The Parish Magazine of St Faith`s Church, Great Crosby
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Newslink March 2000
From the Clergy
What are you giving up for Lent?
Each year as Lent approaches you can be fairly certain that someone will ask this popular question! People see Lent as a time when they go without. There is a great tendency for all of us to see Lent in such a negative light. The season of Lent is a great gift to the Christian Church. It is a marvellous opportunity for us to try and grow closer to God. As we approach Lent at St. Faith`s we must ask honestly have we got our priorities right? Both as individuals, and as a Christian community, we must not be afraid of asking important questions: Do we pray everyday? Do we understand the Scripture readings that are read each week (or is our mind on the Sunday lunch?) How do we relate the Scriptures to our daily lives, or do we think they are irrelevant? What effort do we make to help other people to grow in the Christian Faith? Is being a Christian something we are excited about or is coming to church simply a routine and a chore each week? Would the way we lead our lives commend the Christian Faith to others?
Wherever we are in our spiritual journey, Lent
is a time to grow, to change and to make a fresh start. The Church
opportunities for us to do just that. The Diary of Events lists the
talks and services that are on offer during the season of Lent. Please
make an effort to come to something extra each week.
Sunday evenings at 6 pm in St. Mary’sthe Cross
In addition to the usual pattern for daily eucharist, there will be a celebration at 7.30am on Wednesdays in Lent for those who may wish to come to the eucharist before school or work.
Lent begins on ASH WEDNESDAY (8th March) and there will be a said eucharist at 7.30 am and SOLEMN EUCHARIST at 8 pm. After the evening eucharist there will be a baked bean supper in the Church Hall and we will hear a brief talk about this year’s LENT PROJECT. This year we are focussing on our companion Diocese in Akure, Nigeria. Caroline Whalley has been chosen to represent our Deanery on a visit to Akure (more on page 18) later in the year. We will support her with our prayers and each parish who has a person on the trip is asked to help financially. The PCC agreed last September that we would support her, so I invite everyone to think of ways in which we can help to do that. Perhaps you could organise a coffee morning or cheese and wine evening? Each Sunday during coffee time there will be a raffle with prizes donated by local traders. The young people, Sunday School and members of the Uniformed Organisations will each be given a tube of Smarties (full!) and will be asked to return the tube at Easter full with 5p coins! Be imaginative! There are many ways we can help to raise funds for this. We will of course welcome Bishop Emmanuel, who will visit us on St. Faith’s day this year, because during October our Diocese will be hosting a return visit from Akure. The Archdeacon of Warrington, Fr. David Woodhouse, is the Co-ordinator for the Diocesan Link and we will welcome him to St. Faith’s on Sunday 5th March when he will preach at 10.30 am and help us to understand a little better why the Link is important.
So Lent will provide us with many exciting opportunities. Please use the season wisely and pray that it may be an opportunity for us to grow closer to God, and to become more effective witnesses of the Gospel in our community.
A prayer to use during Lent:
With my love and prayers,
Scripture Cake Olive Lunt
4cupfuls 1st Kings 4:22
1 cupfuls Judges 5:25
2 cupfuls 1st Samuel 30:12
2 cupfuls Nahum 3:12
Season to taste with 2nd Chronicles 9:9
1 cupful Numbers 17:8
2 tablespoonfuls 1st Samuel 14:25
6 Articles of Jeremiah 17:11
1 pinch Leviticus 2:13
2 teaspoonfuls Amos 4:5
Follow Solomon’s advice for making a good boy (Proverbs 23:14) and you’ll have a good cake.
From an ancient recipe book
A Pair of Graces
Church of England
O Lord, grant that we may not be like porridge stiff, stodgy and hard to stir, but like cornflakes light, crisp and ready to serve.
Church of Scotland
O Lord, grant that we may not be like cornflakes lightweight, empty and cold, but like porridge warm, comforting and full of natural goodness.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I’m not there, I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow;
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am gentle autumnal rain.
When you waken in the morning hush
I am the soft uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight;
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die.
From the Registers
3 February Barbara Hollis
Christian tradition has always regarded pilgrimage as a way of life, the earthly existence seen as a continuing journey towards a heavenly goal. People sometimes speak of the journey from the cradle to the grave. From the earliest centuries Christians have made devout journeys to shrines, holy places and other special sites. Journeys to the Holy Land, for example, were ways of not just reading the Scriptures but seeing the events of the Bible unfolding before them. The Church is often called a pilgrim body. Processions often form an integral part of pilgrimages, as those who have been to such places as Walsingham or Lourdes will know. In both Old Testaments there are accounts of people journeying towards God. Their stories find echoes in our own lives and in the life of our church and world today.
Processions form an essential part of what we do in the liturgy. At the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration the servers, choir and sacred ministers pass through the main body of the people towards the Altar. For the proclamation of the Holy Gospel the Book of the Gospels is held high and carried in procession. It is given due honour and reverence with lights and incense because in the Gospels we hear the words of Our Lord.
At the offertory the gifts (bread, wine and water, money representing our talents and skills) are brought up by members of the congregation in a procession. These processions serve as a visual reminder: a reminder that each baptised person is on a journey. We are all fellow pilgrims travelling together towards the fullness of life which God offers.
Some processions include a specific ceremony (carrying the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose after the Maundy Thursday mass or processing with lighted candles at Candlemass). Other processions are simply a natural part of the ceremony to add dignity to a special occasion (St. Faith’s Day, Christmas or Easter). On Festivals it is customary to begin the High Mass with a more elaborate procession.
Next month’s article: Benediction
The Annual Parochial Meeting is a part of the life of every Church of England Parish. It is an important opportunity to listen to the reports of different committees and groups within the parish, to ask questions and to think about our future life and mission. It is the time when we elect members of the Parochial Church Council, Churchwardens, and this year, for the first time, we will be electing two Deputy Churchwardens. Although Deputy Churchwardens are not a legal requirement (as Churchwardens are), nevertheless many churches have them and they can play an important role in sharing the tasks and duties and supporting the Churchwardens in their role.
Please think seriously whether you wish to stand for Churchwarden, Deputy Churchwarden, or Parochial Church Council. Nomination sheets will be published in Church on Sunday 19th March. If you have any issue you wish to be raised at the AGM, please let me know in good time.
One of the first dates for the diary of new
of course existing!) members of P.C.C. 2000 will be the P.C.C. Away Day
on Saturday May 6th. Please make every effort to keep this important
clear more details in due course.
I wonder how many misguided souls waited on mountain tops on December 31st, expecting the end of the world? I know I wait on my imaginary mountain top every year, waiting for better things. I’m always hoping something will turn up and that I`ll be more generous in loving, especially to people I don’t really like; that this year I`ll be just a little better at my job, that I`ll finally get on top of my besetting sins and obsessions. If New Year resolutions fail, New Millennium resolutions are likely to fail spectacularly; and its easy to believe that nothing can change, least of all me.
It’s quite a problem. And yet, as usual, the New Testament provides an answer: but not quite in the way you might expect. Put simply, the remedy the Bible recommends is alcohol! And lots of it! But let me explain.
There are three references in the Bible to the connection between alcohol and the gospel message, between wine and the Kingdom of Heaven. The first is in St. Mark’s gospel, chapter 2. Mark records an argument between the Pharisees and Jesus about fasting. Why, say the Pharisees, don’t your disciples fast? Jesus, as controversial as ever, hits back: can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding reception, a time for wine and dancing, a time for feasting and celebration, not for guilt and fasting. The Pharisees will have to change their ways and their customs, otherwise they will never accept God’s rule of love and forgiveness. If they stay the way they are, all shrivelled and dried up like an old wine skin, they will be split open by the new wine, the bubbly, of the gospel message. No one puts new wine into old wine skins: if he does so the wine will burst the skins and the wine is lost and so are the skins. I suppose at St. Faith’s we could interpret the story rather narrowly, as a reference to changes in worship: but that would be to miss the point. The implications are far wider. The gospel is dynamite. It is challenging and revolutionary, even dangerous, and it changes everything, even us.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to an alcohol-free wedding. Some years ago Linda and I did just that: we were invited to the marriage of a college friend of Linda’s who was a member of the Plymouth Brethren. It was in fact a lovely, happy occasion; there was a liberal flow of fruit juice and personal Christian testimony and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. But we left feeling that a glass of champagne would have added a little warmth and liveliness that were otherwise missing. In the story of the marriage feast at Canaa, St. John presents us with a parable about the missing wine. It tells us how God’s love, in Jesus, can accomplish the changes in our lives and personalities which we all recognise as so necessary. In the story, Jesus turns the water of purification used for ritual cleansing into something totally unexpected and exciting: the new wine of the gospel. He replaces the old failure and sin and guilt with the intoxicating warmth and sweetness of God’s love and forgiveness. The new wine of the Kingdom of Heaven gives us, not Dutch courage, but real strength and perseverance to follow Jesus and do God’s will. Not false bonhomie, but real warmth and fellowship and generosity of spirit. Not stupor and drunkenness but real power and energy and inspiration to change things for the better. Yet at the same time the story brings us down to earth by reminding us of the wine of the Eucharist, by reminding us that the gifts of the gospel were brought about by Christ’s sacrifice of himself. In the church of St. Faith at Conche in Normandy there is a beautiful sixteenth century stained glass window portraying the Mystic Wine Press. In the picture, Christ himself is crushed in a wine press, and as his blood pours downwards it flows into a chalice and so becomes the wine of the Eucharist. As Christ’s self-giving love flows into us through the new wine of the gospel, so too it must flow from us. God knows there is so much for us to do in an uncaring and harsh and needy world. We all need the inspiration, the warmth, and the courage of the new wine so that we can play our part in making the Kingdom of Heaven a reality.
Then finally, we have the description in Acts chapter 2 of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So inspired, so full of the Holy Spirit, were the apostles that the bystanders accused them of having had too much to drink. But the words used, these men are full of new wine, tell us what was really going on. The apostles had indeed been drinking, but it was the wine of the New Covenant, the new deal brought about by the resurrection of Jesus and by the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. This was no temporary intoxication. The odd collection of ordinary men and women who followed Jesus really had been given new light and life and fire of love that would still be growing and spreading unextinguished after two thousand years.
As I grow older it’s getting all too easy to accept that people don’t change: that I won’t change for the better. But that would be to deny the reality of salvation in Christ, to deny the working of the Holy Spirit in the church, and to deny the transforming power of the sacraments and of the Eucharist. There is so much in our fallen world that needs changing and often we feel so utterly useless and powerless. But the new wine of the gospel, week by week, can and does give us all the courage and spiritual energy we need. The best is yet to be, because the Lord has kept the good wine until now.
Thank you very much for your greetings and the splendid Centenary Number of Newslink, bringing me so much gratitude and happy memories of St Faith’s 19381942. I was ordained priest on St Thomas’s Day (21st December then!) at St Columba`s, Anfield, and so celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of my priesthood on the Sunday before Christmas, so you have all been much in my thoughts and prayers.
Incidentally we have a new Vicar here in Melbourne, Derbyshire Dr John Davies, ordained in Liverpool 1984 and curate at Liverpool Parish Church, and, from 1990 to 1994 Vicar of St Margaret’s, Anfield. We like him tremendously and you may remember him. He came here from being Fellow and Chaplain at Keble College, Oxford.
Now in my mid-80`s with rapidly-failing eyesight, life is very restricted these days and, of course, the death of my wife Alice last year is a great sadness. It means that any hope of again visiting St Faith’s is no longer practical. But I am so grateful for my beginnings there and have such precious memories not least the wonderful Centenary Celebrations I shared with you all and dear Bob Runcie in 1998. He was at my ordination at St Columba`s at which, among others, I recall Frank Sampson at Tuebrook was made Deacon.
Newslink makes it quite apparent how well things are going at St Faith’s and what a splendid parish priest and staff (both clerical and lay) you have there.
Do give my love and remembrances to the few who may still remember the shy young curate of sixty years ago, and my prayers to you all at St Faith’s. Greetings, especially, to Dennis who, I think, remembers when I nearly became Vicar a fate from which you were mercifully spared and to Nancy Yandell who gave me such kind hospitality in 1998.
I enclose a small donation towards the cost of postage etc.
On behalf of everyone involved in the Sunday School, I would like to say thank you for the anonymous donation which has been used for storage equipment, which we desperately needed. Also, thanks to the new volunteer teachers and helpers, who can now ease the strain somewhat on the existing teachers, who have done a wonderful job, with the limited resources available to them.
Now, with the introduction of more funding and teachers/helpers, the children can look forward to a year with fun activities such as days out, barbecues and parties, and a more varied and interesting Sunday School class.
Finally, on behalf of the children, I would
to thank Fr Neil, for taking the time to involve the younger members of
the congregation in the various aspects of church life. It goes without
saying, that our children are our future congregation. We need to
them and make them welcome in the family of St Faith’s.
Les began to come to St Faith’s when he came to live in Kingsway some years ago. He liked any social events and always enjoyed coming on church outings.
When he could no longer get to church he regularly received sick communion. He was always very grateful to have visits and the members of the team were equally please to visit him and take the sacrament. Les was very poorly for a couple of months before his death on 27th January. His funeral was at Thornton Crematorium on 3rd February.
We shall miss him.
Letters from Italy Joyce Green
Over the years, we have published a number of articles on the High Altar reredos at St Faith’s, and appealed for more information about what many would claim to be the crowning glory of the church. Joyce Green’s article takes us a useful step forward.
Some time ago, Joan Tudhope and I were discussing the reredos, and its possible value and provenance (as they say in the Antiques Roadshow). We decided that it might be a good idea to write to some art galleries in Italy to ask for their opinions. As Joan’s daughter Judith speaks Italian, we asked her to translate the letter I had prepared into Italian. I then took some photographs of the reredos, and sent them with accompanying letters to various galleries whose addresses I had gleaned from my Italian tourist guide books. I also sent a similar letter, in English, to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Not all of the galleries replied, but the information we did gain was extremely interesting.
The Vatican Museum in Rome was particularly helpful. They told us that the folding altar screen depicted in my photograph was known as a retablo. This is a piece of furniture which usually has a wooden frame, into which painted panels or sculptures depicting religious images are inserted. This type of reredos was very popular in the 15th and 16th centuries throughout Europe, except in Italy, where a more modest screen was preferred.
The letter goes on to say: The reredos became popular again in the 19th century-neogothic style in northern Europe, including England. The reredos in St. Faith’s seems to be particularly beautiful and striking. (Praise indeed from the Vatican!) They continue: Like many works from the last century, the neogothic style (spiky bits, gold background, abstract angel figures etc.) is combined with other styles, which contribute to the composition. The crucifixion scene at the centre is in classic Italian style (comparable to that of Guido Reni, 1575-1642), and the use of mosaic takes us back to the Venetian Renaissance.
A briefer reply was received from the Ministry for Culture in Venice:
The beautiful neogothic reredos is very probably a liberal interpretation by Antonio Salviati of the work of Gentile da Fabriono. It is of symbolic and technical interest, but is difficult to value on the basis of your photograph.
The Ministry of Arts in Florence again speaks of the beautiful screen which decorates the altar at St. Faith’s, and adds that its neogothic carving and mosaic suggest that it dates from the second half of the 19th century. They say that Salviati was a Venetian mosaicist and restorer, and was the owner and manager of an enamelled mosaic studio at Murano, which restored the San Marco mosaics at Venice.
They also wondered whether there was a signature, documents, or whether the name is simply known by tradition. They emphasise that Salviati did have links with England, having decorated the chapel at Windsor Castle, the central portico in Parliament, and the dome at St. Paul’s.
Finally, I had a reply from the Assistant Curator in the Department of Furniture and Woodwork at the VA museum. He had shown my photographs to colleagues and they were sure that the reredos came from Salviati`s workshop. He adds:
They had a busy international trade based in Venice during the last quarter of the 19th and early 20th century, and your altarpiece is based on Venetian examples of the early to mid 15th century. The tracery, crucifixion and saints on either side are based on art of that period, but the archangels hark back to Byzantine models. It is very likely that Salviati`s firm had a trade catalogue, possible available through a library in Italy, and that customers could specify just what they wanted when they placed their orders.
They end their letter by saying that Salviati wrote a book about mosaics, with the improbably long title: On Mosaics (generally) and the Superior Advantages, Adaptability, and General Use in the Past and Present Age, in Architectural and other Decorations of Enamel Mosaics (London 1866).
Well, we know a little bit more, but there is
still more to learn particularly about the value of our reredos.
However, perhaps that’s just as well. We could probably never afford
Choir Notes: Adrift on the High `C`s Ian Dunning
How many of us have heard the soaring descant in the joyous final hymn of a Christmas service, and ever so fleetingly, wished we could sing at such exalted pitches? (Basses are excused from answering if either embarrassment or physical injury would ensue from an attempt to do so!)
The soprano and treble section are the mainstay of any church choir, basically because they usually carry the melody. This has given rise to friction in some choral circles, providing as it does the opportunity for cynical altos, tenors and basses to imply that sops. are incapable of any more sophisticated task. Why would we think this? Perhaps we envy the easy time they (allegedly) have after all, unison or harmony, it makes little difference to them. Or maybe the fact that most choristers have started off as trebles gives the impression that even a beginner can sail through the tasks. Or possibly we envy the apparent ease with which soaring melodic lines (that seem more memorable and attractive than anyone else’s) can be learnt and reproduced. (As the only singer in my family physically incapable of producing an acceptable top C±, this is the theory I am most inclined to believe.)
In any group of choristers, the sopranos will feel exposed to the most criticism, mostly based on mere prejudice. The word Soprano has a lot of resonances. It can be translated as top or highest and may have contributed to the widely-held notion that the soprano is somewhat challenged in the humility department. The fact that the term now also conjures up images of Mafiosi (thanks to its use as a family name in a very successful TV drama series), may lend further weight to the notion that sopranos are: a) dangerous b) difficult to control and c) need keeping firmly in their place.
Other words associated with the soprano voice can be quite meaningful. For example, descant. Not many people know that this is a medieval spelling of the word discount which suggests that at one time singers of very high notes may have been obtainable on a sort of hire one, get one free basis.
We turn to the trebles, a specialised type of soprano which comprises the voices of young girls and boys singing together. The term treble to many people means times three. But exactly what times three? Are they meant to sing three times as loudly as everyone else; or should they outnumber the other choir members by 3:1? Or are they expected to sit three times as still as the rest of us in the sermons?
Words like angelic and images of King’s
Cambridge at Christmas spring to mind when trebles are mentioned. Do
fall for that one. The crisply-starched ruff and surplice are a cunning
disguise for the kind of secret weapon that should only ever be
in the direst of emergencies. Trebles are the anti-tank weapons of the
choral world. There are ways of subduing trebles into quiet and
docility. However, the most obvious of these is no longer practised
by the Sistine Chapel Choir and in any case prevents the boys from
into the tenor or bass sections in the fullness of time (though they
not have too much trouble singing alto).
Go on. Give it a try. You`ll love it.
Owd time is a troublesome codger
keeps nudging` us on to decay,
he whispers tha`t nobbut a lodger
mak` ready fer gooin` away.
Found by Chris Dawson on a scrap of paper
a copy of Poems and Songs by Edwin Waugh, first published in 1883.
In 1975 only ten English Dioceses had an overseas Companion Link. Now nearly all of them do. What is the attraction?
A Companion Link sets up what is, in effect, a hot line between two Dioceses. Direct regular contact becomes easy and personal. It allows people in both Dioceses to enjoy the riches of the Anglican Communion as being truly the world-wide family that it is. Companion Link helps two Dioceses to transcend the boundaries of culture, language and nationhood.
In the past, of course, the only link that English Dioceses had with Dioceses overseas was in a missionary capacity. Under the new Companion Link scheme, it becomes clear that world mission isn’t just for specialists who go from England, but for anyone who has something to offer their Link Diocese in either direction!
A Companion Link is also helpful in other ways. The maturity and experience of the younger diocese is affirmed, for any expertise that it has can now be shared back with the English Diocese. At best, in a Companion Link relationship, the problems of each Diocese are shared by the other and it always helps to see ourselves as others see us.
The transfer of money from the English Diocese to the overseas Diocese is not at all the main aim in a Companion Link. Indeed, money can raise all sorts of problems. If large sums are transferred, the English Diocese can be tempted into a paternalistic role, while the overseas Diocese will resent any hint that it is less than trusted with such resources.
Our own link is with a Diocese in Nigeria: Akure. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with over 130 million people, some 44 million of whom are Christians, and of that total Anglicans comprise 6Á million. After much struggle, democracy has been restored in Nigeria, but the Government has inherited a weak economy. In 1980 6.4% of Gross National Product was spent on education and 1.95% on servicing international debt. By 1995 those proportions had changed to only 1.3% of GNP on education and 8% on servicing debt. Meanwhile, the country’s income from oil fell by half in 1999.
Our link began in 1993. Since then, several parishes and schools in Liverpool Diocese have set up their own links in Akure. Visits have been made and enjoyed in both directions. Future plans include the possibility that two clergy from this Diocese will go out to serve on the staff of Vining Provincial College in Akure, jointly sponsored by the Church Missionary Society and this Diocese.
In 2000, from 20 June to 4 July, Akure Diocese will welcome a party of thirty people from the Diocese of Liverpool, including Caroline Whalley from St Faith’s. The party will be led by Bishop James, who is especially looking forward to spending time with the Nigerian clergy and catechists. Then, from 2-16 October, we will receive a group from Akure led by Bishop Emmanuel. Bishop Emmanuel will share in the confirmations here, while his catechists will assist in confirmation preparation.
These visits will, we pray, deepen our relationship with Christians in Akure. Hopefully the exchanges will also make it easier to answer the question: What can we go on to do together in mission? We ask for the prayers of the Diocese for these two significant visits, and all who take part in them as visitors or hosts. For further information on the two visits, please contact me or Mr Bill Clarey at 12 Sandfield Road, Eccleston, St Helens, WA10 5LS.
Liverpool Diocese’s link with Akure is not at
all meant to be exclusive. Certainly any parishes in the Diocese with
elsewhere should not feel excluded. Indeed, they can offer an extra,
wide dimension that can only enrich the Diocese.
Co-ordinator, Partners in Mission Link
Will the real Jesus please get lost?
I like to think of Jesus as a decent sort of
You know the sort of character I mean:
He’s neither God in human form, nor is he just a myth,
But someone sort of somewhere in between.
He’s meek and mild, a good example, talks a lot of sense,
A help when other help cannot be found;
A universal balsam who can soothe a troubled soul;
A handy sort of bloke to have around.
I picture him as someone who completely understands;
He sees my sins but smiles and lets them pass.
He’s handsome and cleanshaven, he’s broadminded and polite;
He’s Protestant, and British Middle Class.
He doesn’t raise the dead (I`d find that way beyond belief),
He doesn’t carry nail-scars in his hands;
Respectable, acceptable, a friend who’ll give his all,
Yet never come to me and make demands.
A Superstar philosopher who’s gentle and
A Jesus who is popular and kind;
A Jesus who is not dogmatic, not intolerant;
A Jesus with an ever-open mind.
I want my Jesus happy, bringing peace and brotherhood;
The subject of an all-embracing creed;
A theme for songs and poetry; a reasonable man,
Approving of the life I choose to lead.
I like to think of him as one not difficult to please,
Who’ll tolerate that self-indulgent vice,
Providing that I help my needy neighbour now and then,
And go to church each season once or twice.
For, after all, I celebrate his birthday every year,
With pudding, and perhaps a turkey leg;
I bring to mind his crucifixion with a hot-cross bun,
Recall his resurrection with an egg.
I’ve been accused of making up a Christ to
Who doesn’t match the Christ of history.
I’m told I’ve compromised the truth, but let me make it clear;
The Jesus of the Bible’s not for me.
The Jesus of the Gospels asked too much from
He said some things I think are very odd;
He set the standard far too high, demanding holiness,
And said he was the only way to God,
He slammed sincere religious folk, he said that they were wrong,
That they must follow him and him alone.
I can’t accept a Christ who will not water down his claims,
I’m sticking with the Jesus who’s my own.
A Jesus who is sinless, who’s infallibly
Who tells me I must share his Calvary,
Is not the one I`d choose, because in no respect at all
Does that sort of Jesus Christ resemble me!
From a collection of poems, Patchwork Quill,
written by Gordon Bailey in 1975. Supplied by Fr Dennis.
CyberCheeze strikes again.
A fundamentalist Christian couple felt it important to own an equally fundamentalist Christian pet. So they went shopping. At a kennel specialising in such things, they found a dog they liked a lot. When they asked it to fetch the Bible, it did it in a flash. When they asked him to look up Psalm 23, he complied equally rapidly. They were impressed, bought the animal and left.
That night they had friends over. Proud of their fundamentalist dog, they called it in and showed off its skills. The friends were duly impressed, but asked if it could do the usual dog tricks as well.
They hadn’t thought of this but decided to experiment. They called the dog and loudly and clearly pronounced the command, Heel!. Quick as a flash, the dog jumped up, put his paw on the man’s forehead, closed his eyes in concentration, and bowed his head ...
If we read the passages in the Bible where marking ourselves with ashes is mentioned, the meaning of doing so is very clear. People did this very seriously indeed: it was a sign of sorrow and distress. Maybe they were sorrowful about personal troubles . Sometimes they were sorrowing for some national disaster. Or their sorrow was for their own sins, or for the sins of the nation and then the ashes were a mark of repentance ( How did people first arrive at the idea that ashes were a sign of trouble, or of sin, or of sorrow?
Ashes are a mark of destruction. We may have a bright fire burning on the hearth giving warmth to the house, or it may be in the kitchen cooking food. But all the time the fire is destroying the wood, coal or gas used to provide fuel; and when we stop feeding the fire with fuel it goes out, leaving behind merely some ash. It is not only in the home that we may be reminded how apt a symbol of destruction ash can be photographs or TV pictures show us houses, farms, homes, villages, offices, factories burnt by the enemy after being plundered, ruined, destroyed, with nothing left behind but shattered ruins and piles of ash and rubble. It is dreadful to consider the fate or the future of the inhabitants.
At work in the world, and in the individual lives of people, is the destructive force of sin. Sin destroys in men and women many good plans, good ideas, hopes and thoughts, acts of love and service and help and destroys them completely. If sin is allowed to work its will, it can destroy whole lives, making them barren and useless, cutting them off from God.
While we must be on our guard against the destructive power of evil, we should remember that evil itself is not untouchable we ourselves can strive to make an end to wrong impulses, sinful desires, foolish actions, bad intentions, and whatever in us is evil.
Scripture often speaks of fire as a purifying force. The prophet Malachi compares God at work in human lives to the hot furnaces used by goldsmiths and silversmiths to rid precious metals of impurities (Malachi Let the ashes in our lives be those of evil things, bad thoughts and actions, but never of what is good, of what it helpful to other humans in trouble or need, or of something that could, and should, develop into what is useful and for the help and benefit of good causes of every kind. Let the ashes in our lives be those of evil things, never of good.
On Ash Wednesday it is good to remember how this day got its name, from the marking of our foreheads with ash as a sign of repentance. It tells us that our thoughts should be not only about self-denial and self-discipline, but about our own guilt in God’s sight, our need to repent of our sins, our need to lead a new life, and above all, our need to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.
One of the marks of our worshipping life at St Faith’s is the emphasis on lay participation. Lay members of the congregation read lessons, take the intercessions, administer the sacrament, take the collection and, at the Offertory, take up the bread, wine and water.
The Churchwardens try to involve as many people as possible in doing this, and welcome offers from anyone they may have overlooked or who would like to be involved. Those chosen or offering come to the back of church at the sharing of the Peace and, preceding the sidesmen with the collection plates, bring the vessels to the altar. Following the bow of dismissal from the celebrant, they follow the escorting warrens and the sidesmen back down the central aisle. The routine varies slightly on occasions such as High Masses.
We hope no-one feels excluded from taking
and look forward to welcoming new volunteers. There is no rota: just
your name to Chris or Rick any Sunday and we will fit you in from time
shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Wednesday February 10th may prove to have been a turning-point at St Faith’s. An Open Meeting of the PCC, attended by upwards of 30 people, discussed the possible future direction of our strategy for organising what we do, and how better to reach out in mission in a new millennium.
On the home front we agreed to reconstitute the successful Centenary Committee into a new Events Forum: a regular meeting into which will be poured all forthcoming happenings (social, practical, financial, pastoral ...). This group (membership open to all, fluid and flexible) will issue forth in smaller, ad hoc groups to plan and run events; it could well have regular sub-committees concerned with fund-raising and development, and it will, of course, be answerable to the PCC. We feel that this pattern of relaxed centralisation of our affairs will harness energies, enable talents, prevent duplication of effort and continue the happy experience of the Centenary Committee in making it fun to work for St Faith’s. It will certainly have plenty to do, not least on the financial front. We heard that increasing outgoings and relatively static income mean that, although we have more or less balanced the books for last year (thanks to the generous response to the Appeal) we face a likely deficit of some þ1000 a month in the fateful year 2000. Calling all fund-raisers...!
Most of the meeting centred on a challenging report by Fr Mark, partly arising from the series of discussions he held with us over the last year or so, and partly from his experiences last year with churches in the USA. It took the form of a presentation of the state of the church in general (and hence St Faith’s in particular) today. The hypothesis is of a Church no longer representing the nation as of ancient right, but in a missionary situation, having to compete for attention and for the acceptance of its values and beliefs: needing to translate these into contemporary terms or face continuing decline and marginalisation. We need to move from maintenance to mission: from being, as it were, in the guard’s van, looking back nostalgically at a vanishing landscape, into the vanguard, looking to a future in which we can share, or even lead.
In terms of church structure, it was suggested, this model implies a shift from clergy-centred sacramental emphases to the ministry of the word and the laity in the community; church members were to be seen less as spectators and consumers, and more as participators and workers in the mission field. In discussion, the vital need to preserve our internal integrity and values was argued: we have, relative to many other churches, the living traditions from which to draw strength for mission and outreach, and must in no way abandon the best of what we have been remembering and celebrating during our Centenary period. But in order to grow, to achieve meaningful outreach into an increasingly indifferent society, we need to look beyond Sunday worship gathering, and to plan a strategy for strengthening and focussing our core membership for a wider mission inside and outside St Faith’s.
Fr Mark proposed, and we more or less agreed, a five-point strategy for later in the year (starting after Pentecost with a further meeting): an outline of his detailed ideas will have to suffice for the present. We would begin with the sharing of stories one-to-one meetings for sharing experiences and getting to know each other better, as a preparation for more effective witness and outreach. There would be a mission audit (no shortage of fine new jargon, you will notice): this means finding out precisely what the nature and needs of our local community seem to be. Back at base camp, we would look at the existing Parish Centres (whose origins as house churches and community/neighbourhood groups predate these initiatives by many years) to see how they could be re-energised and relaunched as part of our new strategy. Later we would move to public action in appropriate areas and ways. And finally there would be time for reflection, re-evaluation and for prayer.
There was discussion; there were fears and reservations voiced; and not all the presumptions in the presentation were necessarily accepted as they stood. But as a springboard for action, the programme was exciting and the mood was positive and affirming. It didn’t provide a magic formula for finding an extra £1.00 a month but it could provide the spiritual and social power base to set us on the road to mission, to growth, and, God willing, to a stable financial future, in which maintenance and mission, a rightful celebration of the past and an embracing of a changed and challenging future, are properly blended in the new story of St Faith’s.
Unfortunately, due to work commitments, as
the beginning of April I will no longer be able to run the St Faith’s
So, if you are reading this and have some time to spare, or if you know
of anyone who might be interested, please call one of the following:
Fr Neil 928 3342
Lynne Connolly (District Commissioner) 928 6334
Claire Hockney 474 9355
Sue Walsh will continue to assist the new Brownie leader if required.
We were discussing praying, and it seems that
some people find it difficult to pray. I do not find it difficult
but my prayer is so simple as they have helped me, and help the lonely
and the blind.
Give me courage to face what is ahead.
Thank you Lord and forgive me.
Accept this prayer in the name of the Lord.