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

Saint Faith’s Prayer for Mission

Faithful God, in baptism you have adopted us as your children,
made us members of the body of Christ and chosen us as inheritors of your kingdom:
bless our plans for mission and outreach; guide us to seek and do your will;
empower us by your Spirit to share our faith in witness and to serve,
and send us out as disciples of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.


January 2007

From the  Ministry Team

2007 – A year of golden opportunities

It was the Methodist minister and writer Neville Ward who said that unless we change, we cannot grow.  And the Roman Catholic John Henry Newman said “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often".

We know we are in a state of flux and change in the Church of England. We can bury our heads in the sand all we like, or we can read the signs of the times and engage with the risky business of trying to proclaim the faith afresh in our generation.

It’s not just about dealing with empty pews and money, though it has to be said that without new people who may turn into potential committed givers we won’t have a church here in five years’ time. The basis for mission is about something different. If we think mission is on the agenda because were short of money and numbers then we have lost the plot big time. Mission is quite honestly about bringing others to the joy of the Gospel which we experience, or should do! Mission is the theme shining out of the Crib at Christmas. The message of the Crib is that God is love - and the response to the Crib must be the desire to share that love. Any other response is quite frankly selfish!

Both parishes face a challenging year as we continue our discussions about mission and ministry and seek to explore fresh ways in which all our buildings can be used to greater effect throughout our United Benefice and in the wider community.

On Sunday 7th January (The Feast of the Baptism of Christ) there is the opportunity to renew our baptismal promises as well as making a firm commitment to mission throughout the year.

That is a day for everyone to be in church, not just to renew our commitment to serving the Lord in our area, but because it is a powerful way of demonstrating our support for one another in this task.

This year the annual Away-day booked for Saturday 12th May will be open to all members of our congregations in order to ensure that we involve as many people as possible in these important discussions and deliberations. And please remember that PCC meetings are open to all.

I am firmly convinced that if we commit ourselves to prayer, discussion and listening, and if we truly open ourselves to the outpouring and guidance of the Holy Spirit, 2007 will be a significant year in which the life of our United Benefice is truly blessed.

All sorts of new things are possible – let us be brave and take the journey together! Please remember me in your prayers as I remember you in mine.

Fr Neil

God of unchanging power,
your Holy Spirit enables your Church
to proclaim your love afresh in challenging times and places:
give to our United Benefice
fresh understanding and a clear vision,
that together we may respond to the call
to be your disciples,
and so rejoice in the blessings of your kingdom;
we ask this in the name of Him
who gave His life that ours may flourish,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Diary Dates for January

        12.00 noon     New Year’s Day Eucharist followed by a glass of Champagne to welcome the New Year
Friday    5th     EVE OF THE EPIPHANY
        10.30am        Eucharist with hymns (SM)
        7.00 pm        Procession & Solemn Eucharist (SF)
                Preacher: Fr. Paul Robinson (S. Thomas’s, Lydiate & S. Cuthbert’s, Halsall)  followed by Epiphany Carols and Punch Party

        11.00 am    Solemn Eucharist with renewal of Baptismal  promises and commitment to Mission
        6.00 pm        Epiphany-tide “Songs of Praise” (SM)  followed by wine and mince pies
Sa     20    10 am – 1pm    The Bishop of Liverpool’s Conference for the Laity (Cathedral)

        11.00 am    Sung Eucharist

M    22    8.00 pm        PCC

Th    25    8.00 pm        Meeting of Pastoral Link People (Vicarage)

Th 25 – Tu 30               Men’s Group Retreat 

Th    25    7.30 pm        Healing Service (SF)

M    29    8.00 pm        Baptism Visitors’ Group Meeting (Vicarage)

My Grateful Thanks…

.. to all who have worked so hard during the month of December, not just with the usual preparation for services but the extras too: Childern’s Craft Day, Sunday School party, Christingle making, and the Senior Citizens’ Lunch. We might have some challenging times ahead but we certainly have some fun times too!

Thank you all.

Fr Neil

Matters Musical

We are delighted to be able to announce formally the appointment, as from January 1st, of Paul Burnett as Director of Music in the United Benefice. We welcome him most warmly and look forward to the start of his official  duties.

At the same time we record our sincere thanks to Stephen Hargreaves, who has been an excellent and hard-working Acting Director of Music since Ged Callacher’s departure - and we are pleased and relieved that he will be continuing to serve both churches as Deputy Organist now that  Paul is enthroned.

We asked Paul to introduce himself:
'I come from the small town of Bridgwater in Somerset. I had a musical interest from a very early age and all but taught myself piano, having had just a few formal lessons at the age of about five or six. I guess even at that age I didn’t much like being told what the teacher told me. I suppose even at my time at Wellington School in Somerset I was seen as a bit of a naughty boy, always bunking off school. Later in life I never minded being described by other organists as, “the carpet fitter from South East London”. In fact, I quite liked the label because I preferred to wear jeans and a rugby top instead of a suit to local organist association meetings, much to the disgust of some. Perhaps that gives some indication of my personality and what makes me tick. I have great regard for tradition and culture but less time for qualifications and paperwork.

By the age of eleven I found myself as a choirboy at St Mary’s Parish Church, where my younger brother at that time was already in the choir. I have to confess that my joining the choir was very much against my parents’ wishes, but I wanted the opportunity to go on trips and excursions rather than anything else. Whilst at St. Mary’s my interests changed unexpectedly but very quickly to sacred choral music. Having been told that my piano playing was anything but subtle, this seemed an ideal opportunity to play the organ instead! Here I also did the odd spot of bellringing.

In 1987, at the age of fourteen, I left St Mary’s to become organist at St John the Baptist, Bridgwater. During this time I played the organ for all services as well as training the choir. I took the opportunity to join the Royal School of Church Music Southern Cathedral Singers. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to be organist for several annual pilgrimages for a number of years.

In 1996 I left Somerset and moved to London, where I attended Trinity College of Music, specialising in organ performance. I also worked with voice and harpsichord as second studies. I obtained my BMus Honours degree in 1999. During this time I was organist at St Margaret’s Lee, London. After leaving music college I went to be organist and choirmaster at the church of St Andrew the Apostle, Catford, where I remained until the organ became unplayable. I balanced my church job with working in a bank, as an estate agent, and in the post room of an interior design company.

I followed on to do my PGCE in Secondary Music at Goldsmith’s College in London and spent several years as a full-time secondary school music teacher. My latest church appointments were at the United Benefice of All Saint’s Foots Cray with St James North Cray, Kent. I was pleased to re-establish a robed choir at St James after it had been gone for a good number of years and I got both choirs working together across the benefice. I would definitely say my main interest is working with choirs and pipe organs rather than working in the classroom. I enjoy playing organs but maintain an overall interest in their construction and maintenance. I also have a particular interest in choral tone. My influences are traditional old-school English masters such as George Thalben-Ball, Harold Darke and the choir of King’s College under David Willcocks. If only I had been born a hundred years earlier! As an organist, I very much admire Martin Baker’s style of playing. My other interests include real ale and driving (but not at the same time). I describe myself as a true Englishman in most respects.

I am delighted to have been appointed Director of Music to the United Benefice. I am overjoyed at the warm welcome I have received from both churches, together with numerous good wishes. I have been made to feel very welcome. I hope to be able to draw on my previous experience of working within a busy united benefice and encouraging new junior choir members along with the adults. I hope to serve both churches to the best of my ability and to uphold and continue the excellent work of my predecessors. Like them I believe church music has the power to make the liturgy come alive. I believe in working to a high standard, upholding a traditional choral tradition and making music accessible and appealing within the church today. I would like to offer my thanks to Fr. Neil and the churchwardens for offering me the appointment. I hope that together we can continue to make both St. Faith’s and St. Mary’s exciting places to be. I look forward to furthering the music at both churches within the United Benefice.'

Paul Burnett

Don’t mention Christmas!
Chris Price

The Daily Telegraph of December 8th carried attacks by two separate writers on the often-reported trend towards the secularisation of Christmas and what many see as the campaign to marginalise Christianity even further in our society. The writers are Religion Correspondent Jonathan Petre, quoting Dr John Sentamu, the forthright Archbishop of York, and columnist Jeff Randall, and their eloquent pieces give heart to those of us who still Stand up for Jesus.

According to Jonathan Petre, Dr Sentamu is clear about what is happening. He is waging all-out war on secularists, who, he claims, are unfairly blaming other faiths to advance their own anti-religious agenda. ‘They are trying to pretend that it is possible to enter into the true meaning of Christmas by leaving out Jesus Christ,’ he says. ‘This really is the case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or in this case throwing out the crib at Christmas.’ They pervert and abuse any notion of diversity with flawed arguments about multi-culturalism for the sake of promoting a narrow agenda. And ‘other faith communities, who have stated categorically that they are in no way offended by Christmas, know that if Christmas falls, they will be next.’

He quotes John Mortimer, playwright and atheist (and creator of the wonderful Horace Rumpole), who said; ‘Our whole history and culture in Europe is based on Christianity, whether you believe in it or not. Our culture is Christian: Shakespeare, Mozart – all that makes life worth living is part of the Christian tradition.’

The columnist tells that three out of four employers have banned Christmas decorations for fear of offending other faiths, and an alarming 74% of managers are not allowing any decorations in their offices this year.

Jeff Randall doesn’t pull his punches either: his article is headed ‘Christmas is being crucified by white, middle-class do-gooders’. He says he is binning all the cards he receives which have no Christian images or which fail to mention ‘the “C” word’. He says he is no ‘wierdo fundamentalist’: ‘I flicker somewhere between an agnostic and a mild believer.’ His protest is about resisting those who ‘seem hell bent on turning Christianity into a crime.’

He quotes the same depressing statistics as Jonathan Petre, claiming that employers have been told that they could be sued if they were to allow displays of Christian joy, but not those of other religions. Then, and most satisfyingly for this writer, he sounds off about ‘the health-and-safety stormtroopers’ who are ‘parking their tanks on our tinsel. Santa’s sleighs need seat-belts, and mince-pies must be “risk-assessed” before being handed out to children.’

Returning to the basic theme, he stresses that, far from being offended by a Christian Christmas, Muslims, Jews and Hindus in this country and elsewhere welcome our celebrations and are often happy to be part of them. No, ‘the demons in this horror-story of crucifying Christians (there he goes again, mixing up his Great Feasts!) are white, middle-class do-gooders, whose assumptions of a superior morality are as disgraceful as they are disgusting.’ In the view of Dr John Sentamu, the splendid Archbishop of York (Randall’s phrase, but shared by this writer) they are the “chattering classes” who see themselves as holding a flag for an atheist Britain.’ Randall goes further, and sees a more pernicious purpose: that of eliminating ‘the teaching and guidance of old-fashioned Christianity’, which so offends them. Thus Christian voluntary groups are harassed on the grounds that being a Christian excludes ‘diversity’ and Christian Unions at universities are suspended for insisting that their members have Christian beliefs. ‘Somewhere along the line, a loose federation of diversity champions, equality campaigners and human-rights activists has metamorphosed into a tyrannical minority for whom Christmas is an abomination,’ he concludes.

It is easy to see these as the views of a right-wing diehard obsessed with conspiracy theories; nevertheless the facts reported in these articles and the opinions stated will ring bells with many of us, I guess. We are undeniably now a minority in this country, with shrinking congregations almost everywhere (although the reverse is, intriguingly, true of cathedral congregations, which seem to be growing equally rapidly). In my lifetime I have seen church membership change slowly from being an accepted norm to an increasingly small minority activity. We should always take heart from recalling that the church has survived many such apparently terminal declines, and successfully faced down more than few prolonged attacks on its beliefs and status in past centuries – and, God willing, it will continue to do so. But it needs us – and articulate and vocal champions like those whom I have quoted – to identify the enemy and to Fight the Good Fight. If we don’t Stand up for Jesus, then no-one else will. And a Happy and Blessed Christian Christmas to us all.

News from Medic Malawi
Margaret Houghton updates us on what has been happening in our original and very much ongoing Missionary project

Much has happened in Mthumtama over the past months. The greatest news being the birth of Maranatha Dzantengi, a new son for Frank and Eunice, whom many of you will remember as the charismatic couple who visited our church some years ago.  Having lost their daughter Rachel due to malaria, then their wonderful son Emmanuel, who drowned, this little boy is really something special.  Eunice was very poorly before visiting U.K. and it was thought most unlikely she would ever have another child, but, as you will see from the photograph, at ten months old he is most certainly thriving.  How fortunate that the hospital is now so well-developed and able to enhance the lives of so many poor people. 
The long-awaited operating theatre is now complete,  thanks to a generous  donation  from   Aspect Capital Ltd.,  a hedge fund management company in London.  A representative of  the   company   found   the   Medic   Malawi   website,   was  intrigued  by   the   progress   the   charity   had   made   and    contacted   Mac   Forsyth   for   further   information.   After  making initial contact, it transpired this company was looking for a really worthwhile charity to sponsor and Medic Malawi was just what was being sought. Of particular interest to the prospective donor was the fact that every penny donated would go directly to helping the people, without massive administrative overheads. The building houses a large and light main theatre, a minor ops. theatre, prep. rooms, post op. room, nurses’ room, clinicians’ room, showers and all necessary storage areas. 

Adjacent to the new theatre building is the labour ward/delivery rooms which, even though they are regarded as among the best in Malawi, will be upgraded in the next phase of development to give an additional delivery room. The need to enhance the maternity facility is a result of the popularity of St. Andrew’s Hospital and the campaign to persuade mothers to deliver at a hospital, because statistically one Malawian mother in seven dies in childbirth. Patients are now coming to St. Andrew’s not only from Kasungu, 30 kms away, but also from Lilongwe, 130 kms away, because of the quality of care received.  Some of these people are health professionals working in other medical centres! 

Exciting news is that St. Andrew’s, which opened in August 2001 as a small clinic, has been upgraded first to a rural health centre and in August 2006 to a community hospital. It  is  hoped   to develop   a  purpose-built   voluntary  counselling   and   testing   unit  for
HIV/AIDS patients and, as new staff houses are built, to develop new water supplies.  Thanks to South West Water and St. Peter’s School, Exeter, the hospital now has a new bore-hole as a stand-by should there ever be problems with the main water supply.

The nutritional feeding programme, created to feed under fives suffering from malnutrition had, in mid August, just two patients, but by mid September this had risen to nine. By November the number has increased to over 100, the poor rains having again affected the maize crops. To help overcome some of the food shortages, much maize was bought during the time of plenty, when prices were lower and now 100 bags containing 100kgs of maize are safely stored for future use, having first been treated with actelic dust to prevent weevil infestation.

The orphan house now has 32 children living in it and other orphans who are living with foster parents are fed every day. Fifty children are sponsored at the primary school, 87 at the secondary school and the kindergarten has 40 children, over half orphans, who are fed each day as part of the kindergarten programme. Funds are now available to complete the second half of the second orphan house, so that we shall soon be able to accommodate another 30 or so youngsters.

Medic Malawi endeavours to offer staff the opportunity to enhance their qualifications, provided they undertake to continue working at St. Andrew’s after becoming qualified.  Sometimes a reminder of why the work of Medic Malawi is so important may be useful and the following experience serves such a purpose.

The house boy was asked if he had a mosquito net. “They are too expensive” he replied.  (They cost 25p.)  Just imagine being so poor, yet this equipment could save so many lives. He then told an even more heart-rending tale. The day before he had met a young boy aged about 13 in the market. The boy explained that last year both his parents had died and that a week ago his older sister had run away. The boy himself had been thrown out of the house where he had been living by the village headman. The lad had nowhere to go, no-one to pay his school fees, no-one to give him food or shelter. Thankfully, with the orphan house and the sponsors who support pupils at the secondary school, the boy now has a roof over his head, food to eat, a caring community and the chance to be educated.

Sustainability and self-help have always been at the core of all that Medic Malawi has sought to achieve so, with this in mind, land, purchased adjacent to the hospital for future development, is being used for a drip-feed irrigation system, which will enable the growing of two or even three crops a year and which will also be a tremendous teaching aid in showing what can be done if water is available. Such a project could prove immensely valuable over the next few years.

Medic Malawi would like to thank those who donate through the “100 Club”, for it is these donations which are the basic source of revenue for the charity. The original target of 100 members each donating £10 per month, now falls far short of what is needed so if you are in a position to contribute in such a way do please contact me – remember every penny goes to Malawi.

Answers to Prayer

Week by week, our prayers are asked through the weekly bulletin, online, in church and in our homes for those in special need and known to members and friends of our congregation. It is good to be able to report on two such people and to give thanks for their return to health and wholeness.

Kelley Blythe

For some time now, the name of Kelley Blythe has been among those we have been praying for on Sundays in church. I thought readers might like to know who Kelley is, and how he is getting on.

Kelley is my son-in-law, and a serving soldier. Following service abroad in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, he developed serious liver trouble, as a result of which he was repatriated to the UK and underwent medical investigation and treatment, culminating in a successful liver transplant last July. Thankfully, he is making steady progress and it is very much hoped that he will be able to rejoin his regiment in Germany some time after Easter.

Kelley is therefore no longer on our ‘sick list’, but he, his family and of course his mother-in-law are very grateful for the support and prayers of the family of St Faith’s during the months of illness and uncertainty.
Lillie Wilmot

Baby Elsie

For several months now, we have been praying for this child and I am writing to thank everyone for their prayers and to provide an update on her progress.
Elsie is the grandchild of one of my oldest friends, and, since her Baptism at St. Faith’s on 12th November, is also my God-daughter. Elsie was born in June and became seriously ill with an E.Coli infection. She was hospitalised and kept on antibiotics for several weeks after she came home. She is now making a very good recovery.

 Joyce Green

Joyce adds a footnote: Ted and I were amused to see this sign in a Little Chef, near Whitchurch:  ‘All our sausages are British outdoor-reared. FREE RANGE!’
(I hope they bring them indoors in the winter, poor little things!)

El Papa pauses for Peter (and Margaret)!

At the same time that a group from St. Faith’s were on a pilgrimage to Rome, Michael and Anne Holland and Peter and Margaret Goodrich were enjoying a Mediterranean Cruise. This also gave them the opportunity of a day touring the ancient city. After spending nearly three hours, with many other people, exploring the magnificence of St. Peter's a rest for coffee (or beer in my case) was required. We quickly found a suitable cafe and sat around a table outside on the pavement near the entrance to Vatican City. Very soon we were alerted by a considerable amount of Police activity (in Italy, this means general panic!) A cavalcade of motor-bikes preceded a large car bearing the Pope himself! He virtually stopped right in front of us and acknowledged the gathering.

Michael Holland

A reflection for the Epiphany, first published in the magazine of the Community of the Resurrection, the Anglican Mirfield Fathers, by
Fr Dominic Whitnall, C.R.

The Journey of the Magi

“In the days of Herod the King wise men came from the East to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2.1)

The title of Magi, which is sometimes given to these wise men, comes from a Persian word, Magus, used for members of a priestly caste. Marco Polo heard the story of their journey when on his travels in the far east c.1275. So presumably they travelled a long way before reaching Jerusalem. It was to be the journey of their lifetime, and the only event recorded about them - wise men searching for the True Wisdom. It was a long search. It was a remarkable act of faith, for they set out not knowing where they were going, or what they would find.

The life of each one of us is a single journey. In our one life time we have one reason for it, to reach the true end of our journey - perhaps not even knowing what we seek, what draws us on. When we get towards its close we see it has a remarkable unity. It all relates together, and it is all under one guiding star. At times we ask where am I going, to what will it all lead? “O God give me faith to continue to seek, to search, to keep moving on. There is so much to discover, and such great experience lies ahead.”

“We have seen his star in the East ... The star went before them.” (Matthew 2.2,9)

The Magi may have been astrologers; or, like many people, believed they could see their destiny in the stars. At any rate, the appearance of a new star had great significance for them. It appeared to move west. They decided to follow it. There was a tradition that a new star heralded the birth of a great prince. If we take the other title given to these men we see them as kings who were seeking a King more noble than themselves.

To travel by starlight meant to travel by night. It made for a very difficult journey, but it was safer. Their retinue and wealth would have attracted too much attention by day. They were carrying rich gifts. Led on by a heavenly light they were seeking the True Light - yet the light was accompanying them all the way.

We travel in search of God, but often in darkness. Faith grows dim, and then it quickens again. What perseverance I need, what resolve that I may never give up the search. That would be terrible, and lead to utter darkness. Each day is given me to follow closer, to progress, to believe by faith that I will reach my journey's end. God never leaves me without some light, enough to see ahead.Though outwardly it may grow very dim, yet inwardly God is with me. As Christ said, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

“Gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2.11)

From the mention of three gifts carried by the Magi we think there were three of them. Perhaps each brought the gift that symbolized his land. They were the first Gentiles, non-Jews, to came seeking the Christ; they are assumed to have been men of three different races. As fellow students of the heavens, they shared the attraction that the new star gave them. The same one light was given to three different people.

They were not alone seeking the mystery signified by the Star. They had companions on the way. Their desire, their faith and their courage gave mutual support. They had the unity of a deep common purpose. The fact that there was more than one of them made a big difference on arriving at Jerusalem. A single searcher might have been very differently treated by King Herod.

God gives me travelling companions often not of my own choosing. I have to accommodate to them and share the journey. They also have gifts to bring to God. I may be tempted to think that t could get there much faster without them, or that I know the way better, or can manage by myself. The fact is that I depend on the wisdom of others all the time. The way is far too difficult to find all by myself. I am to recognise that those with whom I travel are also in search of the One True God; I need their support and encour-agement, just as they need mine. If I truly accept them they will make a great difference to my journey. Without them I might never get to journey’s end.

“When they had heard King Herod they went their way, and lo, the Star they had seen in the east went before them.” (Matthew 2.9) Apparently when the Magi got near to Jerusalem they lost sight of the Star. They had to enquire of the local people whether they had seen it. This led to a lot of trouble, and, being reported to the King, brought him into the picture, dangerously. It brought into jeopardy the very object of their search; and they themselves only escaped by taking a different route home. The hardest part of their journey took place when they were nearing its end. The light seemed to have gone out altogether. Their very lives were in danger. Yet, unexpected by them, the chief priests of Jerusalem provided the very guidance and knowledge they needed to reach their goal.

If the journey of my life gets very hard towards the end, I do know that this has been an experience for many people. It is as if God is testing my faith to the uttermost. The very difficulty of the way is actually challenging my resolution, to find my life's fulfilment at all costs. It is the pain that makes all the more wonderful the joy that is to follow. When light did return for the wise men, we read in verse 10, “when they saw the Star they rejoiced exceed ingly with great joy.” Their happiness knew no bounds. The long journey was near its end, and what they were to find exceeded every possible expectation. “It was, you may say, satisfactory.”
“The Star came to rest over the place where the child was.”  (Matthew 2.9)

There are charming illuminations of Bethlehem, painted by medieval artists. They show the roof of thatch or wood above the crib of the child - Christ, pulled apart by angels so that the light of the Star can shine right through onto the child; the ray of Star-light rests on the child, and the child is the Light Itself.

For the three wise men there was no mistaking the final outcome of their long search. Maybe it had to be so unmistakable, because it was so unexpected, so very surprising. The Royal Child whose birth was predicted by the Star, as the Prince of all, a King of Kings, lay in utmost simplicity and humility on the lap of a maiden - Mary of Nazareth.

Truly wise, these men were not disillusioned. They fell down, worshipped, and offered the gifts that represented the offering of their lives and of their people and of their country. The light that enlightened the Gentiles is the Light that God gives to my own heart.

The Light is Christ. He is Light of Lights and God of Gods - the only True Light, the Light that enlightens everyone coming into the world.

In His Light, I see Light. Here is the certainty after all the uncertainty. Why did I ever doubt? I ask myself. No words could describe the marvel of God. I long to do Him obeisance, to come to Him, to give Him all that I have and am. The longing is just the beginning of the finding, and to find Him is bliss indeed.

Trials and Tribulations of Christians in Cordoba

We were in Cordoba for the feast of Corpus Christi, traditionally held on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  Reputed to be the hottest part of Spain, the temperature was  considerably lower than in Lancashire two days before!

Cordoba is a town where layers of history have been mixed up over many centuries. It was once a thriving Roman outpost,  connected by roads and river to other parts of the empire.

Today, many houses and other buildings contain columns of Roman origin incorporated in their walls. A year ago, while foundations were being dug for a new town hall, a well-preserved Roman acropolis was unearthed. This is in the process of restoration and the town hall moved next door.

In Roman times, a Christian basilica dedicated to San Vicente existed until the eight century when, after the Moorish conquest, the ruler built a mosque on the site using stone from the basilica.

During the next 200 years, peace reigned in the city. Schools and hospitals were founded, with separate clinics for lepers, and the mosque was extended. All sides could be opened to the courtyard, with its fountains and rows of date palms allowing the lines of interior columns with their red brick and white stone decoration to appear as part of an oasis with brilliant shafts of light filtering through.

The re-conquest from the Moors was a slow process, but gradually Christianity returned to Cordoba. Christians once again were able to worship in a simple chapel built inside the mosque, then in the 16th century, the mosque was ‘Christianised’. Its roof was raised and a dominating Renaissance cathedral with Baroque high altar was built. A sculptor from Seville carved the mahogany choir stalls and the walls were decorated with religious paintings by eminent artists. A spectacular gold monstrance, still carried in the annual Corpus Christi procession, was commissioned and the cathedral became the resting-place of reliquaries said to contain the bones of Saint Ursula and Saint Bartholomew.

But then in the twentieth century conflict returned. In the cathedral is a memorial plaque to many priests, supporters of General Franco, who were ‘killed by communists’ during the Spanish Civil War.

We should give thanks that the flame of Christianity in Cordoba, which at times of persecution during the last centuries flickered but was never extinguished, is burning strongly today.

Barbara Wolstenholme

Letter to the Editor

64 Four Acre Crescent, Downend, Bristol

Dear Editor

Just to let you know ‘someone out there’ is indeed reading these pages and very avidly from cover to cover each month! Congratulations on continuing to produce a tip-top parish magazine, Chris – and the photos are excellent and help me to build up an image of St Faith’s and its family. Indeed I now feel one of the family, joining in your worship, many other activities and fun and reading all the news at home and overseas. Sorry you have lost Ged but we wish him well in his future ministry.

Sincerely yours,

Pat Hickman

(wife of the ex-editor of Christ Church Parish Link – coming third to your well-deserved first in the National Magazine all those years ago!)

(Newer readers may not know of this success for Newslink, joint national winners of a competition for the best church magazine, and presented with the award by the then Archbishop of Canterbury. Ed)

Coming Soon…
Fr Dennis

A sermon preached in the run-up to Advent 2006

A comedy sketch in a satirical revue many years ago depicted a group of monks preparing for the end of the world. They climbed to the top of a mountain to await it. The Father Superior duly announced that it would come in 30 seconds, and there followed the dramatic countdown. ‘15 seconds, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero!’ Together, in splendid Gregorian Chant, the monks sang: ‘Now is the end, perish the world.’ An awkward silence descended, broken by one of the fraternity enquiring whether it was G.M.T.

A further silence ended with the Father Superior exclaiming, ‘Well, it’s not quite the conflagration I’d been banking on. Never mind, lads, same time tomorrow. We must get a winner one day!’

Truth is often spoken in jest, and it’s easy to poke fun at those who try to predict the end of the world. One thing the Adventist sects have grasped is the impermanence of life in
this world. Here, as the New Testament soberly reminds us, we have no abiding city. We are strangers and pilgrims, not permanent residents. We belong somewhere else. This world will not go on indefinitely for God, who is the Lord of all history, will wind up history: will bring it to its consummation.

For John Henry Newman to write: ‘I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me’ was good insofar as it encouraged trust, but it fell short if it implied that we cannot be sure if we will ever arrive. The courting couple have a right to know that they will eventually be able to get married. The approaching season of Advent is the assurance that we shall reach our destination. The Day will come.

The Day of the Lord, though, isn’t a date we can put a circle round on the calendar, or go up to the belfry to watch out for. As Charles Harold Dodd observed many years ago, ‘It is such that no other event could follow or need follow upon it, because in it the whole purpose of God is revealed and fulfilled.’

Our understanding of the word ‘time’ needs to be clarified. We use it in two senses. First there is clock time, measured in hours and minutes. Then there is the time for action, in the sense of timing. The young man proposing to his fiancée doesn’t look at his watch, but intuitively senses that the moment has come to ‘pop the question’. Similarly, in St John’s Gospel, we read that Jesus felt that ‘the hour had come’, not because of the time of day, but because it was the opportune moment.

Jesus came ‘in the fullness of time’, that is, when it was appropriate, not because it was, so to speak, 23.59 hours at Bethlehem. Thus the Day of the Lord isn’t something that will begin at dawn and last 24 hours. The Advent season contains both a promise and a warning. The Second Coming of the Lord will be like the first: sudden and searching. His first coming as a baby inaugurated the first Day of the Lord, the day of Judgement. As St John tells us, ‘For this is the judgement that light has come into the world and men prefer darkness to light.’ He came in great humility and will at the last day, as the Advent Collect reminds us, ‘come in his glorious majesty’.

One of the great truths at the heart of our religion is that Jesus is always coming. Every day is the Day of the Lord. It presents us with the need for decision and the offer of deliverance. Do we, though, recognise him in our human encounters? Jesus taught that he was mysteriously present in the poor, the sick, the hungry, the despised, the oppressed and the marginalised – just as he is mysteriously and sacramentally present in the bread and the wine of the Holy Eucharist. The Russian theologian Turgenev tells how on one occasion he was in a church when a man came up from behind and stood beside him. He felt the man was Christ. When he came to look, he saw a face just like any other face, very ordinary. ‘What sort of Christ is this?’ he asked himself. Gradually he came to see that Christ has a face like all men’s faces. For him, it was the Day of the Lord.

As that great Christian apologist of the 1950s and 60s, C.S.Lewis, wisely observed: ‘Precisely because we cannot predict the Day, we must be ready any day’…
‘And then they will see the Son of Man, coming in the clouds with great power and glory.’
100+ Club Draw Winners
                 October                                        November
1st            Rick Walker                                 Margaret Davies
2nd          Alan Morgan                                Eric Salisbury
3rd           Gill Edwards                                John Chapman
4th           Linda Nye                                    Viv Shillitoe

Back from Waterloo
Chris Price

On December 7th Fred and Linda Nye returned safely from Sierra Leone where, as part of a small group representing the Waterloo Partnership, they had gone to meet some of their opposite numbers in Waterloo, Sierra Leone, and to see for themselves what things are really like in our namesake community.

Readers will of course know that St Faith’s has been an active ‘founder-partner’ in the Partnership since its beginning. They may not know that Linda and Fred have been responsible for a vast amount of hard work and logistical planning in connection with the despatch of a series of containers full of goods and gifts for Sierra Leone: without their sterling efforts it might well have been all but impossible for these regular and deeply valued shipments to have been sent out.

Among the people they were delighted to meet in ‘W.S.L.’ was Canon Claudius Leighton Davies, Anglican Rural Dean of Waterloo, to whom I have been sending Newslink for two years or so.  God willing,   he and his wife will  be returning the compliment by visiting us towards the end of January, when it will be so good to welcome them.

And Finally…

The vicar was worried how he was going to ask the congregation to come up with more money to pay the Diocesan quota. Therefore, he was annoyed to find that the organist was sick and a stand-in had been brought in at the last minute. The new organist wanted to know what to play. ‘Here’s a copy of the service,’ the vicar said. ‘But you’ll have to think of something to play after I make the announcement at the end about the finances.’

After the service, the vicar gravely announced: ‘My friends, we are in great difficulty; the the quota has gone up  twice as much as we expected  and we need £4,000 more.  Any of
you who can pledge £100 or more, please stand up.’

At that moment,  the stand-in organist played  ‘God save the Queen’.  And that is how he became the permanent organist.

(No resemblance to the way in which Paul was appointed!  For more bad church jokes see the church website. Ed.)

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