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The Parish Magazine
of Saint Faith's Church, Great Crosby

Saint Faith’s Prayer for Mission

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 flourish,
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you would like to receive a postal copy of Newslink  each month, free of charge, email the Editor 

October 2007

From the  Ministry Team

Musing on Mission

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 said.

And we all know that Bishops, like politicians, speak the truth! Contrast those words with some others which made the deadlines the same week:

“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 statement?

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 life for.

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,

Fr Neil

Harvest Thanksgiving
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.

St Faith’s Patronal Festival Celebrations

Friday October 5th

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 Mary’s)   
Preacher:   The Reverend Denise MacDougall (Christ Church, Waterloo)

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 the family!

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 equally welcome.

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! 

Food for Thought
Chris Price

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, they believed.

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 slavery.

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 marvellous films…

A  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 St. Faith’s.  

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 optimism prevails.

Ambuye akhale nanu
May the Lord be with you!

The 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 ordeal…

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 while.

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!

Fr Neil

‘Church for sale…?’
Chris Price

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 afterwards.

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.


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 problems:
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.

The advantages:
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 price.

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:

The 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 overlook!

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 right company.

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 unbelief’

Raising 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 Easter.                     

The Bowness Day Trip
Ron Rankin

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.

A Reflection for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
Founder of the Friars Minor (1182 – 1126)

“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 community.

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 4. 

(Supplied by Fr Dennis, from Francis Ellsberg’s ‘All Saints’)

A Faithful Congregation

Joyce Jones (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 July issue.  

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 Penystryd.

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

100+ Club Winners
September 2007

1st    £140     Joan Tudhope
2nd  £100      Ruth Winder
3rd  £75        Penny Wilmot
4th   £50       Derek Hyett

New members always welcome! Remember… you’ve got to be in it to win it!

The Unbearable Church?
Chris Price

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 the Church,
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.

Weight Watching
Denis Whalley writes...

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 the heart, 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 leaflets
* 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 week
* 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.

Patronal Postscript

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 these lines.

Sonnet for Saint Faith’s
Chris Price

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, really.

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