Infant Communion?

A baby receives Holy Communion

Throughout her recent pregnancy a mother at St Chrysostom’s received Holy Communion. Of course she was not alone in this. Pregnant women receive the blessed sacrament. Of course they do. As they do so surely we must argue, the child in their womb also receives. We couldn’t possibly say that the sacrament does not ‘reach’ the child – unless, of course, we say that we must understand what we are doing before we can receive.

However, if understanding what we are doing is a criterion for receiving Holy Communion it would oblige us to say that certain adults with limited cognitive ability, as well as infants, cannot receive. We would also be faced with the task of deciding who does understand and who doesn’t and having an agreed criterion for this. This would imply some test should be applied. The implication would be then that all who present themselves for Communion would satisfy the ‘requirements’ of the test, and that those ministering should take care that they do. Thankfully very few ministers of Communion ever check the propriety of adults who present themselves for Communion.

Traditionally in the Church of England, of course it would, at first, appear that there was a test – knowledge of the Church Catechism followed by Confirmation. However, even here it is not so clear. The Book of Common Prayer allows for those who are ready to be confirmed but cannot be to be admitted to receive Holy Communion. Presumably this permission was granted for cases when there is no available Confirmation service. Whatever, in the Book of Common Prayer it is clear Confirmation is not a requirement for receiving Holy Communion.

When the pregnant mother’s baby is born in usual church practice in the Church of England the infant ceases to be allowed to receive Holy Communion. Depending on the local church and the decisions of the diocesan bishop the child can be admitted to communion later, usually after some form of preparation (and so probably when of at least school age), or after Confirmation.

As early as the seventeenth century Anglican Bishops and theologians have puzzled over the issue. It seemed to most of them quite clear that the early church had permitted infant communion. The great Bishop Jeremy Taylor came to the compromising position that infant communion was lawful but not necessary, and so ‘the present practice of the church is to be our rule.’ Understandable perhaps, but not really very satisfactory.

At a baptism at St Chrysostom’s

By the late twentieth century changes were occurring. Some bold mothers took the matter into their own hands and gave their children, of whatever age, a piece of the consecrated host which they had received. The US Episcopal Church General Convention in 1988 specifically allowed Holy Communion (in the form of a few drops of wine) to be administered to babies at baptism. In 2006 the General Synod of the Church of England allowed for infant communion by allowing bishops to permit children to receive Holy Communion, and not specifying a minimum age. At least two bishops spoke favourably then of Communion for ‘babes in arms.’

Infant communion is becoming increasingly common as churches feel called by God to be inclusive and welcome all to share in the meal of God’s kingdom. In addition Christians have come to see more and more that experience of communion is more formative than instruction about it. Hopefully the Church of England will more and more encourage this particualr path of welcome and inclusion.

At St Chrysostom’s let’s move with joy to the position where the pregnant woman having received Communion with her unborn child can continue to share in the sacred meal with her baby when the baby is born, and ALL are welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

Fr Ian

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Model of Patience

We are delighted to have blog contributions from women of many different backgrounds who are offering us insights arising from the Litany of Mary of Nazareth. All the contributors are connected in some way with us at St C’s. First of all, thank you to Angela, Mi Young, for this lovely contribution.

God gave us blessed virgin Mary as a model of all virtues, but for me especially, the example of patience.

When I think about Mary being asked to do an incredible service for God, I realise it took a lot of courage but also importantly patience, to accept what angel Gabriel had told her. For months Mary had been silent, waiting patiently, when she was carrying the Son of God. Mary also endured the death of Jesus on the cross, and must have waited patiently and prayed until his resurrection three days after. 

Everyday I am challenged to strengthen my patience, when looking after a child, or especially patience with myself when I fall short. Also in this difficult times we are all going through with the pandemic everyone needs to wait patiently, because we believe there will be light at the end of the tunnel. I need to confess, pray and have the patience to keep going because I know it will be all worth it at the end. 

I sometimes do not follow the commands of God and try to do things in my own way, but the loving God waits for me until I return back to Him. Mary endured some of the hardest things imaginable without getting angry at God or despairing in His plan. Mary wants the same for us as Christians, and she shows us how. 

Mary, Model of Patience, be our guide.

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May Litany of Mary of Nazareth

From the Litany of 1544

The earliest authorised form of prayer in the English language was the Litany of 1544. It was composed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, and followed the great tradition of the Church in providing a litany of prayer to be used at various times, and especially in times of national difficulty.

Cranmer’s litany of 1544 continued to be used, in a slightly modified version for centuries, and is still found from time to time in worship in Anglican churches. As time went on more liturgies were introduced, often for specific occasions. Some were written as hymns, to make singing easier.

Some of us may have come across, and prayed the traditional ‘Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary’ which dates from the Middle Ages. To say it carries on a beautiful tradition begun centuries ago. However, some of the words used seem strange or even out of date to us today. Titles such as ‘mystical rose’ or ‘tower of ivory’ can be difficult to understand or explain.

Modern litanies are, of course, written. In 1987 Pax Christi, a Christian movement dedicated to justice and peace, issued what has now become a popular litany The Litany of Mary of Nazareth. It was written by two Benedictine nuns to express the needs and prayers of contemporary women and men.

This May, Mary’s Month, at St Chrysostom’s we will be using this litany, and words from it, as a focus for prayer and devotion. Each day a bidding from the Litany will be offered in our facebook page and people are invited to respond there with prayer requests arising in their thoughts from those words from the litany. In addition a variety of BAME women from among us will be contributing as blog post based on words of their choice from the Litany.

The Litany of Mary of Nazareth

Glory to you, God our Creator
Breathe into us new life, new meaning.

Glory to you, God our Saviour
Lead us in the way of peace and justice.

Glory to you, healing Spirit
Transform us to empower others.

Response to the following: Be our guide.

Mary, wellspring of peace
Model of strength
Model of gentleness
Model of trust
Model of courage
Model of patience
Model of risk

Model of openness
Model of perseverance

Response to the following: Pray for us.

Mother of the liberator
Mother of the homeless
Mother of the dying
Mother of the nonviolent
Mother of widowed mothers
Mother of unwed mothers
Mother of a political prisoner
Mother of the condemned
Mother of the executed criminal

Response to the following: Lead us to life.

Oppressed woman
Liberator of the oppressed
Marginalized woman
Comforter of the afflicted
Cause of our joy

Sign of contradiction
Breaker of bondage
Political refugee
Seeker of sanctuary
First disciple
Sharer in Christ’s passion
Seeker of God’s will
Witness to Christ’s resurrection

Response to the following: Empower us.

Woman of mercy
Woman of faith
Woman of contemplation
Woman of vision
Woman of wisdom and understanding
Woman of grace and truth
Woman, pregnant with hope
Woman, centred in God

Our Lady of welcome pray for us

Our Lady of hope, pray for us

Let us pray:

Mary, Queen of Peace, we entrust our lives to you. Shelter us from war, hatred and oppression. Teach us to live in peace, to educate ourselves for peace. Inspire us to act justly, to revere all God has made. Root peace firmly in our hearts and in our world. Amen.

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Known in the Breaking of Bread

Here is an abridged version of a talk given by Noel Preston (1922-2017) on May 1st 2011. Noel was a dearly loved member of our Church. Noel was responding here to the invitation to give a short, personal, talk on Easter.

I first became aware of the meaning of Easter as a young teenager, in this Church. It was here that I was confirmed, and first learnt to receive the broken bread. I became an altar server, I carried the processional cross, and sometimes I rang the church bell. Then the main bell was used only to summon the faithful to worship, now it also proclaims to the world the breaking of bread.

It was here that I had ready access to a magnificent organ, and the good fortunate of having a well qualified teacher – the church organist at the time was a Doctor of Music. So, here, I learnt the art of leading the singing of hymns from the organ.

In those days, Easter began, not with the magnificent liturgy of the Easter Vigil, but with the quiet early morning communion services, enlivened with a couple of hymns to mark the festival – enough for a budding organist to gain experience.

It was church music that brought Valerie and me together, and we were married in front of this altar – receiving the broken bread together. Shortly after our wedding, we were led by the Spirit to spend the next 40 years with the University Chaplaincy. Then, in a miraculous series of events a few years ago, the Spirit led us back here to our Anglican roots. Here we now have glimpses of the beauty and splendour of Anglican worship at its best, especially at Eastertide. At the same time, this is an inclusive church, where all are welcome, regardless of the precise manner in which their faith is expressed.

During my years as organist at the University Chaplaincy my weekday job was a medical scientist. There, I realised only too well that, when a scientist makes a new discovery, this is treated with doubt and scepticism by the scientific community. Only when others have repeated the experiments, and reached the same conclusions, is the discovery accepted as ‘scientific truth.’

The Risen Christ at Emmaus,
Painting by Ladislav Záborský (1921-2016),
Painted in 1996,

Likewise with the resurrection of Jesus. Initial reports of the empty tomb, and encounters with the risen Lord, were doubted by the likes of Thomas until they experienced the risen Christ themselves. And so, with the evidence of various men and women, and groups of individuals, the early Church community came to accept the ‘truth’ of the resurrection. And down the ages, people have continued to encounter the risen Christ and to receive the gifts of the Spirit.

Noel finished his talk by reading the account of the appearance of Christ at Emmaus, in the Authorized Version of the Bible. He finished his talk with the words from the Gospel ‘he was known of them in breaking of bread.”

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A Farewell Sermon: Keep doing what you do

I have always had a certain sympathy for Thomas – Doubting Thomas, as he is often remembered.  It had been an awful week.  Their Lord had been taken away, tortured and crucified, their friend Judas, took his own life after betraying Jesus, and then they had to live with their own terrible fear of a similar end, but also the shame of running away.

Imagine how Thomas must have been feeling.  In his position, I too might have thought my friends were being fanciful.  After all, people don’t recover from crucifixion, even with today’s medicine and techniques.  But I have learnt in the 18 years I’ve been in Manchester that when all seems grim and hopeless, when I’ve felt lost and broken, God is there, present and as real as Jesus became for Thomas, as he put his fingers and hands into Jesus’ wounds.

In this 18 years, my life has changed beyond recognition, I have met people, some kind, some not so kind, who have in their own ways shaped me into the person I am today.  The first time I came to St Chrysostom’s was about 9 years ago, to attend the SCP vocations weekend.  I’d only just returned to church after being away for a couple of years.  People were so friendly.  After that, I came with a friend a few times to the LGBT mass, again I was met with warmth.

Winding forward to 2015, I came here as parish assistant, when I was in the middle of my training for ministry and then back again in 2019 as curate.  Looking back on these years, I can see that even when things have gone wrong, God has redeemed difficult situations and each time brought me to the places I needed to be to be shaped and formed both as a person and now as a priest.

John and the disciples have had their training with their Lord, now he is preparing them for their ministry, without him, or without his physical presence.  Jesus’ resurrection offers them hope for better things to come.  I know from my own experience, that however hopeless and terrible things can be, Jesus has conquered death, and throughout his life demonstrates his ongoing love and care for us.  The gospels have so many examples of Jesus having people’s backs. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be hurt or challenged, but we know that God holds us and will guide us.

As a church community, St Chrysostom’s is a church that welcomes all, that welcomes the broken hearted, the lost, and those who are lost,  but are good at covering their pain.  There is a quote from Teresa of Avila which says: Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.

St Chrysostom’s is Christ’s hands and feet on earth, you are the eyes of compassion, that loves and holds those who are broken.  It’s not that every one of us here are fixed and sorted, it is because so many of want to share the love and healing we have received with others.  Keep doing what you do, St Chrysostom’s Church for Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

This is the text of Mtr Kate’s final sermon at St Chrysostom’s today, 11th April. We thank her for all her work and support at St C’s and wish her well as she moves to a new ministry in South Wales.

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Our Local Churches in lockdown: Signs of community and hope

“The problem with the Church of England, today” said a recent (lay) guest speaker at one of our Zoom discussions, “is not the parishes, or the parish clergy, its the hierarchy and their church officials.” The discussion was around the welcome of LGBT people in churches, and I suspect many lay people would agree with the point made.

However, to focus on the positive side of the comment – parishes and the parish clergy. I have been very impressed at the hard work of so many parish clergy and laity in these lockdown days. Clergy have worked, prayed and encouraged to the point of exhaustion, and in some cases beyond. Some have done this while home schooling has been going on, or amidst illness, including mental illness in their own homes or families.

I have been reflecting on our own deanery – one of the most deprived deaneries in the Church of England. In their different styles and ways the clergy of our deanery have been working and praying so hard. We are a small deanery, but the more friendly and supportive for that. We understand one another’s ways, and we encourage and listen to one another as best we can.

In one parish the vicar has been shielding for most of the lockdown, and yet from the confines of her house she has managed to hold together the Christian community around her church, to contact people, especially those not on the internet, and send out regular supportive mailings.

Rev Ellie Trimble at the Apostles Church

In another parish heroic work is being done to feed the marginalised and needy of the area. Literally hundreds of meals have been served through an inspiring partnership of local charities and volunteers coordinated and led by the outstanding parish priest, who has worked so self sacrificially.

A priest in another parish works hard to deliver food to people in the form of food packages, and coordinates that work in his area, he has also volunteered at a vaccine centre. In addition he tells me he tries to visibly work around his parish, wearing his clerical collar. He walks in different areas twice a day to be seen and to allow himself to be approached by anyone who wishes to talk. What a lovely thing to do.

In our own parish during the pandemic period we have seen the founding and growth of our Chi Rho branch – a community of lay and ordained people sharing a common rule of life. Several of our church members, significantly four of whom are BAME members, have begun training to be lay ministers. Our informal and active Maranatha Prayer Group has begun, joining volunteers in regular prayer.

These are only a few examples. Much has been done by lay people as well as priests, and it must be pointed out, several of those, lay and ordained, supporting these varied ministries in the parish have themselves being doing so while isolating or shielding. Interestingly much has been initiated and developed at grassroots level, raising questions about the need for some aspects of Church bureaucracy and management in the post pandemic days.

Whatever, in Eastertide, these are inspiring and encouraging signs of new life, faith and hope in our local parishes, and for these signs I thank God.

Fr Ian

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Easter Hope 2021

We had a wonderful Easter at St Chrysostom’s!

So many people, those who came to church, and those who joined online have said so. First of all I would like to thanks everyone who worked so hard to make it so. This was our team work at its best. I am thinking not only of those who took part in worship – musicians, readers – and how lovely to see a full serving team again on Easter Day. I am thinking of those who helped prepared. It was a beautiful sign of Easter, for me, to come in on the Saturday evening before the Vigil of Easter to discover Ann and Marie had been into church and done such beautiful flowers, then there were those who had cleaned and ensured we were ‘safe’ for worship, and of course those who attended. And attendance was not only in person. The people who participated online and all who sent messages of encouragement – so many encouraged us.

This, for me, was a sign of Easter itself. New hope, new life in a difficult situation. When we began the Easter Triduum at the Maundy Thursday Mass, at the beginning I looked round and thought – there a fewer than in previous years. Of course there were, it’s early days in the easing off of the restrictions, and people are rightly, and properly cautious. But then I looked again and counted how many we were as the Mass began – 13! Well, I thought thats a very special number for this evening as at the Last Supper that’s how many sat down to supper. The number grew a little that evening, but nevertheless I felt a point had been made to me – and it was a very hopeful one!

Then at Easter Day itself, despite the sad fact the people are not yet permitted to sing, there was a wonderful sense of joy and hope shared. We love the ‘sensual’ in our worship at St C’s. So it was lovely to see people we hadn’t seen in some cases for nearly a year, it was lovely to smell once again the swirling incense, to hear the Regina Coeli sung out by the cantors as Mass ended. God blessed us. We could indeed say ‘Alleluia. Christ is Risen!’

I am proud of St Chrysostom’s people and what they have done in the pandemic days, and what they continue to do. People have looked to one another, kept in touch and for those who are able to join in Zoom meetings it has been a blessing for them. Our online presence by worship and Facebook group connections have helped keep us together.

Some women of St C’s share Joy and Hope on Easter Day

At the same time being together at Mass is the heart and source of our church life. On Easter Day the joy of those present in Church, the joy shared by those following online was encouraging to us all. It was also a joy to welcome new people among us. Part of our tradition is giving a good inclusive welcome to those who come for the first time, whoever they are. On Easter Day it was lovely to see new people among us.

Our church Standing Committee has met recently and we are forming plans as together we look to the future. A future which will not be quite the same as the past – we have learned through the pandemic, after all.

The Standing Committee hope we can do some things around church itself to enrich our holy space – not least through some painting at high levels, tidying, church grounds work. We also want our church to reach out in its welcome – especially to the trafficked, and the marginalised., as well as reaching out online.

With this all in mind the Standing Committee has launched a special appeal in these days, called the 2021 appeal. We are asking people who wish to do some fundraising and we are inviting generous contributions to the fund to get it going. Money given is earmarked for improving our church.

More about the appeal soon, meanwhile give thanks for the signs of Easter at St C’s and share the joy!

Fr Ian

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Naming the Cross today

Sandra Palmer reflects with us on recognising the cross in our world today

During the past week a number of people  have posted in our Church Facebook group images of crosses they have at home as well as crosses they see in nature , crosses which have aesthetic value , crosses which link them to a person.

I , too , have such crosses – a brightly coloured one from South America , two Ethiopian crosses, another on the end of rosary beads belonging to my late father, all of which I appreciate in their own way.

But I chose to post a photo of a painting I saw in Donaueschingen in Germany . It is a crude painting in grey and white depicting Christ hanging on the wire fence of a concentration camp.

Does it show God in Christ sharing in the suffering of humanity? an idea expressed eloquently in the novelisation of the life of the medieval monk Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell  and in Carl Jung’s Answer To Job.

Does it say that when we inflict suffering on another being , we inflict suffering on God ?

Sadly  we know that the concentration camps were not the only places of great suffering .
I am currently reading Carmen Callil’s life about her ancestors who were transported to Australia from Leicester in the 1800 s , not so long ago in the great scheme of things . The lives of the poor and the cruelty to children was horrific , as was indeed the slave trade , much of the harm inflicted by good Christian men , though ,of course , Christians were also vocal reformers. Attitudes then to ‘ the poor ‘ are echoed today in the division between deserving and undeserving and the fear that welfare payments will encourage people to idle at home.I have also seen children in Nepal scavenging for food , working on brick camps. Cruelty and suffering is woven into the history of the world.

I have problems with the elevation of death of Jesus to a unique death , cruel above all other.  Yes, truly it was a nasty, painful ,agonising  brutish death , undeserved not only by Jesus but by the two men who hang at his side . They may have been robbers, insurrectionists or even murderers but even they did not deserve such a death. Whatever else it did, the death of Jesus proclaimed that the innocent suffer .

Seeing the cross starts for me in the recognition of  pain , cruelty and suffering in our world.  We are NOT God , we do not have the capacity to bear that pain and suffering on our own , but we can name it and strive to alleviate it .

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Well done, good and faithful servant #InspiringWomen

Quite often I pass by the churchyard of the former St Saviour’s Church on Upper Brook Street. I rarely walk in. Today, on a lockdown walk, I did.

I paused at the grave of Mary Hale. Mary was born Mary Morville in 1837, and married William Hale in 1865. She died in 1903. In telling of Mary’s death the then Rector of St Chrysostom’s wrote ‘In Mrs Hale we lose one who had attended S. Chrysostom’s since the opening of the Church, and had been associated with all its undertakings; we are all the poorer for the wothdrawal of her genial and kindly presence, her cheerful encouragement and help, and shall keep bright the memory of her good and faithful example.’

Mary lived in Cecil Street, Moss Side, and when she died her three daughters, who never married, continued living there, together with two elderly aunts. The daughters continued faithfully attending St Chrysostom’s, and Edith Maude, the most recent daughter to die passed away in 1959. It is remarkable to think that between them Mary Hale and her daughters, were part of St Chrysostom’s church life between 1877 and 1959, 82 years.

As I paused at Mary’s grave it seemed appropriate to say a prayer for her, and to thank God for her, and for the many women who have faithfully attended churches, and especially our own church, through the years and through changing times in our country and in the Church.

Memorial plaque to Edith Hale in the Chancel of St Chrysostom’s

Mary’s faithfulness and ‘kindly presence’ is echoed in many women of the church, and is an inspiration to many. Whatever the days brought, such women were there, and indeed are there, supporting the church, holding on to their faith and being kindly and encouraging to others. Their work may not have made history books, or newspapers, but it is such faithfulness that builds up the community, and the local church, and it is on the foundations of their dependability, generosity and faithfulness that the church builds today. They are inspirations to us all.

As I stood there thinking of Mary and others like her I remembered how recently at church we have been sharing examples of inspiring women. What has been striking is how many of those women have been women of a previous generation or two within a family.

For us, at St Chrysostom’s, Mary Hale is an inspiring woman who, though of a previous generation still worships with us before God and still encourages us by her example and by her prayers. I, and I hope others, are inspired by her example and by her faithfulness.

When I trained to be a priest at college on a saints an antiphon was often sung during Morning Prayer, it was a quaotation from Scripture. Quietly, today, I sang it at Mary’s grave on behalf of us all at St Chrysostom’s: Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much, says the Lord.

(This is the latest entry in Fr Ian’s lockdown diary)

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Crosses come in all shapes and sizes. A while ago we invited a group of children to go around our church and photograph the crosses they could find. Some were very obvious – such as the Christus Rex figure behind the altar, and the crucifix above the door.

Others were in more ‘remote’ areas of the church such as the sacristy, church office or social room. The children searched and they found. The results were fascinating.

Crosses were discovered in less obvious places. In stained glass windows, carved in the woodwork, embroidered on vestments and altar frontals.

In addition they found cross shapes. That is shapes that were not intended as crosses but the way objects connected revealed a cross shape.

The Cross is the Christian sign, it is invisibly marked on our forehead at Baptism. We make the sign of the cross on our bodies. We are given palm crosses on Palm Sunday. Many of us have crosses in our homes.

As we enter Passiontide in Lent our thoughts, imagination and prayers turn to the cross of Jesus. Of course it is right that we allow this to happen. Our faith is enriched, and we gain spiritual strength and understanding.

When we look around we begin to see the cross in unusual and unexpected places. The moderator of the Church of Scotland has led an interesting competition for children and adults. He has invited people to look out for crosses in nature, at home or wherever they are in their walks, or homes.

You can see the results in an online gallery. There are a wonderful variety of cross images there, some deliberately made, some found in nature, some very clear, some needing one to look carefully to see.

During the week of 21st to 28th March – the week before Holy Week – this year we are inviting people of St Chrysostom’s and friends to do the same by posting into our Church Facebook Group, using the hashtag #seeingthecross. Look around, you’ll be surprised where you begin to see crosses!

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