The Parish Magazine
of Saint Faith's Church, Great
Saint Faith’s Prayer for
God of unchanging power, your Holy Spirit enables us to
proclaim your love in challenging times and places:
give us fresh understanding and a clear vision, that together we may
respond to the call
to be your disciples and to rejoice in the blessings of your kingdom;
we ask this in the name of Him who gave His life that ours might
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If you would like
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“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
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
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!
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.
Worshipper – would we like one?
If such a person came to St. Faith’s they might well ask these
* 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!
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
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.
Brian, Gareth and Eunice (St Faith’s)
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.
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
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
….from the Bishop of Liverpool
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
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,
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.
Services in January
Thursday 1st – DAY OF
PRAYER FOR WORLD PEACE
12noon Solemn Mass with prayers for world peace, followed by a glass of
‘fizz’ to welcome the New Year
Sunday 4th – FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
11am Procession and High Mass
Sunday 11th – FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF
11am Sung Eucharist and renewal of Baptismal Promises
Sunday 18th – CHRISTIAN UNITY SUNDAY
11am Sung Eucharist
Preacher: The Reverend Ian Smith
Ecumenical Development Officer, Churches Together in the Merseyside
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
(from the liturgical resource “Times
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.
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.
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.”
…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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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
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,
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
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.
and Poetic Thoughts for Epiphanytide
A Lesson in Humility
The wise men got it wrong.
It is much harder to receive
than to give.
may we not hoard,
but freely give
the gold of our hearts,
the myrrh of our grief,
the frankincense of our dreams,
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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 www.freshexpressions.org.uk
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
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
“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
'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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