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
to receive a postal copy of Newslink each month, free of charge, email the Editor
the Ministry Team
Well, another Christmas has passed and as a new year begins we appear
to be thrust into a very cold January with its long, dark, cold nights.
The cold night gives way to the bright (still bitterly cold!) morning
and, as the sun rises and settles on the land, we see the start of a
new day. This morning I notice the white, sparkling ice settled on the
grass, the branches of the trees and the few remaining leaves glitter
and shine in the early morning sunshine. The sky is bright blue
and clear and the crisp air (although cold!) and makes children’s face
glow with rosy cheeks and bright eyes. Once again, I am in awe of
God’s beautiful land in which we are privileged to live.
February moves us into the second half of winter, with probably even
more cold weather, possibly even snow. But February also brings a
change in our Christian calendar. We have moved on from our Christmas
celebrations and now we begin to celebrate the light which has been
brought into the world: that is, the light of Christ. One of my
favourite services is Candlemass, especially when it is an evening
service and the night outside is dark, but inside the church with its
dimmed electric lights, hundreds of little candles are lit and I can
see people’s faces shining in their glow and I am again aware of the
beauty of God’s creation and of Jesus, the light, shining within us,
all around us. A light shining out of the darkness!
Christians have been celebrating Candlemass for hundreds of years. In
fact, it can be traced back to as early as 543 AD. The “Feast of
Lighted Candles” is mentioned by Bede and St. Eligius, who was bishop
of Noyon from 640 to 648. The feast quickly became popular and the day,
(celebrated in St Faith’s on Sunday, 1st February) is set aside to
commemorate the presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple of
Jerusalem. Jesus has been circumcised, marking him as a member of
God’s chosen people, through whom world salvation was to be achieved.
Christ’s coming at Christmas lightens up the world with its dark,
dreary days of winter as we welcome His beam of salvation and at
Candlemass we again celebrate the light of Christ come into the
world. One of the important themes in St. John's Gospel is that
Light overcomes Darkness. This Gospel makes clear that Christ is the
Light of this world, and all who seek the Light will be delivered from
the powers of Darkness. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light
of life.’ (John 8:12)
May the light of Christ shine in all our hearts, for evermore.
Colours of day dawn into the mind,
The sun has come up, the night is
Go down in the city, into the
And let’s give the message to the
people we meet.
So light up the fire and let the
Open the door, let Jesus return.
Take seeds of his spirit, let the
Tell the people of Jesus, let his
Go through the park, on into town;
The sun still shines on, it never
The light of the world is risen
The people of darkness are needing
Open your eyes, look into the sky,
The darkness has come, the sun
came to die.
The evening draws on, the sun
But Jesus is living, his spirit is
With my love and prayers,
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. But why ‘Ash’ Wednesday? The reason has
to do with getting things right between you and God, and the tradition
goes right back to the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites often sinned. When they finally
came to their senses, and saw their evil ways as God saw them, they
could do nothing but repent in sorrow. They mourned for the damage and
evil they had done. As part of this repentance, they covered their
heads with ashes. For the Israelites, putting ashes on your head, and
even rending your clothes, was an outward sign of their heart-felt
repentance and acknowledgement of sin. (See Genesis 18:27; 2 Samuel
13:19; Job 2:8, 30:19; Isaiah 58:5; Jeremiah 6:26; Jonah 3:6)
In the very early Christian Church, the yearly ‘class’ of penitents had
ashes sprinkled over them at the beginning of Lent. They were turning
to God for the first time, and mourning their sins. But soon many other
Christians wanted to take part in the custom, and to do so at the very
start of Lent. They heeded Joel’s call to ‘rend your hearts and not
your garments’ (Joel 2:12-19). Ash Wednesday became known as either the
‘beginning of the fast’ or ‘the day of the ashes’.
The collect for Ash Wednesday goes back to the Prayer Book, and
stresses the penitential character of the day. It encourages us with
the reminder of the readiness of God to forgive us and to renew us. The
Bible readings for the day are often Joel 2:1-2, 12 - 18, Matthew 6:
1-6,16 - 21 and Paul’s moving catalogue of suffering, ‘as having
nothing and yet possessing everything’. (2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:10)
The actual custom of ‘ashing’ was abolished at the Reformation, though
the old name for the day remained. Today, throughout the Church of
England, receiving the mark of ashes on one’s forehead is optional.
Certainly the mark of ashes on the forehead reminds people of their
mortality: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return...’
(Genesis 3:19) The late medieval custom was to burn the branches used
on Palm Sunday in the previous year in order to create the ashes for
The Collect for Ash Wednesday is:
Almighty and everlasting God,
You hate nothing that you have made
And forgive the sins of all those
who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and
That we, worthily lamenting our
And acknowledging our wretchedness,
May receive from you, the God of
Perfect remission and forgiveness;
Through Jesus Christ your Son our
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.
Wednesday 25th February: ASH WEDNESDAY
– the First Day of Lent
7.30 am Holy Eucharist and
imposition of ashes (SF)
10.30 am Holy Eucharist with hymns and imposition of
8.00 pm SOLEMN EUCHARIST and
imposition of ashes (SF)
Preacher: The Reverend Frances
Shoesmith (Pioneer Minister,.
Liverpool Diocese) followed by
Baked Bean Supper
Fridays in Lent
… in Saint Faith’s or Saint Mary’s at 6.30 pm
Stations of the Cross and Holy Eucharist
27 February S. Mary’s
6 March S. Faith’s
13 March S. Mary’s (*)
20 March S. Faith’s (*)
27 March S. Mary’s
3 April S. Faith’s
(*) these services will take the form of a meditation on the Way of the
Cross with poetry, visual imagery and music, both classical and
Sundays in Lent
… in Saint Faith’s at 7.00pm
Devotional Meditation and Benediction led by Fr Neil
“The Journey to the Cross, in words and music, as seen by…”
8 March Barabbas
15 March Simon of Cyrene
22 March Mary, the Mother of Jesus
29 March The Centurion at the foot of the Cross
Very shortly before his sad and untimely death, Kevin Walsh spoke to me
about his plans to feature the ‘Three Graces’ of St Faith’s. He was
referring to his daughter Grace, and two smaller girls with the same
name: Graces Evison and Caesar. As he rightly pointed out,
Liverpool waterfront may have three fairly famous buildings with that
name, but our trio were closer to home and, of course, much easier on
I invited him to take a picture and to write a few words for
publication in Newslink, and I know he was looking forward to doing so.
In the end, it was left to some of those of us who mourn his loss to do
the job. Denis Griffiths recorded the moment in front of the Church
Christmas Tree after the Christingle service on Christmas Eve of last
year. He tells us that he used a sophisticated photo-editing package to
merge two pictures so that Grace Evison no longer appeared to be
picking her nose. Who says the camera cannot lie? The result is on the
centre page gallery this month.
It is also, together with a gallery of pictures of Kevin and his family
and friends, together with many affectionate and sometimes hilarious
tributes to our old friend, now archived on the church website.
Everything may be seen at
Back in the 1970s an obscure survey in the retail clothing trade said
that the wildest colours in nightwear were purchased by bishops and
other clergymen. One Vicar, at the time, recorded in rhyme his reaction
to this vital piece of news..
Our Bishop in Church is a sight
Of radiant glory and light,
But nothing compares
With the garments he wears
When he gets into bed for the
A similar glory is seen
In the nighties assumed by the
Very reverend by day,
In the night he’s away
In brilliant magenta and green.
And a beauty which neither can
Is displayed by the local
Who’ll normally choose
Pyjamas in hues,
Of a brilliance to kindle a beacon.
The Canons, so stern and severe,
At night are no longer austere,
Not gentle or mild;
But ravingly wild,
Exploding in chromatic gear.
The Verger, who dwells on the
Has a wicked perennial urge,
To ask the Town crier
One night, to shout “FIRE!”
And to see all the sights that
From ‘The Church
Bizarre’ by the Reverend S J Forrest
With thanks to the
magazine of St John the Baptist, Meols
Club - the January draw
1. 101 George Kelley 2. 37 Joe Hedgecock
3. 59 Rick Walker 4. 46 Mona Turner
New members are always welcome: all profits help to boost the church’s
income – and the odds are vastly better than the National Lottery. See
Gareth or Brenda if you want to join and remember, to quote the
oft-repeated mantra of their predecessor: ‘You’ve got to be in it to
Mission Shaped Introduction (MSI)
… is a six week introductory course suitable for all who are interested
in becoming more mission-shaped in their personal understanding and as
a church. Journeying through Lent to Easter this course will help us
look outward with a new awareness as we consider our mission and
ministry in the United Benefice and beyond. The course will be
facilitated by Phil Pawley, the Diocesan Missioner. Please sign
the list at the back of church if you wish to take part.
Mondays in Lent in S. Mary’s Annexe at 7.30pm
Mission Shaped Introduction (MSI) course
2 March Session 1: Rediscovering
mission and what that means for church
9 March Session 2: Changing world,
16 March Session 3: Re-imaging church –
23 March Session 4: Re-imaging church – worship
30 March Session 5: Re-imaging church –
leadership and discipleship
6 April Session 6: Where do we go
Money Matters - and Worries!
The Church’s capacity for fund-raising has been – and remains – a cause
for concern. Without adequate funds, we are not able to pursue
the church’s mission in the community and the wider world. Our
commitment to the Diocese, too, has suffered.
Many parishioners have kindly and generously responded to pleas to
review their planned giving, either through a standing order or the
parish envelopes, for which we are very grateful. Our recent
“Christmas Gift” Appeal envelopes have generated over £1,000 so
far but there is still a long way to go!
We have reviewed our events planning, and a number have been arranged
for this year, including the return of our popular “Open Gardens Day”
and another 24hr sponsored organ recital. Our Director of Music,
Sam Austin, has refreshed our Summer Recitals and is generating new
ideas for musical events. More ideas for raising funds are always
welcome, particularly new ones.
The PCC and Finance Committee thought carefully about the implications
of running a Stewardship Renewal Campaign in the middle of a very
difficult economic recession. But when is it a good time to ask
for more money? Nevertheless, there is an urgency now to raise
our game and appeal for more and sustainable levels of income.
Income generation is not the Treasurer’s job or mine: it is
everyone’s! The PCC, the congregation, the “Friends” and all in
our local community have an interest in ensuring that St Faith’s and St
Mary’s can survive.
Fr. Neil for
Why Go to Church? The Drama of the
Eucharist, by Timothy Radcliffe
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2009, foreword by Rowan
ISBN No: 9780826499561 Price £9.99
The Eucharist, writes Timothy Radcliffe, is a three part drama, forming
us in faith, hope and love. In this book he examines what it means to
celebrate the Eucharist. Whilst other people experience it as boring
and pointless, listening to the readings, the homily and the creed all
take us through the crises and challenges of faith. From the offertory
through to the end of the Eucharistic prayer we are caught up in the
hope that was Christ’s, faced with Good Friday. From the ‘Our Father’
until we are sent on our way, especially in receiving communion, we are
formed as people who are capable of love.
Love Life Live Lent: Family Book
ISBN No: 9780715141823 Price £4.99
Were you one of the quarter of a million people who loved life and
lived Lent in 2007 and 2008? Whether you've used it before or are just
starting out this year, Love Life Live Lent is back to transform your
world in 2009!
This exciting new book is the ideal way to take part as
a family. It contains all the actions from the Love Life Live
Lent booklets (both Adult and Kids versions), plus extra activities,
recipes and prayers to help you celebrate Lent and Easter
together at home.
Life in Abundance: The CAFOD/Christian
Aid Lent Book 2009
ISBN No: 9780232527544 Price £5.95
'What does the Lord require of you? Only this: to act justly, to love
mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.' Micah 6:8.
The road that people of faith walk for forty days in Lent every year -
the path of suffering and darkness in preparation for the triumph of
Easter - is the road that the people in the poorest communities in the
world walk every day, as they too wait expectantly for the coming of
Six of our finest spiritual writers reflect on the Scripture readings
from the common lectionary for each day of Lent 2009, inviting us to
discover the God of compassion through prayer, contemplation and action
for change. The contributors are David Adam, John Bell, Joseph Donders,
Shirley du Boulay, Jon Sweeney and Frances Young.
A number of you have already started to use this book for Advent to 2
Before Lent. This is the next one in the series.
Reflections for Daily Prayer: Alan
Garrow, Susan Hope, Keith Ward Bruce Gillingham, Sarah Dylan Breuer,
ISBN No: 9780715141601 Price £3.99
This is a new resource designed to accompany Common Worship: Daily
Prayer and Time to Pray. Following the Morning Prayer
readings for every day of the week in the
Common Worship Lectionary they contain:
* Lectionary details for the day
* A reflection on one of the readings for that day
* A Collect.
The writers of these succinct and profound reflections are drawn from a
wide range of backgrounds and combine the ability draw on high levels
of scholarship and practical ministerial experience. These stimulating
and accessible reflections offer fresh and challenging perspectives on
familiar passages. These reflections will deepen and enhance the
spiritual lives of all who engage with them on a daily basis.
Reflections for Daily Prayer are published four times a year, in
January, April, July and October.
If you would like to receive any of these books then please sign up on
the list at the back of church.
Reflection for Candlemas 2009
The festival of Candlemas commemorates the presentation of Christ in
the temple in Jerusalem by his parents. On seeing the holy family
Simeon praised God and acclaimed the child Jesus as ‘the light to
enlighten the nations.’ How will the nations be enlightened in 2009?
Jerusalem is a unique city, being sacred to Jews Muslims and Christians
alike. It should be a focus of unity between faiths. But today it
is a place of division and tragedy, a focus and symbol of the current
Middle East catastrophe.
What is it like to be a resident of Jerusalem today? Here is the story
of one Palestinian resident told by Christian Aid.
Sanaa and her three children travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in the
West Bank every fortnight. She comes as the Wise men came to share the
gift of her love. She is visiting her husband, Ali, for two
precious days. All Palestinians under Israeli occupation must carry
identification cards, and Sanaa has Jerusalem I.D., giving her
residency status in East Jerusalem. But Ali, who carries a
Palestinian West Bank I.D. card, cannot live with them because Israel
considers East Jerusalem to be a part of Israel, not the West
Bank. Since 2002, citing security reasons, Israel has frozen the
process that allows such families to live together, separating
about 72000 families. The strain upon Sanaa is clear. ‘I’m
broken, It’s a tragedy being alone with the children’ she says.
Down the road in West Jerusalem, an Israeli human rights organisation
B’Tselem campaigns for the right of such families to live
together. B’Tselem means ‘Made in His image’ reminding us that
all eople deserve equality and justice.
Last month’s Newslink contained the story of Communion wine being
blockaded at the check point by Israeli solders because it represented
a security risk. This would be laughable if it were not a tragic symbol
of Palestine today. Yes, the blood of Christ is a security risk to all
who believe in aggression rather than peace. It challenges us to
confront violence and oppression everywhere but especially this New
Year’s tide in the Holy land as the violence escalates in Gaza. The
Slaughter of the Innocents was repeated this year in a horrific fashion
as children in Gaza died in Israeli air attacks.
Together with other Christians, we attended the vigil and protest march
in Liverpool on January 3rd, a demonstration of solidarity with the
suffering people of Gaza and the occupied territories and an expression
of disappointment with the silence of our media and our government. It
was attended by representatives from all faiths, Christians , Muslims
and Jews. If you too would like to see peace and justice in the
Holy Land visit www. Palestiniansolidarity.com and carry out the action
points listed there.
Christmas and Epiphanytide offer us great hope. With hope
comes responsibility. If like the wise men we have followed the
star that leads to the Prince of Peace then we will return to the world
wiser than before. At Epiphany we are challenged to journey together in
the pursuit of the peace we can find in the Christ child. Please help
Christian Aid support people such as Ali and Sanaa, and the human
rights workers at B’Tselem through your prayers and your gifts as they
travel into the Holy Land today in search of peace.
Kathleen and Alex Zimak
Postscript... Many thanks to all who
sent Christmas greetings to our brothers and sisters of the Christian
churches in the occupied territories in the West Bank. The Rev Garth
Hewitt, of Amos Trust, will speak about the current situation in
Palestine on Sunday Feb 1st at the 9.30 a.m. Eucharist service at St
Nicholas Parish Church, Liverpool.
Every few months your editor
reads and judges a wide selection of poems (and short stories)
submitted for a national prize competition. The quality of the best
offerings is pleasingly high: welcome evidence of the healthy state of
‘amateur’ writing. Sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly, little of what I
read has any religious content (no new John Donnes or George Herberts);
but occasionally something surfaces that has a spiritual element. This
one, a thought-provoking dialogue between a failing body and an ongoing
spirit in old age, is worth careful reading, and perhaps pondering over
its open ending. For interest, I should add that I am not made privy to
the names or locations of entrants – and this poem, highly though I
rated it, did not win the competition.
It’s some years since
I felt my servant’s discontent;
The vigour of his service seemed to pall.
I noticed this without undue dismay at first.
The sometime faltering foot
Or wheezing breath
Or jack-knife on the exit from a car -
All brushed beneath the carpet
Of my mind -
An easy going master.
But the incidents grew more
Till, patience fled, I turned on him
Upbraided him with negligence, or worse.
He said: ‘your lifetime, now
I’ve been your faithful slave,
Attending to your every need,
Drew in clean air for you
And made your blood,
Remodelled you from food,
Ejected what was not required,
Enabled you to see and hear
This varied world;
Gave you mobility,
Produced your thoughts and passions.
But now, at last, I’m weary,
Wish to rest,
Return to earth and air
Which nourished me,
As all things must,
While you go free.
What say you, master?
Will you grant me my release?’
‘That is not mine to do,’
‘I serve too:
I serve one who
Would rage at my presumption
If I gave you leave to go.
He is the great Disposer.
For Him, it’s you who must depart
Give notice, go,
Not wait for your release.’
And so it was;
My servant went
And left me here and everywhere,
No longer part but whole
And searching for a womb.
To mark the frenetic financial times
in which we live, we reproduce, with thanks to the magazine of St
Peter’s, Formby, and Mike Hastie, a few ironic thoughts.
Q. What’s the capital of Iceland?
A. About £3.50
Q. How do you define optimism?
A. A banker who irons five shirts on a Sunday.
Q. Why have estate agents stopped looking out of the window in the
A. Because otherwise they’d have nothing to do in the afternoon
Q. What’s the difference between an investment banker and a large
A. The pizza can still feed a family of four.
Q. Wha’'s the difference between an investment banker and a pigeon?
A. The pigeon is still capable of leaving a deposit on a new Ferrari.
The credit crunch has helped me get back on my feet. The car’s been
Latest news: The Isle of Dogs bank has collapsed. They’ve called in the
Bradford & Bingley employees are concerned they were given no
notice of the takeover by Santander Bank. A Government spokesman said:
‘No one expected the Spanish acquisition.’ (Monty
Python fans only! Ed.)
You know it’s a credit crunch when...
The cashpoint asks if you can spare any change.
There’s a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer - on banks.
The Inland Revenue is offering a 25 per cent discount for cash-payers.
Gordon Brown has stopped chewing his nails and started sucking his
Your builder asks to be paid in Zimbabwean dollars rather than sterling.
It was in 1997 that Diana, Rebecca and I moved to Merseyside. I had
already been commuting over here for work for some time, and we
eventually made the transition across the Pennines from Sheffield on
1st August. Two weeks after that we made our first visit to a Sunday
service at St Faith’s, little knowing then just how much a part this
church was going to play in our lives from then on. Rebecca was just 10
years old and still in primary school. Tony Blair’s New Labour
government had won a landslide
victory just three months before we moved house. Looking back, it seems
like a different world and very different times.
Since then, over eleven years, St Faith’s and St Mary’s churches have
followed the turnings of our lives: a really difficult redundancy
situation for me; a return to parish ministry in Kirkby; the loss of
Diana’s parents and more recently her brother Derek; Diana’s move into
rewarding work with extremely challenging young people; various spells
of illness and difficulties for all of us; and Rebecca’s move through
education into adulthood. And also over that time, we have sadly seen
many of our fellow-travellers in our churches pass on through the veil
of death, into a reality of which we can only peer as through a glass
This journey of ours – and yours too – rooted within the life of a
worshipping community, is the stuff out of which in wrestling with God
and with each other, we form our lives of faith. This is the raw
material out of which saints and sinners are made.
Over this time so much has changed in our world. We have become so much
more aware of how fragile human life is on this planet, how dependent
we are upon natural resources, and how much more dependent we are all
going to have to become on each other if we are to survive as a
species. The life of the established church again and again has seemed
to be falling away in a largely secular world, and yet springs of
growth of the people of God can be seen in the most unlikely places.
The growing divide of Christians predominantly into two camps –
conservatives who insist on the literal interpretation of scripture,
and for whom objections to homosexuality, abortion, and women’s
ministry are the defining anchors of faith; and liberals, for whom a
willingness to engage with different interpretations of scripture and
church tradition allows for more inclusive faith and practice.
My own faith, and sense of what the church is for, has been ever
changing and moving over this time. I find myself now so much
less certain of anything in terms of the dogma which the church
proclaims, yet at the same time more and more certain of the reality of
what, clumsily and stumblingly, I understand when I use the word ‘God’.
The outer trappings of worship, once so important and crucial I thought
for my participation in the liturgy, are now comparatively
insignificant compared to my developing need for fewer words and less
ritual. I have a growing hunger for much more silence around the words,
and a need to develop a strong sense of communion and participation
with those around me who share the faith.
As you know, Diana and I will be moving to be part of the congregation
of Christ Church, Toxteth Park. This is a non-stipendiary attachment,
and I will help where needed across the Toxteth and Wavertree Deanery.
My work with Church Action on Poverty will continue for the time being.
So, as Diana and I prepare for a new chapter in our own
lives, feeling that the time is
right for new challenges, the most important thing I want to say is
‘Thank you’. Thank you St Faith’s and St Mary’s for being there for us
and for being who you are. For the privilege of sharing the journey for
what is not an inconsiderable amount of time. For the willingness to
engage in the necessarily difficult process of very different people
coming together and trying to make some spiritual sense out of that
difference. For the prayers that we know have been said for us, for so
much real practical and emotional support that has been given to us,
and for the kindnesses and active concern of so many.
Fr. Neil writes…
When I came to the parish almost ten years ago I was pleased that Fr.
Mark was one of the ‘team’ here, having met him whilst at Kirkby
through his work with Merseyside Broad Based Organising. He suggested
to me at one meeting that I might be interested in looking at the
parish which was, by then, becoming quite famous because of its mammoth
interregnum. Stories were doing the rounds that 36 priests had turned
the parish down!
Not long after I came Fr Mark went on sabbatical to America and at our
first Team Away Day gave us much to think about as he reflected upon
the work (and success) of the Church in North America. After a period
as Team Vicar of St. Mark’s Kirkby, Fr. Mark came back to us in 2005
when he took up his current ‘day job’ with Church Action on Poverty.
Fr. Mark has always brought a particular dynamic to the Ministry Team
which we will miss when he leaves. Never one to leave things
unchallenged, Fr. Mark has helped us to think what it means to be a
catholic Anglican parish in the 21st Century and what our mission must
be. Working with many people in minority groups and those on the
margins of society, Fr Mark has had a particular insight into what it
means to be a priest today and we must be grateful for the contribution
he has made, in so many ways, to our two parishes. During his last
sabbatical Fr. Mark felt that the time might be right to explore
ministry in a different setting and we are delighted that he and Diana
have found a place where they feel it is right for them to be at the
present time. In saying farewell to Fr Mark we also place on record our
thanks to Diana for her work, particularly with Junior Church and as a
Eucharistic Minister, and we wish them all well for the future.
School of Prayer: ‘Food for the Journey’
… at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral led by the Bishop of Stafford, The
Rt. Revd. Gordon Mursell. Biblical teaching on how prayer can change
our lives and our world, on Friday 27 February 5.30 to 8.30 pm and
Saturday 28 February 8.00 am to 4.00 pm
The Food of
Way back in what passed for last summer, I happened upon a BBC Four
live broadcast from the Proms. I don’t usually watch televised
concerts, preferring live events or sound recordings: but this as
different. A great throng of colourfully-dressed young people were
belting out mainly South American music, urged on by an equally
colourful and charismatic young conductor. They took the Albert Hall by
storm, and the applause was deafening and rapturous.
They were the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, and he was
Gustavo Dudamel. Their timing, rhythmic sense and sheer exuberance were
captivating – and when the same channel some months later put on a
documentary about them, I was not going to miss it.
The programme was a revelation. Briefly, the orchestra is one of the
products of ‘El Sistemo’ a visionary enterprise that brings music
making to the poor and underprivileged of Venezuela, and in so doing
transforms their lives. Children growing up in what is often abject
poverty, in crime and drug-ridden environments, are given free access
to instruments and coaching, and form bands and orchestras of which
this flagship ensemble is just one. The scheme is hugely successful,
and young people are given a sense of purpose and identity through
performing the music of their native country and, of course, the
western classical repertoire.
Couldn’t see it happening here? Well, the documentary also focussed on
a similar scheme being piloted in a run-down estate in central
Scotland. The guiding light here is one Richard Holloway, seen visiting
Venezuela on behalf of his local authority, and enthusing Scottish
children to make music and change their lives. I thought I recognised
the man – and indeed I did. Until a few years ago he had been Bishop
Holloway, the Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland (the
Archbishop of Canterbury’s opposite number and spiritual head of
Scottish Anglicans). When in post he was well-known for his
controversial and decidedly liberal views, and a thorn in the side of
the establishment. Now he is in mufti, and spreading the word with
seeming success in a very different but equally dedicated environment.
I was left with nothing but admiration for these visionary people and
the great work they are doing – and hoping to do – to bring great music
to the most unlikely places. Anyone who sees classical music as the
preserve of the middle and upper classes (apologies for such
out-of-fashion terms!) and a ‘toffee-nosed’ activity, needs to see
Dudamel and Holloway at work and watch the faces of little children
given hope and a vision of the power and beauty of love through great
music. Since then, I have been looking at other initiatives seeking to
bring great music to young and underprivileged people in this country.
There are Youth Proms, the Liverpool Saturday Music Schools (whose
splendid work we enjoy at some of our Summer Saturday concerts) and, of
course, the Classic fm Music Makers programme, doing the same fine
things and about to benefit from the gallant efforts of our very own
Mari Griffiths (watch this space!). If music is indeed the food of
love, there seems to be a happy overflowing of both commodities just
But the year’s ending also brought the trial and sentencing of those
responsible for the horrifying murder of Rhys Evans just a few miles
down the road from our comfortable suburb. The grief and outrage
outpoured over recent weeks and months show the revulsion the majority
of decent folk feel for the soulless gang culture that lay behind the
murder. Particularly horrifying was the mentality that perpetuates this
sort of behaviour, refuses to condemn it or help bring its perpetrators
to justice and which, in the case of the unspeakable youth found guilty
of the shooting, showed no remorse but merely a glorying in violence
for its own sake and an unquestioning adherence to the amoral code of
gang vengeance and retribution.
It is hard to reconcile these two worlds. Both centre on the
under-privileged and the under-classes, yet where one finds ways to
lift some of its inhabitants out of the morass of their impoverished
lives, the other seems closed to any sort of redemption, unable or
unwilling to change for the better. The success of El Sistemo and other
such admirable schemes gives the lie to those who take the simplistic
option to brand gang behaviour as an inevitable consequence of
background, poverty and upbringing.
There is no easy solution, otherwise it would have been found and put
into operation. For the Christian it is a truism that God wills all
people to live in peace and harmony in the redeeming power of love. It
is equally apparent that God’s will is far from being done in the
gang-ridden streets of our big cities, and that the church has no
meaningful outreach there and may well be unlikely ever so to do. So
could music, with its capacity to uplift the soul and transform lives,
be the answer? Not, of course, the angry, aggressive and divisive
ranting ugliness of so much of what passes for ‘popular’ music in the
street environment, but the sweeter strains of indigenous and classical
music, bringing people together to make it and rejoice in so doing?
Music, indeed, hath charms to soothe a savage breast. Richard Holloway
has left the orthodox path of the church to work more effectively among
the young. He, and all who work with music for young people deserve our
prayers. They at least may do something to bring the divine harmony to
a dissonant world.
Let Shakespeare, as so often, have the last word.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.
Last month, following a representation to our Ministry Team concerning
both the perceived political bias of several articles in this magazine,
and also what was seen as an undue preoccupation with attacking
political correctness and the excesses of the ‘nanny state’, I wrote a
piece (‘Postscript of Principle’) explaining and defending editorial
policy. Below are printed various responses representing both sides of
the argument. Fr Mark’s
opening letter is followed by two articles supplied by him from
different journals, which I am more than happy to print. Finally, Denis Griffiths’s letter of support is
representative of the many people who have written or spoken in similar
vein, and for which I am most grateful.
It can only be a healthy sign, I believe, that people are sufficiently
moved to think, discuss and write about such issues, whatever their
viewpoint. Once again the editor reiterates: all contributions and all
points of view, are always more than welcome.
I write as one of those who don’t find the regular lists of instances
of supposed political correctness in the magazine particularly amusing.
The sources of many of the pieces that you quote present ‘the facts’ in
a highly biased way, designed specifically to create in us the
sort of righteous indignation required by those who like to go around
talking about ‘political correctness gone mad’. If you go back to
research what has actually happened, you often find that crucial
information about a situation has been omitted, which means that
readers are being led into laughing at something which is untrue, or at
the very least, highly exaggerated. There are serious consequences to
this – it strengthens our unexamined prejudices and assumptions and
blunts our political antennae.
I am with you 100% in terms of the importance of satire. Satire is
sharply pointed, up-to-the-minute temperature-taking of some of the key
political issues of the day. Satire is also about trying to make
changes and improvements – it is supposed to lead somewhere. I don’t
see how regular lists of ‘samey’ stories of supposed political
correctness can really work in that way. And that is why, when you talk
about the ‘nanny state’, I have to ask - do you really think that this
is the most important political target at the moment – and that this is
true month after month?
A wide reading of the press over the last year or so would suggest that
‘nanny’ is not the word that very accurately describes this
administration. What many are pointing to is the word ‘cruel’.
Visit a refugee reporting or holding centre in this country; accompany
the police on a dawn raid when the children of asylum seekers are
bundled out of their homes; visit some of
the people on long term benefit
who are being
‘persuaded’ to get a job when there are none to be had; or listen to
the stories of stress and burnout from both children and teachers as a
result of the over-testing regime in education – and you quickly get a
sense of why the description ‘cruel’ arises. That list of real
situations doesn’t sound very ‘nanny’ to me, and it says nothing about
our country’s involvement in the farrago of the Iraq war, or our
support for the regimes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons.
So I would like to put my hand up and cast the first vote for Newslink
becoming properly satirical and dealing with far more important issues.
I think that would be a fine thing for our church. Instead of putting
up such easily knocked down straw men as the ever faceless bureaucrats,
or supposed instances of political correctness, why don’t we use the
magazine to wrestle with some real political issues? I find it
indicative that as a church in the Bootle Deanery, with some of the
worst poverty in Merseyside literally on our doorstep, we rarely, if
ever mention that in the magazine. Why do you think that is?
So come on Ed, and people of St Faith’s, let’s have some real, potent
political debate - and some really sharp, critical thinking!
I was glancing idly through the entries on the ‘Where To Worship’ page
in the ‘Church Times’ when I came across an advertisement from a church
that proudly proclaimed that all services there were “guaranteed to be
The use of “politically correct” as a sneer must count as one of the
notable achievements of the Enemy. Those patterns of thought, speech,
and behaviour that are so stigmatised by it are an attempt by people
with power to make sure that people with less power are not treated
with contempt. This means using one’s imagination to understand other
people’s feelings. To refuse to make this effort conveys the message
that “Your feelings do not matter.”
The proponents of “political incorrectness” will no doubt respond, in
the manner of bullies everywhere, “Ha ha! Only joking. Where’s your
sense of humour?” Any church that not only harbours such attitudes, but
boasts of them, will be high on my list of Where Not To Worship.
Sister Rosemary, Community of the Holy Name,
writing in the Church Times.
Correctness’ lies are mad – and dangerous
Try speaking up for political correctness to almost any audience today
and you will know what heretics felt like before the Inquisition. I
have addressed three meetings on the subject in the past few days, and
on each occasion I began by asking whether anyone could recall using
the term as a compliment - not a single hand went up. Did they find
themselves using the phrase ‘political correctness gone mad’, I then
asked. On each occasion, the room was a sea of waving arms.
Given these powerful emotions it is unsurprising that PC so often
features in our newspapers. Page three of the old Daily Telegraph used
to carry prurient stories about naughty vicars getting up to no good in
the vestry and the like, and in the argot of the paper’s newsroom they
were known as Marmalade Droppers; the conceit was that as Colonel
Bufton-Tufton of Tunbridge Wells negotiated the distance between Spode
breakfast service and military moustache his hand would shake
uncontrollably with emotion at one of these tales of vice and folly,
and a slice of Oxford thick cut would be deposited on the newspaper.
‘PC gone mad’ stories are today’s Marmalade Droppers.
We readers do not always pause for very long to ask whether the stories
that play to our anti-PC emotions are true. We all think it is absurd
that someone who is short should be described as ‘vertically
challenged’, for example - but have you ever actually heard anyone who
is short asking to be called ‘vertically challenged’? In all the
research I did for my book on political correctness I did not come
across a single example of the phrase being used in a non-ironic way.
After analysing several ‘PC gone mad’ stories I concluded that any
piece with those words in the headline needs to be approached with
caution - especially at this time of year. We can all be confident that
at some point before December 25 we will read a newspaper piece which
states that Birmingham City Council tried to ban Christmas and rename
The rather modest grain of truth at the heart of this hardy perennial
is that around a decade ago the Council ran a promotional campaign
called ‘Winterval’ designed to attract business to the city - in all
other respects the story is, as a council spokesman put it to the
Guardian, ‘bollocks’. But PC myths are more difficult to kill than
Many of these stories do not matter very much - in fact they have
almost become part of the Christmas ritual. But here is an example of
one that does. Towards the end of his time as mayor of London, Ken
Livingstone set up a group to report on the representation of Muslims
in the media, and they quoted a story in the Express in the run up to
The piece was headlined ‘Christmas is banned because it offends
Muslims’ and it was based on the fact that advertisements for the
switch-throwing ceremonies at street light
displays in Lambeth had referred to them as ‘winter lights’ and
‘celebrity lights’ rather than Christmas lights. That does seem a bit
silly but whether you could really say it amounted to a ‘banning’ of
Christmas is another matter.
More importantly the story contained absolutely nothing to back-up the
suggestion that this was because Christmas ‘offends Muslims’ - in fact
it contained a pro-Christmas quote from the Muslim Council of Britain.
Anyone who has reported on religion in Britain knows that while there
may be many sources of conflict between Christians and non-Christians
in post-9/11 Britain, Muslim objections to Christmas is not one of
them. Most Muslims actively welcome Christmas because it marks one of
the few moments when our secular society publicly celebrates a
It is a dangerously PC thing to argue, but headlines which play to
false stereotypes can do real damage.
Many thanks for your brief Postscript
of Principle article in the January edition of Newslink in
which you outlined your editorial policy. I most whole-heartedly agree
with what you wrote, though I don’t always agree with what is printed
in Newslink! You produce a high quality magazine, and website, for
which we should all be grateful. I must admit that I enjoy satire and
anything which takes a dig at politicians, pomposity, self opinionated
people and “the establishment”. In fact the more bubbles you burst the
St Faith’s is a great place and deserves a magazine like Newslink
which, in my opinion, is properly balanced and, generally, amusing. The
January edition is a fine example of that balance and, quite rightly,
contained a number of tributes to our departed brother Kevin. There was
a good spread of news, jokes and items of an ecclesiastical nature. I
know that the jokes are not always found by you, as I have submitted a
number in the past and in some cases you have shown the good taste
necessary of an editor and refused to print them! I avoid sending in
anything political as even I think that politics are in bad taste.
Sometimes I read the ecclesiastical writings, sometimes not. If a
sermon is printed I tend not to read them as I will probably have been
in church to hear it “for real” and so will not find the need for
further enlightenment. That does not mean, however, that sermons should
not be published in Newslink as I appreciate that some people cannot be
Some sermons could be classed as overtly political and maybe that is
right; but then printing that sermon in the magazine could itself be
construed as political bias unless space is given to the counter
argument. I am not suggesting that you give atheists space to promote
their cause, but there are times when blatant politicking already takes
I raise the following in order to emphasise this point without saying
whether I am for or against what was said. During his sermon on Sunday
11th January, Fr Mark talked about the current situation in Gaza and
mentioned the “disproportionate” response of the Israelis to the
Iranian missiles fired at Israel by Hamas. It surely depends upon your
own point of view whether this is political, correct or incorrect,
whether it is biased or whether it is irrelevant to us as we try to
combat the credit crunch.
The point is that there are things which need saying and Newslink is an
appropriate place to air views of all sorts. But it is also the place
to have a laugh and knock pomposity.
and Safety Rules - Oh Yes They Are…
The Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company, in Dudley, has said the
checklist of regulations it must meet before it puts on a show is
Among the reams of red tape it must cut through is a rule that boiled
sweets must not be thrown into the audience in case someone is hit.
Bags of crisps have been used as an acceptably soft alternative.
Only people named on an official list are allowed to close the curtain,
while the temperature of milk being used with any pantomime cows must
now be allowed to fall below a set level.
Manwhile, all sets and stage material must be checked for sharp edges
and splinters and actors are banned from the props room in case of any
Graham Smith, the chairman of the theatre group, described the
regulations laid down by Dudley Council as ‘ridiculous’ and
‘microscopic’, and said that they added hours to their workload.
He said that in the group’s pantomime last year, the actor playing Jack
was only allowed to climb four feet up his 30ft beanstalk - and only if
he wore a harness. Due to the regulation, the idea was abandoned and he
just gazed up it instead.
In other rules designed to ensure actors’ safety, members have to wear
hard hats in the stage area during technical preparations while the
orchestra pit must be boarded over as soon as possible following a
performance to prevent anyone falling in.
With thanks to Fr
Neil for these entertainments, culled from the Daily Telegraph
to St Faith's Home Page