Trafficking on your doorstep

Last night I had some of my misconceptions exploded. I had my eyes opened to something evil which is on our doorstep and in our community.  Human trafficking and exploitation.

Robert talks about the work of the Medaille Trust

Robert talks about the work of the Medaille Trust

Four men talked at Church of their helplessness whilst being trafficked, and about their journey out of the abuse.  These men were not the sort of people who we immediately see as “victims”.  They confidently shared about their experiences as they felt able to. We listened!

These men spoke of the “emptiness” or void which comes from the abuse.  The lack of connection with other people, and isolation.  This emotional vacuum, and – something I found most poignant – the guilt about the inability to forgive the abuser which prohibits, or inhibits, closure on the abuse.

The men were from different parts of the world, Europe, Africa, East Asia and the UK.

human-traffickingWe were moved by their stories.  We heard from a local manager of a project working with victims, and setting them on a course of recovery.  We learned of the frustrating time constraints which the workers have to work within for non-UK nationals.  We listened to someone who trains people to recognise the signs of exploitation in the community.

We heard of a man who had become so desperate in his plight that he tried to commit suicide, the police intervened and took him to A&E and he was later discharged – the underlying issue behind the presenting issue – his being trafficked – not being followed up, or even recognised.

whatsoever-uWe raised the question of what we can do, here are some small practical steps for us. (I am sure all churches and other groups could take some small steps like this)

  • First of all – if you have spare good warm coats they would be useful for us to pass on – do bring them to Church and we will do the rest.
  • Secondly, if you pass by our Church and see men on the bench outside – wave, smile and perhaps connect with them. A small thing to do, perhaps but isolation and lack of self-esteem can easily be remedied by a little positive action on our part.
  • Third – the issue is enormous, and we can feel overwhelmed by it. COME Along to our follow-up meeting on 17th November at 7.30 and find out ways to recognise the signs of trafficking in our community and about what we can do to challenge it.
  • Fourth – pray, and don’t delay in taking action.

Fr Chris

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A saint without interest


Are saints boring?

Sabine Baring-Gould a remarkably prolific author and priest wrote over a thousand works. His Lives of the Saints, published in the late nineteenth century, runs to 15 volumes, and presents a wide range of saints. Hidden in the 11th volume, among the saints of October, Baring-Gould tells us of St John of Bridlington (Feast Day 21st October). He writes, quite bluntly,

His life is absolutely devoid of a single incident of interest.

Butler’s Lives of the Saints is more kind, and tells us that the fourteenth century John, born near Bridlington, studied at Oxford, then returned to Bridlington where he lived ‘an exemplary life as a religious…and he carried out his duties with prudence and mildness.’ Which slightly indicates how Baring-Gould could write what he did.

I like St John of Bridlington. Not for him power seeking ambition, grand plans, spectacular miracles, or thrusting sanctity. Instead he seems very content with where God had placed him, and did his best on that small canvas. He was particularly attached to reading and reflecting on St John’s Gospel and urged others to read and study it.

Although his life is without impressive historical event it is impressive that his holiness was apparent to those around him. So much so that within the relatively short period of 22 years after his death he was canonised by Pope Boniface IX.

Although Baring-Gould closes his, brief, account of St John with the words ‘he closed a life without interest in 1379’ for everyday Christians today the faithfulness, prayerfulness and care of St John of Bridlington can be, and is, an inspiration.

Pray that like John the many faithful people who are faithful over a little will hear the blessed words:

Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25.23)

Fr Ian

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Burlison and Grylls

The Hugh Oldham window in the South Aisle of St Chrysostom's, honouring him as founder of Manchester Grammar School

The Hugh Oldham window in the South Aisle of St Chrysostom’s, honouring him as founder of Manchester Grammar School

The stained glass windows of St Chrysostom’s are a special and notable feature of the Church. All those in the nave and apse of the Church, and some in the Anson Chapel, are the work of the prominent stained glass window manufacturers Burlison and Grylls.

We are grateful to Peter Moore, who not only has given us a copy of digital photographs of the windows which he has taken, but also has written the following information about the company of Burlison and Grylls. Peter, a descendant of Thomas Grylls,  is making a collection of images of the company’s work. He writes:

John Burlison (1843-1891) and  Thomas John Grylls (1845-1913) met as apprentices in the firm of Clayton & Bell, one of the largest and most ‘commercial’ of the Victorian stained glass window originators. Burlison’s father was personal assistant to the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, and his sister married Alfred Bell. Thomas Grylls’ father was a manager for the organ builders Walker. In other words, both had promising connections, and these they exploited when, in 1868, with the encouragement of the architect G F Bodley, they set up their own stained glass firm off Oxford Street, London.

The consolidation of their partnership by John Burlison’s marriage to Elizabeth Sarah Grylls in 1870, and the large families with which both were blessed are sufficient testimony to the success of the firm over the following decades. Most of their work appears to have come from the architects who were busy restoring the medieval parish churches scattered throughout England, G F Bodley, G E Street, Gilbert Scott, father and son. As business expanded, they were able to undertake a variety of tasks involving restoration and decoration, mainly of chancel and sanctuary areas and often working to an architect’s specifications, as well as gaining a reputation for good quality restoration of old glass and a delicate and restrained style in their own glass.

Detail from the Hugh Oldham window

Detail from the Hugh Oldham window

From the early days John Burlison appears to have run the administrative side of the business: Thomas John Grylls was responsible for most of the designing, and appears to have gathered about him a small caucus of craftsmen, each with their own particular speciality, and eventually supplemented by his own talented children.
After Burlison’s death in 1891, Grylls’ eldest son Thomas Henry (Harry) took over the administration: himself talented as an heraldic artist, he was thus able to continue the firm after his father’s death in 1913, though his designs leant heavily upon his father’s tradition, and responded particularly to the demand for war memorials. Latterly business declined, and the WW2 bombing of their Great Ormond Street premises effectively brought closure.

To date, the work of Burlison & Grylls is largely undocumented: records appear to have been lost, and the windows were unsigned: thus an accurate and complete compilation is virtually impossible.

(To see a wide ranging collection of images of Burlison and Grylls work click here for the B & G Flickr group).

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The Joy of the Rosary

rosary-joy-uIn our fourth reflection for the month of the rosary Paul reflects personally on the Joy of the Rosary.

“Joy to thee O Queen of Heaven, Alleluia” – the moment when this is sung at midday on Easter Sunday is one of the most joyful moments of the year for me as it signifies renewal, refreshment and hope.

 The veneration of Mary, Our Lady, has for centuries been a source of some consternation amongst Christians with many Protestants considering it the reserve of Roman Catholics. I imagine this is borne out of a long held misunderstanding; when we pray the prayers of Our Lady, we are not praying to her in worship, we are joining her in worship and how joyous it is to have her on our side.

 The Rosary brings me great joy, not least because the Hail Mary is such a joyful prayer. “The Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou amongst women and Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus”. Mary was a young woman, a teenager; she must have been frightened by the message of the Angel but she understood her role and accepted the will of God. This is clear in Luke’s Gospel which tells of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth and is now known to us as the Magnificat –  “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me and holy is his Name” indeed this is the 2nd joyful mystery of the Rosary.

 pp-r-uAnother joyful thing about the Rosary for me is that is a lovely way to experience the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus in small digestible chunks and take a few moments through the prayers to meditate or in less spiritual language, think about them and think what they mean to me know!

I feel more confident with the Rosary at my side and I rarely go anywhere without my beads physically with me however I do not really need them, the true joy in the Rosary is the prayers of Our Lady, Our Heavenly Queen, Our Heavenly Mother, put simply Mary! I can count them on my fingers if I need to. I know that whatever happens in my life, she intercedes for me, she remembers me, she gives my love to her Son, my Saviour – what can be more joyous than that?

(Previous Rosary month reflections are: The Comfort of the Rosary and The Discovery of the Rosary and the Sharing of the Rosary.)

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St Chrysostom’s Open Table and the House of Commons

Susan Elan Jones asking about Pastoral Care of LGBT people

Susan Elan Jones asking about Pastoral Care of LGBT people

A question has been asked in Parliament about whether the Church of England is doing enough in the pastoral care of LGBT people.

It’s a very good question, although sad that it needs to be asked. The Church certainly seems to be giving mixed messages. Of course some of this is due to the Church being in a period of change and discussion on LGBT issues. However, when it comes to bishops it cannot be denied that a somewhat confusing and uncertain message  is being given. Some, but not all, bishops have barred clergy or readers in same sex marriages from holding office in their dioceses. Some bishops have made a clear stand in supporting LGBT people pastorally while others have been more equivocal or covert in their response.

Of course the views of the Church of England are not just found among bishops! Indeed there is evidence from history that bishops rather lag behind when it comes to change.

So back to Parliament. On Thursday 13th October 2016 Susan Elan Jones (MP for Clwyd South) asked Dame Caroline Spelman (who answers questions on the Church of England in the House of Commons in her role as the Second Church Estates Commissioner) about the Church of England and the pastoral care of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians.

Dame Caroline Spelman mentions the good example of welcoming LGBT services

Dame Caroline Spelman mentions the good example of welcoming LGBT services, of which Open Table at St C’s is an example

Dame Caroline replied, on the situation in England, “the Church of England is operating a number of small scale projects. The best example I can think of is in Manchester, where a monthly communion service operates in some parishes specifically for the LGBT community.”

Well that ‘best example’ must include us at St Chrysostom’s with Open Table! – after all there isn’t another C of E church holding a monthly communion service in Manchester for LGBT people. Although, of course, our friends in Liverpool Open Table do so at St Bride’s, Liverpool.

What is particularly noteworthy is that Dame Caroline immediately identifies open, inclusive and welcoming worship as good pastoral care.

The questions continued asking Dame Caroline if she agreed that “now is the time for those of us who are Christian but not of the LGBT community to give more careful consideration to these issues?”

The response was:  Yes absolutely. It is completely in line with the policy of the Church of England. The House of Bishops has consistently encouraged the clergy to offer appropriate pastoral support, including informal prayer with LGBT people, Christians and others. I think that that injunction is on us all.

(Did you know St Chrysostom’s has been mentioned in the House of Commons before, on another matter. See here. )
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Encouraging hope in prison

Mrs. Fry reading at Newgate Prison' based on an oil painting by Jerry Barrett

‘Mrs. Fry reading at Newgate Prison’ based on an oil painting by Jerry Barrett

Each year ‘Prisons Week’ invites the Christian community, through individuals and churches, to remember and pray for prisoners and for the needs of all those affected by prisons. Appropriately the day (October 12th) when we remember Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), the great prison reformer, falls in Prisons Week.

To stimulate thought and prayer on prisons we reproduce words from Quaker Faith & Practice (The book of Christian Discipline of the Society of Friends in Britain)

From a memoir of Elizabeth Fry, by her two daughters:

She encountered in the prisons every grade and variety of crime: the woman bold and daring and reckless, revelling in her iniquity and hardened in vice…the thoughtless culprit, not lost to good and holy feeling… and lastly the beginner, she who from deep poverty had been driven to theft or drawn by others into temptation. She marked all these and despaired of none…

From the writings of her friend Priscilla Buxton:

Elizabeth Fry always could see hope for everyone; she invariably found or made some point of light. The most abandoned must have felt she did not despair for them, either for this world or another; and this is what made her irresistible.

And Elizabeth Fry herself wrote:

Much depends on the spirit in which the visitor enters upon her work. It must be in the spirit, not of judgement but of mercy. She must not say in her heart I am more holy than thou, but must rather keep in perpetual remembrance that ‘all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.’

jesus-encarceladoAs we read these words we cannot help but be thankful for those who encourage, and bring hope to prisoners… and to us.

Like Elizabeth Fry do we look for the light in everyone?

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Hebrews 13.3

Could you, or someone you know, be a Prison Visitor? For more information click here.

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The Sharing of the Rosary

Fr Ian reflects on the use of prayer beads in world faiths in the third of our reflections for October, the month of the rosary:


Buddhist and Christian prayer beads

This morning I enjoyed joining with children at St Chrysostom’s for their morning assembly. The interim Head of School, Paul Edwards, led a fascinating assembly in which he spoke of his Buddhist faith and in particular on how Buddhism is practised. Children listened to Buddhist chant, heard about posture in prayer, and tried out calm breathing.

We also heard about prayer beads in Buddhism, and I was reminded of how prayer beads are used by people of various world faith traditions. In Islam the Misbaha, prayer beads, often numbering 99 (corresponding to the names of God in Islam), are used to help with counting prayer and as an aid to reflection. In a similar way Hindus and Sikhs used prayer beads as an aid to prayer. Indeed a statue a 3rd century BC statue of a Hindu holy man depicts him with prayer beads.

Prayer beads in world faiths

Prayer beads in world faiths

In  the fourth century Christians were using ropes with knots as a help to pray. By the twelfth century the rhythmic reading of 50 or 150 Hail Marys was a common practice in the western church and beads were a help to maintain the rhythm, and to count. In the twelfth century St Dominic is said to have systematised the saying of the prayers into the form of the rosary in the form most commonly used today. Other forms such as the Fiat Rosary, Bridgettine Rosary and the Anglican Rosary are also used.

Of course the common factor in all this is the use of beads to help count, and more importantly to help touch be used as a focus for prayer, stillness and meditation. For millenia people have found prayer beads a useful aid to prayer. Here at St Chrysostom’s many members of our church find this.

Following this morning’s school assembly Paul and I reflected that talking about shared practice among different faiths not only helps understanding but it also enriches our own spiritualities. Talking about the rosary and prayer beads broadens our own horizons and encourages our practice of prayer and the prayer of others too.

(Previous Rosary month reflections are: The Comfort of the Rosary and The Discovery of the Rosary.)

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