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September 2002

A Welcome Guest?

If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two
If he came unexpectedly, I wonder what you‘d do.
Oh, I know you‘d give your nicest room to such an honoured guest
And all the food you‘d serve to him would be the very best,
And you would keep assuring him you‘re glad to have him there;
That serving him in your home is joy beyond compare.

But when you saw him coming, would you meet him at the door
With arms outstretched in welcome to your heav‘nly visitor?
Or would you have to change your clothes before you let him in?
Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they‘d been?

Would you turn off the radio and hope he hadn‘t heard?
And wish you hadn‘t uttered that last, loud, hasty word?
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in, or would you rush about?

And I wonder — if the Saviour spent a day or two with you,
Would you go right on doing the things you always do?
Would you go right on saying the things you always say?
Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?

Would your family conversation keep up its usual pace?
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing, and read the books you read
And let him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed?

Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you‘d planned to go,
Or would you, maybe, change your plans for just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have him meet your very closest friends?
Or would you hope they‘d stay away until his visit ends?

Would you be glad to have him stay forever on and on,
Or would you sigh with great relief when he at last was gone
It might be interesting to know the things that you would do,
If Jesus came in person to spend some time with you.


from New Waves, St Andrew's Church, Hamble; contributed by MIKE HOMFRAY

From the Ministry Team

‘Come let us Celebrate the Feast’

The month of August has been a month of celebration, a time for giving thanks for the concept of family. First of all there was the Commonwealth games, which saw members of the wider family of the Commonwealth coming together in what was truly a great spectacle and celebration.

The spirit of goodwill, friendship and co-operation was almost tangible as both the crowds and the athletes demonstrated in action how it is indeed possible for differences of creed, colour and nationality to be overcome.

Another, much smaller family celebration also took place shortly after the games: a birthday party at which the Green family gathered to celebrate my husband Ted‘s seventieth birthday. The oldest member of the family was his father, at ninety four, and the youngest, our grand-daughter who is almost one. It may not have been a spectacular as the games but it was a wonderful family occasion.

As we enter September, it is time for another family celebration, this time for our two church families, as we gather together for St Mary‘s patronal festival. It will be a double celebration because it is also the occasion of welcoming around a dozen new confirmed members of our churches and giving thanks for their commitment.

It will also be a time when we can give thanks for the fellowship which has grown and continues to grow between our two churches under the guidance of Father Neil; we are now members of a wider family and new friendships are growing. So, as we celebrate the feast, let us pray for God‘s blessing on our confirmation candidates and upon our united benefice, as we give him thanks for all that has been, all that is, and all that is yet to come.

Joyce Green

Saint Faith`s  Patronal Festival   2002

Sunday 6th October

FEAST OF SAINT FAITH, Virgin and Martyr
11.00 am SOLEMN EUCHARIST and Parade Service  followed by parish lunch
 Celebrant and Preacher: The Right Reverend  Dr Rupert Hoare, Dean of Liverpool

6.00 pm FESTAL EVENSONG, Procession and Benediction
 Preacher: The Reverend Canon Myles Davies

Sunday 13th October



Dates and Service Times for the Diary

At its July meeting the Ministry Team decided that in future all joint services for our two churches will begin at 10.30 am. We hope this will make it easier for both congregations to come together, particularly when there is a meal to follow: 9.30 is too early to be followed by a parish lunch and when a joint service is at 11.00 it is nearly 12.30 before we leave church. Please note therefore that the Joint service at St Mary‘s on SUNDAY 8th SEPTEMBER and that at St Faith‘s for St Faith‘s Day on SUNDAY 6th OCTOBER will both begin at 10.30 am.

ADVANCE NOTICE: the 2002 DINNER MERRY-GO-ROUND will be held on Saturday 16th November next. More details nex month ... but book the date now!

‘Give me the Music’   Chris Price

Three distinctive events, one on the heels of the other, two at St Faith’s and one at St Mary’s, have been marked in their different ways by marvellous music: undoubtedly one of the trademarks of Fr Neil’s years at St Faith’s. The first lasted 24 hours, the second a mere hour and a half, and the third at least nine hours (probably quite a lot more, but I had gone home.) Conscious of his responsibility as keeper of this journal of record, this writer was present for a total of some eighteen hours of this cumulative marathon to note down some of the landmarks.

Prelude: You’ll Never Walk Alone
Not strictly part of the symphony, the 24-hour ‘Fun Sing’ was prefaced by the regular Saturday Open Day recital. Mike Foy, once organist at St Faith’s, ended his recital as England‘s World Cup game with Denmark was kicking off. While he was playing an encore which mingled ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ with ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, England scored their first goal! It was enough to restore your faith, though maybe not in England's long-term prospects.

First Movement: The Sponsored Sing
The choir‘s amazing sustained choral effort is well-documented elsewhere in this bumper issue (OK, OK, next year I suppose I'll have to do a separate August issue! Ed.) by Stephanie and Mim; I will merely add a few highlights. The sheer stamina was amazing: full-blooded anthems were belted out at the beginning and at the end of the session. The range was amazing: during the super concert, which I was lucky enough to be able to introduce, choir and soloists sang and played their way across the spectrum from sacred to secular and serious to much less so, performing requests from fans and followers. The enthusiasm and spirit were amazing: they seemed buoyed up by their commitment and fellowship. The worship was amazing: those who attended Choral Evensong were treated to some lovely cadences and some very real worship; while the select handful who came to Choral Mattins early on Sunday felt part of history as the lovely old Prayer Book anthems for Morning Prayer were sung at St Faith‘s for the first time, we think, for some half a century. The incidental vision of Fr Neil singing Mattins in scarf and hood (though sadly not in preaching tabs) was also a Significant Moment, happily recorded digitally for posterity. All in all, a triumph and a day and night to treasure: of the three such events I have been involved with this was the most fun, and Mim and her gallant band deserve our thanks and our admiration.

Second Movement: Anniversary Event
Friday, June 28th saw Fr Neil celebrate the tenth anniversary of his priesting with a  characteristically splendid celebratory Eucharist of the Holy Spirit at St Mary’s. The liturgy was beautifully ordered and presented and Fr David Woodhouse came out of retirement to preach powerfully and well, paying rightful tribute to Fr Neil. Speaking of his sense of fun in worship, he quoted the small boy‘s prayer: ‘Please God make the bad people good and the good people less miserable!’ There can‘t have been many miserable folk at St Mary’s, especially when they were enjoying a feast of music. It seems invidious to single out particular items, but the rich and wonderful sound of Peter O’Connor’s flute, heard first at St Faith’s in the darkness a year or so ago, was utterly unforgettable. As Fr Neil himself said later, it was worth waiting ten years for such a feast of music, and he hoped it wouldn‘t be another ten years until the next such helping.

Finale: English Country Gardens
Sunday June 30th saw the Gardens Open Day. Seven householders, having rashly agreed to open their gardens to the public gaze, spent anxious hours getting their plots ready: coaxing, cutting, weeding, covering up, cleaning and tidying and rushing to garden centres for last-minute surreptitious purchases of spot colour for those duller corners. The day itself, in keeping with what is laughingly called the English Summer, saw persistent light rain set in at exactly 2 pm: it didn‘t really let up until late evening. However, some forty or fifty stalwarts, having paid their fivers, plodded gamely from garden to garden in the damp drizzle, admiring the colourful displays and trim manicured lawns at the Brooms, the Dawsons, the Haughtons, the Crookes, the Whalleys, the Walkers and the Prices. Tea was served, indoors and with the heating turned up, and a great and typically British time was had by all. The day finished with ‘Pimms and Punch and Live Jazz in the Vicarage Garden’, but here rain stopped (outdoor) play and the event was packed into the vicarage itself. There was plenty to eat and, of course, to drink, and three talented jazz musicians entertained on the guitar, the saxophone and percussion. Their inventive and spirited music, largely improvised, was the perfect foil to the imbibing and socialising, and proved an imaginative and unusual finale to an event which, almost incidentally, raised in the region of £450 for church funds. Long may the music sound and the fellowship flourish at St Faith’s and at St Mar’s.

Footnote: Funny He Should Say That
Fr David Woodhouse’s sermon was memorable, too, for a lovely story. It concerns a group being shown round the centre of a town whose church was not noted for the liveliness of its services. Passing the war memorial in the church grounds, the guide declared: ‘This commemorates the dead in the services’. ‘Was that at Mattins or at Evensong?’ came a voice from the crowd....

St Magnus:  the Saint  who took Cold Showers!   Anne Birch

Reading Chris‘s fascinating article in the last issue — ‘Anglicans at the Top of Britain’ — reminded me of my own travels to the furthest reaches of Scotland: in this case mystical, magical and beautiful Orkney. An historian’s dream (particularly for lovers of prehistoric remains, including a Neolithic village,  standing stones and the like), Orkney contains a small, compact but lovely Cathedral dedicated to the same St Magnus who gave his name to the church in Lerwick mentioned by Chris. You may have seen this cathedral on television as it was the setting for the last Final of Mastermind some years ago.

Now St Magnus the Martyr, to give him his proper title, was quite a character who arose from an unlikely source - namely the infamous Viking Earls of Orkney - who, as a family more noted for their brutal treatment of anyone whom they didn’t like or who threatened their wealth, fortune and position, ruled Orkney from the late ninth century until the early thirteenth.

What we know of Earl (later Saint) Magnus is largely contained within the endlessly absorbing ‘Orkneyinga Saga’ which was written in around 1200 by an unknown Icelandic scholar who was clearly much in awe of Magnus as the dedication reads, ‘(May) he who wrote this record, he who has told it, and all who listen to it enjoy from that holy night of God, Earl Magnus, blessings and the answer to their prayers for the remission of their sins and for everlasting joy’‘ From the Saga we learn that Magnus, Earl of Orkney, ‘was a man of extraordinary distinction, tall, with a fine, intelligent look about him: a man of strict virtue, successful in war, wise, eloquent, generous and magnanimous, open-handed with money, sound with advice, and altogether the most popular of men.’

In fact so virtuous was Magnus that when he married, he ‘asked for the hand of a girl from the noblest family in Scotland, celebrating their wedding and afterwards living with her for ten years without allowing either to suffer by way of their lusts, and so remaining chaste without stain of lechery. Whenever the urge came upon him, he would plunge into cold water and pray to God for aid.’(!)  Sterling stuff!

Magnus and his cousin Hakon ruled Orkney together for some years, during a time of great turmoil.  For quite a while, they got along amicably enough but then two troublemakers - Sighvat and Sigurt Sock - started such scandalous goings-on that caused an impossible rift between the cousins, resulting in a virtual war between their opposing forces. Following a foreboding of his own death, Magnus was at his prayers when Hakon and his men advanced towards him, shouting and clashing their weapons. Apparently they allowed him to finish his prayers, whereupon Magnus stood and addressed them, stating that he was giving them three choices of how he could effectively write himself out of the picture without ending his life for, as he put it according to the Saga, -I‘d not have you violate your oaths by killing me, an innocent man.-

His first offer was to go on an extended pilgrimage to Rome or the Holy Land.  He offered to take two ships, do penance for both their sins and never return to Orkney. Hakon and his men didn‘t like this They refused. Magnus’ second offer was to be sent with two companions to Scotland where he would be placed under guard to ensure he couldn’t escape. Again they refused.

Then Magnus made the extraordinary suggestion to ‘have me mutilated in any way you choose, rather than take my life, or else blind me and lock me in a dungeon.’ Apparently he was ‘more concerned with the welfare of your souls than saving my life’. Hakon was happy to accept this but the men with him - all chieftains - were not.  They said ‘We’ll kill one or the other of you.  From this day forward we’re having no more of joint rule.’

Predictably Hakon said ‘Better kill him then.’ So they did. In fact it was Hakon’s cook, Lifolf, who was charged with the dastardly deed. Magnus, brave to the last, stood in front of the weeping Lifolf (who really didn’t want to do it) and said ‘Stand in front of me and strike me hard on the head.’ Evidently, beheading would have been too demeaning as this was the punishment for a thief. Sure enough, Lifolf swung one almighty blow and Magnus’ soul ‘passed away to heaven’.

After his death (probably circa 1117), it was reported that the place of execution was miraculously transformed into a green field and that a number of people were cured of their ills after keeping vigil at his grave. It was said that people could smell a ‘heavenly fragrance’ near his grave. After this, numerous miracles involving healings were reported and faithfully recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga and eventually William, Bishop of Orkney (1168-88) brought his remains in great procession from his grave in Birsay and placed them above the high altar of the church which stood in Kirkwall at that time.

Quite how reliable the Saga is in terms of Magnus‘ character cannot, of course, be properly assessed but he certainly left his mark on the furthest regions of the United Kingdom. Maybe there‘s something in these cold showers?

United in Song      Fr Neil

On Wednesday 2nd October, BBC Radio Merseyside will be coming to S. Faith’s to record a programme to be broadcast on Sunday 6th October (S. Faith’s Day). United in Song is a half-hour programme, a mix of speech and music, comprising some five or six hymns, readings and prayers, and all this will be focussed around the theme of celebrating our Patron, S. Faith. The programme will also mention some of the activities which take place at S. Faith’s and our forthcoming pilgrimage to Conques in 2004. When I visited Conques the brothers at the Abbey very kindly gave me a gift for my 10th Anniversary which is a CD of the Organ in the Abbey Church of Ste. Foy. Some of this music will also be included in the programme, making it a true celebration of Saint Faith from Crosby and Conques! ALL ARE WELCOME to come along and to be part of the congregation for this programme. Nearer the time I will let you know the time you need to arrive.

Pantomime 2003      Fr Neil

AUDITIONS will take place on Sunday 1st September at 4 pm in Saint Mary’s Church Hall. More details later.

Charity Fun Day     Fr Neil

Many thanks to all who helped in any way to make the Charity Fun Day a huge success. You can read more about it below. The total amount raised was nearly £1,300. Ideas for next year’s Fun Day...?

(The Charity Fun Day came from the wish of our two churches, both to do more for outside charities and to try and involve our communities in so doing. Good publicity and even better weather resulted in very good numbers of people thronging the Hall, the Vicarage garden (where there was the bouncy castle, which seems to have taken up residence there this summer!) and the church grounds. There were the usual stalls, with hot dogs doing a roaring trade, displays by some of the good causes we were helping, and a Treasure Hunt in church. The Mayor of Sefton opened proceedings, and our M.P. called in. Both of them, and many others besides, queued up to throw wet sponges at Fr Neil — undoubtedly the highlight of the day (and he offered an encore after the Sunday service!). The photos on the centre pages give some idea of the fun at this and other recent events: certainly the Charity Fun Day was an excellent innovation and a real parish event, and seems destined to become a Tradition. Ed.)

Community Fund (Lottery) Bid     Fr Neil

After years of  negotiation, consultation, consideration, and preparation we have now lodged our bid! We have asked for £393, 850 to...

‘...create a new Parish Centre to meet the developing needs of local groups and organisations so that they will be more effective in serving people of all ages and conditions in the local community and thereby enhancing the quality of local community life.’

The Hall will, of course, still be available to current users, including the Church. Currently, we have planning permission for a very basic scheme to extend the Hall and form a ?link‘ with Church. The plans will be the subject of further substantial negotiation before we proceed; however they will almost certainly include full disabled access and lift, additional toilets, new fully-fitted kitchen, located so as to be accessible to all users, and additional office and meeting accommodation. The ‘link’ will provide direct access to the new Centre from Church and this will be of great benefit to all concerned especially during bad weather and hours of darkness.

The approximate time scale is as follows:
  Application for funding will take about 6 months to process (to 1st January  2003)
  A further 3 months will be taken up in consultation, leading up to finalisation of the detailed plans (to 1st April 2003)
  Local Authority Building Approval and the tender process (getting quotes from builders) will take an additional 3 months to 1st July 2003.
  Building works will last 6-7 months and should begin in August 2003.

If all goes to plan the new Parish Centre should be open for business at around about Easter time in 2004. The new Parish Centre will be available for use morning, afternoon and evening every day of the week. The extended facilities will mean that 4-5 separate groups will be able to use the Centre at any one time. Currently, about 14 groups with approximately 400 members use the Hall each week. In the first year following the opening of the Centre it is estimated that the number of users will increase threefold and could easily increase to 2000 users each week.

Our plans have the full backing and support of both the Bishop of Liverpool and our MP Claire Curtis-Thomas - both have written very strong letters of support. Organisations that have expressed an interest in using the new Parish Centre include Age Concern, Soroptimist International, Crosby Community Forum and St. John Ambulance. If you require further information then please speak to either Fr. Neil or a member of the renovation sub-committee.

‘Monks Fight on Roof of Holiest Place’

A recent report in the Daily Telegraph describes the weird goings-on on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, ‘the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection’.

Ethiopian Orthodox and Egyptian Coptic monks have apparently been vying for control of the rooftop for centuries. ‘As black-clad monks threw stones and iron bars at each other, the Israeli police were called in to restore order.’ One monk ended up unconscious in hospital. It was all about the position of a chair near the entrance, where a Coptic monk sits to mark out their territory, s occupied by their ‘monastery’: a few African huts they have put up there since being evicted from below. It was hot: the monk moved out of the sun, and the Ethiopians took umbrage. The month was allegedly teased and poked and, final insult, pinched by a woman! At the time of the report, there was a ‘silent stand-off’ with a line of chairs marking the Ethiopian defence line.

(You couldn’t make it up, could you. It would be  enough to make Jesus turn in his grave, but of course, thankfully he isn’t there, of course ... Ed.)

‘My Life in a Bubble...’ Mike Homfray talks to Peter Brookfield

MH : What exactly is the challenge you face with your condition?

PB : I’m autistic. It’s very complex. You feel like you’re in a bubble, looking out on society. You‘re enclosed in your own world, you have mood swings, and when an autistic person has a problem, it‘s like twenty times worse than for the average person. It‘s like the world is out there, but you‘re in a bubble you have to try and break out of. That’s why it‘s good to be trusted by people. I‘m the Vice Chair of the Ormskirk Labour party and that‘s very important to me, holding a position which means I can be ordinary in society.

It‘s harder for me to relate to people. Some days it‘s very hard to even talk or to communicate with people and express what you’re feeling. I have to focus and concentrate 100%, all the time, and that can be very tiring. It can get you down. I’m 38 now, and I didn‘t know that I was autistic until I was 13. I didn’t speak at all until I was 6. They think I was starved of oxygen at birth, so there’s some cerebral palsy as well. Doctors said that I wouldn’t ride a bike, eat properly, hold a conversation - and it’s only through my own determination that I have done all those things. I have a job as well, in the catering industry, and I’ve proved everyone wrong.

I‘m not satisfied, though - there are always improvements I could make, but no-one can do it for you. It-s up to me to show the determination to do things and overcome difficulties.

MH : How do people react ?

PB : Well, when I was growing up, I was OK at primary school, but secondary school was a nightmare. I went to a mainstream school and my parents insisted on this because they wanted me to mix with ordinary people. But they talked to me as if I was on another planet at secondary school. I only had two friends. But at school, I got O-levels in English, Drama and Biology, and no-one thought I could have done that.

People do patronise me sometimes; asking me ‘are you OK?’ which as you can imagine annoys me. I’m intelligent, but it’s a communication problem. Some people think I am simple, but I‘m not. I think it‘s their problem. It used to upset me, but now I realise that it’s them who have a problem, not me.

MH : How about the Church, and Christians ?

I have found, at St. Faith’s, that people have been much more accepting than at other churches, both socially and being welcoming. I think St. Faith’s is a more ‘open’ church, generally. I have come across people in evangelical churches who told me I could be ‘healed’ from autism. I thought that was dangerous. I’m not ashamed of it, I‘m just different. I am also a gay person, and I‘ve known about that since I was 14. Some churches find that to be a stumbling block as well. But that‘s not what I have found at St. Faith‘s. People accept me for what I am and who I am.

MH : What lessons do you think the Church needs to learn ?

I think, being autistic, that people shouldn‘t be underestimated. Everybody has a gift, and something to offer the church, and it‘s a matter of channelling that gift in the right direction. I also think the church needs to be more accepting of gay people: there‘s still a stigma from some parts of the church. It makes some gay people feel very isolated. As a Church, we ought to welcome everybody – that’s what Christianity should be about, getting back to basics. I think there is still a fear of difference. They don‘t know how to deal with certain disabilities, what to do or what to say, in some situations. I think that people just need to talk to different people and communicate with them, to get to know them. I think people would be very surprised if they did.

MH : Do you ever admit defeat?

I don‘t admit defeat very often, but when I do it‘s a big setback to me. I have to pick myself up and start again. My Mum died, and I had a breakdown afterwards, but it took me six months to realise what had happened. Because I am autistic, I didn’t realise what was happening until I ended up in A&E in hospital. I found living alone difficult. Autistic people actually enjoy the security and routine of people around them, even though they are in their ‘bubble’. The best example is to watch the film ‘Rain Man’. I thought it presented autism to a ‘tee’. Autism is much more common than people realise. There are lots of people who have a ‘set pattern’ and might, themselves, be a bit autistic. It is good for me to break my pattern sometimes, although it is hard to do so.

I do enjoy life more now, I live with supporting carers in a family home in Ormskirk, and that‘s worked out well for me. And my faith is very important to me. I don‘t want to sound clichéd. But the placement where I live was an answer to prayer I made to Jesus. I have found the worship at St. Faith’s has made my faith even stronger.

Anglicans in Africa      Fr Nicolas Stebbing, C.R.

There are times when I get really sick of the Anglican Church: its doctrinal confusions; the crummy worship of so many of its parishes; its sentimental spirituality, the complete lack of Christian charity amongst most of its people. For two pins I would walk out and become a Roman Catholic. But then I think of some of the marvellous Anglicans I have known. God was in them and made them holy. He also made them fun and really on their account I stay. Whatever else the Anglican Church does, it produces some marvellous eccentrics, whose eccentricity is somehow bound up with the activity of God.

Take Arthur Shearly Cripps. He was one of those extraordinary Englishmen from  good background who went up to Oxford at the end of the ninteenth century, had a blissfully happy time there with friends around him, writing poetry and enjoying life. He took a first in classics and discovered a particular love for Theocritus, the Greek poet of the countryside. But then he became a priest. and went out to Rhodesia, where he lived a life of utter simplicity in a thatched hut, for fifty years. He wrote poetry describing his beloved African people, and the land that he knew so well from his endlessly walking down its dusty paths. He loved the people passionately and gave away everything he had. Once when he was burying a very poor man, he found the family had not been able to afford a blanket to wrap the body in, so he took off his cassock and wrapped it in that. He walked everywhere — even the 100 miles from his mission to Diocesan Synod. Once he was walking with an African when a white farmer stopped and offered him a lift. As Cripps got into the car the farmer slammed the door and drove off leaving the African behind. Cripps sat politely silent till they reached town and then said ‘Thank you very much. Now I must go back and meet my friend,’ and set off back along the road, friends did buy him a donkey, but Cripps felt sorry for it and walked next to it more often than he rode it.

Fr Cripps used to collect orphans and hand them on to a lady in the nearby village of Enkeldoorn to bring up. One of the little boys he picked up was Michael Zambezi. Michael became a teacher and then a priest. He was my priest on the mission when I was a teacher. He was a great talker and could drink a surprising amount of beer without ill effect. When I went with him to the district churches on a Sunday he wouldn‘t let us eat till we had finished all three masses. Often that meant breakfast at five in the afternoon which was hard when you‘re not used to it. He was a quite a good plumber and produced eccentric-looking hot water systems for our bath water. The diocese told all the clergy they should buy Ford Anglias for their work. Michael said, rightly, a Ford Anglia wouldn’last a year on our Wedza roads. So he bought an ancient Mercedes which he maintained himself. The diocese was furious, but the Mercedes lasted for years longer than three Anglias, even though he sometimes used it for ploughing his fields.

Then there was Gonville ffrench-Beytagh. Gonville was the passionately Anglo-Catholic dean of Salisbury. He was short and round and looked like a frog, but women loved him. He smoked too much, drank too much and swore too much. He had a fearsome temper and savaged his servers and his curates. But when you said Evensong with him and heard him say ‘Lord have mercy on us‘, you knew he meant. it. When he heard confessions which he did twice a week, there were always queues of penitents. Sinners knew that for all his fearsome reputation he was a sinner, who knew he was a forgiven sinner and would be infinitely compassionate. And his way of saying mass, (people said he  ‘snarled the mass’) gave one a sense of one caught up in something absolutely and utterly holy. He didn‘t sleep well, so he would spend the nights visiting the hospitals. Priests coming in to the Cathedral to say the early mass at 5.00 on a Sunday morning would fall over Gonville in the dark already at his prayers. In his day there were three masses every morning in the Cathedral, at 6.00, 6.30 and 7.00 and a total of 60 communicants each day. Later he went to Johannesburg to be Dean and ended up in prison for helping political detainees. I don‘t think Gonville ever managed to be good in the conventional sense of that word. But he was certainly holy.

And then there was Barbara Tredgold; Barbara was a sort of  Rhodesian aristocrat. Her father had been Chief Justice of Southern Rhodesia and her brother also became Chief Justice. She dressed appallingly — a sack-like dress over her large frame, a scruffy cardigan, sensible shoes and short cotton socks. Once at Diocesan Synod she appeared in a large white hat with vulgar purple polka dots all over it. Some one said ‘Barbara, where did you get that hat?’ ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘when I was in London last year I was invited to tea with the Queen Mother and I didn’t have a hat so I bought this one.’ I should think the Queen Mum enjoyed it anyway. But Barbara spent about thirty years living in the African township of Salisbury with two or three missionary ladies, running Sunday Schools and doing all kinds of social work. She was loved and feared throughout the township. When the political riots started and life became quite dangerous there, with petrol bombings and stone throwings, people tried to get Barbara and her ladies to come away. But they refused. No one touched them. She would address the Synod as if they were her Sunday school, and probably half of them had been, and they quailed before her. She once spotted me in the back row of Synod reading a novel and tore a great strip off me afterwards for not showing Synod speakers more respect.

And Noel Williams, who was a member of our Community. He hated life in the Community and spent his time finding ways of being out of it. He built a secondary school in the remote bush of Zimbabwe and lived there when he could. He was a fearsome disciplinarian and beat the boys and girls for all kinds of offences. He was reputed even to beat their parents too if the girls fell pregnant. He was fiercely opposed to the black liberation movement and spoke loudly against the guerrillas. When his area became one of the more dangerously affected  we all waited  for him to be attacked.  Sure enough we heard that he had been hit  over the head  with an axe.  ‘There you are,’ I told  the two African nuns who lived with me. ‘The guerrillas have got him at last’ ‘No, Father,’ they replied. ‘The people love Father Noel. That wasn’t the guerrillas who attacked him.’ Sure enough the guerrillas found the culprit and brought him to the mission themselves to prove they had not been responsible. Noel later gave evidence for the guerrilla leader when he was captured and got him off the death sentence. Noel loved tea. He once went into a cafe and ordered tea for six. When the waitress asked where the other five were he said ‘There aren‘t any others. I like tea.’ Noel was a difficult brother to live with but he showed a passionate commitment to evangelism which I've always admired. Still later, Noel was in charge of a country parish when the war ended. Noel set off to outstations which hadn’t seen a priest for years. In one such outstation the head of the Mothers’ Union at the end of mass produced a pillow case full of small change. ‘Father, here are our collections for the past six years’ The area had been very dangerous and several guerrilla groups had taxed the people heavily. But they had gone on meeting in Church every week, and no one had touched the Church money.

God does gather funny people round him. He always has. The first disciples were a pretty odd lot and the best Christians always have been — well — different. Perhaps it is because they are unselfconscious. They are thinking of God, or other people, or bees or anything but their own selves. And what is really noticeable about them all is that they have such joy. They may have lived in heartbreakingly awful circumstances, but they never lost touch with that joy.

(The Editor is grateful to Fr Dennis for passing on this article. Some years ago I spent some time working with Patrick Aloysius ffrench Beytagh, Gonville's brother and can report that both brothers smoke, drink and swear to excess!)

Thank You    Ruth Winder

Sincere and heartfelt thanks to St Faith’s and St Mary’s clergy and their congregations for the concern and kindness you have all shown me during my sister Angela‘s, and for your prayers for her.

Angela is still strengthening physically and emotionally, and has a long struggle ahead to make even the slightest progress. Please continue, with me, to pray for her. God bless you all, and thank you.

Child Protection Meeting
There will be a meeting on Monday 8th October at 8pm in the Vicarage for all who work with children and young people in both churches. Please make a note of this date in your diary!

News from Medic Malawi

The mortality rate for under-5s in Malawi is almost 20% and rising in consequence of the AIDS pandemic, TB, malaria and malnutrition. 48% of children are stunted (chronically malnourished), half of them severely so. The problems are exacerbated by a lack of basic hygiene, poor water and inadequately-funded medical care. Add to this scenario the worst food shortage in the country since 1949, brought about by a variety of reasons both natural —  poor rains followed by floods followed by drought — and man-made — the sale last year of virtually the whole of the country's grain reserve leaving no buffer against famine — and you have a picture of human misery and hopelessness difficult to imagine.

St. Andrew’s Clinic is providing quality medical care to a catchment area of 35,000+ people. All necessary drugs, medicines and consumables are available. The treatment areas are clean, bright and welcoming, the wards airy and cheerful. Even the approach to the Clinic is attractive, with trees and shrubs carefully maintained. This is in stark contrast to Kasurigu General Hospital which deals with a catchment area of over 250,000 with one doctor, 8 Clinical Officers and 15 nurses. During the recent cholera outbreak, patients were living in the open air because there was no room for them in the wards. Patients are coming to St. Andrew‘s Clinic from as far as 50kms because of its growing reputation for Christian caring and excellent facilities. The Clinic receives over 50 patients a day.

It supports an under-5 feeding programme which will continue for the foreseeable future. Children are referred from outreach stations of the Government clinic and brought by parents who have heard about the programme themselves. Initially children were simply fed, but now there is a much more sophisticated programme which is achieving wonderful results — see the article by Eleanor Bardsley, our volunteer nurse. On 23 June there were 34 patients on the programme, as well as accompanying carers and various siblings. By September we expect the number to have at least doubled as an even worse food shortage begins to take effect, and to continue to increase beyond that. A food programme for older children and adults catered for 150 people a day at its height. The programme finished on 31 May, when new maize crops were available, but twelve families were identified as having no food or income; these families continue to receive maize flour. As with the under-5 programme, it is expected that the situation will deteriorate by September and so maize and rice are being bought at current prices and stored for later use. (This year the maize that was available was being sold at 4 times its normal cost, far beyond the means of most people.) Staff accommodation has been built, and on 2 July a nurse/idwife/technician takes up her duties, to be followed later in July by a second nurse. The maternity unit will then be fully operational, offering ante- and post-natal care as well as delivery facilities. We hope we shall be partners in a USA-funded programme, linked to the maternity services, providing HIV/AIDS counselling and treatment. Application has been made for two major projects: a large maternity block and an operating theatre.

As well as disease and malnutrition, there is great ignorance. Many villagers are not aware, for example of the link between mosquito bites and malaria; they retain traditional beliefs in witchcraft as the cause of ailments; often they are highly suspicious of modern medicine; they do not understand the need for hygiene; many are illiterate, cannot tell the time and so have great difficulty in following instructions about medication. At St Andrew‘s Clinic we are developing health education programmes, with the co-operation of the District Health Officer, to try to address some of these areas.

 Thank you for your continuing support; the need now is even greater than before.

Dot & Mac Forsyth

Eleanor Bardsley, an English nurse whose husband works at Kamuzu Academy, has been working as a volunteer at St. Andrew's Clinic. She has taken responsibility for organising the Under-5 feeding programme, and gave us her impressions.

‘Life is cheap in Africa,’ people say, but experience screams otherwise: life is dear; too dear for many.

The 3-year-old was too weak to stand; her mother had carried her to the Clinic. No particular disease was evident, so my mind switched from its preoccupation with disease and treatment to the child again. Something about her did not fit: the expression ?the blindingly obvious‘ describes it well. The child's size did not fit her age. But it was the reply to the next question that left me dumb: ‘Yes, she had a good appetite; she ate all of her one meal a day'. There it was, so obvious, so simple it was stupid. The child was starving. That was the start of the famine. When starvation stares at you through dull eyes, without any rage but with passive resignation, any philosophising over long-term solutions and the inappropriateness of hand-outs goes out of the window. Here was a basic need which could easily be met.

That was the start of the feeding programme. The Clinic agreed to support a feeding programme for children aged 5 and under with one guardian. We developed from preparing two maize and soya bean porridge meals a day, to introducing high-energy milk. We have now refined our programme to a phased feeding system which allows us to give a feed type and quantity specific to each child‘s condition upon registration and throughout their stay with us. The high milk and egg content of the phased programme is expensive, but we have noticed a huge difference with it. Children with severe ?kwashiorkor‘ are now surviving; the recovery and weight gain are quicker. I have heard someone say that the worst thing about poverty is the effect it has on the mind. Whilst seeing a pathetically ill child improve beyond recognition is a joy, it is the more subtle changes I‘ve seen that give me more personal satisfaction and hope for these children and their families. What started as a hand-out has grown into so much more. We don‘t just give food, we give education on nutrition, basic hygiene, child care and family planning. We have provided training for Clinic staff and have employed their skills. We have enabled people to raise their standards and expectations.

Life in Africa is not cheap; it is dear, emotionally and financially on those in grinding poverty. But the cost to us of alleviating this is embarrassingly small. It costs us £5 a week for each registered child. We are not treating the causes of poverty, but we are improving the outlook for some.

Called by God
A sermon preached by Fr Neil on 16 June (Vocations Sunday)

Tuesday of this week was an important day - it was the feast of S. Barnabas. It was also a meeting of the Deanery Synod - not all that exciting but encouraging that there were many new members, including three new members from S. Faith’s. The main item on the agenda was a talk by the Rev David Parry, Vicar of S. Philip’s Litherland, on the subject of vocation. It was an uplifting talk, encouraging us to think about the whole area of vocation in its widest sense and in our parishes. Is yours an ‘encouraging’ church, he asked? He mentioned some churches where people have been attending from the age of 2 but it‘s not until they get to the age of 58 that they can be admitted to the rota for teas and coffees. Clearly that didn‘t apply to any of the churches in our deanery...  if only!

David Parry mentioned how many churches have produced a number of vocations - we I suppose are one of them - but all churches can be in danger of thinking that the ‘priestly’ vocation is the only one that matters. People gave generously to a beautiful window commemorating the priests that have served here. Would there be the same enthusiasm to give £6,000 to a window commemorating the cleaners, flower arrangers or those who clean the gutters? Possibly not!

How does God call? In one sense that’s a very difficult question to answer. If God speaks to people individually, then how can we measure something so personal? That is why we belong to a church which believes in an ordered way of working. Vocations advisers can never be experts, but those with proven experience can help someone to try to understand how and why he or she feels called to a particular ministry.

God can call in many varied and unexpected ways. And in ways that are uncomfortable. In opportunities presented to us; through prayer; through liturgy; through the example of another human being; in times of crisis; when we‘ve been pushed into doing something and are surprised to find that we can do it! We must always be open to God‘s call to come when we least expect it.

David Parry mentioned one church where a Vicar (who was about to retire) suggested to the PCC that they did something about removing the steps up to the altar. ‘The next Vicar might be wheelchair-bound,’ he said. They looked in amazement, as if to say that God couldn’t possibly call anyone in a wheelchair to be their Vicar. Why not? Does God only call people with two healthy legs to be ordained? Or two perfect ears, or people with perfect sight? God does call the’differently-abled’. I trained in Cambridge with a woman, who is now a priest, and is confined to a wheelchair. We have readers in our Diocese who are deaf. It’s not just that we ourselves need to be open to God’s call, but open to the fact that He may call other people who are very different to us. The outsider may judge that  weaknesses may deem a person unfit for ministry. And let‘s be realistic, weaknesses take many forms ™ be they physical, spiritual or emotional. In God’s eyes those weaknesses may indeed be the very strengths they bring to their ministry. Those of you who remember the good old Evensong hymns may remember the hymn ‘At even when the sun was se’. There is a very poignant line in that hymn ‘and those who fain would serve thee best are conscious most of wrong within’. So this Jesus who came not to call the healthy but the sick, also calls you and me. Perfect people aren’t called!

My friend Sister Elizabeth, whom many of you know, only became a religious some ten years ago. Her husband died, and she spent a lot of time rethinking her life. It became clear to her that God was calling her into the religious life. It wasn‘t an easy call to acknowledge. And to the religious community she has brought her experience of being a mother, wife and grandmother. Her deafness is getting very bad, but it doesn‘t stop her fulfilling her vocation.

In trying to understand ‘how’ God calls and ‘what’ he calls us to we have to acknowledge two things: firstly, it has to start with prayer. How can we ever begin to listen to God if we don’t stop our busy lives to listen to him. There is no substitute for prayer! As Archbishop Rowan Williams puts it: ‘If we are busy and bossy with each other, we are likely to become busy and bossy with God!’

It’s so easy to run away from God - I remember vividly the night before I was ordained priest. I was sitting in Alton Abbey, waiting for Compline to begin, and a feeling came over me, stronger by each minute, that I was making a big mistake. I really did begin to think that walking away and not going through with being ordained was the right thing. After about half an hour of working myself into a real state I found the strength to try and pray. It was only then that some words I’d heard many years before made sense. I remember a priest once saying, ‘The closer you get to God, the harder the Devil has to work’. Ultimately we all give in to one or the other. Only we can make that choice. One writer puts it: ‘rayer is both a resting in and a wrestling with God’.

Secondly, as a result of that ‘wrestling’ we have to face the sometimes difficult reality that what God wants from us is not always what we think we should be doing. ‘Your/Thy will be done,’ we say in the Lord‘s Prayer. That is the most authentic form of Christian prayer ever. But how often do we say it and mean it? S. Barnabas is known as the one who encourages. The collect for his feast says: ‘Bountiful God: who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas and gave him grace to encourage others...’ And so it seems appropriate that we learn that lesson from his feast-day, that we ought to encourage each other. Encouraging and supporting each other is one of the ways Christians grow. And as we grow together and affirm each other we can help one another to discover the gifts that lie within each one of us.

I have known people to attend a vocations conference convinced that they have been called to one particular ministry, only to discover that perhaps they are called to another ministry they had never thought about. That‘s sometimes part of the process of discerning God‘s call. I finish with an anonymous piece called

‘Holding Hands with God’

Having a hand,
having nothing better to do with it,
she gave it to God to hold.
You might as well take it, she said,
no one else wants it.

Tried not to sound bitter,
tried to feel generous and loving,
waited with some apprehension,
wondering sometimes
what she did it for.
It didn’t feel safe,
and wasn‘t what she’d call erotic.

Best was when they sat quiet and still
and she could feel just ordinary,
But when that thumb caressed
the inside of her wrist,
she got the shivers;
found herself this end
of a shaky wooden footbridge
nothingness below, the other side
pitch black for ever and ever.
Did she have to cross it?

Memories of Conques  Bill Tudhope

Earlier this year, a small party from St Faith’s journeyed to the shrine of Saint Faith at Conques, in France, partly to reconnoitre the possibilities for a subsequent larger church visit. Part One of Bill Tudhope’s account appear below: part Two follows in October, and the pilgrimage (already fully booked!) is due to follow in 2004...

Can‘t quite remember how the decision was made and it doesn‘t matter but probably arose from a discussion of French wines with Fr. Neil, myself and the wardens, (like you do!) What about the South of France? Throw in Conques with its St Faith connections and the scene was set.

The idea was to fly from Stansted to Toulouse, hire a car from there and make our way to Conques. We travelled down to Harlow to stay overnight, with the intention of leaving our car at Stansted airport.  We found the Travel Lodge quite easily and enjoyed sitting out in the evening with some decent beers before dinner. Joan has always been fond of her desserts. Something monstrous and chocolate was brought to the table in a wheel barrow. Even Father Dennis might have had second thoughts.

Alarm clocks were set for 3.45 the next morning to get to Stansted in time for our flight early Sunday.

A good flight brought us into Toulouse/Blagnac where we were to pick up the car. Very straightforward and we headed for Conques.  At least we tried to!  Bill who was driving had forgotten as usual that the gear lever on French cars is on the right and as a consequence was  either opening the car door or more often than not stalling ™ mostly on roundabouts!

Attempting to get out of Toulouse for the first time was itself was actually an achievement.  An independent observer stationed near the odd roundabout or two might well have been treated to the sight of a dark Focus estate circling half a dozen times as its passenger occupants pored over a map and pointed in four different directions at once. Some 45 minutes (an hour?) later we set off in the direction of Conques.

Since it was Sunday it was important to find a mass in a church somewhere and failing that organise our own off the beaten track. So Gaillac on the way seemed like a good place to buy some bread and wine. As we found a car park near the town centre square, Bill wondered why other drivers appeared to be unusually agitated. We worked out that this may have been not unconnected with the fact that he was driving the wrong way - against the traffic.

Pure chance brought us in the heat - now it was in the thirties - to a narrow track miles from anywhere overlooking a small village. We noticed the tiny chapel spire in the centre of this ancient place and eased the car down the track to have a look and parked by the village green. In the heat, somewhere in the background should have been the sound of the slow movement of Rodriguez‘ Guitar concerto. Nothing moved. Imagine our surprise to find this centuries old tiny place open and Monsieur le Concierge on duty and not in the least fazed by the sight of four English visitors when everybody else was presumably on siesta. The music we could hear was monastic chant. The place was cool and serene and Monsieur explained the history of the place and we noticed that the vestry door was open allowing us a glimpse of the assortment of vestments and Church accoutrements on display.

For a man obviously past his balletic prime the vicar moved with remarkable speed - a blur - cheque card in hand, fast as a gunslinger, salivating over the items he wished to bankrupt himself for. Only as he was gazing at monstrances and stroking maniples and stoles did Monsieur le Concierge regretfully inform us that these were not for sale but were the treasures of the local church from generations ™ this ancient Roman chapel was no longer used but a more modern building from the 19th Century was in place on the hillside.

Never mind, the vicar suggested that this might be a good place to say mass and asked permission to do so explaining gently that this was a party of English  Anglicans.  Monsieur merely shrugged. ‘Quelle différence, Monsieur?’ and stood by and joined in as Fr Neil donned alb and proceeded with the service. Marvellous!

From the village of St Cyprien Dour-Dou we headed to Conques where we had booked into an hostellerie for that night.  (To be concluded next month)

The Rainbows’ Jubilee Party     Geraldine Forshaw

On Monday 15th July, the Rainbow Guides at St Faith‘s had their Jubilee Party. The Hall was decorated with bunting and balloons and flags. Our new leader Denise had a lovely Princess gown, Claire (Sunny) was doing an impresion of Cinderella before she went to the ball and Geraldine (Raindrop) was dressed as Sporty Princess. Father Neil was invited to the  party and he arrived just as the Rainbows arrived.

They were in ‘Princess Dress’ and they looked lovely. Each Rainbow was introduced as ‘Princess...’ and they did a walk along the cat-walk to show off their dresses. There were games of ‘pass the parcel’ and ‘musical chairs’ and, of course, lots to eat and drink. There was dancing, and Father Neil and the mums who stayed joined in with us. When it was time to go home, the Rainbows took home a bag of Jubilee goodies - bookmark, pencil, pad, balloon, flag and more. Soon it was time for the Rainbows to go home, tired but happy.

Rainbows are girls aged 5 to 7 years and meet on Mondays from 4.45 to 5.45 p.m. If you would like your child to join, call Claire Hockney on 474 9355 or Geraldine Forshaw on 928 5204.


...from Fr Neil. Many thanks to all who came to the service at the end of June to celebrate my 10th Anniversary of Priesthood. Thanks to those who took part in the service as well as those who prepared the banquet afterwards. It was a lovely surprise to be on the receiving end of a gift, which has changed from Gazebo to a Water Feature from Lady Green. It is a splendid gift and has pride of place in the garden. Once again, many grateful thanks.

Fund Raising Group

There will be a meeting to discuss plans to raise money for our Hall Redevelopment Project on Wednesday 3rd September at 8pm in the Vicarage. The Community Fund bid has been lodged but it may be a number of months before we hear anything (and they may say ?no!‘). We need to get on with ideas for major fund-raising and to do so with some urgency. The more people involved, the easier the task. ALL ARE WELCOME!

This spoof notice, by way of the Merchant Taylor’‘ Computer Department, will strike a chord with all who have to do battle with photocopiers, or indeed with any form of printing and allied equipment and who believe, like the editor, that they have a malevolent and near-human nature. Can they be exorcised, he wonders...

‘The machines in this room are subject to breakdowns during periods of critical need. A special circuit in the machines, called a ‘critical detecto’, senses the operator’s emotional state in terms of how desperate he is to use the machine.

The critical detector then creates a malfunction proportional to the desperation of the operator. Threatening the machine with violence only aggravates the situation. Likewise, attempts to use another machine may cause it also to malfunction. They belong to the same union.

Keep cool and say nice things to your machine. Nothing else seems to work. Never let anything mechanical know you are in a hurry.‘

Our Sponsored Sing

I’m afraid the gratitude is somewhat belated! Do any of you actually recall those heady, rainy days of June? Specifically, the weekend of the 15th/16th? In any case, many, many thanks for your support of the sponsored sing, from those of you who simply sponsored so generously, to those who heard pieces of your choice at the evening concert, to the invaluable helpers who supplied a seemingly endless stream of compliments, food and drink from the back of church. It was tremendous fun for us and very profitable for both church and choir.

A marathon sing moves through many stages. The first is one of mad energy. We launch enthusiastically into the four or five noisiest anthems in the repertoire, eliciting loud applause from the back of the building, but not exactly conserving our voices! Then, as onlookers drift away, the hard work begins. Throat sweets and wine gums make the rounds and gaggles of brave soloists ‘spell’ their colleagues for trips down the aisle for a much-needed cup of tea. Peace and concentration descend, we sight-read, often inaccurately, in quiet fits of giggles, practise our pieces for the evening concert and fill in with Abba hits while others trail back and forth bearing supplies of music.

I always like the concert best, given that the intimacy of the night hours is denied me. It is uplifting to have such close, informal contact with the audience/congregation and to be able to perform specially for individuals. All credit to Miriam for the remarkable achievement of learning the lower part of the Flower Duet from ‘Lakme’ so beautifully (everyone will be familiar with my ?bit‘, but few would recognise hers!). Your contributions too, in terms of cash donations and support, were thoroughly appreciated!

Stephanie Dunning

Thanks Steph, for your summary of the first 12 hours, and for your compliment! I think we both did well, considering we had driven our respective husbands up the wall for a week,  having only a CD with which to practise our duet!

The next 12 hours were long and varied. Christmas carols were the order of the day at around 3 a.m., liturgical seasons having well gone out of the window by that time. Fr Neil‘s support and musical talents were much appreciated, as he helped out for most of the 24 hours, along with Chris Parker on one of his trips north!  More  Abba  was  ‘sung’,  as were songs from various artists, Judy Garland, Elton John, Victoria Wood, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Handel, amongst notable others!

Sung Matins greeted the ‘waking hours‘, with a congregation (four of us! Ed.) eager to see if any of us were still awake, and, more importantly, still able to sing! We didn’t disappoint - I hope. Fr Neil relented and allowed footwear other than black shoes to be worn. Matins was followed by breakfast, courtesy of Martin and Rob, and boy, was it welcome! Take it from me, it is not easy singing the descant to ‘Ye holy angels bright’ with a mouthful of sausage and egg, but we ensured the music didn‘t stop!

The 11 a.m. Mass was a bit of a break for us, as we couldn’t sing through the sermon, although some people might think that would have been a good idea?  I, personally, had a most touching moment when I realised that one of my work colleagues had travelled all the way from Rochdale to bring her mother, who was baptised in St Faith‘s in 1918, especially to hear the choir finish our feat. They both enjoyed the occasion, and thought St Faith‘s was a most welcoming place.

We finished as we had started, with some rousing music including ‘Zadok the Priest’ and finally ‘O Thou the Central Orb’. We had a wonderful time, and are happy to report that the sum handed over so far is around £1350, with some more still to come in. Hopefully you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Miriam Jones

Counting the Hits

The St Faith‘s website received its 10,400th visitor a week or so ago: a modest but encouraging total. We have entered the site for a national competition, sponsored by the Ecclesiastical Insurance people, and our site is open to inspection by the judges at the end of this month. Entirely unconnected with this happening, we have recently added quite a lot more ‘pages’. You can now access, among other things, all our baptism, confirmation  and wedding records, the 1975 church history, ‘Poems from the Back Pew’, the church guidebook and a number of sermons as well, of course, as the text of this and previous editions of ‘Newslink’. Have a look and see!

The Bible Society    Hilary Pennington

On SUNDAY 27TH OCTOBER — Bible Sunday — There will be a retiring collection for the work of the Bible Society. This work is ongoing and worldwide in its efforts to bring knowledge of the scriptures to all.

A recent project has been the supply of Scripture cassettes to shepherds in the remote highlands of Lesotho. The shepherds feel neglected by society and some used to believe that God was only available for those who attended school or church — and as most of them started working at the age of six, that excluded them. Now they listen to the cassettes as they are played on hand-cranked cassette players, whilst they keep watch on their grazing livestock. The Scripture readings are accompanied by traditional music, as well as testimonies from fellow shepherds. These men now feel that they have a personal relationship with God and that they are not a forgotten group of people.

There is a literacy programme in Bangladesh to help the 70% of the population of 130 million who are categorised as illiterate or semi-literate.  Books and audio cassettes are supplied. Over 1000 Bibles in languages as diverse as Swahili and Serbian have been provided to the Children’s Section of the Asylum Seekers Refugee Council, Kidlington Detention Centre, Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre (before and after the fire) and Heathrow Detention Centre.

These are only some of the projects undertaken by the Society. There will be leaflets and information at the back of church on Bible Sunday and details as to how you can contribute to the various projects.  Please give to the Retiring Collection, however small a contribution you can offer, to enable the Society to carry on its valuable work.

There is a local Action Group in Crosby, composed of representatives from the various churches. This group stages the annual area Bible Reading Contest for 6-12 year olds. Jackie Parry and myself judged some of the classes in this year‘s competition and Laura Caddick from St Mary‘s dealt with the distribution of prizes. There were 120 entrants: unfortunately none from either of our churches but perhaps next year some of the excellent readers we have in this age group will be persuaded to enter.

And Finally ...

Blackadder returns?

From the Alton Methodist Church News. ‘We pray for Rowan Atkinson as he prepares to be the Archbishop of Canterbury.’

(‘Peterborough’: The Daily Telegraph)