable: being
told the truth can often be like that! We may also want to challenge
There will be more in next month’s magazine but I finish with some
information about the process which Phil will undertake. As you will
see, there is going to be plenty to challenge us!
Inspiring Worship Services
An inspiring worship service is one where a person is likely to
encounter God, where the music is spiritually helpful and appropriate,
the teaching is relevant to daily life, the facilities and people are
warm and welcoming, and where children are properly cared for.
Key components measured in the survey
Inspiring (stirring, rousing, moving, exciting, stimulating)
Oriented towards encountering Christ
God centred and celebrative music
Old and new used creatively
Led by a person who is themselves a worshipper
Music and musicians are servants to the service, not the masters
Life transforming preaching
Engages mind, emotions and will
Stimulates to action
Well illustrated and ample ideas for application
Deals with day-to-day issues that affect people’s lives
Care for children
Holistic rather than a Bible story time
Appropriate to age
Well facilitated and in acceptable facilities
Christ centred ‘children’s church’ rather than a baby-sitting service
First impressions are that it is welcoming but not overbearing
Members feel happy to regularly bring others
Seeker sensitive service and environment but not compromising truth
Atmosphere of peace because conflicts are not left to fester
How to create inspiring worship
Teach about worship – don’t expect people to know what it is
Encourage an expectation to meet with God personally
Expect people to strive for unity and peace in the congregation (Ps 133)
Train worship leaders and musicians to be worshipers themselves
Consider age and culture but don’t be enslaved to either old or new
Be creative and adventurous in service format
Visit churches with strong inspiring worship and growing congregations
Take members to New Wine/Soul Survivor/Spring Harvest/Green Belt/Taize
to experience other styles of worship.
God of unchanging power
your Holy Spirit enables us
to proclaim your love
in challenging times and places:
give us fresh understanding
and a clear vision
that together we may respond
to the call to be your disciples
and so to rejoice
in the blessings of your kingdom;
we ask this in the name of Him
who gave His life that ours might
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Yes It Is!
It’s that time of year again, when I like to alert people of the
forthcoming pantomime auditions!...'Oh Yes It Is…’ No sooner have we
packed Cinderella and her ugly sisters away, than it’s time to light
the spotlights and take to the stage again for our 2008 United Benefice
pantomime! I am keen to try (for the moment anyway) to get into the
habit of making it an annual event again, as it has been such great fun
for all those involved, and it is an event which brings the United
Benefice together, and encourages participation from the whole family
of our two churches, and most notably it is a wonderful experience for
the children involved. And it is for these reasons, and not (not just? Ed) because I like
dressing up as a woman, that I would like to propose that during the
week beginning 11th February 2008, our United Benefice pantomime will
be ‘Snow White’.
Last year we cut down our rehearsal schedule by not starting to
rehearse until mid October. I would like to propose an even shorter
rehearsal schedule this year commencing in November, allowing more free
weekends for those involved. We have become pretty good at putting
these pantomimes on over recent years, so I would hope that the usual
suspects will want to get involved again, and encourage any newcomers
to the stage (or behind the scenes). I hope we can increase the number
of children involved in ‘Snow White’, as there will be a few principal
roles especially for them. I will distribute a form during summer
in advance of the auditions, which will take place in St Mary’s church
hall during the morning of Saturday 22nd September. I look forward to
seeing you all there.
to Fame ?
An interesting item culled from ‘Parish
Pump’ magazine insert resource.
The city of Liverpool has many claims to importance, but Merseyside,
the county in which the city resides, has one especially for Christian
people - it has the highest percentage of its population in church
every Sunday! At 8.7% it is more than Greater London at 8.3%, and well
above the overall figure for England of 63%.
Merseyside, or Liverpool, hosts many Irish people, who have immigrated
there ever since the days of the potato famines of the mid-19th
century. As many Irish people are Catholics, Liverpool has an
impressive number of Catholics who go to Mass every Sunday. Catholics
form 60% of Liverpudlian churchgoers, the highest percentage in the
country, the next nearest being 52% in Cleveland (another area of
intense Irish immigration) and 45% in Lancashire. The Channel Islands
have many Catholics also, 51%, but not from Ireland.
Roman Catholics have much larger churches than
Protestants, and this is no exception in
Liverpool, where the average Catholic church has 433 people attending.
This simply means that the other churches in Liverpool average only 90
each, still much higher than the 67 for all England, which includes
many very small rural churches.
In the Wirral, on the west side of the River Mersey, where Birkenhead
is situated, 10.9% of the population go to church, dropping just 11 %
in the seven years to 2005. Other parts of Merseyside have seen much
greater drops in attendance - 71,000 Catholics attended Mass in 2005
but there were over 220,000 in 1998. (Food for thought there! Ed.)
for the Feast of Mary
Virgin Mary Compared to a Window
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.
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
A very big ‘thank you’ to Dave and May Clark for once again giving us
so many beautiful hanging baskets and tubs two weeks running to raffle
off for Church funds. The total raised was a splendid
£140.00 Thank you, Dave!
Holiday Club 2007
This year saw our second over-65s Holiday Club take place from Monday
18th to Friday 22nd June. Again we were provided with a full and
varied programme to keep us both occupied and entertained.
Monday morning was just a settling in period, tea/coffee and biscuits
were provided plus a simple quiz, and time to talk to people that we
don’t often meet. In the afternoon we had a visit from two members of
staff from the Waitrose Supermarket in Formby, plus two of their local
produce suppliers. They were obviously keen to promote the fact that
they do endeavour to support local produce. It made a change to pick up
a pack of tomatoes or strawberries and be able to read the Name and
Address of the grower, rather than the bland statement, Produce of
Country ---, which could be several thousand miles away. Tasting this
local produce made me realise that my taste buds still functioned.
Tuesday morning was cake decorating, not my ‘cup of tea’ as they say,
of more interest to the ladies, who outnumber the men. I was, however,
quite prepared to eat any samples that came my way. After lunch it was
off to St. Helens to visit Pilkington’s World of Glass, a fascinating
place and well worth the visit.
Wednesday morning was ‘pampering morning’. Several people came from
OPERA, an organisation dedicated to helping people of mature years. We
had relaxation exercises, were offered back massage plus having our
arms and hands massaged with fragrant oils. The afternoon was time for
the more energetic types, and yes there were some, to have a go at Line
Dancing. I confine myself to being a spectator.
Thursday was a full day excursion to Llandudno. An unscheduled stop on
the way meant that it was time for lunch when we arrived. Lunch was
what else but, fish, chips, and mushy peas plus bread and butter,
enough to satisfy the largest appetite. After lunch it was do what you
wanted until time to leave for home. For Laura, Peggy and I this meant
a leisurely stroll in glorious sunshine along the Prom.
Friday, our last day, we had a choice of films to watch in the morning.
The chosen film was ‘Ladies in Lavender’ starring Judi Dench and Maggie
Smith. After lunch, and before afternoon Cream Tea,
we were treated to a recital by the maestro himself,
Father Neil, playing on St. Mary’s Church
organ. To serve cream tea this year we had a male and a female ‘Jeeves’
both complete with black tie and tails.
Whilst the foregoing can give some idea of the activities we took part
in, what cannot be measured is the obvious pleasure that some people
got from just being in good company for a whole week. Besides the
activities this is a most important aspect of the holiday.
Our thanks, for a very enjoyable five days, are extended to that
indefatigable pair, Joan Tudhope and Lynne Connolly, who planned the
whole week. We must not forget their helpers either, Linda Dixon and
Peter Connolly, both of whom finished up playing Jeeves.
Our Man for the Ministry Makes it!
Sunday, July 1st,was a great day for our churches – and in particular
for Martin Jones. We have followed with interest and not a little
anxiety his attempts to be accepted for training for the ordained
ministry, rejoiced at his eventual acceptance, and eagerly read his
termly bulletins reporting on the ups and downs of training. Finally,
many of us made the happy pilgrimage to the cathedral to support him as
the Bishop of Liverpool ordained him deacon.
The occasion was an entirely splendid one. More than in the past,
perhaps, those present must surely, like me, have felt caught up in and
really part of the vastly impressive process – processions, music,
liturgy, words and silence – that took eleven candidates from the laity
to the ordained ministry. It was with a real sense of joy and triumph
that we met the newly-Reverend Martin Jones in the well of the nave
after two hours of pomp and ceremony – and a true sense of family
celebration in St Faith’s hall afterwards. Martin was overwhelmed by
the rousing applause that greeted his entry there, as well as by the
gifts that awaited him.
Some of my photos can be seen online. When Martin has caught his breath
(magazine deadlines are only relatively elastic, even for clergy!) he
will let us know how he is feeling. Meanwhile, and for the rest of what
will surely be a most memorable ministry, we commend him to the
parishes of Winwick, Hollinfare and Glazebury.
Below is the text
of Fr Neil’s sermon at St Faith’s on the previous Sunday, which focused
on Martin’s then forthcoming ordination.
the Way of the Lord
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of John the Baptist. With two
exceptions, whenever the church celebrates a Saint’s Day it remembers
the day on which the person died, or was martyred, recalling their
birthday into heaven. But there are two exceptions: the Feast of the
Birthday of Mary on September 8th and today’s feast. John the Baptist
also has a feast day on Aug 29th, the Beheading, but the Church gives
today’s feast prominence in the life of John the Baptist.
Each year in Advent we focus for one of the four Sundays on the
ministry of John the Baptist – his is usually the third of the Advent
candles lit. Hence the singing of the hymn today: “On Jordan’s bank the
Focussing on John the Baptist today reminds us that all share in the
task of preparing the way of the Lord. For that was John’s message: he
preached a message of repentance to those who would hear, and his
ministry was devoted to preparing his people to receive the message and
the person of Jesus. The little we are told about him in the Gospel
tells us that John was something of an individual character. The Bible
tells us that he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching,
clothed not in the soft garments of a courtier but in those ‘of camel’s
hair, and a leather girdle about his loins’; and ‘his meat’ - he looked
as if he came neither eating nor drinking (Matthew 11:18; Luke 7:33) –
‘was locusts and wild honey.
So if the term existed at the time he was probably a “trendly-lefty” or
a “hippy”, dressed not in a smart tailored cassock from Rome but simple
garments, enjoying a rather simple life of vegetarian fare rather than
rump steak and claret.
And of course John’s demeanour and simple way of life was nothing
compared to the simplicity of the One nailed to the cross. A reminder
that God’s glory and his ways are to be found more in the simple than
Many of us will be present at the ordination service of Martin Jones
next week and will witness five men and six women committing themselves
to a particular service in the church. It is a public event and
increasingly in ministry there are high levels of accountability.
Priests and deacons are called to be stewards of the gifts entrusted to
them, and the greatest gift is God’s people.
Martin, from next Sunday life will never be the same again. How can it
be? You will be anointed by God’s Holy Spirit for a particular service.
From that there is no turning back.
But that public commitment is not the only way to serve the Lord. Each
one of us, by virtue of our baptism, is called to love and serve the
Lord and his world. Each and every one of us is called to a ministry
within the Church.
How would you fare if you had to give an account of your ministry to
the Lord today? For we believe that at the end of our lives we will be
judged by the Lord, fashionable or not, and we must be prepared to give
an account of how we have served him as Christian disciples.
How does God call? In one sense that’s a very difficult question to
answer. If God speaks to people individually, then how can we measure
something so personal? That is why we belong to a church which believes
in an ordered way of working. Vocations advisers can never be experts,
but those with proven experience can help someone to try to understand
how and why he or she feels called to a particular ministry.
God can call in many varied and unexpected ways. And in ways that are
uncomfortable. In opportunities presented to us; through prayer;
through liturgy; through the example of another human being; in times
of crisis; when we’ve been pushed into doing something and are
surprised to find that we can do it! We must always be open to God’s
call to come when we least expect it.
For God calls all of us. Those who go forward for ordination are
ordinary people who one day knelt down and said their prayers and heard
a particular call to them. That could happen to any of you, beware next
time you pray! Priests, contrary to popular belief, do not come from
Planet Zog, they do not just materialize when the mood takes them, they
are called, and examined, and chosen from among the pews containing
ordinary women and men.
It’s not just that we ourselves need to be open to God’s call, but open
to the fact that He may call other people who are very different to us.
The outsider may judge that weaknesses may deem a person unfit for
ministry. And let’s be realistic, weaknesses take many forms – be they
physical, spiritual or emotional. In God’s eyes those weaknesses may
indeed be the very strengths they bring to their ministry. Those of you
who remember the good old Evensong hymns may remember the hymn “At even
when the sun was set”. There is a very poignant line in that hymn “and
those who fain would serve thee best are conscious most of wrong
within”. So this Jesus who came not to call the healthy but the sick,
also calls you and me. Perfect people aren’t called! So if you are
perfect, you can breathe a sigh of relief! God won’t be troubling you!
In trying to understand ‘how’ God calls and ‘what’ he calls us to we
have to acknowledge two things: firstly, it has to start with prayer.
How can we ever begin to listen to God if we don’t stop our busy lives
to listen to Him. There is no substitute for prayer! As Archbishop
Rowan Williams puts it: “If we are busy and bossy with each other, we
are likely to become busy and bossy with God!”
One writer puts it: “Prayer is both a resting in and a wrestling with
Secondly, as a result of that ‘wrestling’ we have to face the sometimes
difficult reality that what God wants from us is not always what we
think we should be doing. “Your/Thy will
be done,” we say in the Lord’s Prayer. That is the most authentic form
of Christian prayer ever. But how often do we say it and mean it?
S. Barnabas is known as the one who encourages. The collect for his
feast says: Bountiful God… who poured your Spirit upon your servant
Barnabas and gave him grace to encourage others… And so it seems
appropriate that we learn that lesson from the prayer for his
feast-day, that we ought to encourage each other. Encouraging and
supporting each other is one of the ways Christians grow. And as we
grow together and affirm each other we can help one another to discover
the gifts that lie within each one of us. We can be excellent at
criticizing one another, but not so quick to encourage sometimes.
I have known people to attend a vocations conference convinced that
they have been called to one particular ministry only to discover that
perhaps they are called to another ministry they had never thought
A most unlikely contender on the face of it, John the Baptist had an
important ministry. He was a man with a mission, and that mission was
to bring people to a deep knowledge of God’s love for them. That is the
mission of the Church today and that mission can only be undertaken
when we ourselves have heard the call to repentance and have
experienced God’s overwhelming love. When we have come into contact
with that life-changing force then we will want to stop at nothing
until it is shared with all those around us. Priests, deacons, laity,
we all have a part to play together in sharing in John the Baptists’
Message and Mission. John led his people to welcome and accept Jesus.
May we follow that example and do the same, the Lord being our helper.
Club Winners for July
1st £140 John Weston
2nd £100 M. Taylor
3rd £75 D.Jones
4th £50 L.Appleton (oh yes it is! Ed)
To the family of St Faith: Many thanks for your thoughts and prayers on
the occasion of my ordination to the Priesthood. Love and God bless
Prothero) has strong links with St Faith’s in past years, and Fr Neil
was present at her ordination recently. It was good to see her in the
cathedral supporting Martin, and at the reception later. See our
picture pages. On the same topic, readers will remember the visits of
Josie Williams to St Faith’s during her pastoral placement some months
again as part of her training for the Ministry. She shared Martin
Jones’s big day as she too was made deacon on July 1s. We wish her
every blessing in her ministry ‘down the road.’
Sunday 12th August at 4pm
for both congregations in the Vicarage Garden. Come along and enjoy
some good food and company. We will be sending invitations to families
who have recently had baptisms as well as parents of the children’s
Holiday Club so please be there to give them a good welcome.
BOUNCY CASTLE FOR THE CHILDREN!
Quiz & raffle. PBAB! (This possibly means ‘Please Bring A
See you there!!
The United Benefice is organizing a day out to Bowness by Lake
Windermere on Tuesday 14 August. Bowness is a popular holiday
village with every sort of shop you could think of. There are
cafes, restaurants, pubs and places to visit, including “The World of
Beatrix Potter Attraction”. Cruises leave Bowness for Brockhole
and Ambleside in the north, Lakeside in the south and the popular 45
minute Islands Cruise. From Lakeside there is the option to take
the steam train to Haverthwaite and there is also the Aquarium which is
worth a visit. The coach will depart from St Faith’s at 9:15am
and from Five Lamps at 9:30am, arriving by 11:30am. The coach
will leave Bowness 4:30 – 5:00pm so we should be back by 7:00pm.
The anticipated cost will be £10 per adult and £6 per
Three men were hiking through a forest when they came upon a large,
raging, violent river. Needing to get across, the first man prayed:
‘God, give me the strength to cross this river.’ Immediately, God gave
him strong arms and legs and he was able to swim across in about two
hours, despite almost drowning twice.
Seeing this, the second man prayed: ‘God, give me strength – and some
equipment to cross this river.’ Immediately, God gave him strong arms
and legs and a rowing boat, and he was able to row across the river,
despite almost capsizing once.
Seeing what had happened to both men, the third man prayed: ‘God,
please give me the strength, the tools and the intelligence to cross
this river.’ Immediately, God turned him into a woman! She checked the
map, walked two hundred yards upstream and walked across the bridge.
Always keep your words soft and sweet. One day you may have to eat them.
Accept that some days you’re pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.
Drive carefully. It’s not only cars that can be recalled by their
Everyone will have at some time or other experienced an unexpected
‘magic moment’ whilst on holiday. This recently happened to us during
our holiday in Bavaria, although it was actually more than just a
moment. It was a beautiful day, sunshine, blue skies, white fluffy
clouds and pleasantly warm. We decided that the views from the top of
the Rauschberg mountain would in the circumstances be fantastic, so we
took the cable-car ride up. As we climbed out at the top we could hear
music, and I suddenly remembered that I had seen a notice somewhere
announcing that a Mass would be celebrated up there that morning.
As we rounded a corner the music became clearer, deep, sonorous and
echoing round the mountains. Up on a hillside outlined against the sky
were three men in Loden Green uniforms, playing the incredibly long
Alpenhorns. We were told that the music was a tribute to the new
mountain-top cross standing nearby which had just been dedicated during
the Mass. The Mass was over, and people had already made their
way to the alpen restaurant just further along the path. The
sight as we drew near was amazing. It seemed as though the whole
village had turned out for the occasion. People were seated at tables
whilst busy waitresses ran in and out bearing huge platters of hearty
Bavarian fare. Brimming tankards were being raised and the
smartly-dressed members of the brass band were assuaging their thirst
before settling themselves to play for the crowds.
We managed to find two seats at a table amongst all this revelry and
ordered our coffee, then spent our time people watching. Everyone,
young and old, was wearing full Bavarian costume, with the children,
who numbered around 40-50, looking particularly delightful. The women
were wearing the traditional Dirndl costumes, and all sported the same
hairstyle. The hair was combed back and a circular plait surrounded the
back of the head with an identical hair slide adorning the flat part in
the middle. We were told that some plaits were the women’s own hair but
others would be hair pieces which could cost around 250 euros, and that
this particular hair-style was peculiar to this area. The complete
Dirndl costume would cost around 2,000 euros.
After a while, the band started playing the traditional ‘oompah’ music
and everyone was swaying and waving their glasses - including the four
nuns and parish priest who occupied one of the tables. Suddenly
the band started playing ‘Happy Birthday’ and as we looked round we saw
a young man in a wheel-chair smiling delightedly as everyone stood and
faced him to sing and clap.
Overhead, hang-gliders soared like giant butterflies against a
startlingly blue sky, and we could see the tops of mountains which
stood in Austria and in Italy. Down below in the valley, the golden
onion-shaped dome of the church glittered in the sun. The church had on
this occasion however, come to the mountain-top, and we were so glad
that in a small way we had been part of that wonderful occasion.
I have a new colleague at my work with Church Action on Poverty. Her
name is Robina, and she is a Sunni Muslim whose family originally came
to Britain from Pakistan. Staff in our office have had to get used to a
few changes. It was strange at first to work alongside someone who
wears the hijab (the head covering that many Muslim women wear) and to
hear from her about the very different approach to gender, marriage,
spirituality and all sorts of other issues in her community. We have
had to provide her with a prayer room, a place for her prayer mat, and
better washing facilities so that she can fulfil the demand of her
faith for prayer five times a day, and the ablutions which must precede
Perhaps more interesting are some of the ways in which our two faith
traditions meet - remembering how Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Moses and
others of our own prophets, all have their place within Islam and are
written about in the Koran.
Most importantly for my work at Church Action on Poverty, it is so very
clear that the Islamic faith, like our Christian faith, strongly
demands that disciples work together for social justice in our society.
But what is most surprising – and disturbing – is to recognise that
sometimes it is so much easier to make connections with someone who is
very different to me, than with someone who is just a bit different to
me. Our own worldwide Anglican church is currently in the process of
splitting itself apart on a theological dividing line between
conservatives and liberals around the issue of homosexuality and the
interpretation of scripture. Listening to the debate it is sometimes
hard to remember that those slinging insults at each other are part of
the same church, and have so very much in common, and a wonderful faith
inheritance which should be binding them together in worship of God and
in service to the world.
This sort of inter-Anglican divide has been most prominently
illustrated by the controversy around a public statement by Dr Richard
Turnbull, the principal of Wycliffe Hall Theological College –
historically a very evangelical institution. His recent address gave
dire warnings about ‘Catholic
understandings of the church’ and
the danger of
‘liberal evangelicals’. It was a serious attack on people you might
think would be allies in Christian mission – despite differences.
Anthropologists have suggested that this sort of conflict with those
most close to us is something that goes deep in the human psyche and in
human culture. It is about order, and clear boundaries around things,
and the fear of our own boundaries being breached by challenges just at
the edges of how we see things. We prefer things to be in their place
and clearly categorised, and great anxiety is produced when we
encounter people who are category-breakers. Something of this sort of
anxiety is present in most churches, and people get at loggerheads with
each other over things which in the big scheme of things are absolutely
insignificant. Like what sort of music we have, or whether or not we
should have incense, or whatever.
Jesus was a category breaker: someone who pushed the boundaries which
conservative traditionalists had wrapped around his religion. He did
that in order that his faith tradition could once again be full of life
and speak to people in his generation. And it was his willingness to
broach the established order of things which led to his expulsion and
death because it was a threat to the established order.
Like any congregation, we are fearful of change, especially when what
we feel are cherished parts of our tradition are shifting. It is then
that we need to ask what it is that is really central to our faith and
each other, rather than what it is that is just central to us.
are Judgement on Society, say Bishops’
Jonathan Wynne-Jones produced this eye-catching headline in a recent
Sunday Telegraph. Here is some of what he reported.
‘The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God’s
judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to
senior Church of England bishops. One Bishop said pro-gay laws were to
blame for the floods. Another has even claimed that laws that have
undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation,
have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands
homeless. These bishops argue that the flooding is a result of Western
civilisation’s decision to ignore biblical teaching. The Bishop of
Carlisle argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of
respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society’s moral
decadence. The bishop, a leading evangelical, said that people should
heed the stories of the Bible, which described the downfall of the
Roman Empire as a result of its immorality. ‘We are in serious moral
trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate,’
he said. ‘The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights
to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a
situation where we are liable for God’s judgment, which is intended to
call us to repentance.’
The editor, who would definitely not wish to be described as
evangelical, even if he was a leading one, is reminded of the fire,
some years ago, at York Minster, which some in elevated church circles
saw as a similar judgement on the pronouncements of the then Bishop of
Durham. He (the editor, that is) merely wonders why, if God is using
the elements as an instrument of corrective judgement, he does not aim
his thunderbolts a little more accurately. Come to think of it, the
creator is flooding out the wrong people: many of the victims are
uninsured, vulnerable and near the poverty line…
Sponsored Organ Play
in Saint Mary’s
by Fr. Neil Kelley
in aid of Church Funds
(to be split evenly between both churches!)
Sunday 19th August 2007 at 4pm until
Monday 20th August 2007 at 4pm
Please come and go as you please. Refreshments will be served.
Sponsor forms available from both churches or call the Parish Office on
Specific pieces can be requested at any time of day or night at a
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