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From the Ministry Team           November 2004

In Commemoration of All Souls

In our day of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer
For the saints who before us have found their reward;
When the shadow of death fell upon them, we sorrowed,
But now we rejoice that they rest in the Lord.

In the morning of life, and at noon and at even,
He called them away from our worship below;
But not till his love at the font and the altar
Had girt them with grace for the way they should go.

These stones that have echoed their praises are holy,
And dear is the ground where their feet have once trod;
Yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims
And still they were seeking the city of God.

Sing praise then, for all who here sought and here found him,
Whose journey is ended, whose perils are past;
They believed in the light, and its glory is round them
Where the clouds of earth‘s sorrows are lifted at last.

Everlasting God, our maker and redeemer, grant us, with all the faithful departed, the sure benefits of thy Son's saving passion and glorious resurrection, that, in the last day, when thou dost gather up all things in Christ, we may with them enjoy the fullness of thy promises; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Father of all, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer. Grant them your peace, let light perpetual shine upon them, and in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of your perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen.

From the Ministry Team    November 2004

Dear Friends,

One of the most exciting pieces of news recently was to hear that RyanAir, from January, will be offering cheap flights from Liverpool to Rome! I recently had a few days there and whilst I was staying celebrated the eucharist at the Anglican Centre in Rome. My friend Fr. Jonathan, at All Saints Anglican Church, was away on a Synod Conference (you can't escape these things wherever you are in the Anglican Communion) and he asked if I would celebrate as there would be 'no priests in Rome!' He meant Anglican priests, but don't shatter my illusion!

We are planning a pilgrimage to Rome in 2006 but at the time of writing our pilgrimage to Conques is just days away. Pilgrimages to such places are important because they bring home in a very real way the lives of some of the saints who are celebrated in the course of the church's year. Of course you don‘t need to go abroad to be touched by the lives of the saints: you can visit holy sites in Canterbury (S. Thomas Becket), St. Albans (S. Alban), Durham (S. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede), Lincoln (S. Hugh), Whitby (Hilda, Abbess of Whitby), Iona and Walsingham - places where there are perhaps saints buried, or they have ministered there in their life, or places where there is a simply a particular holiness to be found. Often it can't be put into words.

The Church celebrates the marvellous feast of All Saints at the beginning of November, giving thanks for that 'great cloud of witnesses' which surrounds us, encourages us, and prays for us, as we walk our journey of faith. They show us what is possible if we put our mind to it. It is possible to put God first. It is possible to resist temptation. It is possible to journey through this life with a heart set on the next.

One of my favourite phrases is that of the late Cardinal Hume: 'Saints have a past; sinners have a future'. This favourite phrase is one of great encouragement. It is so easy for us to see saints as people completely divorced from our own experience of life. Yet they were ordinary human beings, like you and me, tempted into sin and tempted to turn away from God. They will have struggled and at times clung on by a thin thread in their journey of faith. They are no different from you and me at all.

One of the greatest difficulties of trying to be a person of faith is that the closer we try to come closer to God the closer we are faced with making sense of the reality of suffering and death. We can often feel powerless when faced with so much suffering around us, in the world or at home; perhaps suffering, physical, spiritual or emotional in our own lives. That suffering can indeed lead some people away from God. But it can also draw people closer to Him. Whether we are looking at the lives of the saints or our own lives, we can't dodge the issue of pain and suffering. We can‘t come to God and ignore the Cross. As Herbert McCabe puts (it in his book God, Christ and Us) 'Faith is not a pair of rose-coloured spectacles for looking at the cross'. The saints encourage us because they are witnesses to the fact that faith can overcome doubt and life can overcome death.

The saints remind us of our ultimate destiny where one day, pray God, we will rejoice 'with angels, and archangels and the whole company of heaven' in the ceaseless praise and worship of almighty God.

As we give thanks to God for the lives of His saints in November, let them inspire us to be more faithful in our journey towards Him.

God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age:
as we rejoice in the faith of your saints,
inspire us to follow their examplewith boldness and joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With my love and prayers,

Father Neil

In Celebration of All Saints

Give us the wings of faith to rise
Within the veil, and see
The saints above, how great their joys,
How bright their glories be.

Once they were mourning here below,
Their couch was wet with tears;
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins and doubts and fears.

We ask them whence their victory came,
They, with one united breath,
Ascribe the conquest to the Lamb,
Their triumph to his death.

They marked the footsteps that he trod,
His zeal inspired their breast,
And, following their incarnate God,
They reached their promised rest.

Our glorious Leader claims our praise
For his own pattern given;
While the great cloud of witnesses
Show the same path to heaven.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship  in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that we may come to those inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; 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.

Notice Board


The Bishop of Beverley (one of the assistant Bishops in the Liverpool Diocese) will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation here in S. Faith's on

SUNDAY 31st OCTOBER 2004 at 10.30am

Please be there to support the candidates from our two churches and please remember them in your prayers as they prepare for this special day. They are:

Shannon Brownbill, Emma Clarke, Conor Cureton, Katie Linacre, Poppy Murphy, David Pascoe, Molly Roderick, Emily Skinner, Christian Voce-Russell, Luke Voce-Russell.

All Souls' Day
Tuesday 2nd November

9.30am Requiem Mass (said)

8.00pm SUNG REQUIEM MASS by candlelight

The names of those who have died in the past year will be read out at this mass and the families of those who have died during the past year are invited to this service. Do please make a special effort to join them and to show support and solidarity with the bereaved.

SUNDAY 14th November
Remembrance Sunday

With Act of Remembrance

Christ the King
Sunday 21st November
Preacher: Canon David Parry, Area Dean of Bootle

Father at Forty!

Please come and help Fr Neil celebrate his 40th Birthday….
Friday 19th November from 8pm

Party in the Church Hall

Hot and cold buffet - wine provided (but do please feel free to bring your own drinks!) - firework display (outdoor) and disco (indoor).


Weekend School of Prayer
Fr. Neil

If you haven't yet done so, please sign up if you are joining this weekend school of prayer. It will be held on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th November in S. Mary‘s Waterloo and it costs nothing to come along!

The weekend will be led by Fr. Tim Raphael. Fr. Tim was Archdeacon of Middlesex (London Diocese) before his retirement in 1996. He led a quiet day and preached at S. Faith's in 2000 and in 2002 led a parish retreat at Parcevall Hall. Everyone who has heard him will tell you he is a speaker not to be missed! The weekend will conclude with Fr. Tim preaching at the Parish Eucharist on the Sunday morning on the theme of the 'Lord's Prayer'.

If you require further details about the weekend then please speak to me.

'Want to Start your own Church?'
Chris Price

Those of us who use email will be all too familiar with unsolicited messages offering almost everything you can think of, including several goods and services inexplicably offered to this writer but which are not suitable for mentioning in a family magazine. One offer I received recently, however, offered something really new, which will be of undoubted interest to readers lay and clerical.

'PROCEED WITH YOUR ORDINATION' was the title, and the sub-heading 'Become a legally ordained minister within 48 hours!'  Clicking on the link, (as one does, but only after scanning for nasty surprise viruses as Denis Griffiths reminds us always to do) I opened up a dazzling page of tempting prospects offered by 'Minister Charles Simpson'. Once ordained, I could, Mr Simpson promised, 'marry my BROTHER, SISTER or my BEST FRIEND' (not all at once, of course). And I wouldn't have to 'settle for being the BEST MAN or BRIDES' MAID' (so clearly Charles Simpson has no problem with women ministers).

When it comes to the conducting of funerals, he says 'Don't settle for a minister you don't know!!' Under the heading of Baptisms, I am promised that once ordained I will be able to say 'WELCOME TO THE WORLD!!! I AM YOUR MINISTER AND YOUR UNCLE!!' What's more, I will  be able to 'VISIT CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES' (something I‘ve always coveted...…)

Charles Simpson assures me that the Certificate being offered to me would cost me not $100 (yes, of course it's an American scam!), not $50: no, 'the entire life-changing course' is a snip at only $29.95. For this I get a Certificate 'IN COLOR, WITH GOLD SEAL professionally printed by an Ink Press' and shipped to me free.

And of course, once I am legally ordained, I can start my own church. 'MINISTRY IN A BOX! CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE' it says. This of course I did and learned that for a mere extra $79 (worth over $120, he says), my Box will contain, among other goodies, a whole range of Ceremony Certificates, all with embossed gold seal on high quality paper of course, a 'Wallet ID card' (particularly vital, I would have thought), an 'Ordination Monastery Credential' imprinted with my name (particularly intriguing, that one!) - and, undoubtedly the most valuable item in the whole Box 'One Laminated Parking Placard with embossed gold seal'.

Faced as we all are with declining congregations and a shortage of priests, it is really surprising to me that our own Church of England has not yet availed itself of such facilities. Why is our Martin Jones embarking on a long, demanding and undoubtedly far more expensive course of training for the ministry when Charles Simpson offers him, and me, this 'outstanding new tool' within a mere eight days of sending a cheque and, apparently, without any intellectual or spiritual effort? Sounds great, doesn‘t it! Just as soon as readers come up with (if my sums are right) a paltry $110.95, I will seriously consider changing my life forever. Watch this space, brethren!

D-Day Role for St Faith - The Ferry!
David Fairclough

Along with other churches named after our patron, St Faith, there is also a ferry, which normally plies between Portsmouth and Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight. During the D- Day celebrations on June 5th this year, the 'St Faith' was the only passenger ship cruising off the Bar Channel at Southsea and around the Solent carrying many veterans to watch the departure of the naval convoy to France for the weekend commemorations.

Her passengers were issued with 1940s style ration books in order to obtain breakfast and a drink onboard. It wasn't the first time St Faith had been charted by the veterans,  she was used in 1994 for the D-Day review cruise.

Letter to the Editor

Bishopscourt, Manchester.
Dear Chris,

Many thanks, as always, for Newslink. It is an admirable production - always containing the right mixture of fun and faith, thoughtfully produced and stimulating to read.

Congratulations to all responsible for what must still count as one of the best of its kind in the country.

Every blessing,
Nigel McCulloch (Bishop of Manchester)

Fasting and Feasting

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on difference; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of life.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

From a Benedictine community's website; supplied by Fr Dennis

A Reflection for Advent  Fr Dennis

The strong and solemn music of Advent prepares the heart and mind for the coming festival. The lights are lowered and the worshippers sense the mystery of the message of prophecy and promise. Nothing is too clear: we are encouraged to seek out a way ahead. The season of early darkness and shortening days reminds us of our needs and deficiencies. Artificial light, brightly blazing, cannot dispel every kind of gloom and dark shadow surrounding us. There is the true light to look forward to. Advent urges us to make sure that our wants and our needs truly coincide.

Darkness has a part to play in our spiritual development. We cannot expect to see and understand every issue and problem with an equal clarity. We close our eyes when we pray; not to escape nor to wish away unpleasant distractions, but to concentrate upon him who is invisible. Shutting out the light, we symbolise our helplessness and our dependence upon God. Some, in their maturity, remain open-eyed, casting off prejudices and hates, removing the blinkers that shield the wider view, focusing where we can with care and concern on others‘ needs. Such are the preliminaries to the putting-on of the armour of light.

There are many kinds of darkness. The gross darkness of cruelty and greed obviously appals us. Yet there are also twilight regions, less black but subtly misleading, in which apathy, carelessness and self-pity darken counsel and blind our judgement. We think we can get by wit, bluff and fudge: this semi-darkness is light enough.

Out of such darkness, we begin to be shaped, with lessons learnt and pain endured. We benefit when, in addition to going through the motions of the Advent ceremonies, we discern, not without some humbling and agonising, how our lives should be directed.

With God the darkness is no darkness. The night is as clear as the day. So sang the psalmist, when at first he thought he could hide from life's realities and mused 'peradventure the darkness shall cover me'. In the darkness willingly faced and accepted, discoveries are made. The wisest among us are not know-alls; on the contrary, they are the sort who recognise human limitations. A modern poet has shared some of his wisdom with us in the lines he wrote:

 O Lord of hidden light
 Forgive us who despise
 The things that lie beyond our sight
 And give us eyes.

Patronal Pilgrims

There has been a High Mass on Saint Faith's Day for some forty years, and they have always been colourful, spectacular and emotionally-charged events. They are occasions for remembering our roots in the past: Douglas Horsfall our founder, all who have served St Faith's as priests or found their vocation to the priesthood here, and the host of past worshippers who have found their spiritual home here in the past century. All who owe allegiance to St Faith's feel the pull of the place, and never more than on October 6th each year.

2004 splendidly maintained these traditions and took them forward. The rich and varied liturgy, the moving, beautifully-sung music of Mozart's Missa Brevis woven into the liturgy, the presence of a bishop and more than a few priests, and the food and fellowship afterwards: these we revelled in as always.

The extra dimension this year was the imminence of the parish pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Faith at Conques, in France. Some thirty people were, early the next morning, to set out for the south. They, and we, heard the choir sing, at the Gradual, words (in French) from the community at the Abbey in Conques. And, at the end of the High Mass, Bishop Tony Robinson of Pontefract gave the pilgrims a blessing, and a holy sprinkling, as they gathered round the nave altar.

By the time this issue of Newslink appears in print, the travellers will have returned. Displayed in church and on this website (accessed from the front page) you can see Denis Griffiths and others' pictures from the pilgrimage. Next month's Newslink will carry edited highlights for the 'unwired'.

'On the Box' - the BBC in Advent

Regular members of Saint Faith's will know that two Sunday morning services are to be broadcast from S. Faith's on BBC1 National Television on the third and fourth Sundays of Advent.  Both will feature the Bishop of Liverpool as the preacher.

The BBC looked long and hard at many churches in our Diocese and beyond for a suitable venue, so this really is a great honour for S. Faith's. But it is also a huge commitment. By the time you read this, details of rehearsal times and other arrangements will have been circulated. We really need a full church for this so please come and be part of it if you can! Please try to be available for Saturday NOVEMBER 27th and both days of the weekend of DECEMBER 4th and 5th when the programmes will be rehearsed and recorded.

Charity Benefit Concert
in celebration of Saint Cecilia,
Patron Saint of Musicians

SATURDAY 20th NOVEMBER at 7.30pm

Music by Mozart, Schubert, Rutter, Fauré  and others!

Performed by Dominic Starkey (Trumpet), Peter O‘Connor (Flute),
Ann Liebeck (Soprano), Ged Callacher and Fr Neil (piano)

Tickets: £7.50 to include a glass of champagne


Doom and Gloom Corner
Chris Price

Three recent items about the good old C of E in the press in recent days have spelt out bad news for our beleaguered church at home and world-wide and for its leadership.

The headlines speak for themselves: 'Anglicans tell U.S. Church to 'repent' over gay bishop'; 'Archbishop faces fresh crisis over Holy Communion' and 'New women priests to outnumber men for first time'.

The first is the longest-standing crisis. Ever since the appointment of the practising homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson in the USA, there have been deep rumblings of discontent, most powerfully from African Anglicans - numerically strong, growing in numbers and influence and, of course, predominantly evangelical in churchmanship. Archbishop Rowan Williams has sought to buy time and to try and find a way forward, or perhaps some sort of workable compromise, by appointing a commission under Dr Robin Eames, Primate of All Ireland. It will report soon, and it is predicted that it will tell the American Anglican Church that it must apologise for creating a damaging schism in the worldwide church and that it must make Gene Robinson stand down. A Nigerian Archbishop on the commission has compared the American church to a misbehaving child that needs to be taught a lesson. Such an appeal seems likely to fall on deaf ears: indeed the outspoken American liberal former Episcopal Bishop Spong has attacked Rowan Williams as lacking courage, backbone and leadership. 'He is now destined to be a long-serving but ineffective and empty man who has been revealed to be incapable of carrying the responsibility placed upon him,' he has declared.

As if this were not enough, another concentration of evangelicals, this time in Sydney, Australia, are expected to permit lay men and women to recite the Eucharistic prayer and consecrate the bread and wine in the absence of a priest. North Sydney's Bishop Glenn Davis has told the Church Times that there aren't enough priests in his diocese to cover the growing numbers of congregations. 'It seems strange that (lay people) are unable to minister the words of Christ in visible form, when they can feed the people through the preaching of his word,' says Bishop Davies. 'Should the people of God be denied participation in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper because a priest is not available?'

The third headline appears less obviously threatening, but the article it heads paints an equally depressing story. It is one of steeply declining numbers being ordained to the priesthood. Next year will see 123 Anglican men ordained, as against 251 last year. For women there is also a decline, but it is far less steep, so that next year incoming women will for the first time outnumber their male counterparts. Furthermore, the age of ordination is rising, so that, in the words of Ann Philps, director of ordinands for Salisbury Diocese, 'We are going to have a more feminised and a more mature Church…. It will eventually be, perhaps, a softer, kinder Church, and less like a men's club.'

Needless to say, this does not meet with universal Anglican approval. Fr Geoffrey Kirk, of the 'Forward in Faith' movement, consistently hostile to the ordination of women and their future elevation to the episcopate, expects to see a continuing decline in male applications for training. 'We have been predicting this for years,' he says. 'The average age is going up hugely, especially among women, and the priesthood will eventually become a hobby for grannies.'

And a statistical footnote, which seems to confound, or at least significantly modify, Fr Kirk's fulminations. According to the same article, our all-male Roman Catholic brethren are suffering a far sharper fall-off in vocations. Across the whole of England and Wales, to serve a church claiming total congregation numbers not far short of Anglican figures, there are only 18 (yes, eighteen) men to be ordained as priests this year. And I read somewhere recently of the plummeting decline in congregations and priestly numbers in Roman Catholic France, with one priest having, unbelievably, nominal care of almost fifty parishes.

Well! Lots of problems, no obvious solutions, and an unenviable situation indeed for our leaders. The quarrels, the schisms, the decline and the in-fighting nationally and worldwide at least put our local problems into perspective. Faced with such mountains to climb, our search for funding for disabled ramps at St Faith's is undoubtedly a mere molehill. And, of course, the death of the church (like that of God) has been confidently predicted time and again over the years and the centuries. God is still working his purpose out, and he moves in mysterious ways. We can only wait, and watch, and pray and see what unfolds in the turbulent months and years ahead.

Children's Craft and Activity Day
Saturday 27th November from 10.00am to 12.00 pm in the Hall

Believe it or not this will be our sixth Craft and Activity Day and it has become an important part of our commitment to younger people in both parishes. It is hard work for the helpers (offers of help, please!!) but it is tremendously rewarding.

As usual letters will go out to all young people connected with our two parishes inviting them to come along for a fun-packed morning of making Christmas cards, Christmas decorations and Christmas presents (while their parents go shopping!) as well as taking part in Fr. Neil‘s annual A - Z Christmas quiz!!

Grateful Thanks for the Harvest
Fr. Neil
Instead of asking people to bring along fruit and vegetables (and the usual assortment of ?out of date‘ tins!) we asked people to bring along some money to contribute to the National Christian Aid Harvest Appeal for Sierra Leone. Thanks to the generosity of people from both churches the Appeal raised a combined total of £549.40.  £190 of this was gift aided enabling Christian Aid to reclaim approximately and additional £57. Our grateful thanks also to Kathleen Zimak who preached in both churches, giving us much to think and pray about. We plan to do more to help this cause in the next few months.

Advent Sunday
28th November

(not 5th December as previously publicised)

Once again, S. Faith's is hosting this ecumenical service for Christians in our area. We are hoping that choir members from other churches will join our own choir for this occasion in an attempt to make it more inclusive and ecumenical.

Providence Watches

Fr Dennis (not of course a gambling man himself) has supplied this anonymous verse, taken from 'Godly and Righteous, Peevish and Perverse', compiled by Raymond Chapman.

The bishop glanced through his window-pane
On a world of sleet and wind and rain,
When a dreary figure met his eyes
Who made the bishop soliloquise.

And as the bishop gloomily thought,
He ordered pen and ink to be brought,
Then 'Providence Watches' he plainly wrote
And pinned the remark to a ten bob note.

Seizing his hat from his lordly rack,
And wrapping his cloak around his back,
Across the road the bishop ran,
And gave the note to the shabby man.

That afternoon was the bishop's 'At Home',
When everyone gathered beneath his dome.
Curate and canon from far and near
Came to partake of the bishop's cheer.

Into the good old bishop's hall
Cane a stranger lean and tall.
'Your winnings, my lord!' he cried. 'Well done:
"Providence Watches" at ten to one!'

It is to be noted on Sunday next
How the bishop carefully chose his text,
And from the pulpit earnestly told
Of the fertile seed that returned tenfold….

Thank you again!

Recently I thanked all my friends at St Faith's for their prayers for my daughter Margaret Bidwell, over a long time. Once again I use the pages of Newslink to give you all many thanks for your prayers for myself when I was in hospital and nursing home with a nasty pneumonia.

Thank you, Father Neil, for your frequent ministrations, and also Father Dennis who came when Father Neil couldn't: I appreciated this very much. Even Father Peter Goodrich popped in to see me. I was quite overwhelmed with all the acts of kindness I received - lovely cards, letters, shopping, washing (of the most personal items!), collecting my mail, and for the visits and phone calls.

I had no idea I had so many good friends, but I should not have been so surprised - I belong to a real Christian family - St Faith's Church. Thank you all.

Frances Luft

Safari Supper 8/11/04
following a new trail...

Instead of having the advertised Dinner Merry-go-Round this year, we're going to blaze a new but similar trail (on the same day) with a Safari Supper. The familiar format will be slightly changed. On this gastronomic journey all the guests will assemble at the first watering hole for drinks and starters, before moving on to a second venue to sit down together for the main course. A third oasis will provide puds and coffee for us all.

Good food and fellowship as usual, and excellent value at last year's price of £12.00 - proceeds to church funds. Dietary and transport needs can be catered for. If there is anything else you would like to know, please contact Linda Nye. Do join us!

NOC Update
Martin Jones, our 'Man for the Ministry', reports ....

Hello Everybody!

Well so far, I have one induction, one residential weekend and two evening sessions under my belt.  I have gained lots of handouts, a few prayer books (including the Methodist Worship Book) and plenty of deadlines for essays.

The first piece of work has already been submitted - a workbook that helps me identify my Christian ministry in my secular life.  And the next deadline is the 1st November, a short essay about St Faith as a church and its mission to the local community and beyond. Reading has already commenced for that task.

The group of people I find myself with are diverse, which is good because I can learn a lot from them. To give you an idea of the group, here's a few 'factoids':

 ... 3/4 are female,
...  We are distributed across the north from Southport to Wakefield,
 ... In churchmanship, the majority seem to be middle to high, the second largest group is the charismatics.
 ... St Faith's registers on the highest notch of the candle!

As I share the next three years with these people I intend to approach each new situation without pre-conception and with an eager open mindedness to experience as much as I can.  Prior to starting NOC the word on my mind was discernment, just what is God's plan for Martin Jones. Now (although the discernment process is still ongoing) the new word is formation:  turning the person you know into something priestlike.

Take care, see you soon.


P.S. Thank you all very much for my book tokens, believe me, I need them, each new module comes with its book list. It was particularly nice to be presented them on St Faith‘ day. Thanks again.

Schism on Stronsay?
Chris Price

Regular readers will know of this writer's preoccupation with far-flung Scottish islands and remote Christian communities. While watching Adam Nicolson's weekly TV voyaging around the Atlantic coasts of Britain, I was therefore doubly delighted when, early in October, he ended up landing on the tiny island of Papa Stronsay, across the water from the somewhat larger island of Stronsay, which is itself a satellite of the Orkney Isles. Throughout his voyages, Nicolson (son of the late Nigel Nicolson, farmer and writer and himself the owner of three even more remote Scottish Hebridean islands) leavens his scenic sailing travelogues with visits to local places of interest - and he certainly found one on Papa Stronsay.

He spent a day and a night as a guest of the Transalpine Redemptorist Order - a community of some thirty monks from all over the world who have established a strict religious community there. Nicolson, an avowed agnostic, sat in on services, mucked-out farm buildings and resisted the attempts of the international monastic community to convert him to the faith. He was awestruck by rising in the dark for the daily 3.15 am Mass (and we think our annual 6.00 am celebration on Ascension Day is an ordeal!), impressed by the strictly enforced vows of poverty, frustrated by the enforced silence of the monastic routine and the rigid avoidance even of eye contact at mealtimes, and bewildered by the constant use of Latin in the liturgies. He was nevertheless clearly impressed (if unconverted!) by the experience and moved literally to tears when the community crossed the sound to his sailing boat, sprinkled it with holy water, blessed it and presented him with a set of rosary beads. The final shots showed him sailing off into the sunset, waved off by a colourful assortment of black-robed monks and priests.

I had never heard of these people before, and Nicolson said little about them in his film apart from implying that they were seeking a stricter life than the contemporary Roman Catholic church encouraged, so I had immediate recourse to the internet. Fascinating! They are in fact, as I was beginning to guess, a relatively recent breakaway organisation, founded as a refuge for those unwilling to accept their mainstream church's modernisation. They look to Pope Pius X and to Archbishop Lefebvre, names perhaps familiar to those interested in the affairs of the Roman Church, and now have their own hierarchy of bishops and priests to perpetuate their orders. They are followers of St Alphonsus, founder of the piously severe Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

I dug further, and found more intriguing information. The Transalpine Redemptorists date back to 1732, but their present incarnation dates from what they term 'the crisis in the Church' following the reforming Vatican II Council, which hit them badly. Their website baldly explains why they opted out. 'The reasons are simple. The New Church offered heaven to all religions, mocked Hell and denied the necessity of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for salvation.' Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (a thorn in the flesh of the Vatican) advised them to make a new foundation and in 1987 they 'consecrated themselves anew to the Immaculate Heart of Mary', and formed their breakaway movement.

Now, affiliated to the Society of Saint Pius X (Lefebvre's priestly confraternity, which apparently boasts 4 independent bishops, over 400 priests and 100 brothers and nuns worldwide) the British branch has raised over two million pounds, bought and settled on Papa Stronsay. Here, in common with their affiliated sites (there is a church in Liverpool of the same tradition), they say the Latin Mass and have turned their backs comprehensively on the Church whence they came. They now call the island they purchased and the monastery and community they built 'Golgotha'.

Even more revealing was an article from the news archives of the 'Orcadian' local newspaper from 2002. Sadly, this reported that a novice monk from the order was apprehended in a Kirkwall internet café viewing 'sinful images of a homosexual nature'. In its background to the report, the newspaper explains more about the Redemptorists. 'The monks are not new to controversy,' the report says. 'They hit the headlines when they ordered women to cover up when on the 250-acre island they purchased in 1999. The strict Order told female archaeologists to wear ankle-length skirts and long-sleeved shirts while working on the site of the island's 12th century chapel. Male archaeologists were asked not to wear shorts, and radios and CD players were banned.'

This writer wonders how much of this was known to Adam Nicholson when he sailed in to Papa Stronsay. I found the film, and the facts, just a little disturbing. The sincerity and passionate commitment of the order is beyond question, and there should be no quarrelling with those who wish to turn back the clock and preserve the religious past so wholeheartedly, even if their zeal and doctrines rival the fundamentalists.

But there were jarring notes. Nicolson was clearly informed of the existence of a real and unimaginably terrifying physical hell awaiting those who were not saved.  One  monk  made  it  quite  clear that the main purpose of his monastic existence was to make sure of saving his own soul. And, in the corner of the cell Nicolson slept in, there could plainly be seen a skull. A 'memento mori', no doubt they would say, and a symbol of our mortality: nevertheless it seemed a somewhat morbid, even sinister artefact in a place so strangely renamed as Golgotha - the place of the skull.

Talent on Show

An appreciative audience recently  enjoyed an evening of song presented by Cantinela. The girls, all pupils of Ranee Seneviratne, treated us to a varied selection of songs : operatic arias, songs from the shows, folk songs and ballads. The students were all at different stages in their musical development and it was good to see the progress made by the girls who have appeared in previous concerts.

The concert was a great success and raised £250 for church funds. Thanks to all who helped in any way, and a special thanks  to Ranee and her pupils, and, of course, to Ged, who accompanied so well.