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March 2003

An Alphabet of Excuses

I‘d like to go to church every Sunday, but. . .

A is the Auntie who will come to tea,
B is the bed that won‘t release me,
C is the car . . . ‘We do need fresh air’,
D is the dinner only Mum can prepare,
E for extremes, too‘high’ or too ‘low’,
F for my feelings, when they‘re right I go,
G is the garden, much nearer God‘s heart,
H is my husband who won‘t play his part,
I for intruders who sit in my pew,
J is for jokes which the preacher thinks new,
K all that kneeling which tires me so much,
L the old language, it‘s so out of touch,
M is for money, they always want more,
N for new hymn tunes I’ve not heard before,
O is for overtime, double on Sunday,
P for preparing I must do for Monday,
Q the queer noises from some organ keys,
R for the radio ... I worship at ease,
S is for sermons, as dull as ditch water,
T for temptations; I don’t live as I oughter,
U for unfriendly, no welcome I find,
V for the voice of that woman behind,
W is the weather, too wet or too hot,
X for eXcuses, I’ve got such a lot,
Y for the yells from the kids left behind,
and Z is the zeal, which is what I can’t find.

What will you be doing to mark  the season of Lent?

From the Ministry Team 

Without the falling rain, rivers diminish, mountain streams dry up, reservoirs become empty. Without the gentle breeze or mighty wind, the windmills remain motionless. Without appropriate food and drink, body strength falters. Without sleep, energy ebbs away. It is the same in the spiritual life. It can be healthy only if properly nourished. In order to give out we must take in. Without replenishment in the deep places, our spirituality will be arid and lifeless.

This is a spiritual law which not only prophets and preachers but also every individual will ignore at their peril. If all the emphasis in life is on activity, be it in the personal, corporate or even church spheres, and prayer and stillness are squeezed out, there will be much busy-ness but little effectiveness. Feverish activity may impress some people, but over-concentration on doing seriously damages being.

If Jesus himself felt the need for isolation as a preparation for involvement, how much more do ordinary human beings need physical, mental, emotional and spiritual relaxation as a precursor to further endeavour. It is just here that necessary sanctuary, the ‘desert place’, comes in. The wilderness is the place of preparation, confession and self-awareness of divine grace. St. Luke therefore records that Jesus returned from the wilderness ?in the power of the Spirit‘.

Lent, says Father Harry Williams C.R., in his book ‘The True Wilderness’ ‘has nothing to do with giving up sugar in your tea or trying to feel that it‘s wicked to be you.....Our Lent is going with Jesus into the wilderness’. It is the place of trial and testing but it is also the place of ultimate victory. In that desert place, we encounter ourselves, ‘warts and all’, but in the same moment become aware of the forgiving, renewing, grace-full love of God. It is indeed the place where we take in.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it is the Spirit who created Jesus’s wilderness ordeal. St. Matthew records it thus: ‘Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness’. St. Luke goes further: Jesus was driven there by the Spirit. The one who was to give out supremely to the world in words, compassion love and blood, found in the ordeal of the wilderness, the grace and power he needed to fulfil his mission.

The church exists to forward that mission. It must never then allow itself to be drawn away from its primary task. That responsibility is to offer the bread and water of life to the spiritually hungry and thirsty. If it fails to offer the gifts of grace ‘in Jesus’s name’ it will become a sterile, irrelevant and insignificant orginisation.

‘Accept your wilderness,’ says Harry Williams. ‘From the story of the Son of Man, realise what your Lent really means. Then the angels will minister to you as they did to him.’ Indeed, they will.

With my love and prayers

Father Dennis

The Season of Lent   Fr Neil

‘Brothers and sisters in Christ: since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord‘s passion and resurrection.  It became the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting.
At first this season of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for Baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church’s fellowship from which they had been separated through sin.  In course of time the Church came to recognise that, by a careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God‘s holy word.’

These words, which we hear at the start of the Ash Wednesday Liturgy are taken from a book of services and prayers entitled ‘Lent, Holy Week and Easter’. They are words which may be familiar to us and they sum up what Lent is all about. The title of the book I’ve mentioned reminds us that Lent is not an event in itself (a solemn and miserable period of giving up all that we enjoy!) but rather a preparation for the great events of Holy Week and Easter. The Easter mystery cannot be fully comprehended at one level: the event of the Resurrection is literally so earth-shattering, that if we are to begin to understand what it means for us and for our world, we need to carefully and prayerfully prepare to embrace it.

The Church in her wisdom gives us the season of Lent so that we can prepare for Easter. However, the words used at the ceremony of the Ashes remind us of our mortality. We are frail, fragile, vulnerable human beings. Very few of us are perfect - you might be - I certainly am not! Lent must be a time for us to take stock of our lives; our priorities, our needs, our sins, our strengths and weaknesses. Have we got the priorities right? Do we need to rethink our lives in some way or other?  How much room is there in our heart for God?  Is  our Christian Faith something we focus on for one hour each week or is it the thing that drives every moment of our lives? A good Lent will, sadly, mean some tough questions to wrestle with and more than likely some adjustments to be made. That re-assessing of our lives is one of the ways we prepare ourselves for Easter. The Easter message requires us to “go out to the whole world, and proclaim the Good News”. All well and good. But we first have to accept that Good News in our own hearts and lives. Accepting unconditional love and forgiveness is one of the most difficult things for human beings to do.
Lent is a journey - a journey which may make us at times feel isolated, and yet a journey which takes us closer to the heart of God. The true Lent can come at any time!
The only price-tag that can be put on unconditional love is ‘pain’. The cross teaches us that. So let us not be afraid of the journey even though it may at times be unpleasant and make us feel uncomfortable. Sadly that is the only road which will ultimately lead us to the glory of Easter.

Special Services and Events  during the Season of Lent

5th March ASH WEDNESDAY - the First Day of Lent
  10.30am Holy Eucharist with hymns in S. Mary‘s Waterloo
  8.00pm SOLEMN EUCHARIST and imposition of ashes  followed by Baked Bean Supper (SFH)

Sunday Sermons during Lent at the 11am Sung Eucharist
A series of sermons seeking to explain something of the ritual and tradition of the Holy Week Liturgies

Sunday 9th March    -The Liturgy of Palm Sunday‘
Sunday 16th March  -The Liturgy of Maundy Thursday‘
Sunday 23rd March  -The Liturgy of Good Friday‘
Sunday 6th April      -The Liturgy of Holy Saturday‘

Sundays during Lent

7.00pm   Sung Compline (plainsong) and Benediction

Wednesdays in Lent: A series of Bible Studies at S. Mary’s  following the 1030 Holy Communion Service

12th March Introduction and background to S. Mark‘s Gospel: Chapter 1:1-15
19th March Ministry in Galilee, chapters 2:1 - 6:13
26th March Journey to Jerusalem, S. Mark chapters 8:31 - 10:52
2nd April   The Passion and the empty tomb, S. Mark chapters 14:1 - 16:8
9th April    Ministry in Jerusalem. S. Mark chapters 11-13.

Fridays during Lent
6.30pm  Stations of the Cross and Holy Eucharist

Saturdays during Lent
10.00am   The Rosary

Parish Lenten Retreat

March 14th - March 16th at Parceval Hall, Skipton led by Fr. Michael Channell (S. John Baptist, Cirencester)

Sacrament of Reconciliation

There will be an opportunity, for those who wish, to make their Confession during Holy Week in preparation for the Great Feast of Easter. If anyone wishes to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation at any other time during Lent please contact Fr. Neil.

In addition to these special Services the Eucharist is celebrated daily.

What will you be doing to mark the season of Lent?

A Message to ‘Newslink’ Readers

BOB METCALF, Archdeacon Emeritus of Liverpool, has sent this heartwarming message to the people of St Faith’s.

I have known St Faith’s Church for just over 40 years!  It all started when I was first ordained to serve a curacy at Christ Church Bootle, in September 1962.  But I came from an ecclesiastical ‘stable’‘ which didn‘t encourage me to mix too much with the ‘High Church’, so it’s unlikely that many of you knew me!

Thank God that times have changed. Having been ordained along with Peter Goodrich, and then having had the privilege of sharing ministry with Richard Capper as my colleague at Wavertree, it is with delight that I came to know you much better.  More latterly, of course, St Faith‘s was in the Archdeaconry I served: all of you, together with Neil, have always made me very welcome on the many visits I have made to see you, and the worship has been a joy to share with you.  So often, those visits have been coupled with social activities, which have always been good fun within the fellowship. Further, during the anxious months of family illness, you have never failed to uphold the family in prayer, and regularly to call and ask how things have been.  This has meant so much to Rachel and myself, knowing that we have been prayerfully upheld at all times. So ‘High Church’ or not (whatever that may mean) is irrelevant - St Faith’s is the powerhouse of prayer I have been grateful to know.

Not only all of that!  Ever since your ‘Newslink’ won that prestigious award (top Church Magazine in the country in a competition some years ago. Ed!), I have been sent a copy month by month.  It has never failed to be good reading and I have been promised a regular copy in my retirement.  I must admit that I have often spurned your copyright to use extracts in sermons and talks! Reading it has enabled me to feel that I know you even better and I have been enabled to share prayerfully in so many of your Sunday and weekday activities.

Naturally enough, in retirement, one suddenly ceases to know what’s going on in the Diocese! So I am grateful for the promise of the continuing delivery of ‘Newslink’ to someone who will read it, but in a more leisurely way than before, and perhaps reclining in an armchair! Please don‘t send it to Church House - I don‘t go in there very often nowadays!

Much more important, though, is my appreciation of your kindness over the years, and for keeping me in touch the way you have.  There‘s no other way of saying this -     just a simple, yet very sincere - thank you so much.  And be assured of my continuing prayers for you all.

Funny you  should say that....

Fr Dennis’s Bumper Fun Book offers another gem.

A drunk stumbles along to a baptismal service on a Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeds to tumble down into the water and stands next to the minister. The minister turns, notices the old drunk and says, 'Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?‘

The drunk looks back and says. ‘Yes sir, I am.’

The minister then dunks the fellow under the water and pulls him right back up.

‘Have you found Jesus?’ the minister asks.

‘No, I haven’t!’ says the drunk.

The minister then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, ‘Now brother, have you found Jesus?’

‘No, I have not!’ says the drunk again.

Disgusted, the minister holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time, brings him up and demands, ‘For the grace of God, have you found Jesus yet?’

The old drunk wipes his eyes and pleads, ‘Are you sure this is where he fell in?’

BILL TUDHOPE gave this 'Guardian' article (by Giles Tremlett) to FATHER DENNIS, so it has impeccable ecumenical, liberal and priestly credentials.

Mischievous Saint gets to the Bottom of Parishioners’ Woes

If another church had not grabbed the name, it might be called the Church of Moonies. For a small chapel at Murtosa, northern Portugal, is the only Roman Catholic church where it is acceptable to drop your trousers and show your bum.

The reason? The local saint, an allegedly mischievous chap called Goncalo, has a reputation for curing haemorrhoids. All you have to do is show him the affected region, say a prayer and, according to the locals, bottom pain becomes a thing of the past.

Villagers say people have been showing Saint Goncalo their bottoms for decades, often as a sign of having their prayers answered and their haemorrhoids eliminated.

Members of the church elaborate. ‘Women came in their nightwear and the men in their drawers. They would come with a basket of corn cakes and eat them in front of the saint, before eating them with sausages,’ one said. ‘It was even worse in the old days. At least people have a bit of shame nowadays.’

A 52-year-old gardener testifies further. He knows of many who have lowered their trousers to the saint. ‘My son Paulo often comes here because of his acne.’

The mischievous saint has a loyal local following. Every June, during a festival in his honour in the nearby town of Amarante, unmarried men and women exchange *****-shaped cakes as tokens of their affection.

(The asterisks are inserted to protect the sensitive. This is, after all, a Church magazine and we have no wish to offend our members. Ed.)

Would You Believe It? ‘Euro rules force Church bodies to employ atheists’
Chris Price

Jonathan Petrie of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ used to be called its Religious Correspondent: now he is (subtle difference) its Religion Correspondent. The change is surely not connected with any loss of faith, since his reports for that paper are usually both informed and sympathetic to the church. He has, however, a less than total enthusiasm for the workings of European bureaucracy, as the rather sensationalist headline above recently shows.

It concerns proposed Government regulations, based on a European Union directive which has to be implemented by December of this year, and which bans discrimination in the workplace ‘on the grounds of religion, belief or sexual orientation’. All very laudable in practice, but, as they say, the devil is in the detail. And the Christian Institute is up in arms. ‘They say the laws will restrict the freedom of religious organisations to employ solely staff who are practising believers.’

It doesn’t help, the reporter says, that political parties are exempt from the laws, ?so that the Labour Party will be able to continue its policy of employing only party members’. The Institute, Mr Petrie reports, says that ?While the Vegetarian Society can refuse to employ meat-eaters and the RSPCA can sack an executive who is found to have invested in the fur trade, churches which employ Christians could now face legal action for doing so.‘ If a youth worker employed by a Christian Church converts to Islam, but argues that he can still do the job, the Church cannot dismiss him. And in a final flight of imagination, if this worker then becomes a Satanist there is still absolutely nothing the Church can do about it.

In practice, I can’t see this being a big problem. It is hard to imagine Moslem extremists, nor even deadly hordes of devil worshippers, secretly infiltrating the church and bringing it (metaphorically rather than spiritually) to its knees. And the laughable excesses of cumbersome catch-all European Union legislation, although showing little sign of diminishing, have a healthy tendency to lose their menace when filtered through common-sense local politics and subjected to the reality of test cases.

But perhaps the underlying principles do give rise to some concern. Professor Ian Leigh, of Durham University, and a human rights lawyer, says: ‘The Government regulations have the potential seriously to undermine freedom of association for religious people. They place the modern concept of ‘equality’ over and above religious liberty.’ And, if this proves to be the case, there is food for thought for all of us.

Lost in Translation

Following a parish visit in Rome, the Pope was quoted as having said that those who overcome fear and anxiety and put their trust in God will never go bald. This caused great excitement among the follically challenged until an offical translation was circulated. What the Pope actually said was:

‘The Lord promises salvation to anyone who places his trust in him: not a hair of your head will perish.’

Charity Fun Day

On Thursday 27th March there will be an OPEN MEETING at 8.00 p.m. to begin planning for the CHARITY FUN DAY which is to take place on Saturday 12 July.  Last year’s Fun Day was a great success and raised a good sum for some very good causes, and we would like this year‘s to be even better — so please come along with your ideas and suggestions.

In Memoriam: ‘Columbia’   Chris Price

President Bush, in these worrying weeks as war looms over us all, comes in for a lot of criticism for what many see as his aggressive stance on war with Iraq. But in the wake of the sudden and tragic loss of the space shuttle ‘Columbia’, his public statement shows him in a different light: as the leader of a nation which puts God at the centre of its thinking in a national disaster, and is not ashamed to quote scripture and the promise of eternity in seeking to comfort those who mourn. Before it gets submerged in the tides of war and politics, some of his words can stand as a memorial to those who died.

‘All Americans today are thinking of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You‘re not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you. And those you loved will always have the respect and gratitude of this country.

The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will continue.

In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet further than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing.’

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we know today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.’

Through an unexpected chain of events, coincidences and electronic correspondence, the most welcome message which we print below has arrived on the editorial desk (printer!).

It speaks for itself and will, I hope be the beginning and not the end of a link. I have sent copies not only of my poetry but of NEWSLINK and look forward to exchanges in the months ahead. Ed. 

‘Faith to Faith’

I have never doubted that God moves in the most mysterious ways. If I hadn‘t lost a much-loved book of poetry to a clerical colleague (clergy are notoriously bad at returning books) I wouldn‘t have spent some effort in tracking down the author, and I wouldn’t be writing to you now! You may well have guessed that the poet is your own Chris Price, but equally well you may be asking why I am writing to you to tell you.

On making contact with Chris at the beginning of the year I was amazed to hear of his connection with St. Faith‘s‘ as I am the curate of St. Faith‘s, Llanishen in Cardiff and they tell me there are only three St. Faith‘s‘ in Britain. (Actually more than that, but certainly not that many. Ed.)

Our Church is about 45 years old and, like yours, is red brick built. It looks a bit like a health centre! It is a modern style and a dual-purpose building, with a good stage at one end and ‘God’s end’, which is full of Frank Roper metalwork and unusual coloured glass (large chunks set into the east wall, as opposed to a stained glass window) at the other.

St. Faith’s is the daughter church of the parish; the main church is a centuries-old stone building in excellent repair and dedicated to the Welsh saint, Isan. For many years St. Faith’s has been the poor relation, with little money or care spent on it, except that its congregation love it. But I love St. Faith’s too, and during the recent interregnum, which lasted nearly a year, and now with the added bonus of encouragement from my new Vicar, I have been encouraging the people to ‘see what we can do about our church’. In less than six months we have raised over £5,000 pounds and bought new chairs, done some decorating, increased our congregation and better served the local community and social projects in Cardiff.

It is a very exciting time for us. It has been made even more exciting for me by our newly forged links with you and I continue to be amazed at coincidences. Recently we even had to cancel our proposed production of ‘Cinderella’ for the same reasons as you . . .

I hope this is only the beginning of our relationship together in the love of Christ. I will arrange for a selection of photographs, so that you can see who we are and what we do. Please keep us in your prayers as we struggle into the 21st century (from somewhere in the 19th I think!) under the guidance of Fr. Michael.

In the hope of forging a strong bond between our congregations and with greetings in Christian love

Your sister-in-Christ

The Rev‘d Gillian George-Rogers 

Food for Thought

DEREK WILLIAMS is Communications Officer for the Peterborough Diocese and the Diocese in Europe. and he wrote recently this Press Review for the 'Christian Herald’:

This is my final press column; additional local church responsibilities now reduce my time for other activities. I shall miss my monthly trawl through the papers, but as I was born with ink in my veins and with with reading a companion reflex to breathing, my fascination with the fourth estate is unending.
I wanted to reflect here on trends, and Brian MacArthur, reviewing the coverage of Myra Hindley’s death, almost wrote it for me in The Times. He said the headlines greeting her death ‘were the most shocking I can remember in 40 years as a journalist.’

They included the Daily Express’s send off: ‘Go to hell’ and The Sun’s confident assertion that she had already arrived there. Murderers, it seems, are not allowed to receive God‘s forgiveness even if friends claim they have sought it.

‘here was a brutality and mercilessness in these headlines, especially from newspapers that constantly ask why Britain has become such a violent society,’ MacArthur wrote. He contrasted this reaction with that which greeted the original jail sentence.

‘The Daily Mirror (then) simply told the news: ‘Brady and Hindley go  to jail for life.’ It didn't shout ‘Monster caged’ as it might in a tabloid today.’ To the defence that papers reflect their readers’ views, Derek Williams commented, ‘editors have a duty to lead opinion as well as follow it.’

Alongside that was the recent declaration by a TV executive that TV news is ‘boring’ and that different channels should offer ‘viewpoints’ instead of an even-handed balance of reported opinions. That, with emotive journalism, offers a gloomy prognosis  for the future of truth.
Pontius Pilate lives: the world is asking ‘What is truth?’ not out of deep  concern but with a shrug of resignation. Who knows? Who cares? Why worry? My opinion is all that matters.

But God knows; Christians care because truth is critical to the Gospel; and we worry because it is a Christian responsibility to support and protect others. We also believe in redemption, and in being ‘salt and light’ in an unsavoury and dark world.

So don‘t cancel your newspaper or switch off the news. Instead, encourage your church to keep local media aware of the positive things it’s doing. If they get it wrong, react with gentle understanding not with righteous indignation. It’s part of our  mission to bring truth to light, and we can leave the outcome to the God whose truth will one day become clear.

From the Registers

10 JanuaryVera Larcombe
7 FebruaryVernon Ford

Holy Baptism
2 FebruarySophie Eleanor Carol Court daughter of Steven and Helen
Eve Marie McMahon daughter of Carl and Paula

For all the Saints   Chris Price
It wasn‘t until Marie Bramwell asked whether I could help with someone‘s homework (not hers!) that I became familiar with the shields and emblems of the Apostles. I knew one or two of them from various adornments at St Faith‘s and elsewhere, but had to fall back on the internet to fill in the gaps. It took the admirable Google search engine 0.12 seconds to tell me that it had 6,100 websites containing the words ‘Apostles’ and ‘Emblems’ - and the third on the list instantly showed up, under 'Shields and Emblems of the Apostles’, a shield picture and a few facts about them.
To while away a few idle moments (I’m sure a few readers must have a few of these), here are the 13 drawings (not on the web: sorry!). Anyone who can identify them without having recourse to the facts below deserves a prize, but probably won‘t get one. Everyone else can, as I did, add to their knowledge of the faith.
Stuck on one or two? Here they are, in order of appearance. The brief ‘cv’s explain the emblems, some of which are fairly gruesome. The factual summaries are abbreviated from the information on the website: I was interested to  note how many of them contained phrases like ‘it is possible’ or ‘may have been’ or ‘traditionally’, suggesting that, like the life and story of our own St Faith, quite a lot of what we take as history is likely to be the product of pious imagination in succeeding centuries.

Saint Andrew (November 30)
Peter‘s brother: said to have founded the Church in Russia. Patron of Russia and Scotland. Crucified in Greece on a cross saltaire (hence the Scottish flag).

Saint Bartholomew (August 24)
Probably preached near border of India and Armenia. Traditions says he was flayed alive, crucified and then beheaded.

Saint James the Greater (July 25)
Brother of John, son of Zebedee. Preached in Jerusalem and Spain. Beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12.2). The scallop shell represents pilgrimage by sea and the sword is martyrdom. Sometimes shown as three shells and no sword.

Saint James the Less (May 1; with Philip)
Based on Jerusalem and may have been its first bishop. Is said to have been pushed from a pinnacle of the Temple aged 96. Near death he asked forgiveness of his enemies, who then beat him with a fuller’s bat and sawed him in pieces.

Saint John (December 27)
Bishop in Ephesus, exiled to Patmos then returned. Only disciple to die naturally, after surviving attempt to kill him with a poisoned chalice. (See St Faith’‘s reredos mosaic. Ed)

Saint Jude (October 28; jointly with Simon)
Also known as Thaddeus. May have travelled with Simon. Death unknown, but may have been martyred with Simon.

Saint Matthew (September 21)
Tax collector son of Alphaeus; was also known as Levi. Preached in Palestine and Ethiopia. May have died naturally or been crucified and beheaded. Emblem: three purses.

Saint Matthias (February 24)
Replacement for Judas: worked in Judea or Ethiopia. Said to have been stoned and then beheaded.

Saint Paul (January 25)
Known as Saul of Tarsus before conversion. Missionary journeys to Syria, Cyprus, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece and elsewhere. Wrote (perhaps) 14 Epistles. Martyred (probably beheaded) in Rome, 68 A.D. Spoke of the word of God as ?The Sword of the Spirit‘.

Saint Peter (June 29)
Known also as Simon or Cephas; brother of Andrew. Leading Apostle after Pentecost. Crucified in Rome under Nero. Allegedly asked to be crucified upside down as unworthy. The keys represent Jesus‘ promise of the keys of heaven.

Saint Philip (May 1; with St James)
Possibly missionary to Phrygia and Galatia. Said to have been martyred by crucifixion or the spear, or bound to a cross and stoned to death. Two loaves of bread recall his comment at feeding of the multitude (John 6.7)

Saint Simon (October 28; with Jude)
Known as the Zealot. Missionary areas uncertain. May have been beheaded or sawn in pieces in Persia. Emblems portray him as a fisher of men.

Saint Thomas (December 21)
Evangelist in Persia and India, where he is reported to have built a church with his own hands. Died when shot with arrows, stoned and left to die. A priest then ran a spear through him.

Numerical Footnote.
I had always vaguely thought there were twelve of them and was puzzled to find thirteen names and pictures. Then I read that Matthias was a replacement for Judas. But Judas didn't have an entry: so who was the thirteenth? It turned out to be Paul, who isn't on the original biblical list. So that makes 12, 13 or 14 depending on how you look at it ...

Prayers for use during the season of Lent

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent.  Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect forgiveness and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

O Lord, my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you. You have made me and remade me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire; let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you; let me love you when I find you.

Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart; that so desiring, we may seek and find you; and so finding, may love you; and so loving, may hate those sins from which you have delivered us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hip, Hip, Hooray*
As many of you may know, Fr. Dennis is shortly to have a hip operation which will mean he will be off for a number of weeks. We assure him of our prayers and good wishes for a successful operation and a speedy recovery. (We also pray for the good sisters at Ince Blundell who will take care of him post-operation. I am certain the rumour that they have employed extra kitchen staff for the duration of his stay is totally unfounded!)
Quite seriously, we will miss Fr. Dennis’ ministrations while he is off and look forward to welcoming him back in due course. We assure him of our love and prayers.
Fr. Neil

(*Blame me for the title! Ed.)

The Church’s Healing Ministry  Joyce Green

One of the things I like about Mark’s Gospel is that he doesn’t beat about the bush but gets straight into the action. The first chapter is filled with urgency and immediacy. We have the Jordan baptism, the temptation in the wilderness, the preaching and healing in the synagogue, and then the healing of Peter‘s mother-in-law. This is immediately followed by many other healings before the first chapter ends.
Mark wants us to know that with Jesus, a new order has begun, creation is being renewed and an important part of that new order involves restoring people to wholeness of being. When some friends brought a sick companion to Jesus for healing, the first thing Jesus did was to forgive the man his sins. There are times in our lives too, when  pills and potions, whilst curing our bodily ills, do nothing for the mental anguish often suffered at times when we are at our most vulnerable. These are the times when only God can help.
The Jews of Jesus’ time saw a connection between sin and suffering. Who has sinned, they asked, this man or his parents that he was born blind? Jesus never promotes this view but he nevertheless maintains that his power over disease is evidence of his power to forgive sin. Today we know that things which grieve the mind can often affect the body and vice-versa. Jesus himself saw the connection between his healing ministry and the salvation he came to offer when he said: ‘They that are whole  have no need of a doctor, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’
Jesus commanded his disciples to go out into all the world to preach the Gospel and to heal the sick, and they did. We see references to the ministry of healing both in Acts, where there are many healings, and in the letter of James where Christians are asked: ‘Is anyone among you in trouble? He should turn to prayer. Is anyone in good heart? He should sing praises, Is one of you ill? He should send for the elders of the congregation to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer offered in faith will save the sick man, the Lord will raise him from his bed and any sins he may have committed will be forgiven.’ The church’s ministry today, our ministry is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

For many centuries the church ignored this command of Jesus, to heal the sick, preferring to concentrate on preaching the good news. But healing is an integral part of that good news. Christ wants us to be healed, wants our relationships with God, with each other, with our environment to be relationships where we know the mighty power of his love and by it are made whole. The healing ministry of the church offers us a glimpse of the future, of a time when God‘s kingdom will be established and the whole of creation renewed. Healing, reconciliation and restoration are integral to the Gospel and so it is right that the church should continue to offer the ministry of healing by the  laying on of hands or anointing. When a child hurts itself, the natural reaction is to hug it and offer to kiss the hurt better. Actions can often speak louder than words and when we as adults are hurt it is often the simple hug or hand around the shoulder which conveys love and healing far more powerfully than any word could do. Jesus himself frequently used touch as a way to heal.
Amongst those who went on the first St Faith’s trip to Walsingham were many who expressed their appreciation of the healing service which they attended there, and felt that it was something which they would value if it were to be offered in our own churches. The ministry team have discussed this and feel that the time is right to test the water. The suggested format would be a service of prayer for the sick with the opportunity for the laying on of hands and or anointing for those who wish it. It would be held one evening a month using both churches alternately. Many years ago we held such services at St. Faith’s and it was felt then, as it is now, that this is a ministry of the whole church, not just the ministry team. We would therefore need a small team of people who would be willing to assist with the laying on of hands. It goes without saying that we would also need a regular group of people who are prepared to come along and offer prayers for the sick.
On your behalf, the ministry team has approached Father Paul Nener, vicar of St. John‘s Tuebrook, who is experienced in this ministry and is willing to come and talk to those who express an interest. It would be good to get this ministry off the ground again and we would like to invite all who are interested, or even just curious to indicate their willingness to come along to such a meeting. As soon as we feel we have a viable group we will invite Paul along to speak to us, and hopefully inaugurate the healing ministry into the lives of our united benefice soon afterwards. A list is  available at the back of the church for you to sign up if you are interested in learning more about this ministry.

Open Letter to St Faith’s Family

Dear ‘Family’,

I am writing to express my sincere thanks to everyone who is giving me so much support during my bout of anxiety and depression. I have found that there are a lot of people at St Faith’s who have ‘been there’ and understand just how black every day seems. You have no idea how much this helps - to know so many of you have suffered the same loss of control over things we all take for granted, such as rational thinking, decision making, coping with socialising, (in my case) driving the car, trying to live a normal life, and have come through it, is the greatest inspiration of all.

Several years ago, when we lived in Plymouth, Martin was serving in the Royal Navy, and was away on service for 6 months. During that time, I was very low, and my doctor prescribed anti-depressants. Now, I realise I was probably suffering from no more than severe loneliness and homesickness. The church we were attending at the time were unaware how bad I was feeling; even though we had made some friends, no-one realised that anything was out of the ordinary, although I would not go to church for weeks on end, as I was unable to face people. Naturally, this hasn‘t happened at St Faith’s! So many good wishes and prayers have helped me enormously. I won’t embarrass anyone by naming them - you know who you are! However, two people I don’t mind embarrassing are Mum and particularly, Martin. They have been my constant support and strength, so I give them, and everyone at St Faith’s, all my love and thanks.

Miriam Jones