A Quiz and a Postcard from Barbados

Many of our parish assistants find training for the priesthood gets them out and about, and Jack must be the leader in this! He writes

Since leaving St Chrysostom’s in 2012 my life being formed for the priesthood has been full of adventures. Currently I’m spending six weeks on Barbados! Most people I told in the run-up to my departure weren’t convinced my experiences had much in common with the early Saints and Martyrs of the Faith – I can’t think why…

Codrington College

Codrington College

I’m living for six weeks at Codrington College, the seminary for the whole province of the West Indies with seminarians from Bahamas, Antigua and Guyana. My task is to explore this friendly, beautiful and fascinating island learning as much as I can about the Church here, the way priests are formed and the way people live their faith. I have met up with Helio from St Chrysostom’s who, by chance, was on Barbados for a wedding – a little piece of Manchester under the Caribbean sun. I have also managed to squeeze in time enough to visit the odd beach and sample some Bajan food and drink too. Well, it would be rude not to!

I have a little Barbados quiz for you. Each pair of pictures is a clue to a food that is popular here; can you guess what they are?   (Answers later)

Quiz Bb

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Part of God’s Rainbow Kingdom

After his visit to celebrate and preach at Mass on St Chrysostom’s day the Bishop of Manchester tweeted:

Screen Bp D

It was good that Bishop David felt so welcomed. As he came into Church to lead our celebration of Mass he was welcomed by several church members whose first language is not English. He was greeted in Korean, Shona, Yoruba, Urdu, Latvian and Romanian. 

Bianca welcomes Bishop David in Romanian

Bianca welcomes Bishop David in Romanian

In his address Bishop David encouraged us to follow St John Chrysostom in having a ministry of welcome. This has indeed been at the heart of our ministry at St C’s for many years, and we are proud of the wonderful variety in our congregation.

Reflecting on the morning’s congregation of about 90 people I realised that in their church were:

10 people seeking asylum, 

8 people who had arrived in this country for the first time within the last three months, 

at least 11 LGBT people 

the majority of those present were under 45

and at least 10 different first languages were represented.

One church member said, yesterday,  I so enjoy coming to St Chrysostom’s to meet a wonderful variety of people…’

St C’s is a varied welcoming people indeed, – we are proud to be part of “God’s rainbow kingdom.”

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Mules bear fortunes and Christ dies of hunger at your gate

On Sunday (14th September) we celebrate our patron saint, St John Chrysostom. An energetic and courageous church leader Chrysostom was also an outstanding speaker. His eloquence earned him the nickname ‘Chrysostom’ – Golden Mouth. Fr Ian offers a reflection for our patronal festival.

John Chrysostom denounces the Empress Eudoxia

John Chrysostom denounces the Empress Eudoxia

Constantinople at the end of the fourth century, the city where Chrysostom was bishop, was a busy multicultural city. People from all over the Byzantine empire and beyond flooded to it. People of differing cultures, faiths and outlooks jostled along side each other. It was also a city where often the rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer.

Walking in our parish in Manchester I often reflect how twenty first century Manchester has many similarities to the city in which St John Chrysostom led the church. His words and example challenge us today. Chrysostom firmly held that the modern city could be inspired by Christian values. Some of his words and teachings are very much of his time, for example we can be rather aghast at some of comments on women or the Jews. Nevertheless, his preaching on practical aspects of Christianity, and above all on social justice, speaks to us in our time.

Chrysostom taught that it is not enough to give alms, to help the poor one at a time, it is also necessary to challenge structures and institutions in society, to create a new structure, a new model for society. Of course he was also a man of action as well as word and his fierce denunciation of the ruling powers for their greed led to his exile and untimely death.

Icon of St John Chrysostom in St Chrysostom's Church

Icon of St John Chrysostom in St Chrysostom’s Church

Here are some of Chrysostom’s words on social justice for us to reflect on today:

“Do you wish to honor the Body of the Saviour? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honour it in church with silk vestments while outside it is naked and numb with cold. He who said, “This is my body,” and made it so by his word, is the same who said, ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.’ “

“When we teach children to be good, to be gentle, to be forgiving (all these are attributes of God), to be generous, to love … we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them.”

“Mules bear fortunes and Christ dies of hunger at your gate.”

“ If you have two shirts in your wardrobe, one belongs to you; the other belongs to the man who has no shirt.”

“I am often reproached for continually attacking the rich. Yes, because the rich are continually attacking the poor. But those I attack are not the rich as such, only those who misuse their wealth.”

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A bellyfull of cherries

pope-saint-gregory-the-great-07Today, 3rd September, is the Feast of St Gregory the Great, many things have been written about this great sixth century church leader and pope, who is sometimes called the Apostle to the English. He sent Augustine to convert the Angles. His prayer life was energised by a dynamic of love and desire for God. However another story, a legend, about him tells of another desire.

One year, the story goes, on the Feast of St Mark, April 25th, Gregory, who led a simple life, was suddenly overcome by a strong craving for cherries. His gardeners and servants were at a loss. The spring had been raw and the cherry trees of the area were just going into blossom – there was no fruit yet.

CherriesOne of the gardeners wandered in despair when he saw a vision of St Mark. The saint asked him why he was upset and when he heard the reason St Mark blessed a cherry tree which miraculously produced wonderfully in fragrant, succulent red fruit. The story handed down through the centuries in the local dialect recounts, that Pope Gregory “se ne fece subito una bella panzata” (“wasted no time in wolfing down a bellyful”). To this day cherries are served at the Papal meal table on St Mark’s Day.

So? When we look at saints in stained glass windows such as those in St Chrysostom’s Church, and when we admire their virtues and lives let’s also remember that they, like us, had their cravings, and their unusual ways! That they were people like us can encourage us to be people like them.

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Solvitur Ambulado – It is solved by walking

The turf labyrinth at Holmengrå

The turf labyrinth at Holmengrå

Fr Ian writes

Before I went on one of my ‘pilgrimages’ in my sabbatical I decided to prepare by walking a labyrinth. I’d not always felt they were for me. However, a book on pilgrimage suggested it, so I thought ‘Why not?’ Fortuitously I found the church where I had been a curate has introduced a lovely inlaid one in their south transept. I walked it. The twists and turns, the silences and the pauses, had a profound and slightly disturbing effect. They prepared me to be open to spiritual things on the journey I was to take.

Surprisingly labyrinths became one of the features of my journey in Norway. I’d always associated them as a modern reworking of an ancient symbol. In fact the labyrinth is found in many different cultures at many different times. At Holmengrå near Varangerfjord in the far north of Norway I came across a turf labyrinth which, it is believed, was made about 1400 by indigenous Sami people.

Then in Oslo I walked (in part) the amazing large 20th century labyrinth of Gustav Vigeland in the wonderful Vigelands Park.

Walking the Vigeland labyrinth in Oslo

Vigeland labyrinth in Oslo

The important thing about the labyrinth is that it is a simple path (not a maze) going nowhere. The slow walking is the point. The focus on the walk and the pause in life is what it is about. It is a laid out path but it is not a laid out spiritual experience, it encourages one to walk and encounter new spiritual realities and insights.

A few weeks later I came across a portable labyrinth at Gorton Monastery and talked with Simon, the volunteer who had made it. He has kindly offered to help us make a canvas portable labyrinth which we can put out from time to time. Rosie, our parish assistant is going to help this come about.

Portable labyrinth at Gorton Monastery

Portable labyrinth at Gorton Monastery

Solvitur ambulado – ‘It is solved by walking,’ – a saying often attributed to St Augustine of Hippo – What ‘it‘ is depends on who we are and where we are. We’ll discover more about the labyrinth as time goes on. I’m looking forward to walking our labyrinth in Church. I know it will enrich my spiritual life and the spiritual lives of others.

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WW1: Teaching our children to be peacemakers

We will be offering some thoughts and comments from members of St Chrysostom’s congregation about the World War One commemorations in the coming months. Thank you to Sandra Palmer for this one, to start us off. Sandra is a retired lecturer in Education.

I have long had mixed feelings about the wearing of the red poppy on Armistice Day.  On the one hand I want to honour those people who have lost their lives in war or who have suffered as a consequence of war;  on the other hand I do not want to ennoble anything about war.

Ceramic Poppies at the Tower of London

Ceramic Poppies at the Tower of London

Commemorating World War One is a particular problem for what are we commemorating?  It can be argued that World War Two was a necessary evil to stay the hand of the horrors of Nazism but there are no clear goodies and baddies in World War One. Germany is often presented as a marauding power hell bent on conquering Europe but Christopher Clark’s well received book Sleepwalkers paints a very different complex  picture.  I see the build up to war  as being like a game of cards between countries and alliances, with bluffs and double bluffs but  it all went terribly wrong – and on the whole it was the ordinary soldier who paid the price. Ironically it was said to be the war to end all wars. Instead it spawned many of the wars to come, include those that currently fill our screen.

Surely the best way to commemorate the First World War would be to teach our children to be peacemakers, winning their hearts and minds for peace through stories ,sayings and symbols appropriate for their age. Michael Morporgo’s War Horse, a book for Key Stage 2 children, powerfully tells of the impact of the first war on the lives of soldiers. Sadly there are many children in Manchester who have their own stories to tell as they are asylum seekers, the victims of war themselves.

Childrens handsP4C, Philosophy for children, is a good starting point as children are taught how to listen to one another and respect each other’s opinions when they discuss sayings about war and peace, some of which might come from the scriptures.  Conflict resolution exercises help children learn to learn how to use words not fists to resolve arguments.

School assemblies/ worship can reflect the sorrow and the pain of war in the prayers, and reflections. And at a very simple level they can look at how we can greet one another peacefully . Salaam Alaikum –Peace be unto you .

But above all we need to teach children to accept difference and to see the ‘other’ as their neighbour., loving him or her  as they love themselves.

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A candle for Winnie, A candle for Keith

Winnie Johnson deathToday, 18th August, is the anniversary of the death in 2012 of Winnie Johnson. Winnie was known throughout England as the mother of Keith Bennett, the child victim of the moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Despite extensive searching Keith’s body has never been found.

Winnie campaigned tirelessly to find Keith’s grave, and it was this aspect of her life which was well known in the media. However, as we recalled at Winnie’s funeral, at St Chrysostom’s, there was much much more to Winnie. She was a woman who engaged fully with life, and was an inspiration to many. Despite the tragedy in her life she was cheerful and a direct speaker. She was a member of our congregation, regularly coming to Sunday Mass on her electric scooter and sitting right at the front. She was ever the same, cheerful and frank in her manner. The local community misses her. We miss her at church.

The leaves hanging in memory of Keith Bennett

The leaves hanging in memory of Keith bennett

The hanging behind the font in Church is in memory of Keith. He loved to collect leaves and local children drew different leaves and members of the textiles department of Manchester University made the hanging. We hope soon to have a plaque placed in church to remind us of this.

Winnie’s example encourages us to pray for, and have a heart for mothers of the world whose children have disappeared in terrible circumstances. Her example encourages us to have courage, and remain faithful and strong in the face of tragedy.

Winnie’s son, and Keith’s brother, Alan Bennett, has recently confirmed his family’s determination to continue the search for Keith’s remains. There is a website with updates about the search: click here.

Each Sunday when she came to mass Winnie lit a candle for Keith. Two candles will burn in church today – one for Keith and another for his mother, Winnie. May they both rest in peace and rise in God’s glory.

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