50% Child Poverty in our parish

50% of children living in the Rusholme, Ardwick and Longsight wards – the area closest to our church and schools, are living in poverty.

These figures from the End Child Poverty coalition also show that the parliamentary constituency in which the church lies, Gorton, has the fifth highest incidence of child poverty in the country, and the highest outside London. This, to quote a local headteacher is simply ‘shocking.’

Sam Royston, Chair of End Child Poverty and Director of Policy and Research at the Children’s Society says ‘No family in modern Britain should be struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and clothe their children.  End Child Poverty is calling on the Chancellor to end the freeze on children’s benefits, and to invest in interest free credit for low income families, to ensure that poverty doesn’t result in spiralling debt.’

Christians have a special care for the weak and vulnerable in society, and especially among them, children. Child poverty is increasing in our country.

Henry Scott Holland (1847 – 1918)

Henry Scott Holland (who died one hundred years ago on 17th March 1918) was a highly respected Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in London with a great passion for addressing the ills of society. Preaching during Lent in 1895 he challenged the terrible housing conditions of his day “How is that a civilised Christian country has failed … to make such things inconceivable, intolerable?” Sadly 100 years on we can ask a similar question.

Scott Holland was convinced that the Church, Christian leaders, all people of faith, must speak out, for the good of all. Coalitions of charities and other groups, including faith communities, should inform the social conscience of the nation, Scott Holland urged his listeners. His words are true for today.  Individually, Scott Holland said, we bewail the situation, but, we sit back and permit it… Private regrets have proved powerless.

So what can we do? The work of End Child Poverty and The Children’s Society needs our support, such organisations are campaigning for change.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has reviewed ‘what works’ to reduce child poverty. It’s conclusions include: support Parental relationships, increase household income, better parenting, improving early years (pre school) education, encouraging high quality primary and secondary education in areas of poverty … We can support in whatever ways we can steps like these being made in our community.

As a sign of commitment we can also take small steps either individually or in groups, say of church members. We can creatively encourage and support our parish schools, we can give to local charity shops which sell low cost clothing etc. We can support local foodbanks. We can encourage our politicians to address this situation.

God help us to end poverty in our time.

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Inspiring Books: The choices of two life sentenced prisoners

Two life sentenced prisoners, to whom Fr Ian regularly writes, offer their choices in our Inspiring Books series.

First of all John tells us of his choice:

When I first went to prison, aged 15, I started reading to pass the time. I read mainly thrillers or horror stories. Years later aged about 27 I was in HMP Frankland, a high security prison and I decided to do GCSE English. I’d never done a GCSE in my life so thought I’d give it a go. For this I had to read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was hard and long read. for me. But I came to see it was a really good book with far more in it than other books I’d read. It involved a whole range of emotions and after reading it I was inspired to read better books and open my mind to some proper literature – more interesting, more meaningful. It also inspired me to get a Grade A GCSE!


Secondly, Ken, who has been in prison for over 35 years, tells us his choice:

A book which has greatly inspired me is The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz. A true story of a Polish officer’s escape from a Siberian Gulag and his incredible walk back to Poland. It’s a wonderful story of endurance and hope for freedom, and refusal to give up … it’s full of shifting thoughts, feelings, emotions and struggles, where you can’t help relating to the people and what they go through. I was moved to tears at times reading it. It has given me hope and a will not to give up, and has strengthened me in my Christian faith.

Thank you to Ken and John for these inspiring choices.

This post is the seventh in our ongoing series in which different people share their Inspiring Books, for the first post, the choices of two University Librarians,  click here. and for the second, the choice of two students, click here. In the third post two women priests gave their choices here.  We crossed the sea to the US for our fourth post the choice of  two young ladies – here. Our fifth choice was from two local children and teachers, and two cathedral deans offered their choices here.

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Be still, listen and find

Enclosed Sisters at Tyburn Convent praying before the Blessed Sacrament

Marble Arch is a busy place in London, the traffic constantly flows around it, the streets there are always busy with pedestrians.

Only a hundred yards or so from Marble Arch itself, on the Bayswater Road is a simple doorway, where, through the day and into the evening, people of all kinds pass. I went through it a few weeks ago and entered the silence and stillness of Tyburn Convent chapel. Here enclosed nuns pray, as the saying goes, 24/7 – all day everyday there is at least one sister praying before the Blessed Sacrament. It is a remarkable place of peace, an oasis in a busy place. It is even more remarkable. At this place for six centuries criminals were hanged, including many who died for their faith in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A downstairs chapel at the convent honours these martyrs. This place has now been taken and sanctified by the holiness of prayer and devotion. A place where one can stop and reflect and come away refreshed.

Recently Mtr Kim told us a simple story during her sermon at Mass:

A farmer once lost his watch which had great sentimental value to him. He searched for hours in his barn before noticing a group of children playing outside.

The farmer asked the children for help and promised a reward. The children searched every inch of the barn but didn’t find the watch. Just when the farmer was about to give up one of the children asked for a second chance. He went into the barn by himself, and after many minutes came out – with the farmer’s watch.

Amazed the farmer asked the boy how he found it. The boy said ‘I sat in silence until I heard the ticking of the watch then I followed the sound.’  A still peaceful mind often works better than an anxious or busy one.

This Lent at Church we are thinking of prayer. The sisters at Tyburn and the boy in the barn, invite us to find time to be still, and listen wherever we are.

Fr Ian

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Inspiring Books: The choices of two cathedral deans

Two cathedral deans kindly give us their choices of inspiring books in our Inspiring Books series.

First of all we have the choice of Andrew Nunn, the Dean of Southwark. Andrew writes:

“My choice is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.  This book for children was published back in 1922 and has remained a classic ever since.  I didn’t read it as a child, however, but was introduced to it in a sermon that I heard preached at the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield when I was training to be a priest.  The story is all about a little boy and his toy rabbit, and the rabbit’s desire to be ‘real’.  On a surface level it’s a cute and sentimental tale but like many stories written for children there is deep truth there.  The inner process of becoming our real selves is often about realising that all the knocks we receive in life are what make us who we are, and in God’s sight we become more precious, if that is possible.  There are many lovely passages but one of the most famous is the conversation between two of the toys – the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse – “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’  This book is the real ‘Toy Story’!”

Our second Dean contributor is Peter Atkinson, the Dean of Worcester. Peter writes:

“Out of the thousands of books one could choose … one I go back to every year is Helen Waddell’s Peter Abelard. It was published in 1933 and was a best-seller at the time.

The book was meant to be the first of a trilogy of novels on the life of Peter Abelard, but dementia overtook Helen Waddell, and it remains a single-volume fragment, but still beautifully written and deeply moving – a probing of faith, prayer, orthodoxy, authority, sensuality, and the problem of pain, told through the love story of Abelard and Heloise.”

Thank you to Andrew and Peter for these choices.

This post is the sixth in our ongoing series in which different people share their Inspiring Books, for the first post, the choices of two University Librarians,  click here. and for the second, the choice of two students, click here. In the third post two women priests gave their choices here.  We crossed the sea to the US for our fourth post the choice of  two young ladies – here. Our fifth choice was from two local children and teachers.

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A monthly Evening Oasis

Here at St Chrysostom’s we’re proud of our record of inclusion. It is, of course, ongoing work.

Over a hundred years ago St Chrysostom’s pressed for greater inclusion of women in church life, the first women deaconesses in Manchester Diocese were commissioned at St Chrysostom’s, we had one of the first black ‘lay readers’ in the Church of England, one of the first black women churchwardens, each Sunday at least ten different nationalities are found among us and for over forty years we’ve welcomed LGBT people. Indeed twelve years ago we were the first Church of England church to have a Mass with a specific welcome to LGBT people.

A key factor in our work to be inclusive has been an ethos of welcome, and involving and integrating people into the life of our church.

The Church Council has recently been looking at worship, variety and our tradition of inclusion. As a result, to emphasise and celebrate the inclusion and variety at St Chrysostom’s, the Church Council has agreed to introduce on the last Sunday of the month a relaxed and gentle act of worship which we’re calling Evening Oasis. The service will have a variety of styles and emphases fitting in with our varied and multicultural, and multilingual congregation. It is intended that Evening Oasis be open and suitable to all.

This service has replaced our monthly Open Table service which had a particular focus on welcome of LGBT+ people.   Evening Oasis will have a broader focus. Our aim is to broaden out the style and welcome which Open Table has begun to develop. So sometimes Evening Oasis may have a particular cultural focus relevant to our church, sometimes it may be led by LGBT people, sometimes by our young adults, sometimes it may include a meal and social gathering with prayer. Evening Oasis will often be a Mass with an ‘open table’ – where like at all our Masses – all are welcome to receive Communion.  Differing styles, all with the emphasis on openness and inclusion, and being, as the name suggests, a time of gentle welcome and spirituality in a busy world.

Our final Open Table service was on February 25th, and the first Evening Oasis will be on May 27th.

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Opening doors on World Book Day

Children love to dress up, and what better day to do it than World Book Day, writes Fr Ian. It’s a joy and delight to visit a school on World Book Day and today I thoroughly enjoyed a visit to St John’s School, Longsight, one of our parish schools.

I attended a special assembly led by a pirate headteacher, and I wondered at the huge variety of colourful and creative costumes worn by children and staff.

It was especially encouraging to see children and parents in many cases had resisted the temptation to buy expensive shop made costumes and instead had adapted children’s clothing or added accessories to outfits. The pirate leading encouraged this too by explaining how he had made his costume. The whole assembly was a  wonderful encouragement to creativity and enjoyment in the school.

I was also interested to hear of different ways to mark the day – in addition to costume wearing. Mrs Francis, Head of School, told me how she had in the past worked with children so that each decorated a potato as a favourite book character.

A special feature this year at St John’s was a competition. Mrs Gordon, a Year 6 teacher, had the innovative idea of inviting children to design the door of the house of a favourite character from a book. There were many lovely entries, from all ages. It was a pleasure to be part of the judging team selecting five entries to especially honour. It was a hard task too!

Now here are the five doors selected, and the question to you, dear reader, is can you identify the characters whose doors these are? (You’re welcome to give your answers in the comments section below)


… and to find out some books which have inspired staff and children at St John’s click here.

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Inspiring Books: Two teachers and two pupils choose

St John’s Primary School supplies us with four inspiring books, in this special post for World Book Day in our Inspiring Books series.

First of all the choice of two pupils and then the choice of two teachers. Read on! – We’re sure you will see what a fascinating time was had finding out these inspiring books.

The first pupil choice is of Zulaikha who chose Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. Zulaikha was impressed by the quality of writing and at the way sad and happy parts joined together in this book about the First World War. She was inspired by the way in which family and friends stood up for one another in adverse circumstances. Zulaika found it a ‘good read’ and has been pleased to recommend it to others.


Saxby Smart, Private detective  is a series of books by Simon Cheshire, which has inspired Yousuf. These are stories about a boy who uses his knowledge to work out complicated cases. Yousef said the books inspire him to face tough situations and use knowledge to help. They are good books which at the end of each chapter leave you wondering what happens next.

Mrs Mehran Zaman
, a teacher at the school named To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee as her choice. She read it at a pivotal time in her life – when she was doing GCSEs at the age of 15. It made a great impression, and was an inspiration as a young woman was working in her mind about the future – where she would be accepted and honoured. The book inspired  Mrs Zaman to carry on,- at a time when multiculturalism was not so strong in England – and do her best whatever the circumstances.

A very different book was chosen by Mrs Juliet Francis, Head of School at John’s. She chose Flotsam by David Wiesner – a book without words. A boy is at the beach and finds an old camera. He takes the film to get it developed, and sees photos of fantastical undersea cities and inventions. The last picture is the most interesting,… The book has value well beyond the wonder it holds for young children. Mrs Francis said she has been inspired by the book to pursue more and more her educational philosophy of integrating subjects in the curriculum – especially in this case reading and the arts.

Thank you so much to our four contributors from the St John’s School community – what lovely choices. 

This post is the fifth in our ongoing series in which different people share their Inspiring Books, for the first post, the choices of two University Librarians,  click here. and for the second, the choice of two students, click here. In the third post two women priests gave their choices here.  We crossed the sea to the US for the choice of two young ladies – here.

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