The Parish Magazine
of Saint Faith's Church, Great
Saint Faith’s Prayer for
God of unchanging power, your Holy Spirit enables us to
proclaim your love in challenging times and places:
give us fresh understanding and a clear vision, that together we may
respond to the call
to be your disciples and to rejoice in the blessings of your kingdom;
we ask this in the name of Him who gave His life that ours might
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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the Ministry Team
Isn’t it funny how words can turn you on or turn you off!
Canon Jim Rosenthal, the Director of Communications for the Anglican
Communion Office, sent me the following news item the other day…
The Anglican Bishop of Uyo, Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, has condemned the
activities of homosexuals and lesbians, and described those engaged in
them as “Insane people”… “Homosexuality and lesbianism are
inhuman. Those who practise them are insane, satanic and are not fit to
live because they are rebels to God’s purpose for man,”' the Bishop
And we all know that Bishops, like politicians, speak the truth!
Contrast those words with some others which made the deadlines the same
“I do believe that Britain needs a new type of politics which embraces
everyone in the nation and not just a select few; a politics that’s
built on consensus and not division; a politics that draws on the
widest range of talents and expertise, not the narrow circles of power;
a politics that’s built on engaging with people and not excluding them.”
These are words of our new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. I don’t have
enough political expertise to say whether these words are realistic or
not. However at a meeting of the Church Growth Team the other day, one
of my colleagues asked us to read the PM’s words again with a small
change – take out ‘politics’ and put in ‘church’!
“I do believe that Britain needs a new type of Church which embraces
everyone in the nation and not just a select few; a Church that’s built
on consensus and not division; a Church that draws on the widest range
of talents and expertise, not the narrow circles of power; a Church
that’s built on engaging with people and not excluding them.”
Those words are all well and good – they are pretty good in fact
(thanks to Malcolm Chamberlain!). But words are
all well and good, aren’t they?
We hear talk of ‘practising what we preach’ (a more
misunderstood quote I have never encountered); ‘actions speak louder
than words’; ‘seeing is believing’. The words we use are all well and
good but only if they are backed up by lives which bear those words
out! Any words are only as good as the actions which accompany them. We
can be pretty good in the church about talking of certain issues but
reluctant actually to change or develop.
Let’s paraphrase those words even further:
“… St. Faith’s is a Church which embraces everyone in the parish
and not just a select few; it is a Church that’s built on consensus and
not division; it’s a Church that draws on the widest range of talents
and expertise, not the narrow circles of power; it is a Church that’s
built on engaging with people and not excluding them.”
Could that describe our parish accurately? If not, why not? Is this not
what we should be working towards? Could this become our mission
This month of our Patronal Festival reminds us that down the ages
people were so passionate about their faith that, as was the case with
a young girl called Faith, they were prepared, literally, to die for
the faith. As we look to celebrate our Patronal Festival it must be a
time when we take stock of our faith. How vibrant is it? How passionate
is it? To what extent does it underpin our daily lives? When did you
last speak to someone about matters of faith at work or home? It is
amazing how people can live in the same house as one another but never
dream of speaking about their faith. A faith which is only trotted out
once a week on a Sunday morning is not the faith St. Faith gave her
Whilst the world wonders what we believe and why (Christians)
apparently hate each other so much – yes, there is real evidence of
that – we are called to work with God’s strength to build a church that
does value each and every person made in God’s image. In fact with so
many talents and skills to be found among the family of St. Faith’s I
reckon we can build the church Mr Brown talks about!
First and foremost though, no matter which words we chose to use, we
need at our Patronal Festival to get down on our knees and pray. That
will provide us with the real strength needed to do the Lord’s work.
Please pray for our parish and one another. Please pray for those who
do not know the love of Jesus Christ or who have abandoned him.
Pray that God may work in and through us to help build a genuine,
authentic community which works, plays and prays together. May the
example of Saint Faith guide us, and may her prayers help us as we
seek, like her to put Christ in his rightful place in the world today.
With my love and prayers at this special time,
Sunday 30th September
11am Family Eucharist & Parade Service
6.00pm Harvest “Songs of Praise” in S. Mary’s
followed by a glass of cider and buffet Harvest Supper
All good gifts around us are sent from heav’n above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.
Faith’s Patronal Festival Celebrations
Friday October 5th
EVE OF SAINT FAITH’S DAY
8.00pm Procession and Pontifical High Mass
Preacher: The Right Reverend Nicholas Reade (Bishop of Blackburn)
followed by buffet supper
Sunday 7th October
10.30 am Joint Festival Eucharist (no service at St
Preacher: The Reverend Denise MacDougall (Christ Church,
6.00pm Festal Evensong, Procession and Te Deum
Autumn Bazaar and Mini-Auction
Saturday October 20th at 11.00 am
Please support this vital fund-raising event, with something for all
There will be lots of stalls, and games for children to play. Call in
for home-made cakes, preserves, bric-a-brac, tombolas and raffles – and
more to be announced.
There will be refreshments on sale throughout.
When you have been round the stalls once, sit down and take part in the
mini auction. There will be a whole range of items large and small
being auctioned – another chance to pick up a real bargain!
To make this event a really big success, we need lots of help. If you
can help to look after a stall or entertainment, we want to hear from
you, please. And if you can donate or make anything to be sold on the
day, or of course if you have any items we could auction, that would be
Look out for notices in church, and if you can help in any way,
see Geoff Moss, who will point you in the right direction. The table
sales held during the course of the year have been a marvellous help to
our funds – now let’s make the bazaar (where all the money goes
to us!) the climax of the fund-raising year!
The other day, browsing TV channels, I happened upon the last half hour
or so of the Kenneth Branagh film of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’. I came in
just as the victorious, exhausted English soldiery, having beaten the
French at the battle of Agincourt, were streaming off the battlefield.
Then a powerful and moving sequence unfolded. A solitary soldier began
to sing, unaccompanied, ‘Non nobis domine’ to a lyrical and haunting
tune. As he finished the lines, others joined, then more and more
caught up the tune and repeated it. As the camera tracked slowly past
lines of weary, muddy and bloodstained survivors, some carrying the
dead and wounded, the chorus swelled to a triumphant climax.
Everyone seemed to be singing, many looking heavenward, and
all caught up in the power of the moment as they offered thanks to God
and dedicated the victory to him, led by the King, whose progress we
have followed as he carried a wounded comrade the length of this famous
four-minute tracking shot.
The words are: ‘Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, Sed nomine tuo da
gloriam’, which the translates as: ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but
to your name give glory.’ The original musical canon was, apparently
wrongly, attributed to William Byrd; the Branagh film’s music was
written by contemporary English composer Patrick Doyle.
A powerful and telling piece of modern film-making, then, and one which
gave this writer pause for reflection. Shakespeare, it is surely fair
to say, would have included this hymn of heartfelt praise for victory
as a patriotic and religious statement with no hint of irony. The
soldiers at the real battle of Agincourt, had they actually been moved
to sing, would have doubtless been just as happy to attribute the
victory and offer its glory to the God in whom, as a matter of course,
Six hundred years later, the host of muddy film extras seen singing
their tired hearts out on location with Branagh, would, I suspect, have
been far less likely to subscribe to these sentiments. Some of them,
provided of course that they were English film extras, would have had
no problem with uttering patriotic sentiments, (although some critics
lambasted the film as jingoistic and accused Branagh of suspiciously
Thatcherite leanings) - but singing a hymn of praise to God might stick
in the throat of many of today’s more cynical liberal agnostics.
And what of us today? We are rightly happy to ascribe our successes,
and the triumphs of good over evil, to the hand of our God. We can
praise him for sparing us from disaster, but are we (or should we be)
as happy thanking him for victory against our enemies in war? Some wars
can quite easily be seen as righteous crusades, where the spilling of
‘enemy’ blood is a sad but necessary and justified price to pay for
preserving freedom and justice. Wars did away with Hitler – and with
But what about wars where things are less black and white, and where
the other army is equally convinced that right is on its side? The
soldiers who received the host before going over the top in the
trenches grappled with troops who had been equally blessed and prepared
and were equally convinced that God was on their side. Whichever side
emerged victorious in such situations would sing ‘non nobis domine’ (or
its secular equivalent for unbelievers) with the same fervour.
This is an age-old dilemma, for which there is no easy solution. It is
hard to see how God can wish his creatures to pit themselves in battle
against each other in his name, or for the sake of giving glory to it:
yet without past wars, tyranny would almost certainly have been
triumphant in many lands, not least our own. How do chaplains to the
forces resolve this dilemma? In what we look back on as uncivilised
times, kings, or their nominated champions if the kings were
particularly old or weedy, would meet in single combat to decide crises
of honour or territorial disputes. How about reviving the idea, and
setting army chaplains against one another, armoured only in
righteousness and righteous certainty, rather than whole armies? It
would save a lot of waste, expense and bloodshed, and it would make
Brighter Future for Mtunthama, Malawi
It is ten years since Mac and Dot Forsyth discovered the poverty of the
people of Mtunthama and six years since Medic Malawi was
launched. From that time the medical and social care available to
the population has improved beyond imagination. First slowly; a
gift of £500, received via Chris Price, enabled the foundations
to be dug and laid before the rains set in. From then a dream became
reality, as three extremely generous donations followed in quick
succession, thus securing the future of Medic Malawi. These
donations clearly marked the beginning of something ‘big’ as the first
years of hand made bricks, mud kilns and red earth became history; in
their place stands an efficient, spotlessly clean hospital, offering
residential and outpatient care, a maternity unit, a laboratory, now
with its own blood bank, a dedicated voluntary counselling and testing
room for HIV/AIDS patients, a refurbished dental surgery supplied by
Dentaid, opening this month with staff already trained and ready to
carry out dental procedures and an operating theatre, now awaiting the
necessary equipment and an anaesthetist, to start functioning.
Add to this a kindergarten, primary school, secondary school and an
orphan house large enough to accommodate fifty children and the
enormity of the projects unfolds.
It has always been the philosophy of Medic Malawi that the projects
belong to the people of Mtunthama; that ultimately they must be
responsible for managing and developing the work initiated by
supporters here in UK. It is therefore especially encouraging to find
an HIV/AIDS project in nearby Wimbe, run entirely by volunteers, headed
by Peter Minjale, one of Medic Malawi’s clinical officers. There is a
team of seven trained counsellors, each of whom has accepted
responsibility for three villages, which he/she has undertaken to visit
at least three times a week. Some of those villages involve a journey
of 15kms each way. As there is no transport, they go on foot! By the
time this article is read, donated bicycles for their use will be on
their way, care of the container, together with goods and
equipment donated by many church congregations throughout UK, including
Was it fun or was it madness to undertake the loading of a 40-foot
container with everything from baby milk to three examination tables
for the hospital and a Land Rover to act as an ambulance? Well, after
two days of filling sacks in a cow shed, pig sty and sheep pen, it did
not matter, it was the overwhelming response to the appeal which meant
so much. And what about the container itself? This is earmarked for a
cinema following the donation of a 28-inch flat screen television and
numerous DVDs and videos, thus providing entertainment at a small
charge and much needed funds for the hospital. Nothing is wasted.
So the future looks bright for Mtunthama. The harvest this year
ranged from good to bumper and with all projects running successfully
Ambuye akhale nanu
May the Lord be with you!
End is Nigh…..
In mid-August the vicar rashly agreed
to play the organ at St Mary’s for 24 hours to raise money for our two
churches. The occasion proved memorable and splendidly profitable,
raising, at the time of going to press, about £6,000 to be split
between the two parishes. All of our people congratulate Neil most
warmly, and thank him for his marathon achievement. He writes about the
When you are planning to get through 1,440 minutes of music the end
seems a very long way off! It all started well at 4pm on Sunday 18th
August and it was encouraging to see when I had a quick (necessary)
break around 9pm that there were some 20 people in church including
three members of the local constabulary! (And they left a donation!)
But as midnight came and I felt as if I had done a day’s work, I
released I wasn’t even halfway there!
When I performed Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonelle in Birmingham back in
1987 (with one Lesley Garrett as soprano soloist) little did I imagine
I would be tackling a version for piano (made up by my good self) at
4am one Monday morning twenty years later in a Waterloo Church! But
when it got to the wee small hours of that 24 hour sponsored event I
was prepared to play anything just to keep myself awake. I went through
Handel’s Messiah twice and those there in the 23rd hour accompanied my
playing of just about every hymn in the hymn book.
As the last 30 minutes loomed, people were sending encouraging texts (I
had mastered the art of texting and playing at the same time by then)
and the goodly number who were there for the final piece, the Widor
Toccata, gave a most moving standing ovation. It was all very worth
I have to say that writing this in the knowledge that just over
£6,000 was raised from the sponsored event in question is very
gratifying. I am enormously grateful to those within the church and
those who are “friends” of the church for all their support, which of
course came in many and varied forms. If you were there for breakfast
or lunch you know what I mean! People kindly kept me going with fruit,
coffee, Red Bull, Pro Plus pills and the promise of something more
exciting to drink at the end!
When I was interviewed for BBC Radio Merseyside on the Sunday morning
in question I said how fortunate we were in both our churches to have
so many people who work so hard to make sure we keep the show on the
road. We do have, and we are so lucky. I was just glad to be able to do
my bit and would gladly do it again (so long as we make more money next
time, not less!) (Noted! Ed.)
So once again, many, many thanks!
Some while back, worshippers arriving at St Faith’s were greeted by a
notice in the porch declaring that the church was for sale! Fr Neil had
posted it as a way of drawing attention to the need for more
sacrificial weekly giving by the congregation so as to prevent the
notice ever going up for real – and of course it came down immediately
Just before we went to press, Peter Stokes, a member of another St
Faith’s (Harborne, Birmingham), sent me this genuine sales pitch from a
recent edition of the Sunday Times.
IS IT WORTH IT?
St Faith’s Church, Belper Lane End. Derbyshire, £200,000
What it is:
St Faith’s is a deconsecrated stone church at Belper Lane End, in the
Derwent valley. It is named after a teenager from southern France who
was martyred in AD304, or thereabouts, for refusing to make pagan
sacrifices. Built in 1890 (for £304) as a chapel of ease to the
larger Christ Church, it was attended by the nuns of the convent of
Saint Laurence, an Anglican order, and served as a Sunday school. The
last service was in 2005: the Anglican diocese decided to sell because
the congregation had shrunk to just two people. The hamlet is on the
outskirts of Belper, a bustling market town that serves as a gateway to
the Peak District. It is 10 miles from Derby and 25 from Nottingham.
The agent has set a deadline for sealed bids — on the official form —
of noon this Wednesday, September 5.
The church is effectively a shell, and the adjoining vicarage has been
turned into a meeting hall. The diocese still owns it, and the
ecclesiastical trappings, including the altar, the pews and the font,
have not been removed. It is described as a ‘hot potato’ by the selling
agent — an attempt to win residential planning permission has failed on
appeal, so a buyer is taking a big risk if they want to move in any
time soon. The community has set up a website to save the property.
More than 75 brochures have been sent out since St Faith’s was put on
the market in midsummer. ‘It has created immense interest,’ the agent
says, ‘but without the residential consent, turnout on viewing days has
been low.’ Approval for residential use would almost double the asking
At a (mere) £200,000, this looks like a bargain, although unless
the authorities relent, you would clearly have to worship in it rather
than live in it. The editor idly wonders what the asking price for our
St Faith’s would be. It’s a prime site, in a suburb where house prices
are rising nicely, handy for shops and public transport, the city, the
estuary and the nude men on the beach. With the proceeds, we could
build a cosy little all-purpose building somewhere and stop worrying
about maintenance costs, heating and the like – and, with the surplus
invested, we wouldn’t have to worry about sacrificial giving either.
Just joking, of course…
P.S. Did you know how many other churches there are dedicated to Saint
Faith, both in Britain and worldwide? I have been collating,
investigating and updating the list for some years now, and you can see
the latest count, as well as articles and pictures featuring several of
the churches, on the church website at:
Journey of Faith
The text of a
recent sermon by Fred Nye
In telling the story of Our Lord’s final journey to Jerusalem, St. Luke
uses it as a backdrop for many of his teachings and parables. As
always, to understand what is going on, we need to look for clues
elsewhere in the gospels.
We know that in their travels Jesus and his disciples met with a very
mixed reception. Some said “He is a good man”, others “No, he is
leading people astray”. Jesus faced some very frightening opposition
even in his home town of Nazara, or Nazareth. After preaching in the
synagogue there he was confronted by an angry mob and only escaped
being lynched by a miracle. St. John tells us of a similar incident in
Jerusalem where there was a plot to kill him. On this occasion Jesus
narrowly avoided arrest by the Jewish authorities only because, as St.
John puts it, ‘his time had not yet come’. So the journey to Jerusalem
must have been full of anxieties and uncertainties. While Jesus would
have been made welcome in some towns and villages, in others he may
well have been in fear for his life. In these circumstances he and his
disciples would have needed a ‘safe house’. We know this is true
because later on St. Luke tells us that Jesus had to keep secret the
venue for the Last Supper. He even had to set up a pre-arranged signal
– a man carrying a pitcher of water – so that the disciples would know
they had found the right place. And incidentally in first century
Palestine a man doing a woman’s work would have been difficult to
So when Jesus stopped for the night on the way to Jerusalem he would
have had to walk quietly along the side-streets, looking for the hidden
narrow back door which hopefully would lead to a friendly welcome.
Perhaps the arrangements sometimes went wrong – the house was
empty and the disciples knocked in vain. Or a previous
sympathiser would suddenly become scared of getting caught, would
refuse to let him in and shout at him to go away.
It is with this background that St. Luke introduces for us the parable
of the Narrow Door. It may be fanciful - but it seems to me that the
story of the narrow door, and indeed the entire journey of Jesus to
Jerusalem, can be seen as a parable of our journey of faith. Our own
Christian pilgrimage is rarely straightforward or free of anxiety.
There are of course the good times when the door is open and we know
that we are freely admitted to the welcoming arms, to the love of God.
But there are other times when the door of faith is locked and bolted,
or we cannot even find it among the maze of side-streets which
constitute our busy and distracted lives. When faith fails us we feel
lost, rejected, cut off from the love of God, or even uncertain if he
was ever there for us in the first place.
I am absolutely certain that when faith does fail it is rarely our
fault, and never because God has really rejected or abandoned us. It is
nearly always because it is just within our mortal nature for faith to
fail us. Faith is something over which we have little control – it is a
given, a gift. It is given to us through no fault of our own, and taken
away from us through no fault of our own. Human betrayal, loss,
bereavement can quickly destroy the precious gift, as if a power cut
had suddenly wiped to a blank the disk of our soul.
I believe that Jesus himself would have struggled with faith. Rejection
by his followers must have lead him to some self-doubt, to wonder
whether he really was the Chosen One. Might it have been that the
closed door in the side-street was a sign of abandonment to him? – ‘My
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Right up to the moment of his
death there could have been no absolute certainty for Our Lord, no
absolute guarantee of vindication. Perhaps those of us who follow him
should be more prepared to admit that for us uncertainty and doubt are
just as much a part of faith as conviction and confidence.
I have to admit that I cannot even rely on the Eucharist as a constant
source of faith. Sometimes it fills me with a sense of the presence of
God, but at other times I am left feeling dry and empty. I find myself
saying wistfully, along with the people in the parable ‘We once ate and
drank in your company’ – yes but that was last month or last year, not
today. Faith is a gift, and the more I try to hold on to it, the more
it slips through my fingers. If I am honest with myself, what keeps
faith alive is the example of my fellow travellers. Unfair though it
may seem there are some for whom the chemistry is right, for whom the
relationship of faith does work, and they walk with Our Lord and bear
witness to him. In their company I can feel secure.
And if I’m honest, there’s another thing that keeps me going. It is
simply the desire to keep on travelling, to follow the ‘pale Galilean’
on his journey, to listen to his teaching, and to try and live as he
did. We are called simply to follow Our Lord in his journey of
uncertainty, follow him to Jerusalem, to the upper room and to the
Cross and what may lie beyond.
During his journey, some Pharisees came up to Jesus to deliver a death
threat from Herod ‘the fox’. It was clearly very dangerous to continue
on to Jerusalem. But Jesus sent the Pharisees back to Herod. ‘You may
give the fox this message’ he said. ’Learn that for today and tomorrow
and the next day I must go on’.
For Christians all that we can expect of faith is that it should allow
us to go on. Wherever we are on our journey of faith we can be sure of
one thing – that by the time we die we will not have arrived. All we
can hope for is to be travelling in the right direction and in the
High on a mountain in the Alps there is a simple cairn marking the
grave of an alpine guide. It bears the inscription ‘He died climbing’.
What an epitaph for a Christian! All that we can hope for in the life
of faith is to die climbing, and with a simple prayer on our lips:
‘Lord, I believe: help Thou mine
the roof with Recitals
(or at least keeping it on!)
Fr Neil writes:
Once again a very successful recital series has come and gone. It is a
great encouragement to record that not only have more people passed
through the doors than last year but also more money has been made as a
result. We shall shortly be able to publish the results of the
questionnaires which many people kindly completed. It really does help
us to have honest feed back for planning the next series.
Over £2,000 profit has been raised, which is excellent! Many
thanks to David Jones who has dealt with the administration for the
series and to all those teams of people who made sure that no-one went
home hungry or thirsty, and not forgetting all those who get the church
ready and make sure it is put back afterwards ready for business on
Sunday. Thank you to all of you for your hard work and support: it is
great to know that this is most definitely and firmly one of the much
enjoyed Crosby institutions!
Footnote: the 2008 tenth season
begins, as usual, on the Saturday after
Bowness Day Trip
As we gathered for the outing to Bowness the weather did not look very
promising, it was overcast with the threat of rain. The forecast had
promised strong winds and heavy showers, so I do not think I was the
only one hoping the weather people had got it wrong.
We left about five minutes late but had an unexpected, well certainly
unexpected to me, stop at the Feelgood Factory, The Marian
Square, Netherton which is less than five miles from St. Faith’s.
I presume it was a toilet stop but refrained from asking. Other than
that it was an uneventful journey. We arrived at Bowness at about 11.30
and could then please ourselves what we did.
For Laura and I that meant an early lunch, a trip on the ferry to
Ambleside, a pleasant walk to the town, a ride on an open-top bus back
to the ferry point, cream tea on a terrace overlooking the lake and the
ferry back to Bowness. Then it was time to make our way to the coach
for the journey home. The weather, although cloudy most of the time,
was pleasantly warm and the only rain we had was on the walk from the
ferry to the coach for the return journey.
Other people took other ferry trips and I heard of one group who took a
trip but sadly mistimed the return and had to get a taxi back. Such
things happen. Others visited Windermere and I know one little girl and
her parents visited the Beatrix Potter museum.
I would like to say thank you to our Parish Administrator, Liz Mooney,
who arranged it, for a very enjoyable day out.
Reflection for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
Founder of the Friars Minor (1182 –
“We have no right to glory in ourselves because of any extraordinary
gifts, since these do not belong to us but to God. But we may glory in
crosses, afflictions and tribulations, because these are our own.”
St. Francis was born in the Umbrian city of Assisi about the year 1182.
His parents were Pietro di Bernardone, a wealthy cloth merchant, and
Pica, his French-born wife. Francis was one of the privileged young men
of Assisi, attracted to adventure and frivolity as well as tales of
romance. When he was about twenty he donned a knight’s
armour and went off, filled with
dreams of glory, to join a war with the neighbouring city-state
of Perugia. He was captured and spent a year in prison before being
ransomed. Upon his return he succumbed to a serious illness from which
his recovery was slow. These experiences provoked a spiritual crisis
which was ultimately resolved in a series of dramatic episodes.
Francis had always been a fastidious person with an abhorrence for
paupers and the sick. As he was riding in the countryside one day he
saw a loathsome leper. Dismounting he shared his cloak with the leper
and then, moved by some divine impulse, kissed the poor man’s ravaged
face. From that encounter Francis’s life began to take shape around an
utterly new agenda, contrary to the values of his family and the world.
While praying before a crucifix in the dilapidated chapel of San
Damiano, Francis heard a voice speak to him: “Francis, repair my
church, which has fallen into disrepair, as you can see.” At first
inclined to take this assignment literally, he set about physically
restoring the ruined building. Only later did he understand his mission
in a wider, more spiritual sense. His vocation was to recall the church
to the radical simplicity of the gospel, to the spirit of poverty, and
to the image of Christ in his poor.
To pay for his programme of church repair, Francis took to divesting
his father’s warehouse. Pietro di Bernardone, understandably enraged,
had his son arrested and brought to trial before the bishop in the
public marketplace. Francis admitted his fault and restored his
father’s money. And then in an extraordinary gesture, he stripped off
his rich garments and handed them also to his sorrowing father, saying,
“Hitherto I have called you father on earth; but now I say, ‘Our
Father, who art in heaven’.” The bishop hastily covered him with a
peasant’s frock, which Francis marked with a cross. And so his
transformation was complete.
The spectacle which Francis presented – the rich boy who now camped out
in the open air, serving the sick, working with his hands, and bearing
witness to the gospel – attracted ridicule from the respectable
citizens of Assisi. But gradually it held a subversive appeal. Before
long a dozen other young men had joined him. They became the nucleus of
his new order, the Friars Minor. The beautiful Clare of Assisi was soon
to follow, slipping through the city walls in the middle of the night
to join the waiting brothers. Francis personally cut off her hair,
marking her for the life of poverty and her consecration to Christ.
The little community continued to grow. In 1210 they made a pilgrimage
to Rome and won the approval of Pope Innocent III. Some of the pope’s
advisors warned that Francis’s simple rule, with its emphasis on
material poverty, was impractical. But the worldly pope was apparently
moved by the sight of the humble friar and perceived in this movement a
bulwark against more radical forces.
Francis left relatively few writings, but his life – literally the
embodiment of his message – gave rise to numerous legends and
parables. Many of them reflect the joy and freedom that became
hallmarks of his spirituality, along with his constant tendency to turn
the values of the world on their head. He esteemed Sister Poverty as
his wife, “the fairest bride in the whole world.” He encouraged his
brothers to welcome ridicule and persecution as a means of conforming
to the folly of the cross. He taught that unmerited suffering borne
patiently for love of Christ was the path to “perfect joy.”
But behind such holy “foolishness” Francis could not disguise the
serious challenge he posed to the church and the society of his time.
Centuries before the expression became current in the church, Francis
represented a “preferential option for the poor.” Even in his life the
Franciscans themselves were divided about how literally to accept his
call to radical material poverty. In an age of crusades and other
expressions of “sacred violence,” Francis also espoused a radical
commitment to nonviolence. He rejected all violence as an offence
against the gospel commandment of love and a desecration of God’s image
in all human beings.
Francis had a vivid sense of the sacramentality of creation. All
things, whether living or inanimate, reflected their creator’s love and
were thus due reverence and wonder. In this spirit he composed his
famous “Canticle of Creation,” singing the praises of Brother Sun,
Sister Moon, and even Sister Death. Altogether his life and his
relationship with the world – including animals, the elements, the poor
and sick, as well as princes and prelates, women as well as men,
represented the breakthrough of a new model of human and cosmic
Ultimately Francis attempted no more than to live out the teachings of
Christ and the spirit of the gospel. His identification with Christ was
so intense that in 1224, while praying in his hermitage, he received
the “stigmata,” physical marks of Christ’s passion, on his hands and
feet. His last years were marked at once by excruciating physical
suffering and spiritual happiness. “Welcome Sister Death!” he exclaimed
at last. At his request he was laid on the bare ground in his old
habit. To the friars gathered around him he gave each his blessing in
turn: “I have done my part,” he said. “May Christ teach you to do
yours.” So he died on October 3, 1226. His feast is observed on October
(Supplied by Fr
Dennis, from Francis Ellsberg’s ‘All Saints’)
(St Mary’s) has sent in this article about the survival against the
odds of a remote Welsh Congregationalist chapel. It is not far across
the moors from the little Anglican church and pilgrim place at
Llandecwyn, about which I wrote a while back. It is good that neither
has suffered the fate of the Scottish ‘tin church’ referred to in the
article, nor indeed of Corrie Church, near Torridon, preposterously
closed for health and safety reasons, as recounted by the editor in the
A century ago, Capel Penystryd, though rather remote and isolated, was
at the heart of a thriving farming community out on the moors beyond
the village of Trawsfynydd, which itself means ‘across the mountain’.
In 1905, the government decided to use this wide expanse of open
moorland as a firing range. They demolished all the farms and buildings
for miles around. Today, there is no trace of any of them, with the
exception of a little church, which they either could not, or would not
demolish. Instead, it was left to die. But the congregation of the day
was determined that it wouldn’t wither away. Rain or shine, they
continued to make their way across the moor, on average once a
fortnight, to hold a Sunday afternoon service.
I first became aware of this unusual and faithful congregation at
Penystryd when a farmer friend, who lived near Llan Ffestiniog, invited
me to take a service there. He wasn’t available to take me on my first
visit to the church, so my wife and I had to rely on his directions. We
were to go down the main road, turn left at some holiday chalets then
strike straight across the moor. Then, we were told, just when we’d got
to the stage of wondering if we were on the right road, we should take
heart and keep on just a little bit further, until we saw a small wood.
Beyond this, he told us, we would find Capel Penystryd.
After travelling across what seemed like miles of open, undulating
moorland, we arrived with only minutes to spare, only to discover, to
our dismay, that the church was locked. Debating whether we should go
back or press onward further into the moor, we were more than relieved
when, looking along the road, we saw a cavalcade of cars coming over
the hill. In a few moments, the congregation arrived, with no sense of
hurry or urgency. People simply sat down in groups on the heather
enjoying the warm sunshine while someone chose the hymns. We then made
our way into the church, the silence of the moor broken only by the
bleating of sheep.
There was a tranquillity and serenity about that service that reflected
the people of the moor and the place itself. Considering they held a
service only twelve times a year, I felt it a great privilege - as a
Scot with a modest knowledge of Welsh - to be invited at all to preach
in this part of the country where people speak English only
occasionally, and only then when strangers come amongst them.
To my surprise and delight, I was invited to return on further
occasions and so make my own modest contribution to sustain its
continuity of worship. On hearing about the demise of another similar
rural church, known affectionately as the ‘tin church, at Port
Sonachan, in Scotland, my thoughts turned to Capel Penystryd. I
wondered if it was still open, especially since fifteen years had
passed since I had last preached there.
I phoned a minister living in that area and was delighted to hear that
not only is Capel Penystryd still going strong, but attendance is even
better now, and includes an enthusiastic group of young people who
never miss. In fact, the minister told me, he was going to conduct a
Diolchgarwch - a Thanksgiving - that very Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps, one day, I might be invited back and journey across the moor
and conduct a service once more for this faithful congregation at Capel
Faithfulness is a noble quality that surpasses fame or success. Well
done, good and faithful servant - the commendation of Jesus to the
servant in the parable is relevant also to that little congregation at
Penystryd and many like it.
Arthur J Brown
1st £140 Joan Tudhope
2nd £100 Ruth Winder
3rd £75 Penny Wilmot
4th £50 Derek
New members always welcome! Remember… you’ve got to be in it to win it!
At a weekday eucharist recently on the Feast of the Birth of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, I was struck by the words of one of the petitions
in the Prayers of Intercession. They are the work of Fr Eric Simmons,
of the Mirfield Community of the Resurrection, and they seemed to me to
show forth a welcome breadth of vision and humility in their implicit
acknowledgement of the many who have a vision of the Christian faith
yet who never darken the doors of a church.
He speaks of those who ‘cannot bear’ the Church, the visible Body of
Christ, yet who by implication are its invisible, and perhaps greater,
body. Are we an unbearable church? Do we listen to God speaking in
those who cannot bear us?
We pray for those who in their hearts
reach out to Christ
in faith and hope and love,
But who cannot bear his visible Body
and who do not follow with us.
Give us the humility to hear you
speaking to us in them,
and so to learn of you and to serve
you and your world.
A suggestion has been made that the United Benefice should consider
starting its own weight watchers club.
Hardly a day goes by without the media reminding us of the problems and
risks associated with being overweight. The medics tell us that
people who are overweight are more likely to suffer with problems of
diabetes, too high cholesterol and run a greater risk of strokes, high
blood pressure and even some types of cancer. In fact, obesity probably
aggravates virtually every medical problem.
Only a few extra inches around the waist makes many daily activities
more difficult – walking up a flight of stairs, putting on socks,
routine housework. When we are overweight we often do not feel good
about ourselves and we wear loose baggy clothes rather than what we
would prefer to wear. Further, carrying surplus weight over a prolonged
period adds to the wear and tear on hips, knees and ankles. Vital
organs operate less efficiently when surrounded by fat.
There is a possibility of St. Mary’s and St. Faith’s starting its own
branch of WeightWatchers? or Slimmer’s World?. To do this we need to
have a commitment that 20 people will both join and regularly attend
weekly meetings. The way groups operate is that they meet weekly to
receive ideas and support in a collective effort to lose weight.
At the first meeting you are weighed and you then discuss with the
leader your individual weight loss goal – this can be done with input
from your GP or other medical adviser. You will weigh in again each
week and a written record of progress is made on your membership card.
All of this is done in private and the information is confidential.
Meetings take place each week at the same time and place. Our venue
will probably be one or other of the Church premises.
After the weekly weigh in, you will be given helpful leaflets. These
* introduce the programme and how it works
* explain the principles of eating wisely
* provide helpful recipes
* provide a guide to healthy shopping
* give tips on eating out
* explain how exercise can/should be incorporated into your plans
* tell you how to keep the weight off when you have reached your goal
* help you stick with it when (as inevitably happens) you have a bad
* give you lots more tips and encouragement
A small weekly fee is payable.
It is a sad fact that gaining weight is effortless, whereas losing it
is not easy. However, the discipline of the weekly weigh-in and the
sharing and learning that takes place at the weekly meetings has
certainly helped many to achieve their goals.
The club will only get off the ground if we receive sufficient support.
If you want to join, please have a word with me.
Earlier in this issue, we printed news about the demise of another
church dedicated to our patron saint. Our church in Crosby may need
more money, and, like the majority of churches up and down the land,
have experienced a drop in congregations over recent years but, praise
the Lord, we have not dropped to the two churchgoers recorded in Belper
(page 9, if you missed it!). We fight on, and year by year, October
sees us recalling the sacrifice of our patroness and celebrating her
life and our century of witness and worship and rededicating ourselves
to the future in which we believe. Nearly ten years ago, I marked the
patronal festival and the beginning of our centenary celebrations with
Sonnet for Saint Faith’s
They built in trust before the houses came –
Foursquare uncompromising brick and stone
And gave their church a fearful martyr’s name
To mark its witness where it stood alone.
Thus Douglas Horsfall’s bounty came to be,
Founded in faith, sailing against the tide –
People and priests one in adversity
With prayer and sacrament their daily guide.
So through a century this temple grew:
Succeeding generations gave their best
To pass this blessing to the steadfast few
Who loved this place and found in Faith their rest.
Ours is that trust: to guard in latter days,
For all who come, a house of prayer and praise.
When the televising of the Queen’s Coronation was being planned in
1953, the then Archbishop of Canterbury expressed misgivings that
people might watch it in public places with their hats on…. Yes,
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