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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 2008

From the  Ministry Team

Dear friends,

Christmas (and New Year particularly) often brings about a desire to assess our lives, to look at lessons learned from the year past (or ignore them at our peril) and perhaps to make some firm resolves for the future. That is the theory, at least! We often talk of New Year resolutions, though for Christians they should start on Advent Sunday when the ‘new year’ really begins.

The message of Christmas is that every moment of every day is indeed a precious gift from God. It is an opportunity either to embrace or reject God; the opportunity to choose one path over another or make a right decision instead of a wrong one. The true message of Christmas – Emmanuel (God-is-with-us) – is one we often fail to live out. We worry so much about past wrongs and the guilt that exists, often being far more harsh on ourselves than our heavenly Father would ever be. We are anxious so much for the future, and what that may or may not bring, that we fail to see the beauty that is staring us in the face. Go to a mirror and look into it. See what I am talking about. I am sure that many of the world’s problems would disappear if we learned to love ourselves a bit more and take ourselves as seriously as God takes us!

That is what Christmas is about, you see – it is God’s way of taking us seriously. God chose the only way he could to demonstrate just how serious he was about us: he came to be one of us.

I recently had to read a book in preparation for a talk I was giving. It is by Peter Gomes and is called “The Good Book – reading the Bible with heart and mind”. It’s a fascinating book and full of very insightful approaches. Gomes says that “Good News is not that we are worse than we think but better than we think”. He goes on to say that:

“…at the very bottom of the whole enterprise is the indisputable fact that we are created, made, formed, invented, patented in the image of goodness itself. That is what it means,  that is how  one translates  being created in the image of God:  it means to be
created in the image of goodness itself, we are cast from a perfect die and the imprint is on us, and it cannot be evaded or avoided. God made us, male and female, in the image of goodness, and goodness itself is who and what we are, and God pronounced it good, and hence it is good, because, as the kid in the ghetto said, ‘God don’t make no junk. What God makes is good’.”

So look in the mirror this Christmas and view a ‘good creation’. God saw all that he had made, and indeed it was very good! However, taking on board the fact that God doesn’t create rubbish also challenges the way we view and treat other people. Loving others can be as hard as loving ourselves.

When we fail to try and love others we have lost sight of the spark of God within us. I said to a taxi driver the other day that part of me dislikes Christmas because when I wake up on 26th December the world is still in a mess. What has changed?

What can change is that we open ourselves up to the possibility of being changed and of growing in love. When we think that Christmas is about that “happy ever after/soft gooey feeling” then no wonder we are disappointed before New Year arrives. The very tough Christmas message challenges us to believe that we are loved and loveable. But humility is required in order for that to happen! That doesn’t come easy to many of us, despite what we proudly tell ourselves! (How many of us use the word ‘please’ in our prayers, either privately or in public prayer?) And many of us are so much ‘better’ than other people, aren’t we? Humility is the hardest thing in the world. Once you have mastered it, you’ve lost it!

C. S. Lewis (in “Mere Christianity”) said “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

The Christmas Crib, in place until Candlemass, speaks to us of the humility of God, counting the ‘low estate’ the best place on earth to be! “With the poor and mean and lowly, lived on earth our Saviour holy.”

If we do any soul-searching and resolution-making at Christmas and New Year, it must surely be to try and discover how loveable we are and how we need to let go of our pride and let God take control.

It is a daily process; there are no quick fixes or magic solutions. However, the process can work if we have the humility to allow that to happen. So, if you are looking for a ‘new year resolution’ I suggest perhaps that you find a few minutes each morning to start the day with the piece overleaf, entitled “Just for Today”.

Try saying this – just for today – and see what happens!

With my love and prayers at this holy season,

Father Neil

Just for today I will live through this day only, and not set far-reaching goals to try to overcome all my problems at once. I know I can do something for 24 hours that would appal me if I thought I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” He was right. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. I will chase them out of my mind and replace them with happy thoughts.

Just for today I will adjust myself to what is. I will face reality, I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those things I cannot correct.

Just for today I will improve my mind. I will not be a mental loafer. I will force myself to read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will do something positive to improve my health. If I am a smoker, I’ll make an honest effort to quit. If I’m overweight, I will eat nothing I know to be fattening. And I will force myself to exercise - even if it is only walking around the block or using the stairs instead of the lift.

Just for today I’ll do something I been putting off for a long time. I’ll finally write that letter, make that phone call, clean that wardrobe or straighten out those dresser drawers.

Just for today before I speak I will ask myself, “Is it true? Is it kind?” and if the answer to either of those questions is negative, I won’t say it.

Just for today I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will look as good as I can, dress becomingly, talk softly, act courteously and not interrupt when someone else is talking.

Just for today I will not try to improve anybody except myself.

Just for today I will have a programme. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it, thereby saving myself from two pests; hurry and indecision.

Just for today I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

Shrove Tuesday Parish Dinner 2008

This year we will be reviving the tradition of a meal at the beginning of Lent. The venue will be the Royal Hotel, who can offer us an attractive and reasonably-priced menu. Watch this space for further details.

Special Services in January 2008

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

11am   Procession and Solemn Eucharist
Preacher: Canon Roger Driver (Area Dean of Bootle)

11am   Sung Eucharist and renewal of Baptismal Promises

11am   Sung Eucharist
Preacher: The Reverend Martyn Newman (Methodist Minister)
5pm    Unity Service at Metropolitan Cathedral (see inside back cover)
Preacher: The Archbishop of Canterbury

About the Age Concern Luncheon Club

It was the beginning of 2004 when I was first approached to see if I could manage to get a team of ladies to cook the lunch for the Age Concern Luncheon Club. The club had been in operation for some 40 years, with four teams working once every four weeks. One team had stopped cooking, then another team dropped out, which meant the elderly who came were down to two meals out of four. The Rev. Greg Cuff asked if I could gather a team from St. Faith’s, Fr. Neil allowed me to appeal for help at a Sunday service and in true St. Faith’s style I had an amazing response. Not only did we get another team, we had enough volunteers for four teams, and four ladies prepared to do the cooking, which meant we could fill the two weeks and only work every eight weeks. Last year we managed another team to work alternately with the Christ Church team. The Age Concern committee was both amazed and delighted.

Each team has a cook and three helpers, and each team can decide on their own menus and most of us cook the same dinner when we are on duty. There are 24 diners on the books, but is seldom that we get the whole complement each week; they all have their own seat and guard them jealously. We soon got to know that they do not like “chewy meals”  (mince and stews  are well received)  and one man  will not come  on the  “fish

day”; they like the custard not too thick and plenty of it.  Each week they get meat (fish once a month), potatoes, two vegetables, pudding with custard and a cup of tea, for which they pay £2 each.  In the Christmas of the first year Anne Holland introduced a Christmas Dinner on the Wednesday before Christmas Day and since then Anne’s team and mine have alternated cooking the Christmas Dinner: so for the last four years the diners have enjoyed turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, mince pies, and a glass of wine – sherry of course to start with and tea or coffee to end with, followed by carols and entertainment, and each receive a gift to take home. At this event we also invite visitors from the churches, Age Concern and interested parties.

It is a lot of hard work and we are all exhausted at the end of the day but it is very rewarding to know that the diners have enjoyed a meal in company.  I’m sure it is the company they appreciate more than the price of the meal. The criteria for joining the luncheon club is to be over 70 years and living by yourself. Although at the moment the luncheon club is full, we do have a waiting list, so if you are interested, or know of any person who may be interested in joining contact Miss Shirley Higgs at Age Concern, 8 Haigh Road, Waterloo or telephone her on 949 0512.

Audrey Dawson

Exit Music the Oldie’s Way

An Oldie magazine reader and parish priest got in touch with the journal to alert us to the dangers of using CD players at funerals. “As so often nowadays, the family wanted a CD track played at the end as I led the departed woman’s coffin out. We were supposed to be playing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ but the verger pressed the ‘shuffle tracks’ button by mistake, and we were treated to the first few bars of ‘Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead’, quickly followed by ‘We’re off to see the Wizard’!”

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: the Children’s Craft Day and the Sunday School party for the two parishes, the Christingle making, and the Senior Citizens’ Lunch, to name but a few. Also, an excellent number of people turned out on a foul day to attend the Advent Quiet Day (around 40 folk) which is all tremendously encouraging. It might be a hectic time of year (our busy season, some say!), we might have some challenging times ahead but there is certainly no shortage of things to do!

Thank you all.

Fr Neil

Friends Updated

You will recall from previous articles in Newslink that we are going to re-form the “Friends of St Faith’s”.  It has turned out to be a bigger job than we imagined!

Thanks to the perseverance of our Parish Administrator, Liz Mooney, we have identified a list of some 67 Friends around the country.  This list has been compiled from a number of sources and we are checking names and addresses.  Some of these people gave money to St Faith’s specifically for the Friends and we are now trying to calculate the total going back a few years.

The Finance Committee and the PCC approved the principle of allocating income from the Friends for the repair and improvement of the church fabric.  It has been suggested that we dedicate the newly repaired – and much improved – sound system in the church to the Friends as a mark of appreciation.

Once we’ve finished the time-consuming task of sorting through all the records, we plan to write individually to our Friends, letting them know the news and inviting them to a special event (the date and format is yet to be decided).

Thank you for all your support and we will write another update for Newslink when we have more news.

David Jones

“I didn’t know that was happening…”
Fr. Neil

There is normally someone who utters these words when an event is announced, despite the fact that we try to publish all that goes on in an annual Diary of Events. I can’t pretend to be remotely disappointed by the fact that this year for the first time the mammoth task of assembling this publication (and ensuring that all visiting preachers and performers have confirmed their engagement) falls to the Parish Administrator and not to me! As always I am grateful to Chris Price for the printing of it. Please make sure that as soon as the 2008 Diary is available you get a copy and, most importantly, write all that is going on in your own diary. An action-packed year awaits us!

‘Children spoilt beyond excess, says Bishop’

By Jonathan Petre, ‘Daily Telegraph’ Religion Correspondent

A Church of England bishop has accused parents of spoiling their children “beyond excess” by buying them expensive Christmas presents that are soon discarded.

The Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, said that the celebration of Christ's birth had descended into a “great orgy of excess”.   He said that he dreamed of parents smashing up electronic toys and dolls that cost more than feeding and clothing a poor child for a month.

“The microchip has meant that imagination and creativity are no longer encouraged by the manufacturers,” he wrote in the latest issue of Crux, the Manchester diocesan magazine. “Everything talks, moves, shoots, sings and, if necessary, even wets nappies, provided the batteries are included and working.”

“Maybe I’m just grumpy but I often dream of a hammer being provided for parents to enable the rapid extermination of these robotic intrusions into family life. Toy cupboards and bedroom floors up and down the land are littered with the excretions of the latest TV advertising campaign and our children are spoilt beyond excess. We have all seen toys which cost more than enough to feed and clothe a poor child for a month given 20 minutes’ casual attention and then relegated to join the massed army of the discarded.”

Bishop Lowe, who was last year appointed the Church’s first Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, said that many parents wanted to give their children “all the things I never had as a child” - but money could not buy love.  He said that politicians who claimed that they would end child poverty merely by reaching for a chequebook were making the same mistake.

His criticisms followed an attack by the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Barry Morgan, on supermarkets that sell “chocaholic” Advent calendars instead of the traditional religious versions. He decried the way religious scenes such as the shepherds in the fields and the three wise men were losing out to film and television characters from The Simpsons, Bratz, High School Musical and Doctor Who.

Dr Morgan, speaking to the Western Mail, said: “This trend runs counter to the much more wonderful idea that each picture is part of a journey which leads us eventually to this very mysterious truth on Christmas Day. Opening a door for every day and just getting a quick fix doesn’t answer the basic question of what we are waiting for.”

Offering of Toys… and Thanks!
Fr. Neil

Advent Sunday and the offering of toys has become a regular feature of life at St. Faith’s. It was particularly special this year with the ‘message’ being delivered by our young people, for which many emails of thanks and appreciation have been received. Some said it was the “best family service yet” – I must go away more often! Thanks to the hard work of our Administrator, Liz Mooney, many more invitations than usual were sent out, with positive results. We had considerably more people in church than normal for this service, which is very good to see. That’s not all! The treasurer records a 15% increase in the collection compared to last Advent Sunday! But the most important thing of all is to give thanks for the record number of toys – we have never had so many brought along before! That is fantastic news: thanks to all who brought toys along. There will certainly be a few more smiling faces on Christmas Day thanks to your generosity.

Cyclone Collection News

The United Benefice collections on December 2nd for the victims of the recent Bangladesh cyclone disaster amounted to £110.  Many thanks to all who contributed to the appeal issued by Christian Aid.

Bethlehem 2007

‘If the Christmas story were to happen today, Mary and Joseph would have a hard time getting to Bethlehem’.
(The words of Christian peacemakers in the Occupied Territories of the Holy Land.)

As we prepared for our annual celebrations of the birth of Christ in our prosperous trouble-free surroundings, our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem faced a very different outlook, as a recent article in the ‘National Geographic’ magazine explained.

‘This is not how Mary and Joseph came into Bethlehem, but this is how you enter now. You wait at the wall. It’s a daunting concrete barricade, three stories high, thorned with razor wire. Standing beside it, you feel as if you’re at the base of a dam. Israeli soldiers armed with assault rifles examine your papers. They search your vehicle. No Israeli civilian, by military order, is allowed in. And few Bethlehem residents are permitted out — the reason the wall exists here, according to the Israeli government, is to keep terrorists away from Jerusalem.  If you’re cleared to enter, a sliding steel door, like that on a boxcar, grinds open. The soldiers step aside, and you drive through the temporary gap in the wall. Then the door slides back, squealing on its track, booming shut. 

You’re in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem and Jerusalem are only six miles apart (ten kilometers), though in the compressed and fractious geography of the region, this places them in different realms. It can take a month for a postcard to go from one city to the other. Bethlehem is in the West Bank, on land taken by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967. It’s a Palestinian city; the majority of its 35,000 residents are Muslim. In 1900, more than 90 percent of the city was Christian. Today Bethlehem is only about one-third Christian, and this proportion is steadily shrinking as Christians leave for Europe or the Americas. The truth is that Bethlehem, the ‘little town’ venerated during Christmas, is one of the most contentious places on earth.

Inside the wall, along Bethlehem’s borders, are three Palestinian refugee camps, boxy apartments heaped atop one another in haphazard piles. Just outside the wall are sprawling Jewish settlements, skewered with construction cranes, feverishly growing.  At the summit of Bethlehem’s central hill is Manger Square, a cobblestoned plaza fronting the Church of the Nativity. Tourism is low; religious pilgrims are shuttled in and out by guides — a quick stop at Manger Square, then a speedy departure down the hill and back out through the wall, returning to Jerusalem. Hotels are mostly empty. Few visitors spend the night. Unemployment in Bethlehem, by the mayor’s estimate, is 50 per cent, and many families are living from meal to meal.

A thought

…from a Bethlehem Christian for hope and light in the Holy Land

Despite the difficulties in our lives, we will rejoice at the birth of Christ at Christmas. Taking our inspiration from the story in the Bible of Herod’s massacre and the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family. The inspiration comes from knowing that despite being born into those dark days, amid the harsh Roman occupation, and despite the fear that must have gone with the family as they escaped to another country, Jesus did return and was able to spread his ministry of peace and love.

We are living in a similar situation 2000 years later, behind the Apartheid Wall and under the harsh occupation by the Israelis, and many Palestinians are escaping to other countries. But we are persevering and will celebrate Christmas with the message of hope and deliverance that Christ has planted in our hearts. We pray that through the miraculous birth of Christ we will see the Wall go and change into a bridge of understanding between the two peoples living here.

Zoughbi Zoughbi     
Director of Wi’am Conflict Resolution Centre, Bethlehem

Poems and Prayers for Christmas and Epiphany
... chosen by Fr Neil


I was there
in the stable
at Bethlehem.

Though you won’t
see me
on Christmas cards.
Noble horses,
gentle cows
and cuddly lambs –

Rats? No.

It wouldn’t
be nice.
It would be like
on a crucifix.

But when the snooty horses,
clumsy cows
and stupid sheep
had finished,
me and the missis
(should I say ‘my partner and I’’?)
looked in the manger.

The baby smiled at us.

And I reckon
if the hyenas and snakes,
the spiders and toads,
the vultures and cockroaches
had arrived
he would have smiled at them too.

Brian Ford 
(Hay & Stardust)


You are older than the ages
And you dance in the starlight
And you love us.

Wise God, You share your bread with strangers
And you welcome little children
And you understand us

Wise God, You wrestle with the powerful
And you comfort all who need you
And you disturb us

Wise God, Shining in darkness
Seen by those who love you
Found by those who seek you
We are here to learn from you

    Kings and nations, Weak and powerful
    All are coming to meet with God

    Sons and daughters, Rich and needy
    All are coming to meet with God

    Strong and mighty, Weak and gentle
    All are coming to meet with God

Starshine, Moonshine, Sunshine
We will walk with God

Mountains, Main roads, Sidetracks
We will walk with God

Questions, Answers, Mysteries
We will walk with God

Backwards, Onwards, Homewards
We will walk with God

Ruth Burgess  (Hay & Stardust)

A Reflection for Epiphany

O God, who am I now?

Once, I was secure
in familiar territory
in my sense of belonging
unquestioning of
the norms of my culture
the assumptions built into my language
the values shared by society.

But now you have called me out and away from home
and I do not know where you are leading.
I am empty, unsure, uncomfortable.
I have only a beckoning star to follow.

Journeying God, pitch your tent with mine
so that I may not become deterred
by hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
    toward a wealth not dependent on possessions
    toward a wisdom not based on books
    toward a strength not bolstered by might
    toward a God not confined to heaven
but scandalously earth, poor, unrecognised.…

Help me to find myself as I walk in others’ shoes.

Your Body, the Church
(a prayer for Christian Unity)

We ask you to forgive the sin that mingles
even with our holiest actions.

Forgive us for the ways in which
we have hurt and dismembered
your body, the church.

Forgive us for any way in which
we have, thoughtlessly or deliberately,                                                         

insulted or patronised
those who are called by the same name as ourselves.

Forgive us if we have prayed for unity
and done nothing,
or very little,
to help bring it about,
preferring prayers to action
and fantasies to hard reality.

Be active,
be disturbing,
be empowering,
in your church,
and among Christian people throughout the world.

Remind us of the mighty company
in heaven and on earth
to which we all belong.

John Harvey (Hay & Stardust)

The Nativity

Fr Mark writes:
John O’Donohue the Irish poet, philosopher, and theologian wrote a series of sonnets on the structure of the Rosary. This one is about transformation, creativity, and birth.

No man reaches where the moon touches a woman.
Even the moon leaves her when she opens
Deeper into the ripple in her womb
That encircles dark, to become flesh and bone.
Someone is coming ashore inside her,
A face deciphers itself from water,
And she curves around the gathering wave,
Opening to offer the life it craves.
In a corner stall of pilgrim strangers,
She falls and heaves, holding a tide of tears.
A red wire of pain feeds through every vein,
Until night unweaves and the child reaches dawn.
Outside each other now, she sees him first,
Flesh of her flesh, her dreamt son safe on earth.                                          

You Couldn’t Make it Up!

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a
spokesman for North West Gas said, ‘We agree it was rather high for the time
of year. It’s possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the gas used up
during the explosion that destroyed his house.’ (The Daily Telegraph)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because
they cannot issue a description. It’s a Special Branch vehicle and they
don't want the public to know what it looks like. (The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was
rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman
commented, ‘This sort of thing is all too common’. (The Times)

(With thanks to Corinne Hedgecock for supplying these)

What the Papers Say

Church News
Morning Prayer for Seaforth

Caradoc Mission United Reformed Church, Seaforth, will hold a Sunday morning Prayer for Seaforth, on Sunday evenings at 6.30pm.

(Crosby Herald, Thursday, October 18th, 2007)

Elf and Safety…?
Hurling sweets at panto ‘too risky for children’!
from the Daily Telegraph, supplied by Fr. Neil

Panto stars have been banned from throwing sweets into the audience in case children get hit on the head. Organisers of the ‘Babes in the Wood’ and ‘Robin Hood’ production at Gorleston Pavilion Theatre, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, fear they will be sued for negligence if youngsters are hit in the face by a stray chocolate.

The theatre is not covered by insurance for any injuries from sweets thrown by the pantomime dame, Mark Hudson. Confectionery will now be dropped into the front row and passed around by ushers, ending the tradition of children catching the treats.

The show’s director, Helen McDermott, said the ban was another example of the health and safety culture gone mad. “Throwing sweets into the crowd is one of the great traditional parts of pantomimes and children have enjoyed it for years,” she said. The theatre director, Kevin Lynch, said it was a sad fact of life that people were being encouraged to sue.

From the Registers


Tue 30 October Wilfred Van Barneveld/Deborah Fawcett
Sat 24 October Ian Thomas/Samantha Higgins
Sun 14 October Joshua Aldridge and Nathan Aldridge
Sun 11 Nov Jordanna Paige Caesar, Grace Lilly Caesar and Megan Faith Grundy

Thank You

On behalf of my family and myself may I say a big thank you for the wonderful funeral mass held for Marie. Thanks to everyone who took part and made it such a moving occasion. A number of people spoke to me at the reception telling me what a wonderful service they thought it was. The support given to me during Marie’s illness was much appreciated. Many thanks for all the flowers, prayers, phone calls, cards, cakes, pies and jam.

Ken Bramwell

The people of St Faith’s offer Ken and his family continued prayers and good wishes, as we give thanks for Marie’s life and all that she meant to us over the years.

Why Switch Off, Our Masters Don’t!
Denis Griffiths

The author of this tirade admits to having gone from Angry Young Man to Grumpy Old Man!

I read with interest Kath Zimak`s article ‘Time to Switch Off’ in the December 2007 edition of Newslink. Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments that we waste too much energy and that the only way to stave off the oncoming climatic cataclysm, (and it is coming and it will be a cataclysm) is to burn less fossil fuel, I am a cynic when it comes to trusting in anything that politicians or big business might promise. Let’s face it, politicians are only interested in the next election and business only cares about its profit. Sending tons of cards to the Prime Minister, or any other politician, would have no effect unless it gave those politicians publicity to promote themselves.

Being Green is the “in thing” but only when it means votes. Just look at the energy our national and local politicians expend in their high-powered cars and numerous air trips. Fact finding visits and similar junkets do not need large entourages nor wives, but no politician refuses them, it’s a perk of the job. Government offices, national and local, are lavishly decorated, over-heated and exceptionally well-illuminated; who will switch off the lights in these buildings or turn down the thermostats? In Southport, Sefton Council has recently constructed a rather magnificent, and allegedly environmentally friendly building, at the Park and Ride. I doubt the cost of this structure can ever be repaid by the energy it saves as quite often, even in high winds, the wind turbine is not operating. About 18 months ago I wrote to Sefton Council Planning Department enquiring about installing a small wind turbine on the side of my house. It took four e-mails before I received a reply and that stated that planning permission was not required for such a device but it must extend no higher than the roof line. That is where the wind is, there is no point having a wind turbine where the wind is not blowing. Until politicians, and their public servants, understand about these matters nothing will ever happen, they will just spend more of our money on self-publicity.

I too have read about the energy which leaving electrical devices on standby is alleged to waste. This I think is exaggerated. Admittedly some devices on standby are large power consumers but most are not: just put your hand near your DVD player which is on standby and you will find that it is barely warm. Energy-saving light bulbs certainly do use less energy and they save money. I replaced all of the lamps in my home with energy saving bulbs a number of years ago and my electricity bill dropped dramatically. However it must be realised that any piece of domestic electrical equipment, including the incandescent light bulb, is 100% efficient in winter, most of spring and a great deal of autumn. The heat given out by these devices is not wasted as it goes to heating the home.

Domestic saving is chicken feed compared with the waste of energy, and damage to the environment, caused by road and air transport.  Fuel is too cheap and whilst it is people
will waste it. Petrol at around £1 per litre equates to about £4.50 per gallon which is considerably less than Cain’s bitter, which I prefer; this is about £2.06 per pint so is over £16 per gallon and does less damage than petrol. Doubling the price of petrol would cause people to complain, but I doubt if many people would stop using their cars. The road lobby are always agitating for more roads and lower fuel duty, it increases their profits and that is what road haulage is all about, higher profit. Cutting down on wasted journeys with small loads would help a great deal but more journeys mean higher profits.

Air transport is a major cause of air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions but people want to fly to the sun and politicians need their “jollys” at our expense. Doubling the fuel surcharge levied on air tickets will not stop people flying, they will just moan a bit more when they are in the air. In contrast sea transportation is less damaging to the environment as per ton mile (or tonne km) it emits much less carbon dioxide. Merchant ship engines also use residual fuel, which is what is left after the oil refineries take off the petrol, diesel and kerosene. If it wasn’t for the marine diesel engine there would be lakes of residual fuel which nobody else would want. Go on a cruise, it is more environmentally friendly.

Sadly, people always tend to look to their own interests, particularly politicians, that is why they are politician. They may say that they serve “the people” but none would do the job for the minimum wage and they certainly would not forgo ministerial cars and other perks such as junkets abroad. The only real way to cut emissions is to burn less fossil fuel and if people won’t do that voluntarily, then they need to be compelled. Unfortunately, that is where the politician is required and the politician will not upset the constituents: there is an election around the corner.

It took nature millions of years to lay down the coal, oil and gas reserves of this planet and mankind has burned most of it in the past 200 years. The reserves are running out, nature is not making it anymore, but it is not the fact that the fossil fuel reserves are being depleted, it is the fact that we have released so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere so quickly that nature cannot cope. People put faith in carbon trading, tree planting and biofuels but this is just tinkering at the edges. I planted two trees in my garden in 1999 but they have certainly not grown enough to absorb more than a fraction of the carbon dioxide my household has produced since then.

Biofuels are a nice idea as they are made from plants; essentially the carbon dioxide which the burning of the fuel releases is absorbed by growing the plants next year. Unfortunately, there is not enough arable land on the planet to produce the biofuel that road transport would need, let alone any other fuel user. We do, after all, need to plant crops to eat. Big business has managed to cash in on this idea and large tracts of forest are being felled in South America, Indonesia and elsewhere to grow crops which can be made into biofuels. Chopping down trees and burning them releases the carbon dioxide they have absorbed over the past hundred or more years so the concept does not make sense environmentally. This does not even take into account the people displaced from their land and their consequent desperate need to find food as they cannot grow it,  the  land  is  now too valuable  for growing fuel.  Biofuels have a small role to play if the deserts are made to bloom in order to produce them, but that takes water and water is in short supply in desert areas. Again the people will suffer to satisfy big business.

Overall biofuels are a bit of a ‘con’. They give politicians something to talk about and allow business to pretend that they are doing something but the only real solution to cutting carbon dioxide emissions is to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. And that reduction cannot be the few percent which politicians say we should do by 2030 or whenever it is. It has to be at least a 50% reduction by 2010 because the clock is approaching midnight and there is no going back. Nature cannot cope, as the violent weather over the past few years already shows.

Stop using the car and the aeroplane as much and reduce domestic heating - but more importantly, ensure that the politicians do what you want and not what big business wants. But then, why bother, the Americans won’t cut down, neither will the Chinese or Indians and that chap down the road has just bought a new 4 x 4, the local streets are competing with each other for the best Christmas illuminations, neighbours are off to Florida for the New Year and then there is the energy which was used to make all of those unwanted Christmas presents, was it really necessary.

Hope that this hasn’t put a dampener on your New Year and I hope that you have a good 2008, provided of course that you can find a little oxygen to breathe….

Following the Star

A Reflection on the Feast of the Epiphany, from a 1920s article in ‘The Times’
Contributed by Fr Dennis

Few stories have won such willing attention as the narrative of the Wise Men who were led by a star to the infant Christ. It would seem as if Christian art and literature found in it something at once irresistibly beautiful and convincingly true; and whatever the origin of the story it serves to illustrate certain characteristics of Divine revelation.

All religions claim to be founded on a special disclosure of the supernatural world. How can man learn about God except it is told him from above? Our customary distinction between natural and revealed religion, though it may have some justification, may give rise to no little confusion. It is true that much may be learnt about God through an attentive study of nature and history by the use of the faculties of reason, but to truth thus learned must be added what is led to men through supernatural media. Everything  that brings us to the knowledge of God is His revelation. We accept Carlyle’s  dictum  that  “Heaven and earth  are but the time vesture  of the Eternal:  The
universe is but one vast symbol of God: nay, if thou wilt have it, what is man himself, but a symbol of God?” We need not try to restrict the conception of revelation, or to place it in different categories, as if were dependent on man’s discovery and the other on special supernatural acts. Revelation is all one; and man’s highest privilege is to respond to it.

The Wise Men of the East who followed the star acted as men determined to satisfy themselves of the real significance of facts which had come under their observation. They had the spirit of true seekers in their determination to find out the meaning of phenomena presented to them. If they had been content merely to note the appearance of the star they would have learnt little, for it did not reveal its secret until they went out to follow it. And even then its significance seemed uncertain. In some way its light failed them, and they were compelled to inquire, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the East, and are come to worship Him.” It was not until they had received help from the learned men in Jerusalem that they found the Child to whom they presented their gifts.

Men ask, if God reveals Himself to men why does He not save them from the uncertainties and perplexities in which they still live ? We must, however, reflect that in all instruction there are two people concerned, the teacher and the taught, and that the wise teacher knows that he must frame his lesson in terms level to the capacities and experience of the student. This is also the law of Divine revelation. If it were remembered, half the difficulties which confront so many in the study of the Bible would vanish at once. It records a revelation made in terms congruous to the experience and ideals of life among those to whom it was granted in each age. The contrast between the cruel tribalism of ancient Israel’s religion with the lofty conception of God in the prophets shows how revelation is always conditioned by man’s moral and spiritual receptivity.

Revelation demands a real effort from those who would rightly apprehend it. The notion that men must become passive recipients of supernatural truth is contrary to experience. The Wise Men would not have imagined anything significant in the appearance of the star if they had not already trained themselves in the science of astronomy, nor would they have learned its real importance without the arduous journey they were content to undergo. The fact that man’s apprehension of truth is only partial and conditional is regarded from two points of view. Some so emphasize what is still hidden and so lament their perplexity that they seem to grow in doubt rather than in knowledge. Others are grateful for what they have seen and learned, diligently following where it leads and using all other helps to a better understanding of it. They have their perplexities and doubts, but the light shines still and as they follow it the light grows brighter.
The Hellenistic mind deified the forces of Nature, counting the stars as animate and in a measure divine. “The stars are the visible gods, and yonder world above, in which the shining beings move, is the world that is truly divine.” The Magi were not content with this faith. When they went out to search for the newborn King they were animated by a
faith which regarded the star only because it would lead them to One who shared man’s
fortune and who in Himself manifested the perfect unity which exists between the Divine and human. This was the true end of their quest and they could be satisfied with nothing less. The late Poet Laureate has provided a free rendering of the epigram of Ptolemy, the second-century astronomer, who gives beautiful expression to a thought which very nearly approaches it:

Mortal though I be, yea ephemeral, if but a moment I gaze up to the night's starry domain of heaven, Then no longer on earth I stand; I touch the Creator, And my lively spirit drinketh immortality.

The Star of Bethlehem led the Magi to One before Whom they knelt in worship. It also showed them a little Child in Whom men learned to see the pattern of their own manhood. He taught them how, as they lived and worked and died according to the will of God, in the mingled weakness and strength of human life they too might shine forth in the light of their witness to truth and goodness, guiding tired and perplexed men to worship Him in Whom all that is Divine and human comes to its perfect unity.

News from Winwick 
Miriam Jones

Hello everyone – may we take this opportunity to wish everyone at St Faith’s and St Mary’s a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy New Year!

What a hectic few months it has been since Martin’s ordination! I managed to last a whole service sitting in the congregation before asking if I could join the choir. Now, before you start thinking this is an insult to congregations everywhere, I shall try to explain. The nearest analogy I can think of is, it’s like sitting on the sub’s bench, when you’re dying to play in a football match  - ‘I have to join in!’ As you all know, singing has been such a huge part of my life, I was never going to give in easily, and we are so fortunate in now being part of a worshipping community to whom music is very important.

Martin’s ministry is growing daily, from sick communion to school assembly, hospital visiting to preaching regularly, including Christingle for 250 plus children, attending deanery meetings and post-ordination training to leading worship at the Cenotaph at St Helen, Hollinfare. Not to mention being Bishop’s chaplain at no fewer than three confirmations in the last three weeks – his days are certainly full. Oh, and he works for a firm of chartered accountants two days each week!

It is not only the choir and clergy who have made us welcome – all have allowed us into their lives, both in worship and socially. We were introduced to the community at large  within a few weeks,  attending  the ‘Winwick Carnival’.  It was a rather  splendid
affair, with stalls ranging from tombola, plants, holistic therapies to ceramic designs (where I bumped into ‘our own’ Jenny Raynor) and exotic species such as lizards, snakes and spiders – nice (not). 

A couple of weeks after that, we were invited to open the Sunday School’s ‘Pebbles and Rocks’ Summer Fayre. As St Oswald’s has a church school, this is always well attended and the children are very actively involved in everything.

During the summer, as usual things were calmer. Martin and I went on our usual holiday on a narrowboat – two weeks of unhurried floating between eating-places! On our return, Harvest Festival was fast approaching, and being rural was a grand time, a great thanksgiving for the gifts of the earth, of nature and for the skills given to reap the benefits. Harvest Supper in the Church Hall on the Saturday evening was most enjoyable – good food, entertainment and best of all – good company.

Advent is here and we are attending all sorts of pre-Christmas events on top of the usual services. The week which has just ended involved the ‘Churches together’ Advent service, Golborne Brass Band concert and a bingo night in aid of the school and church (which raised in excess of £950). We were fortunate enough to meet up with some people at the Advent quiet day at Sandymount, an essential day of quiet reflection in the middle of all this activity.

Next week sees the Mother’s Union Carol Service and the Sunday School’s Christmas party, at which Martin and I, plus the Rector, Bob, and his wife Pauline have the dubious pleasure of judging the talent contest! I fear I shall turn into Bruce Forsyth – ‘Well, you’re my favourite!’ I don’t want to upset anyone!

We shall soon be starting a new calendar year, meaning it will only be a few month’s until Martin’s priesting. The date for your diaries is Sunday June 8th, although we will provide more information nearer the time.

Meanwhile, Season’s best wishes to all,

Love and prayers,
Martin and Miriam

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