The Parish Magazine of St Faith`s Church, Great Crosby
Return to St Faith`s Home Page
From the Ministry Team
The Advent Wreath
Advent wreaths have their origins in the folk traditions of northern Europe, where in the deep of winter, people lit candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. Both the evergreen and the circular shape symbolised ongoing life. The candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of year, as people looked forward to the longer days of spring. Later, Eastern European Christians adopted this practice. By the sixteenth century, they were making Advent wreaths much as we know them today.
The Advent wreath is a popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year. Since the wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story, there are various ways to understand the symbolism. The exact meaning given to the various aspects of the wreath are not as important as the story to which it invites us to listen.
The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which have no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. Candles symbolise the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolise the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. There are usually three purple candles, corresponding to the sanctuary colours of Advent, and one pink or rose candle.
The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope (or in some traditions, Prophecy). This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of 2
the Messiah and the Redemption of the world. And yet, the world is not yet fully redeemed. So, we again with expectation, with hope, await God‘s new work in history, the second Advent, in which He will again reveal Himself to the world. The remaining three candles of Advent may be associated with different aspects of the Advent story in different churches, or even in different years. Usually they are organised around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season. So, the sequence for the remaining three Sundays might be Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels. Or Peace, Joy, Love. Or John the Baptist, the Magi, Mary. Or the Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfilment. The third candle for the Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally Pink or Rose, and symbolises Joy at the Advent of the Christ. Often, the colours of the sanctuary and vestments are also changed to Rose for this Sunday, which is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete, which means ?rejoice‘ in Latin, is the opening word of the traditional Introit for that Sunday: Rejoice! the Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4). The centre candle is called the Christ Candle, and is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Day. The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that Christ is at the centre of all, giving light to the world.
During Advent, the wreath can be used as a powerful aid to our meditations. The light of the candles provides in itself an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world coming into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolises the various aspects of our waiting. As the candles are lighted over the four-week period, the light also symbolises the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ Candle is lighted at Christmas. May the Christ Candle and the wreath itself remind us all that the incarnation is at the heart of all that we do, both in church and in the everyday living-out of our faith.
Many Thanks ...
To all who worked so hard in any way for our celebrations of S. Faith‘s Day, Harvest and Dedication Festival. So many people have said how much they enjoyed it all (and I know Bishop Michael was very impressed with the high standard of catering!) It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend - here‘s to many more! The gift of the Icon from Margaret Bell was so gratefully received and will be given pride of place in the Lady Chapel by the votive candle-stand. We send our love and thanks to her and Fr. Robert for that special gift and for being with us for the celebrations.
That used to be (literally) a burning question in the days when Christians had a more vivid image of hell and damnation than they do now. But it‘s still a question worth asking today; St Luke‘s Gospel may help us to find some answers — the stories and parables recorded by St Luke are often concerned with saving the lost: the lost sheep; the lost coin; the lost son.
But before we get into the Gospel stories — what do we want to be saved from? If we were living in a developing country we would want to be delivered from hunger, poverty and fear — fear of violence, civil war and natural disasters. Even here in comfortable Crosby and Waterloo we still need to be saved — saved from the fear of pain, illness and death, and from the fear of loneliness and isolation. Whatever our backgrounds, as human beings we all need to feel that we matter as individuals, that we are not abandoned by the cosmos. We want our lives to have meaning and purpose, and we need to love and be loved.
The need for salvation doesn‘t alter very much down the ages. In the Parish Church of Fairford in Gloucestershire there is a wonderful fifteenth century west window depicting the Last Judgement. Below are the souls tormented in hell: naked, terrified by demons and in constant pain. There is a world of fear and isolation in which human relationships are no longer possible. And above stand the glorious multitude of the saved, enjoying recognition and status, enjoying each other‘s company and that of their Saviour. Since that window was fashioned, the passing of over five hundred years hasn‘t altered our fear of all that destroys and diminishes us; hasn‘t altered our yearning to be alive and fully human. And it is of course our Christian hope that we can be saved.
But how on earth, or in heaven, can this be achieved? What must we do to be saved, to inherit eternal life?
The sort of answers you get will depend partly on your churchmanship. A conventional answer would stress the need for Baptism. An Evangelical would say that you should accept Jesus as your personal saviour and take Him into your life. When Linda and I were at University, our Christian Union friends would pray for our salvation because we had joined the Anglican chaplaincy! To be saved, you had to do the right things, act in the right way. But whatever your churchmanship, there can be too much emphasis on what you should do. On the Catholic wing of the Church you should live a life of prayer and go frequently to Mass and Confession. And in the old-style C. of E., to be saved you should live a life of genteel respectability, avoid all suggestion of rumour and scandal, and certainly keep away from any hint of enthusiasm about religion!
In St Luke, chapter 18, a rich young man comes to Jesus and asks: ?what should I do to inherit eternal life?‘ We can learn a lot from Jesus‘ answer. Firstly, something immediate and practical is necessary: do something about relieving poverty. Jesus tells the young man to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Whatever our Christian hopes for eternity, salvation begins here and now, with the material things of this world. There is no hope in eternity unless we start the work of salvation today — and that responsibility is ours. As Christian Aid puts it, we believe in life before death.
And secondly, and more importantly, it is not so much what we do, as who we are, what we can become, that can lead to our salvation. It is through our relationships with each other, and with our saviour, that the world can be saved and we along with it. We are told that Jesus looked at the young man and loved him, because He knew the potential of that young man‘s personality. But Jesus also knew that, unless he could give up his addiction to property and possessions, he would never grow as a human being, would never be saved. And when he parted from Jesus he was very thoughtful and sad. You and I surely know one or two people who are trapped in the same cage: a cage of addiction to money or success or lifestyle, to alcohol or drugs; people who will never grow in love, never be saved, unless they can leave these things behind them.
And so it is not what we do that is important for our salvation: or rather, what we do is important only in so far as it liberates us for a closer relationship with our Saviour and with each other. How this actually happens is still a mystery. Preaching a sermon, I‘m always faced with a choice: should I be dwelling on the love and forgiveness and saving power of God — or on our own need for repentance and changed lives? Which, in the end, is more likely to save the world? But, of course, there is no real distinction between these two ?arms‘ of salvation. In the person of Jesus we see a human being where the distinction between God and Man becomes totally blurred, where it is no longer possible to see the difference between God‘s initiative and Man‘s response.
It was in this two-way flow of love, in that relationship between
Father and the Son, that the Incarnation and the Resurrection became
And it is within the love and the mystery and the excitement of our
with God and with one another, that the world can be changed, and
which we will find our salvation.
Regular readers will know of this writer‘s interest in the origins of the splendid reredos which is the crowning glory of St Faith‘s sanctuary. They will also be aware that, despite efforts over the period of the Centenary and afterwards, we drew a blank as to the precise origins of the reredos, other than believing it to be the work of Salviati of Venice, and to have been brought back from there by our founder, Douglas Horsfall, to be installed in St Faith‘s some time after the 1900 consecration.
Just recently, a new clue has been unearthed, and a trail emerges which will be worth following. A contact from the Walker Art Gallery, although unable to help us when asked a few years back, has now told me that,while researching the noteworthy buildings of Liverpool, he came across an article in a 1900 edition of the magazine ?The Builder‘, recording the building of our church. It apparently credits Herbert Bryans as the designer of the reredos, and Salviati merely as the firm who carried out the commission to build it to Bryans‘ design.
The name of Bryans himself came up some years back when a descendant
of the man, on the trail of his work, identified him as the designer,
his firm as the makers, of the St Faith‘s window, the oldest stained
in St Faith‘s. It would appear that the firm made not merely glass but
such things as glass mosaic; if they were indeed behind the designing
our reredos, then it is of English origin. Needless to say, when time
of following up this lead, we will hope to find out more about the
thing and solve another of the minor mysteries surrounding the early
of St Faith‘s. Watch this space!
Miriam concludes her saga of the recent parish pilgrimage to Walsinhgam — see also the pictures on the centre pages.
The torchlight procession of Our Lady and Benediction at 8.15 p.m. was surely one of the most beautiful and thought-evoking services to which I‘ve ever been. Martin was privileged to be thurifer, although grateful not to have been told about it until after supper as he might not have been able to eat through nervousness! Lovely music, albeit slightly `out of sync‘ once outside, and a true sense of the humility of Mary helped me to understand the importance of this remarkable woman. I have always been rather sceptical of the devotion given to Mary, but this weekend gave me an insight of why we hold her in such esteem. People think ?girl power‘ is new ™ how many women, then or now, would have done what was asked of Mary? She was chosen, and she answered her calling with grace and great humility; no wonder she is adored (more tears for Miriam).
After breakfast on Sunday, we had intercessions for those we hold dear in the Holy House, yet another emotional experience for me ™ how lucky I am, in so many different ways. Then, on to the Parish Church of St Mary for Parish Mass at 11 a.m., where prayers were offered for everyone in our parishes back home.
Following lunch came the sprinkling at the well, laying-on of hands and anointing, about which I knew nothing! Boy, was I glad for my Pilgrim‘s manual (again!). It explains briefly, and in Miriam-friendly terms, what everything means. Also, the beauty of standing by a pillar is you can see what everyone else is doing first! Anyway the sprinkling went okay, although there‘s no actual sprinkling! There are 3 stages, a drink, mark of the cross of the head and pouring of holy water into the hands. The only disconcerting bit is the fact that the holy water is in a green plastic bucket and you take your sip of water from a soup ladle! I had never been to any kind of laying-on of hands before, largely due to the embarrassment of all the hairspray ™ no amount of healing powers or Holy Spirit could get through that lot! However, my need to ask for prayer for someone close to me overcame my blushes and I experienced something very powerful ™ I don‘t know what, but something (more waterworks).
Next, we were invited to have our `items of devotion‘ rosary
pictures, books etc blessed by Fr Neil. Then came the final
of our pilgrimage, procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Last Visit
the Holy House. Ged and Iain were acolytes (makes a change) and the
around the grounds was equally as moving as the one in torchlight had
the previous evening. The wonderful and uplifting Benediction was
by everyone saying together 8
the Nunc Dimittis and final prayers. At the end, all sang the `farewell‘ to the tune of `Dear Lord and Father of mankind‘, which happens to be my favourite hymn (crying again)!
The journey home began I have to say I tried to doze most of the time, a couple of lateish nights and an emotionally inspiring weekend left me wanting to but unable to sleep. Also, digressing to last year‘s trip, you may remember references to ?Perpetua‘ the all-singing, all-dancing ostrich? Well, she came again this year! If Iain Harvey had his wish, she would have had her blessing as an item of devotion! Anyway, whilst on the coach, she became unattached to her base, still singing and dancing. Amid all the hilarity, Fr Neil, sitting sideways on the seat by the emergency exit (which has slightly more leg room) also fell off his perch, resulting in gales of laughter from those of us sitting near. Joan Jones gave me the quote of the weekend, ?I don‘t know what they‘re laughing at, it could be filthy, but it‘s so infectious, I can‘t help but join in!‘
I feel like that about my trip to Walsingham I couldn‘t help but join in. I know it‘s not everyone‘s cup of tea, and it wouldn‘t do if we were all the same anyway, would it? No two members of a blood-related family are exactly the same in all they think, say or do, yet usually manage to respect each other‘s points of view, so why should the family of Christ be any different?
One of the booklets about Walsingham says they never claim that the holy waters, or being there, ever produces miracles, but there are things that transform people‘s lives. Martin has said that following his disappointment earlier in the year, he went to Walsingham still with a certain amount of pain in his heart, and has come back without it. I, for my part, have begun to understand the need for different forms of worship, be it family-orientated, rosary, benediction, laying-on of hands. In the atmosphere of Walsingham I found most of these uplifting, but back in reality, I have to search to find which ones are for me.
When all‘s said and done, I shall be going back next year for some
hope to see you there!
The Books of the Bible
In Genesis the world was made by God's creative hand;
In Exodus the Hebrews marched to gain the Promised Land;
Leviticus contains the law, holy, and just and good.
Numbers records the tribes enrolled — all sons of Abraham's blood.
Moses, in Deuteronomy records God‘s mighty deeds;
Brave Joshua into Canaan‘s land the host of Israel leads.
In Judges their rebellion oft provokes the Lord to smite,
But Ruth records the faith of one well pleasing in His sight.
In First and Second Samuel of Jesse‘s son we read.
Ten Tribes in First and Second Kings revolted from his seed.
The First and Second Chronicles see Judah captive made;
But Ezra leads a remnant back by princely Cyrus‘ aid.
The city wall of Zion Nehemiah builds again,
While Esther saves her people from the plots of wicked men.
In Job we read how faith will live beneath affliction‘s rod,
And David‘s psalms are precious songs to every child of God.
The Proverbs like a goodly string of choicest pearls appear.
Ecclesiastes teaches man how vain are all things here.
The mystic Song of Solomon exalts sweet Sharon‘s Rose;
Whilst Christ, the Saviour and the King, the rapt Isaiah shows.
The warning Jeremiah apostate Israel scorns;
His plaintive Lamentations their awful downfall mourns. :
Ezekiel tells in wondrous words of dazzling mysteries;
While kings and empires yet to come, Daniel in vision sees.
Of judgment and of mercy, Hosea loves to tell;
Joel describes the blessed days when God with man shall dwell.
Among Tekoa‘s herdsmen Amos received his call;
While Obadiah prophesies of Edom‘s final fall.
Jonah enshrines a wondrous type of Christ, our risen Lord,
Micah pronounces Judah lost — lost, but again restored.
Nahum declares on Nineveh just judgment shall be poured,
A view of Chaldea‘s coming doom Habakkuk's visions give;
Next, Zephaniah warns the Jews to turn, repent, and live.
Haggai wrote to those who saw the Temple built again,
And Zechariah prophesied of Christ‘s triumphant reign.
Malachi was the last who touched the high prophetic chord;
Its final notes sublimely show the coming of the Lord.
Matthew and Mark and Luke and John the holy Gospels wrote.
Describing how the Saviour died — His life, and all He taught.
Acts proves how God the apostles owned with signs in every place.
Samt Paul, in Romans, teaches us how man is saved by grace.
The apostle, in Corinthians, instructs, exhorts, reproves.
Galatians shows that faith in Christ alone the Father loves.
Ephesians and Philippians tell what Christians ought to be.
Colossians bids us live to God and for eternity.
In Thessalonians we are taught the Lord will come from heaven.
In Timothy and Titus a bishop‘s rule is given.
Philemon marks a Christian‘s love, which only Christians know.
Hebrews reveals the gospel prefigured by the law.
James teaches, Without holiness faith is but vain and dead.
Saint Peter points the narrow way in which the saints are led.
John in his three Epistles on love delights to dwell.
Saint Jude gives awful warning of judgment, wrath and hell.
The Revelation prophesies of that tremendous day
When Christ — and Christ alone — shall be the trembling sinner‘s stay.
Supplied by Fr Dennis
Fr Dennis has also supplied this splendid letter from The Times. He is understandably anxious to exempt current Saint Faith‘s preachers from any identification with the unseemly terminology discussed below.
Simon Barnes mentions the 19th-century habit of shouting ?bollocks‘ when the yellow ball was involved in a foul stroke at snooker. From the 17th century to the late 19th century, bollocks was in fact a slang term for a parson. James Kingsley, a professor of English and a clergyman, has explained in The Times the interesting etymology thus:
... because priests generally seemed to speak such a lot of nonsense in their sermons, ?bollocks‘ gradually came to mean ?rubbish‘.
I have now been here for a little more than four weeks and I am pleased to say that I am settling in to the Malawian way of life much better. I felt very homesick arriving here and only wanted to be back at home and away from as I deemed it, `Crappy Malawi‘ (Sam‘s English teacher is not responsible for his colloquial adjectives. Ed!). I was thrust straight into the pattern of life for the next 3 months though and I felt that this was a great help as I was unable to sit around feeling sorry for myself and I got to know a lot of people very quickly. The school is a very good family sort of establishment, with the teachers and pupils getting on very well. I have quickly settled into a pattern and the weather has made it all the more pleasant; warmer than Britain, is what I will describe it as!
It was very strange as to how I got to be out here. The plan I had was always to take a Gap Year and the opportunity to come to Malawi was presented to me by the Squire family who used to live out here. I used a contact here and I found a place at Christian Heritage School which is predominantly Malawian and is, as I said, very friendly. There are around 150 pupils, ranging between 3 and 11, and they all get on very well with each other; there may even be a few future stars in the school. I am staying with some American Missionaries from Oklahoma, they are Scott and Jennifer Rodehaver. They have two children, Zach who is nearly 6 and goes to the American-run African Bible College, in Lilongwe, and Hannah, who is 19 months old.
I have been playing volleyball and will be going out to an orphan village called Kauma on Friday to spend some time teaching them football for a few hours. All in all though, I am liking the Malawian way of life and I am happy to carry on, hopefully making a valuable contribution to the school. It was strange for everyone to begin with as I am the only white member of staff and here in Africa, it tends to mean that you are stared at by many people and it can get very daunting. But a few have latched on to me and I am happy to continue to give them some much-needed chances in a country that ranked in the bottom 10 as one of the poorest countries in the world.
Best wishes — and I look forward to seeing everyone at Christmas
Counting Heads ... Properly Chris Price
One of the few incontrovertible facts about church attendance is that it has been steadily declining over the last 20 or thirty years — and we have published more than one reflection on that gloomy fact over the years. At the same time the church, and others, have emphasised that it isn‘t just a simple case of counting ?Sunday heads‘: worship patterns have also changed significantly. People, it is argued, go to church less frequently, so that the total of worshippers in any one place may not have declined as much as the Sunday average figure suggests.
The only way to quantify this assertion is, of course, to register attenders over a significant period, seeing who goes when and who stays away. The church of St John the Baptist on the Wirral (with whom we exchange magazines — and bad jokes) has done just that over the whole of last May and June, and their statistical findings make interesting reading. Over the 8 weeks their attendances totalled 1019 from 273 different individuals. 21% of these were under 17 and 42% were male. Only 99 out of a total of 216 on their Electoral Roll darkened their doors during that time.
Even more interesting was the St John‘s week-by-week breakdown. Of the 273 attenders, 149 (well over half) attended only once or twice in the eight weeks, with only 66 ?Core Attendees‘: those going to church at least once on any six or more of the eight weeks. Finally, only 17 (about 6%) attended every week.Of the ?Core Attendees‘ only 14% were under 29, 75% were over 50, 61% over 60 and nearly 40% over 70.
It would be fascinating to know how these figures compared with ours
at St Faith‘s. The statistics both over the water and here would
bear out the pattern of much less frequent worship, and back up the
that, as a result, the drop in attendances is probably less marked than
the gloomy headlines suggest. We would probably, with our choir,
and Junior Church, do rather better than them in the youth department
had just 6 under-16s in their core of 66). And, venerable though many
our regulars are, St John‘s is probably even fuller of Senior Citizens
(and we have probably got a few more than their three attenders between
the ages of 17 and 29). But the basic message will probably be much the
same, and the financial implications likewise: even if casual attenders
give regularly, the great majority of all those supporting the Church‘s
upkeep and (more importantly) its mission will be either too young or
old to be able to afford the increasingly large sums needed to keep the
roof on, the Diocesan quota delivered, and the clergy pensions paid ...
The terrible events of September 11th have left an indelible mark on the world. We print below Ann Birch‘s reflection in that dark day, followed by the words of a hymn sung at the subsequent memorial service at St Paul‘s Cathedral.
Will You Remember ...
... where you were on September 11th, 2001?
It is an old saying — though still true — that those of us who were alive at the time can still remember where we were when we first heard of President Kennedy's assassination. More recently, I expect we can all remember where we were when we first heard that Princess Diana had been so tragically killed. Now we have a third date and event to add to that calendar — an event more bloody, unexpected and devastating than any of us, surely, could ever have imagined we would witness in our lifetimes.
I will certainly remember precisely where I was when I first heard — and saw the awful events unfolding before my eyes. I was in Departures at Vienna Airport and passing by a shop called ?Sound and Vision‘. There I saw a huge TV screen showing a ‘plane scything into a skyscraper and for a second or two my first horrified thought was, ?what on earth are they doing showing a disaster movie like that at an airport?‘ I moved closer — one of a small but steadily increasing number of people. I could then see the familiar `CNN Live‘ logo in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and, suddenly, I realised this was no Hollywood movie.
It was a little before 4 p.m. Central European Time — around 10 a.m.
New York time — and as I continued to watch, horrified, a sudden cloud
of smoke mushroomed and billowed up behind the newscasters. I didn't
it then 16
but we were watching the first of the twin towers collapse. Information was sketchy — who was responsible? My fleeting early thought that it might be a terrible accident had almost instantly been dispelled when they reported that there had been two planes involved plus a third at the Pentagon and a fourth, at that time unconfirmed, crash in Pennsylvania. It wasn—t known at that stage whether they had been hijacked, although CNN were already saying that no American pilot would consciously fly into a building in that fashion. By now I had to leave to go to catch my ‘plane and I did — still not relating it all to me. It was still too unreal, too impossible and implausible. No, at any I moment Harrison Ford would surely appear in Airforce One starring as the President of the USA and everything would be all right.
On the plane — a Lauda Air scheduled flight from Vienna to Manchester — no-one spoke of it. I don't think many people knew. Austrian flights to the USA operate from a different terminal to ours and only people passing the same shop I did would have been aware of the unfolding events. Certainly I am sure the American businessman bound for the Isle of Man who sat next to me reading the Wall Street Journal and chatting happily about transfers at Manchester couldn't have known. All through the flight I debated whether or not to mention something to him. But what? And 35,000 feet up in the air what could he do anyway, except panic? And besides all that, I truly hadn't come to terms with it myself yet. Still waiting to be told it wasn‘t real. Still waiting for Harrison Ford!
People have demanded to know why God would allow such a terrible
happen. All I — a lay person — can offer by way of reasoning is the somewhat trite response that God has nothing to do with it. In slightly deeper vein, my own personal belief is that this is the penalty and the burden of having been granted free will. It is a fanatical, obscene and despicable decision made by an element of mankind which has caused this terrible act. That they choose to dress it up as a ?Holy War‘ only drives the obscenity deeper. The Koran preaches against this form of barbarism. The mass slaughter of innocent people is not condoned by any recognised religion of which I am aware.
Probably by the time this is published events will have moved on
and we will know what the governments have decided to do. As I write
16), Pakistan is just about to issue a three-day deadline to
for the handover of Bin Laden. I know we are all praying that the
governments will act decisively, responsibly and successfully in
this God-given world of the Devil‘s servants.
We turn to you, O God of every nation,
Giver of good and origin of life;
Your love is at the heart of all creation,
Your hurt is people‘s pain in war and death.
Free every heart from pride and self-reliance,
Our ways of thought inspire with simple grace;
Break down among us barriers of defiance,
Speak to the soul of all the human race.
On all who work on earth for right relations
We pray the light of love from hour to hour;
Grant wisdom to the leaders of the nations,
The gift of carefulness to those in power.
Teach us, good Lord, to serve the needs of others,
Help us to give and not to count the cost;
Unite us all to live as sisters, brothers,
Defeat our Babel with your Pentecost.
Yesterday during Choral Evensong in the Cathedral I happened to be sitting opposite the painting of the Prodigal Son. I must have glanced at it dozens of times but I have never really given it much thought! And there was the dog, jumping up to embrace the lost and repentant Son even before the Father‘s arms have touched the Son. The love which is eager to give, is anxious to give forgive.
That painting reminded me of a conversation I had with a priest some ten years ago who had served for a while in Guyana. He told me how the villagers would take their time coming for mass — it would never start on time like us! And it didn‘t start until he had heard everyone‘s confessions. I found it odd because he told me he didn‘t speak the language. I asked him how he could possibly hear confessions when he didn‘t know what they were saying to him. ?But Father,‘ he said, ?they are not talking to me, they‘re talking to God; and in any case my job isn‘t to be concerned with what they‘ve done wrong, but to proclaim God‘s love and forgiveness.‘
If we are honest we often have a tension between what our head tells us and what our heart tells us. We know for example that during Christian Aid week we ought to put envelopes through doors and then knock a few days later and collect the money. But there is an easier option, isn‘t there. How many of us have sometimes thought of not bothering with the house-to-house knocking but just writing a cheque or putting your own money in? It‘s an easier option — and after all, the money is what is important, we tell ourselves; and this is a far easier way of dealing with the problem.
As human beings we are somewhat limited; we sometimes find that we offer:
Forgiveness on our terms
Care and compassion on our terms
Evangelising and Spreading the Gospel on our terms….
Today‘s scripture readings remind us that Christ drives home the dangers of inequality in the distribution of wealth. The rich man will be punished in the next life because of his indifference to the poor man who lay hungry at the gate of his house. Luxury and holiness are very rarely found together.
GIFTS are given to us from God. They do not belong to us, ?we brought nothing into the world and it is certain we can take nothing out of the world; the Lord gives and the Lord takes away‘ — clear words from the scriptures reminding us that ultimately the good we have comes from God himself. ?All things come from you, and of your own do we give you‘ as we shall pray later once our gifts have been brought to the Altar.
SHARING IS NOT AN OPTION in Christian living it is the hallmark. The problem in today‘s Gospel was not that the man was rich ™ he was tight and mean! When we consider our giving to the Church, let‘s say, do we give the little bit that‘s left over once we‘ve sorted our own needs out or do we give sacrificially like the parable of the widow‘s mite: she had practically nothing but what she had she gave away. And that goes beyond material generosity. I learned very much from my last parish — people in Kirkby weren‘t always materially rich but they had plenty to give! Just as other things are gifts, so is God‘s compassion and love. Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God, though we have rebelled against him. (Daniel). The Lord‘s Prayer reminds us clearly that unless we are prepared to give our hearts to others, to offer them compassion and love, we should not expect such compassion to be given us. Forgive us our sins/trespasses IN AS MUCH AS WE FORGIVE THOSE who sin/trespass against us. We shouldn‘t expect from God something we cannot share with others.
The tension of HEART versus HEAD. I have looked at the picture in the Cathedral many times but not looked into it. How do we regard those who are weak and vulnerable in our world: the poor, the unemployed, asylum seekers, those in prison or awaiting a prison sentence, people living with AIDS/HIV, those in our own city who sleep rough and have no permanent home? Those who, for example, in less than 100 days time will once again spend a miserable Christmas Day on the streets wondering about this genuine love that on December 25th Christians claim is all-important!
Jesus did not just talk to people about love ™ he showed them love.
Jesus did not just talk about healing ™ he laid his hands on people and
Jesus did not just talk about prayer ™ he was in constant contact with his
Jesus did not just talk about vulnerability ™ he went to the cross.
When we find that our faith is tested; when we find that to love or forgive is painful and hurts us, then that is probably a clear indication that our faith is alive and active.
There is a clear and unequivocal challenge in today‘s Gospel: do we
simply stand at a distance looking at the picture or do we dare to move
closer and get involved in the picture?
Family History and Fr Neil‘s Sermon Hilary Pennington
A study of family history can be of immense personal interest but can provide also great insight into society through the ages; and who would have thought that it would give reason for further reflection on Fr Neil‘s sermon?
Recently Chester Record Office (Cheshire RO, ref. WS 1683) provided copies of some of my ancestors‘ wills, after a friend had found information on the Internet. The one that has given rise to this article was dated 1683. It seems to have been written in the testator‘s own hand and the opening text is as follows.
?In the name of God Amen. the sixth day of November in the first and thirtieth year of the reign of our gracious sovereign, King Charles the second over England Anno Domini 1683.
I Daniell Cookeson of Clotton in the county of Chester, yeoman, being sick and weak in body, yet of good and perfect memory (praised for God) do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following. first I leave my soul into the hands of Almighty God my Maker, hoping assuredly through the holy merits of Jesus Christ, my blessed Saviour and Redemer to be made p.... of an everlasting life and my body of moment to the earth whereof it was made to be decently buried at the oversight of my friends and executors hereafter named, and concerning my goods, clothes, chattels and personal estate which it has pleased God to lend me in this life, my mind and will is as follows ...‘ Presumably the whole of this section was the usual introduction to a last will and testament in those days.
This was the only will to be so detailed in wording. As the years passed the preamble was shortened until the present day when there is no religious reference or recorded thanks to the provider of all.
Attached to this will was an inventory of goods. A few extracts are
given, as a matter of interest, for comparison with present-day values.
12 cows and a bull£36.00.00
6 calfes 3.00.00
1 mare 3.00.00
goose and hens 00.05.00
9 pr. of sheets, 2 napkins, 2 tablecloths
2 pillowcases 02.00.00
4 feather beds 04.00.00
8 chaffe beds and five chaffe bolsters 01.00.00
a chest 00.04.00
another chest 00.01.00
Of course our family line descends from the youngest son, so none of these riches were ours!
5 AugustMegan Natalie Maud Thomas
daughter of Steven and Susan
Amirah Louise Christina Groves
daughter of Andrew and Shamim
26 AugustKian Michael Powell
son of Mark and Angela
3 SeptemberElliott William Cocks
son of George and Lisa
Sallyann Marie Horne
daughter of Paul and Lousie
Harvey George Martin
son of Lee and Susan
10 AugustRick Davies
24 AugustNorman Dean
11 AugustAndrew McLean and Julie Hughes
12 AugustMatthew Collins and Alxandra McDougall
25 AugustJohn Riley and Victoria Moss
At the beginning of each Christian year we are encouraged to keep the end of life in view. There is truth in the paradox: ?In my end is my beginning‘. So far from being a contradiction, this interpretation of the march of time drives away weariness and boredom and keeps us spiritually fit.
The calendar year is marked with a new beginning each January. There is a change in the numbering; year after year the figures are adjusted and the correct calculations are made. No mention of the end appears in the forecast of the future. Each year is just another year.
The names of the months suggest the seasons through which we pass, the cold climate, and then the not so cold.
The Christian calendar adopts a different approach. The names of the Church‘s seasons have a spiritual meaning; they help us to see life‘s purpose and the wholeness of existence.
Advent bids us interpret our life in terms in terms of Christ‘s life. The season heralds not just another beginning but a fresh start. None of us has remained unchanged after the passing of twelve months.
Therefore there is always an urgency for a new approach. We need to find a new perspective for time as it goes on and we ourselves have work to do. Advent prompts us to enrich with faith and hope this life of ours, and to perceive the quality of timelessness within it.
Advent words, in the liturgy of the year‘s beginning, are stirring. The message lies direct, frank and wholesomely disturbing. Cast off: put on. Such short commands stimulate. Now is the time: it is high time to awake. We learn that it is important, in more ways than one, to know the time. To be punctual is important enough and considerate also. Yet knowing the time involves more than the exactness of clock time; it also reveals time as a moment of crisis, of choices and decisiveness. Advent approaches us, and searches for a decision. Time judges us.
In one sense, the season prepares for the good news of Christmas. The news of the birth of the Christ-child will hardly strike us as good, unless we approach the festival in a mood of expectancy.
The `now‘ of Advent is instant and urgent. The present moment for action becomes important for the lasting effect which a change of heart and a generous gesture can bring to life. The ?new‘ is linked to the ?end‘ and its significance gains mighty proportions, when this is perceived.
We look to the end at Advent. We are on the way — the pilgrimage continues — we are called to be seekers and searchers. As we move through things temporal, year after year, we are finding glimpses of things eternal.
On April 9th, 1945, in his prison cell at Flossenburg, Dietrich
conducted a prayer service for his fellow prisoners, following which he
received the summons: ?Prisoner Bonhoeffer, get ready and come with
To a fellow prisoner he hastily entrusted a now famous final message:
is the end, for me the beginning of life...‘ The next day he was
naked and hanged with five other members of the Resistance group. All
went before in his life of strength and struggle was summed up in that
So far today I‘ve done all right. I haven‘t gossipped, I haven‘t lost my temper, I haven‘t criticised or moaned. I haven‘t been snappy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or over-indulgent. I‘m very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I‘m going to get put of bed, and from then on I‘m probably going to need all the help I can get, Amen.
(supplied by Ruth Winder)
A former bishop of Gloucester had a failing memory and on one celebrated occasion was walking round a garden party at his home greeting his clergy. ?My dear fellow,‘ he said to one priest, ?how lovely to see you here today. And how is your wife?‘ The clergyman, rather surprised, said diffidently, ?She‘s dead, my Lord. Don‘t you remember, you wrote me a very helpful letter at the time?‘ ?I am so sorry,‘ the bishop exclaimed, ?do please forgive me.‘ He moved on.
Later that afternoon, the bishop came across the same man again. ?Hello, he said, ?good to have you with us. And how is your dear wife?‘ ?Still dead, my Lord,‘ said the priest sadly. `Still dead.‘
You may remember from last month‘s magazine that Stephanie told you we were rehearsing Haydn‘s ?Nelson‘ mass for our Patronal celebrations. Well, we were ™ every Friday and at extra practices on the occasional Wednesday. It was going very well, apart from the odd note here and there. In my case, a top B, which was very odd. (To those of you who do not know what a top ?B‘ is, take it from me, it‘s very high, and I don‘t do very high!) However, many other sopranos can manage it, so I resigned myself to the fact it was safer for the choir‘s reputation if I just mimed! But all this work was to no avail. The soloists who were booked to sing the really hard bits were unable to make it, due to their commitments at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. This threw a bit of a tuning fork into the works for both the High Mass and the Festival Concert the following night. Time for a rethink!
As the Haydn ?Little Organ Mass‘ had gone so well at the Cathedral, it was decided to use it again, as time was moving on, not leaving us much time to learn something else from scratch. Having said that, the members of the Crosby Symphony orchestra who accompanied us on October 5th had to learn their parts very quickly, the music having only arrived from the library the previous Sunday! (Well done, and many thanks to a talented bunch of musicians!) If you were at the service, you will know that the whole celebration was, indeed, just that ™ a celebration. There was a real feeling of joy and warmth, with another thought-provoking sermon from bishop Michael Marshall. For our part, the music was very special. Not only did we attempt to do justice to Haydn , but also to Handel, in his wonderful Hallelujah chorus, and to Mozart‘s Ave Verum Corpus. (The orchestral part to the latter was arranged by none other than our ?own‘ Chris Parker, who returned to us from his home land ?for one night only‘ by special request!) Judging by the reactions of people at the wonderful supper afterwards, it all seemed to go rather well!
The musical celebrations continued on Sunday, with a rendition of Vaughan Williams‘ ?Let all the world‘ ™ another one to exercise the vocal chords! Then Choral Evening Prayer with Benediction at 6 p.m. to round off the weekend nicely. The responses by Ayleward complimenting the Sumsion ?Magnificat‘ also used for our Cathedral visit were given another airing, with a rousing ?Jubilate‘ by Howells ensuring that no-one was in any doubt that the choir had tried to do their part in this important day in St Faith‘s calendar.
`These stones that have echoed thy praises are holy‘ ™ long may the living stones of St Faith‘s echo the Lord‘s praise and do His will.
Everyone at St Faith‘s (and all the very welcome visitors from
St Mary‘s and elsewhere) will want to thank Ged and all the Music
at St Faith‘s for its sterling efforts and wonderful sounds over the
weekend. From first to last they provided and marvellous musical and
experience and, as always, we owe them all a great debt of gratitude.
Thank you George Smith
Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes and also helped in other
ways when I was recently unwell.
Patronal Stop Press
The recent weekend provided many unforgettable memories. There was the high ceremonial (smells and, most definitely, bells!) and the inspiring sermon on Friday night; and there was the splendid home-grown entertainment at the Festival Concert (who needs Covent Garden or the National Opera, anyway?). And on the combined Dedication/Harvest celebration on Sunday, we had a Fr Dennis all-action sermon-show with a cast of children clapping, stamping, nodding, waving, blowing (non-stop) on trumpets and bubbles — rounded off by an unscheduled performance by the Parish Priest on vestry cupboard mop (spilled bubble bottle liquid!).
And to cap it all there was the lovely surprise of a hand-painted
of St Faith, painted by, and the gift of Margaret Bell, wife of Fr
Bell, an old friend of St Faith‘s. More details and, I hope, a picture,
next month: but for now, our very grateful thanks to Margaret for this
moving, personal and devotionally-inspiring gift to St Faith‘s.