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The Parish Magazine
of Saint Faith's Church, Great Crosby

Saint Faith’s Prayer for Mission

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 flourish,
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 

January 2009

From the Vicar

 Dear friends,

“Take it to the Lord in prayer”

Recently I went as a “mystery worshipper” to another church in the Diocese prior to meeting with their Ministry Team to help them to think through their worshipping and liturgical life.

It was an enjoyable experience and visiting a new church is always a valuable learning experience. When I do go and am expected to make comments afterwards I base my report loosely on the “Ship of Fools mystery worshipper” process (see the Ship of Fools website for more!) One of the questions on the list is “how would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?” I was pleasantly surprised that it was very peaceful and prayerful and I just longed for the day when that would be true of St. Faith’s! I know exactly what a mystery worshipper would say about our noise!

For me, more worryingly than that is the fact that some people – people who have served the church for decades – still don’t understand why it is necessary! Jesus said “It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers (Mt. 21:13)”. What have we made St. Faith’s before mass?

One introduction in recent weeks is to have a prayer of preparation said by one of the choir or servers (off-stage voice). I stood at the lectern yesterday while it was being said and watched a number of people at the back blatantly disregarding the fact that prayer was being offered and carrying on talking. What an offence to God! And I also wondered what example we were setting to the young people, also standing at the back, preparing to bring up their colours in procession.

I actually find that our corporate attitude to prayer is more worrying than our lack of money! Take prayer away, and what is it all about?

Of course if we try and get to the heart of the matter the real issue is that many people do not know how to pray or use silence. So I believe there is a real need for us to encourage the use of silence – the world in which we live certainly wont do that, will it?

Every Sunday Morning Prayer is said at 10.30am in the Lady Chapel. Why not come early and as part of your preparation for mass spend some time beforehand in prayer.

 “We have to be friendly and welcoming…” Yes we do, there is very necessary conversation and activity before mass, but plenty of other churches with far larger congregations than ours manage the balance of welcome, preparation and prayer. I want to urge all sides-people this year to take time to sit in the Lady Chapel before mass and see how it feels. When one can hear very clearly the conversations taking place at the back of church it is very obvious that most of that can be said after mass!

We would probably have something to say if a baptism congregation came in noisily before the mass was ended. Why do we think it is OK to come in noisily for mass while Morning Prayer is being said? If wanting the church to be a place of prayer before mass is a sin, then God forgive me, please.

Next month at the Cathedral there is to be a School of Prayer led by the Bishop of Stafford, Bishop Gordon Mursall. Bishop Gordon is an outstanding teacher on prayer and its connection to daily life. The event is build around the daily offices and eucharist and I hope a goodly number of people from both parishes will support it. Coming usefully at the beginning of Lent It is entitled: "Food for the Journey – Biblical Teaching on how prayer can change our Lives and our World".

Maybe we need to think more about the need to pray before we think how we do it. But let’s not confuse “coming to church” with “saying our prayers”. The two can be very far apart at times!

If we fail to provide an atmosphere of prayer then our building – which we say we cherish – simply becomes another ‘community space’ where people gather for the wrong reasons!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.

So goes the old hymn. Let us hope that if people have troubles they wish to bring to the Lord in prayer S. Faith’s might be a place where they find they can do it.

With my love and prayers for a prayerful 2009!

Father Neil

Silence is the country where the saints learned their language.
Silence creates space and we find God in the space.
In the silence we can hear ourselves think,
We can listen to the words that come from our hearts,
The anxieties we have been avoiding, the questions that we need to ask.

                        (Thomas Merton)

Mystery Worshipper – would we like one?

If such a person came to St. Faith’s they might well ask these questions…

* What was the name of the service?
* How full was the building?
* Did anyone welcome you personally?
* Was your pew comfortable?
* How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
* What were the exact opening words of the service?
* What books did the congregation use during the service?
* What musical instruments were played?
* Did anything distract you?
* Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
* Exactly how long was the sermon?
* On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
* In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
* Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
* And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
* If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
* What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
* How would you describe the after-service coffee?
* How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
* Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?

It will be an interesting exercise – for all of us – when this happens!

Exchange and Smart

To add authenticity to the village Nativity Play the vicar arranged for a local farmer to loan a live donkey. As he delivered the beast, a passer-by asked what the donkey was for.

‘Oh, we got it for the vicar,’ said the farmer. 

‘By gum’, came the reply, ‘tha’s got a good swap there!’

Cumbria Magazine, thanks to Rick Walker

Confirmation Thanks!

A huge thank you from all of us for the support, spiritual strength and prayers so generously given by Fr Neil, the congregations of both churches and our families on this very special day.

Confirmation did not apply to us all, but the support was the same in every way, and so is the thanks. We were delighted that so many of you came to join us for the celebrations afterwards, which helped to seal the day. Thank you all.

Zoe, Michael, Brian, Gareth and Eunice (St Faith’s)
Barrie, Michael and Paula (St Mary’s)

On a personal note, I would like to thank all those who gave me such wonderful support with their cards, prayers and good wishes. It was so unexpected and very much appreciated and made a day that has great meaning for me all the more moving and memorable.


Your Money or your Blood!

Whilst giving blood recently, no big deal, I was struck by certain similarities with our giving as Christians. (Being a treasurer, the subject often springs to mind in unlikely situations).  Firstly, there is some sacrifice involved in giving blood, perhaps an hour of your time and then one eighth of your blood.  You start with 100% of your blood and you go home with just under 90%.  In giving to God’s work, we need to spend time reading what the Bible says, then give accordingly. 

We all start with 100%, whether it’s our pay, our pension or our pocket money. The Bible would seem to indicate that we give a tithe (10%) of our income to God, although the New Testament, and even the Old Testament in places, talks about more generous giving, perhaps one eighth or one fifth, or far more if we have it.  Selwyn Hughes writes, ‘If we give money away and it doesn’t cut into the way we live and make a difference in our lifestyle, then it is possible we are not responding to Jesus in the way He ministers to us.’  The wealthy, repentant Zacchaeus gave 50% away after meeting with Jesus and the poor widow gave everything she had, two very different examples of giving for God’s work. 

Secondly, blood donors do not give their blood grudgingly or unwillingly, or they wouldn’t bother to go. Similarly, 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us not to give money away with that attitude, but to give gladly and cheerfully, which God loves to see. I’m not sure how cheerful I am when I give blood but I’m glad to be offered the regulation cup of tea and biscuit. Of course, when giving blood you lie down and don’t notice it has gone. As treasurer, I try to encourage people to give by a monthly bank standing order and tax efficiently. In this way the money will leave your account as you sleep and you don’t feel a thing!  You can still be cheerful about it.

Thirdly, and most amazingly, I’m writing this as far as I know without being short of blood. They told me I could cope with seven pints, which would soon become eight again, and I believed them! Some poor soul in hospital will probably get my old pint while I am blessed with a new one without even asking! In fact, they will contact me again in a few months to ask for another pint, so not quite a monthly standing order.  However, as you seek to please God in your giving with open and generous hearts, He pours out His grace and blessing in generous measure; we don’t know how but do we believe it? Please read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, also Malachi 3:8-10 and Proverbs 11:24-25.

I know that some Christians go through hard times financially and may sometimes need support from other Christians, but how much do we trust these promises of God?  Have we ever tested God in this as He asks us to - Malachi 3:10?  One young lad gave some fish and loaves and they needed twelve baskets to gather up the leftovers after more than five thousand were fed.
Jesus said, ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where they cannot decay or be stolen ..... where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’  This should be our incentive to give as much as we are able to God’s work on earth.  This must include giving to the church we attend; in fact some commentators would say that the church should receive the whole tithe, although this may be difficult if we wish to support individuals or other charities that our own church does not support.  Certainly a good proportion should go to your own church, even though you may not think that paying for repairing the church boiler is storing up treasures in heaven. 

The previous Bishop of Chelmsford said that we needed to stop tipping God and start tithing!  We live in the grace of Christ and are not under the law (of the tithe) but this should release us all the more to give freely and gladly.  When he said this in 1999, everyone in the Church of England appeared to be on Income Support.  Have we given more freely and realistically since then?   The greatest blessing in life is to be a child of the living God.  May our giving reflect God’s presence in our lives. 

This article was originally written by John Chamberlain who is Treasurer of his parish church in North London.
Supplied by David Jones

Mitred Messages

….from the Bishop of Liverpool

Dear Neil,

Wendy has given me the photograph from St. Faith’s website of the young people from St. Faith’s at the Tenth Anniversary Service.

I know that I have dropped you a line already but I do want to emphasise that I have been inundated by cards, notes and comments from people around the Diocese saying how much they appreciated the service and how moved they were by the liturgy.

Please do pass on my appreciation to the congregations of St. Faith’s and St. Mary’s.


… and from the Bishop of Beverley

Dear Neil,

Might I ask you to thank your folk for the splendid lunch they provided on Sunday? Also, our great thanks for the splendid bouquet you gave to Betty and for the bottle of wine. They were very generous gifts.

It was, as ever, a joy to be with you and to experience the vigour of your parish’s worship.

With good wishes,

Yours sincerely

+Martyn Beverley

Early Dinner Warning!

The Shrove Tuesday Dinner will be on February 24th at 7.30pm, at the Royal Hotel, Waterloo.  The cost will be £17.95 per person. Rosie Walker will post details at the back of church after Christmas.

Special Services in January


12noon Solemn Mass with prayers for world peace, followed by a glass of ‘fizz’ to welcome the New Year


11am   Procession and High Mass


11am   Sung Eucharist and renewal of Baptismal Promises


11am Sung Eucharist
Preacher: The Reverend Ian Smith
Ecumenical Development Officer, Churches Together in the Merseyside Region

A Second Thank You

Just a few short months ago Laura was writing a THANK YOU to all our friends and family at St. Faith’s for their support following her heart attack and the two mini-strokes which came shortly afterwards. Coupled with the ongoing - and progressive - pulmonary fibrosis with which she suffered for many years, life became very difficult for Laura. Nevertheless, with the help of portable oxygen cylinders, we managed on several occasions to make it to the 11.00 a.m. Eucharist. It gave her so much pleasure to participate in this service and meet her friends.
Sadly Laura suffered another, and this time more serious, stroke at the end of October. Now it is my turn to say Thank You on behalf of Lesley, David and myself, to everyone for your support. For your prayers, your cards, and all the letters from people who wrote to share their personal memories of Laura with us.

Last but by no means least, to Father Neil, the Clergy team, the Organist and Choir and the Servers, thank you for a truly memorable Service.

Ron Rankin

The Season of Epiphany

(from the liturgical resource “Times and Seasons”)

In the Western churches, the Epiphany (‘manifestation’) became an occasion to celebrate one element in the story of Christ’s birth, the visit of the far-travelled magi, understood as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

Matthew’s account speaks simply of ‘wise men from the east’; later tradition fixed their number at three, made them kings and recalled their resonant names – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. In this perspective, Epiphanytide is an apt season to pray for the worldwide mission of the Church. The feast of the Conversion of St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, appropriately falls in the Epiphany season, as does the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the Eastern churches, the Epiphany is, rather, the celebration of Christ’s baptism at the hands of John, when the heavens were opened and a voice from heaven declared Jesus to be God’s beloved Son. The miracle of Cana in Galilee, where Jesus ‘first manifested his glory’, follows immediately:

Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;
and at Cana wedding-guest
in thy Godhead manifest.
         (Christopher Wordsworth)

The arrangement of the Sundays of Epiphany in the Revised Common Lectionary deliberately draws out these aspects.

The season of joyful celebration that begins at Christmas now continues through the successive Sundays of Epiphany, and the festal cycle ends only with the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas).The child who has been manifested to the magi at his birth is now recognized by Simeon and Anna, when he comes to be presented in the Temple according to the Law of Israel.

He is both ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles’ and ‘the glory of God’s people Israel’. But the redemption he will bring must be won through suffering; the Incarnation is directed to the Passion; and Simeon’s final words move our attention away from the celebration of Christmas and towards the mysteries of Easter.

Mari’s Desert Trek: a brief update

“On the 26th November last we had a Scouse Night at Ye Crack pub in town, organised by a friend - and a friend of his I had never met! Len heard about the trek, decided he’d like to help, took the idea and ran with it. All I had to do was provide a few cakes and turn up.

The pub was packed, and the manager Zardia kindly provided and cooked the best scouse I have ever tasted. We had a raffle and a good night was had by all. So my thanks go to all involved. We raised £265.

My training has started in earnest, I'm having personal training at the gym, I’m taking part in a two-hour spinning class on 1st December and Eunice’s son has very kindly agreed to help as well. I am very close to the total of £2,500 now, and once again I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me in any way.”

Many Thanks

…are due to the Sunday School Teachers and helpers who gave the children yet another wonderful joint Christmas party at S. Mary’s complete with Father Christmas! And all that hot on the heels of the children’s Craft and Activity Day too, which this year, for the first time, concluded with an all-age act of worship in Church. It was definitely the way to round off the morning and we are now thinking how we might do a similar event around Easter.

Thanks also to everyone who helped to prepare and decorate the hall, cook and serve the senior citizens’ Christmas lunch. For some years now it has been shared with our brothers and sisters from S. Mary’s too. I know everyone looks forward to this (not least the clergy) and thoroughly enjoys it. This year was no exception at all!

Fr Neil

Pilgrim People…
Fr. Neil writes:

On Saturday 31st January at the 12noon Mass (with time of open prayer and extended intercession) we will pray for the work of the Shrine at Walsingham, its new Administrator Bishop Lindsay Urwin, and all who go on pilgrimage to that holy place. The mass will be followed by lunch in the Upper Room  and we  hope to  be joined   by

fellow pilgrims from Tarleton and Rufford, with whom we shared our last pilgrimage. We were invited to Tarleton last September for mass and an excellent lunch and it would be good to have a return match. The mass and the lunch are open to all: if you wish to come along please join us!

Advance Notice. This year’s pilgrimage will be to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, on Friday 16th – Sunday 18th October. Forms are in our two churches for people to sign up indicating an interest.

As is our custom, we alternate a pilgrimage to Walsingham with one abroad, having now been to Conques (2004), Rome (2006) and Compostela (2008). Any suggestions for the (abroad) pilgrimage 2010 will be very welcome!

Christmas Crackers

Those whose gallant and tireless efforts seek to protect us from ourselves were as busy as ever in the run-up to Christmas. Four more for the collection….

A town’s 400-year Christmas custom of firing muskets into the sky has been banned because of fears that the noise will scare children.

Wimborne Council in Dorset has told the town’s Militia, which re-enacts traditions dating back to the 17th century, that it can no longer fire muskets over the Christmas tree. They said that the noise of the blank shots would be too loud for children and would keep families away from the annual event to mark the switching of the lights.

Plans for Christmas trees in the streets of Llandovery, Carmarthenshire, have been cancelled, after local volunteers were told that they risked breaking health and safety rules if they climbed ladders to put them up.

In previous years, a contractor, using a cherrypicker, fixed about 60 trees to ledges over shop fronts and above the market hall. Now councillors and volunteers have been told that they cannot use ladders to put up the decorations.

Carol-singing Brownies and Guides have been banned from a shopping centre because they are considered a health and safety risk.

The girls, who range from the age of five to teenagers, have sung for pensioners and disabled people at a late-night Christmas shopping event in Hemel Hempstead for more than 20 years.

But the centre’s managers have not invited the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides back this year for fear the girls will obstruct fire escape routes.

A charity raft race that has never suffered an accident in its 27-year history has been scrapped because of the health and safety demands of police and council risk assessors.

The authorities demanded that competitors wear £35 seagoing life jackets and that lavatories for the disabled were provided, and suggested that the course should be fenced to stop spectators falling in.

The organiser of the River Rother race said: ‘It’s a race in which people build rafts, float them down the river, have lots of fun and generally get wet, because water is wet. But so many conditions have been imposed on us that we have decided to call it a day. We have always insisted that competitors wear buoyancy aids but we are told that this is not good enough even though all people are doing is paddling a raft down a ditch.’

Postscript of Principle

Chris Price

The editor gathers that some of his recent offerings (principally newspaper extracts and some jokes) have not met with universal approval by some of the readership. He would like to apologise for any offence caused, and make his position clear once more.

Items culled from newspapers, like those above from the Daily Telegraph, come his way from a number of readers, some in high places within our own church, others from elsewhere. Any perceived political bias reflects both the reading habits of those who send such material in and the fact that most other newspapers are, sadly, usually far less likely to take religion seriously - or indeed flippantly.

The same applies to reports and jokes which make fun of what the editor sees as the excesses of political correctness and the ‘nanny state’. It his belief that healthy satire is part of a long and honourable journalistic tradition, and he is more than willing to print material which takes a different stance, whatever its source.

Many readers have been kind enough to express their appreciation of the present policy and to wish for its continuance. The robust defence of the Christian position, leavened with what it is hoped is a successful attempt to see the funny side of a whole range of issues, is what characterises the editorial policy of this journal and what would be part of its ‘Mission Statement’, were such a pretentious proclamation ever made.  It goes
without saying that any attitudes expressed or inferred from what is printed are the views of contributors or of the editor, and are in no way intended to be seen as ‘ex cathedra’ pronouncements or the views of St Faith’s: they are indeed as varied as the attitudes expressed from our pulpit by members of the Ministry Team. All contributions, whatever their viewpoint or source, are always welcome: St Faith’s may be a High Church, but its membership is a broad and welcoming one.


Kevin Walsh, L.S.P. - R.I.P.

Fr Neil

There will be more than a few words said in this magazine about Kevin. The shock and suddenness of his death is still, at the time of writing, something we find difficult to comprehend, as indeed any untimely death is. Our hearts go out to Sue, Laura and Grace, and all Kevin’s family. At the homily at his Funeral Mass (which I’m sorry I can’t reproduce because it wasn’t written down) I said that Kevin was “the life and soul of the party” (L.S.P.) and invited people to consider those three words – life, soul, party.

Life.  Life is indeed precious. Jesus came “that we might have life, and have it in abundance”. Kevin’s life was a life that was full: full of fun, full of work and tasks (many and varied at St. Faith’s as we have acknowledged) and full of love, for his family, his friends, colleagues, and workmates.

Soul.  We neglect an understanding of the soul at our peril! Our human lives will cease to exist at some point. Death is the only certainty in life and trying to understand that, can be a difficult pill to swallow. But because as Christians we believe that the soul continues to live with God we know that Kevin’s death is not the end. We must rejoice in that.

Party.  Heaven is often described as a place of laughter and happiness. In our liturgy we glimpse something of that celebration which envelops all human emotions. Kevin’s contribution to the social life of the parish and community was outstanding and we shall miss it. His dedicated work as a server helped us Sunday by Sunday to celebrate the Party of God’s people, known as the Mass. In parties social and spiritual we shall miss the contribution Kevin made. But God has taken his soul now to a new bigger party and a new life. Our loss is heaven’s gain.

O God, who brought us to birth,
and in whose arms we die,
in our grief and shock
contain and comfort us;
embrace us with your love,
give us hope in our confusion
and grace to let go into new life;
through Jesus Christ.


Since Kevin’s untimely death, the editor has received many tributes and photographs in his memory. 
A gallery of photographs, together with these and other tributes, can be seen at

They stand, as does the memory of the fine and moving funeral service, as some small tribute to a man who will indeed be sorely missed in the years to come, and are presented here for Sue, Laura Grace and Kevin’s wider family with love from the family of St Faith’s.   ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant...’

With Grateful Thanks

We would like to thank our wonderful family of St Faith’s and St Mary’s for the support and kindness we received when Kevin passed away so suddenly. We are completely overwhelmed and so indebted to you all.

Our special thanks to the Men’s Group, the Catering Team and all their helpers, the Choir and Servers and Father Neil and Clergy for the amazing funeral. Kevin would have been delighted with the beautiful service, the tributes and the fact that St Faith’s was full to bursting.

Kevin was a very special person, who touched many lives. We thank God for his life and feel so privileged to have shared it.

God bless you all,

Sue, Laura and Grace Walsh

Bringing Kevin Home

Shocked and distraught at the death of our dear brother Kevin, members of the Men’s Group felt that they wanted to do something and it was suggested that we could offer ourselves as pallbearers. Sue was asked and kindly agreed that we could carry Kevin into church on the Monday evening before Tuesday’s funeral. Six pallbearers would be needed and they were more or less self-selecting as a number of the group’s members, although willing, were physically unable to perform the duty.

Rick, Paul, Michael, Brian, Leo and myself were to act as pallbearers, with Peter available as reserve should anyone not be able to be in church. We knew that carrying Kevin would be emotionally draining but it would be not as bad as watching strangers carrying him. Anyway there were six of us and we would all offer each other physical and emotional support.

On Monday evening at about 5.45pm we gathered as a group at the back of church and organised ourselves into three pairs, each couple of approximately the same height. The undertaker gave us some brief instruction and then it was outside to where the hearse was waiting. That is when the full extent of this tragedy hit me. I saw the hearse with its precious cargo to the left, and to the right were Sue, Laura, Grace and a mass of other people; tomorrow would be no ordinary funeral. Helped by the undertakers we removed the coffin from the hearse, turned around to face the porch and then raised the coffin on our shoulders.

As we moved into church, the family formed in procession behind. Movement was automatic and I was glad that I was not leading, as my eyes were filled with tears.

We stopped near the font and Fr Martin started the brief service. I heard some of the words but must admit that this interlude allowed me to think about the sadness of the past week and Kevin’s impact on all of our lives. One constant thought was “I am carrying my friend and he was fourteen years younger than me”.

Then we were moving again, heading up the aisle. About a minute and a dozen or so memories later we stopped again. Assisted by the undertakers we lifted the coffin from our shoulders and gently laid it on the stand in front of the nave altar.

Kevin was home.

Denis Griffiths

Farewell to a Best Friend 

I first met Kevin when Fr Richard introduced him to the Men’s Group nearly 20 years ago. He was a Police Officer and I worked in the Ambulance Service. We soon discovered that we had a lot in common: both of us had driven emergency vehicles with blue lights and sirens. We soon started sharing our experiences and became close friends.

Kevin enjoyed being part of the Men’s Group and never missed a meeting. At our Annual Retreat to North Yorkshire each January he would enthusiastically throw himself into helping me with the cooking. Every morning when I came down to make breakfast, Kevin had already cleaned the fire and would have a roaring log fire blazing. He would then make tea and coffee and would serve everybody their drinks in bed.

Kevin was a family man who loved Sue, Laura and Grace. He was very proud of them and would talk to me about them a lot. He loved socializing and was a great party host. Standing behind the bar in his garden, Kevin ensured everybody was enjoying themselves.

Being a devout Christian who enjoyed being a part of the serving team was important to Kevin. Apart from holidays, he never missed church on a Sunday. Recently, Sue and Kevin enjoyed going on the parish retreat to Santiago de Compostela.

He loved to write quizzes and each year compiled quizzes for the men’s group retreat and for the November fundraiser for the senior citizens’ Christmas Lunch. He also donned the famous red suit to entertain children every December, a role he loved!

Kevin will be greatly missed by everybody: he was quite simply a lovely person and my best friend. Knowing him has enriched my life and I will always miss him.

Just like the song says, he was “simply the best.”

God bless Kevin,

Geoff Moss

Kevin Walsh, R.I.P. (Really Interesting Person)

From time to time a larger than life character arrives on the scene and makes a huge impact on all those around. On other occasions someone with a quiet approach potters around in the background, unseen by most of us, helping out wherever they can.

In Kevin we had both of these personalities rolled into one – and what a one!

From his first visit to St Faith’s it was obvious that he wanted to join in, to be part of the family, to take his share in the running and the responsibility of supporting a church where a ‘Catalick’ lad from Toxteth could feel at home and where everyone was appreciated for what they were.

Kevin had many roles in St Faith’s: server, fund raiser, men’s group member, panto player, visitor, and a friend to everyone. His time as a police officer (Cuddly Kev the Community Cop!) gave him insight into the lives of many less fortunate than him, and he was always mindful of those whose life was not easy. Many in St Faith’s and elsewhere have been grateful for his visits, his ‘phone calls, his car lifts and his caring support.

Probably because of his own less than privileged upbringing, he always sought out those with problems and did all he could to help out. For someone who was an acknowledged expert in Anglo Saxon, and who would have been a ‘hard’ man to meet when he was working, Kevin was a very soft person underneath his uniform.

His love for his family was paramount, and many times he would be sitting in a pub in Yorkshire for pint after pint after pint, wondering what to buy his three girls as a present to take home.

Stories told of him and by him in the Men’s Group must for reasons of National Security stay confidential for another 99 years, and the planting of the custard bush next to the saucepan tree will puzzle archaeologists for years to come, but his nocturnal occupation of the security lodge is the stuff of legends! His only regret was that of only coming second in the Great Snoring Competition of 2004.

He died from what is best described in layman’s terms as an enlarged heart, and no one should be surprised to hear that. Kevin lived his life to the full, and shared that life with as many as he could. He gave generously of himself and leaves some wonderful memories behind for us all.

So, from the winner of the Great Snoring Competition and all in the Men’s Group: “Cheers for everything Kevin, this round’s on us.”

Rick Walker

Grace’s Funeral Poem

If I only had five minutes the day you passed away,
I would have had time to tell you all the things I needed to say.

I never got to tell you how much you mean to me,
Or that you were the best dad, better than any man could be.

The last time that I talked to you
I wish I would have known.
I would have said I love you,
and not left you on your own..

If I only had five minutes,
the morning you passed away,
I’d give you one last hug so tight and see your great big smile.
I’d tell you that I don’t think I could live without you,
not even for awhile.
I’d kiss your cheek and take your hand and tell you it’s okay to go
And tell you that I’ll miss you,
more than you’ll ever know.

But you were gone so quickly,
One last morning that you’d wake
Before you even knew it,
you were standing at heaven’s gate.
Now God has called upon you,
It’s time to get your wings.
To leave this life behind you,
And enjoy all of heaven’ beautiful things.
So wait for me in heaven Dad,
Don’t let me come alone.
The day the angels come for me,
Please be there to bring me home.

Grace Walsh


An Advent Sermon   
Fr Mark Waters

Sometimes it seems that the words of the scriptures, the words that we have inherited from our faith tradition, are simply too big for us. I think it is true this morning. From Isaiah:

O that you would tear the heavens open and come down!

This is the universal cry of the oppressed. We hear the people of God saying such words throughout the scriptures. It is the desperate shout of people who are at the limit of what they can endure. People who have nowhere else to turn and have no other option but to shout into the darkness. We hear this most often, and most loudly, in the psalms, as Israel’s poets railed against God in loud lamentation.

Isaiah was talking to a people who had returned from exile. They would have looked much like the long lines of ragged people from the Democratic Republic of Congo we have seen on our television screens recently. The people of Israel must have trudged back to Jerusalem in much the same way. Trying to find a home. Carrying their few possessions with them. Fearful of being attacked. Not knowing what the next day would bring, or how they would find food and shelter.

And what did they find when they got there? When they got back home? They found ruins. They found devastation. Much like the wreckage from bombing that we witness in Palestine or Iraq today.  The people of Israel came back to find their homes and their temple reduced to dust. The promise they had nurtured of a glorious return completely shattered.

So, just like any group of people at the end of our own resources, they cry out to God.

O that you would tear the heavens open and come down!

Come to us, O God. Rescue us. Maranatha – we will be saying again and again during Advent –  Maranatha – an Aramaic word - Come, Lord, come.

In Advent we are particularly aware of the powers of darkness. We see these powers in the story of the returning exiles in today’s passage from Isaiah. For them the powers of darkness were experienced very immediately in their suffering. And in the world’s poor today those same powers of darkness are evident in hunger, disease, military occupation, internecine violence, and a downward spiral of debt.  But it is that sort of darkness in which we wish the light of Christ to come. That is the message of Advent.

But how on earth do we say those words today, in this culture, in this time that we live, in a way that has any sort of meaning? Most of us are so protected from such events, and it is easy  to avoid real knowledge of them. And sometimes it seems that the nearest we get to imagining the powers of darkness is that our houses will depreciate in value, or that our pensions will be smaller than we thought, or that we will have to forgo a foreign holiday.

But the way forward is not for the church – as it often seems to do in Advent - to set itself up as the killjoy which condemns materialism. The way forward is to see that we have much to learn from the poor – that is what Jesus taught us again and again in the gospels.

The stories in the scriptures about struggling communities all those centuries ago are not there just to tell us how awful is the lot of some people, nor to make us feel sorry for them, nor to make us feel guilty. The stories are there because they tell us about how a faithful community waited for God in the emptiness and in the darkness without losing sight of being human, and without falling into despair. They waited with hope, they waited with purpose, they waited with active preparation for change. Despite their howls of anguish, this is not a community that has given up. This is not a community that has lost sight of its divine purpose as God’s chosen people.

The faithful poor we read about in the scriptures, and those we see in our world today, give the lie to all our activism in the more comfortable prosperous society in which you and I live. Their patient waiting for the Lord puts all of our plans, and strategies, and church growth initiatives and busyness into perspective.

The faithful poor teach us that Advent is a time to recognise that underneath all of our grand schemes there is – for most of us - a huge void, an aching emptiness which we try to fill with endless activity. They show us that Advent is the time for us to enter the darkness of waiting, and in so doing to discover that it is not a threat.

As the consumer race towards Christmas picks up speed we see all too clearly that we have replaced longing for God, the emptiness of waiting, with a sort of insatiable wanting. The sad truth of that is that the consumer goods do nothing in the end to satisfy our sense of need. Only when we know our own emptiness and need and spiritual poverty will we be ready for the promise that Advent holds. And this understanding is shown to us in what we as Christians take to be God’s answer to human anguish, God’s answer to our prayers – the birth of a baby, the birth of a new human being! This is an extraordinary response by God to the suffering of his people, an unbelievable, derisory response as far as most people are concerned. A scandal!

Like many religious traditions the Jewish faith, of which Jesus was a part, expected help from God in the appearance of a champion, a superman, a powerful military leader who would put right all of the wrongs done to the suffering community by victory in battle. And this is still the human answer to many of the world’s problems – the emergence of a military leader – whether it is George Bush or Tony Blair or Osama Bin Laden.

God’s answer is different. We see the answer emerging slowly in our scriptures. First of all in the book of the prophet Isaiah when we hear about the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, who will suffer for his people. And of course for us as Christians it finds its fullest expression in the pages of the NT – a virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and his name will be Emmanuel – God is with us. God is here.

This is the answer to all who shout to God in the darkness, the small light of hope in fragile human  life   –  like  your  life  and my life  –  through  which  we  discover  the  fullness  of  
the promise that God holds out for our lives and our world.

So perhaps the words of the scriptures need not be too big for us, if we develop a faithful imagination. If we can do the hard prayer work of learning how to see the world through the eyes of others – those who have a different culture to us, those who live far away, those who look different to us, those with a different history and faith. And particularly the anawim, the poor, the little people who always hold a special place in the heart of God.

O that you would tear the heavens open and come down!

The tremendous words, these huge scriptural words, that we will say and hear during Advent are about a world that is waiting for God. If we are going to get anywhere near what those words mean for us and for the world this Advent we will need to do some work, some heart work and some prayer work. So I have three suggestions for some spiritual practices for us for the next four weeks:

First, allow yourself to be taught about your need and your spiritual poverty by the poor of the world. When you get home today, or when you get your daily paper tomorrow, look through it and find a story of God’s little ones, a story of the world’s poor that touches you, cut it out and put it in your pocket. And take that story everywhere you go. Re-read it occasionally, maybe follow it up a bit on the internet to find out more about it, and make that story part of your story.

Second, take some time each week to wait in the darkness to get in touch with your own need and emptiness. It doesn’t matter how long you take, what matters is that you take some time – 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes whatever you can manage – and just wait. Calm yourself, let your busy mind relax, and simply wait and discover God in that waiting.

Third, when you get near to Christmas – perhaps the week before - help yourself to understand a little bit about how much you are loved by God, and how precious you are in his sight, by buying yourself a small gift. Some flowers, some perfume, a miniature of whisky – some small token to remind you that you too are one of God’s children.

Maria Boulding puts the Advent message like this:

The gift of God is for the poor, the needy, the empty. It is for those who know their need, and hunger and thirst for him. It is for those who do not even suspect the depth of tenderness with which they are loved, yet are potentially open. God is most known as God when he gives to the undeserving, when he fills the hungry with good things, lifts the downtrodden, transforms hopeless situations and brings life out of death. His gift is most typically not the crowning of our achievements, but wealth for the bankrupt and power at the service of the weak. When human resources are missing but people are open to God, then is the moment of faith.

Liturgical and Poetic Thoughts for Epiphanytide

A Lesson in Humility
Frances Copsey

The wise men got it wrong.
It is much harder to receive
than to give.

Mary Palmer

may we not hoard,
but freely give
the gold of our hearts,
the myrrh of our grief,
the frankincense of our dreams,
to You.

Winter Blessing

Mary Palmer

When sleet blinds you, hail drowns out voices
and snow hides your path,
may you discern in each flake
a star, image of the one
that guided the Magi,
and find that in the pain
of birth, death or change
there is a light
to guide you. 

The Travellers
Pat Livingstone

It was the light that struck me first.
The jeweled sea
clear as the Aegean.

The panoply -
the depth of colour that heightened a profound experience
and left me tired.

My senses were bombarded:

Soft white sand.

Whipping winds
whistling round the abbey,
snuffing out the pew candles on dark mornings,
reminding us of our insignificance within nature.

Rocks that geologists came and tapped
with their little hammers –
the third oldest piece of
land on Earth.

But more than this exotica were the people
who had followed their own starts.
Wise men and women who came from afar
and found a motley crew of fellow travellers
trying to discover the next stage of their journeys.

These pilgrimages stayed a little while
and sang their songs
and delighted in each other’s.

Travellers are rarely welcomed:
gypsies, asylum seekers, homeless folk, new age travellers,
people moving to a new town, disciples …
they sing different songs, new songs, fresh songs,
exciting and disturbing with their novelties.

Troubadour troupes that sing new harmonies
that echo in the memory
long after departure.

Epiphany 2002

By the time the Magi came

the decorations had been taken down,
the tree untrimmed, the baubles packed away.
Twilight gave way to starlight as they came:
Saturn was bright among the Hyades
and Jupiter from Gemini looked down.
Strange gifts they brought and urgent questioning:
“Where is the king whose birth you celebrate?”

We did not know. Our Christmas junketing
had scarcely left us time to think of him.
Gold as a present they had brought for him;
“A gift”, they murmured, “worthy of a king”,
and we agreed. Their other gifts, we thought,
were less appropriate. Incense and myrrh
bore overtones of worship and of death.

The first we’d left behind in Sunday School
and of the second seldom cared to think.
Their questions and their gifts disturbed us.
The king they sought we viewed with some unease.

Eager, we’d been, to celebrate his birth,
much less so to accept his sovereignty.
To ‘love our neighbours as we loved ourselves’,
his firm command, we’d found too difficult.

“Go home”, we urged them, “by another way.
The world is little changed since last you came.
Still Herod’s hand is red in Bethlehem .

Mixed Economy

A new magazine featuring an editorial by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been published this week. Called, Mixed Economy, it charts the rise of the Fresh Expressions initiative and examines how new congregations are springing up alongside more traditional ones. Full details are available on

'At the Gate of the Year'

One of the best-known yet least-known poems was published 100 years ago. It is the poem quoted by King George VI in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939. It came at the end of the nine-minute broadcast:

‘I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you:

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the  unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a  known way.”

May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.’

The King’s broadcast was specifically Christian in content. He identified Christmas as “above all, the festival of peace”. But Britain was of course at war (and, it is worth noting the obvious fact, obscured by hindsight, that at the time no one knew if Britain would win the war). “I believe from my heart,” George VI said, “that the cause which binds together my peoples and our gallant and faithful Allies is the cause of Christian civilisation.”

The mysterious-sounding words with which he finished the broadcast were by Minnie Haskins (1875-1957). They came from a poem of hers called “God Knows”, in a collection, The Desert, published in 1908. Neither the poem nor its author was well known. Indeed, Miss Haskins did not realise the King was going to quote her words. She didn’t hear the broadcast. “I heard the quotation read in a summary of the speech,” she told The Daily Telegraph the following day. “I thought the words sounded familiar and suddenly it dawned on me that they were out of my little book.”

The poem had been drawn to the King’s attention by Queen Elizabeth, the present Queen’s mother, and the lines were to be recited 63 years later at her own funeral. They were wisely chosen to stand on their own, for the remainder do not possess such a compelling quality.

Immediately after the lines that George VI quoted, the verse form changes:

“So I went forth, And finding the hand of God, Trod gladly into the night. He led me towards the hills And the breaking of day in the lone east. So heart be still! What need our human life to know If God hath comprehension? In all the dizzy strife of things, Both high and low, God hideth his intention.’

An error that has got abroad is that Minnie Haskins was an American. She was a grocer’s daughter brought up at Warmley, Bristol.  As a Congregationalist, she taught at a Sunday school there. It is said that the image in her poem came to her at Warmley when she was standing at an upstairs balcony window, looking down the lit driveway to the gate.

Pamela Emy, a former pupil of Minnie Haskins at the London School of Economics, wrote to The Daily Telegraph in 2002: “My abiding memory is of her asking me in a tutorial, ‘And how is your personal philosophy getting along, Miss Emy?’ As a naive 20-year-old, I remember being somewhat floored.”

Christopher Howse
'Sacred Mysteries' column, The Daily Telegraph, August 2008ght

Two small items to give food for thought

Christians in the UK will be without altar wine from the birthplace of Jesus this Christmas after the Israeli Army said it was a ‘security risk’. The British importer of the organic wine, which is made in Bethlehem by a Roman Catholic order called the Salesians of Don Bosco, said it had been refused permission to bring it through a checkpoint in Hebron.  And, according to membership records of the three main British political parties, which is at an all-time low, the combined membership numbers are scarcely more than half that of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

And one perhaps to make you smile…

It is good to know that senior Anglican clerics have a sense of humour. According to the Daily Telegraph (yes, sorry!), ever since the infamous Blackadder episode featuring a (fictitious, mediaeval) Bishop of Bath and Wells who ate babies, his present-day successor has had to endure predictable jokes, especially when attending the House of Lords. The final straw was when he took his little grand-daughter along for a visit, and was greeted by the Bishop of Southwark, with the immortal words: ‘Ah, I see your Lordship has brought his lunch!’

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