Wonder in hymns

Nothing is more difficult than to determine what a child takes in, and does not take in, of its environment and its teaching. This fact is brought home to me by the hymns which I learned as a child, and never forget. They mean to me almost more than the finest poetry, and they have for me a more permanent value, somehow or other.

D H Lawrence’s Congregational Chapel at Eastwood

With these words the poet and author D H Lawrence began an article Hymns in a man’s life published in the London Evening News in 1928. Lawrence goes on to describe the hymns which inspired him at his childhood Congregational chapel in the mining community of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. Lawrence is not talking about hymns written for children, but rather about the wonder and mystery of some of the words and imagery of hymns he encountered. He is not at all, he writes, concerned with dogma or salvation, in which he had little interest. His focus is wonder. The hymns of childhood, Lawrence comments ‘live and glisten in the depth’s of consciousness in undimmed wonder, because they have not been subjected to any criticism or analysis.’

Recently at vespers at St Chrysostom’s we sang John Keble’s lovely evening hymn ‘Sun of my soul! Thou Saviour dear, It is not night if Thou be near – ‘ Lawrence also was impressed by this hymn he writes ‘That was the last hymn at the board school. It did not mean any Christian dogma or any salvation. Just the words, ‘Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear’ penetrated me with wonder and the mystery of twilight.’

Lawrence’s words are a gentle challenge to those who edit hymn books and those who choose hymns for worship.

He challenges the ‘ghastly sentimentalism’ of some hymns. He encourages us to favour hymns that engender the ‘magic’ and ‘wonder’ which he found in several of his childhood hymns. A favourite was ‘O worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness.’ He writes ‘I don’t know what the ‘beauty of holiness’ is exactly. It easily becomes cant, or nonsense. But if you don’t think about it – and why should you? – it has a magic. The same with the whole verse. It is rather bad, really, ‘gold of obedience’ and ‘incense of lowliness.’ But in me, to the music, it still produces a sense of splendour.’

  • Which hymn or hymns from childhood have brought wonder, mystery or splendour to you?

The whole article by D H Lawrence can be read here (pdf): D H Lawrence on Hymns

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Pray Vespers at 5pm with us!

Wherever you are this Summer (22nd July to 31st August), at 5pm (or about that time) we invite you to join us in Vespers. 

We’ve developed this lovely ‘Pray vespers’ tradition at St Chrysostom’s over the years. At two different seasons, we invite friends to join us in prayer wherever they are. Whether you are in Beijing or Bognor, Malaysia or Manchester, YOU are invited to  join in wherever you are, and “Pray Vespers!

All you have to do is follow this link: Take me to Vespers

This will take you to the form of Vespers for the day which we are encouraging people to use (of course you can use a different version if you prefer).

We believe the version we suggest is simple to read and follow.

Click here for another version – slightly longer but good too. (In this we suggest going from the psalm to the second Bible reading (missing out the first Bible reading and what follows it)).

So why not join with others who have already said that they will do this?

We invite people YOU to join in. It’s great if people can share a photo through social media on the day you say Vespers – perhaps a selfie, showing where they are. We’re encouraging people to use the hashtag #PrayVespers

Prayer is never alone – we are always joined by others – and it’s lovely to remember that as we pray at 5pm we join in with other members of our congregation in praise and worship.

#PrayVespers at 5pm!

 

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Making a Tree of Prayer

A sign of love, unity and prayer – that’s our prayer tree in Church. Year 6 children and staff from our schools recently made a new prayer tree for us in church. The children are coming to the end of their time in primary school and as part of their work in their final weeks they often do a project for church and community.

This year the children talked about their hopes and concerns as they make the important transition from primary to secondary school. It is a time of excitement and expectation, and also one of a little anxiety and concern.

From the Children’s Prayer Book

Teachers worked with the children to write about this, and to express their thoughts and feelings in prayer. Children, of different faith traditions, wrote in English, in their home languages, and in the forms of prose and poetry. Their prayers and thoughts came together in a wonderful book of prayers which they brought to church.

Children and staff also worked together in refurbishing our prayer tree in church. The tree uses one of the church pillars as a trunk and around it a lovely striking tree has been created. Special prayer cards representing leaves can be tied to the tree with green ribbon. In this way prayers of anyone can be joined in our holy space – our church.

 

The children’s prayer book is placed by the tree and already prayers have been written on the leaves and tied to the tree.

The tree, in which people of different faiths and cultures had a part is a symbol of prayer, hope and thankfulness joining us together, and a sign of God’s gift of life in creation.

Thank you to the children and staff for this wonderful contribution to church and community.

Day by day we will ask God to receive the prayers offered on our prayer tree.

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Anglican Mary

Statue of Mary with Jesus, Westcott House, Cambridge

We recently held a devotional evening at St Chrysostom’s  celebrating in readings, music and images the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Anglican tradition. It was a delightful evening as we reflected together. We began by listening to a recording of Howell’s glorious setting of the song of Mary, the Magnificat, composed for king’s College Choir in 1945.

We then turned to the Book of Common Prayer and discovered how our Lady is celebrated there and heard beautiful readings from 16th and 17th Anglican writers and teachers such as Joseph Beaumont, Thomas Traherne and John Cosin. The evening was interspersed by hymns relating to Mary written by Anglicans – including the rarely sung extended version of  Bishop Thomas Ken’s Her Virgin eyes say God incarnate born, and Fr George Timm’s Sing we of the blessed Mother.

Some of the readings were by well known writers such as John Keble and Donald Coggan. We also gave space to lesser known items, for example we included a lovely poem The Annunciation by Digby Mackworth Dolben, and cantors had rehearsed a seldom heard Salve Maria of Sabine Baring Gould.

We heard radical Anglican voices as well as challenging poetry and inspirational verse.

Stained glass image of Mary, St Mary’s, Nacton, Suffolk

Images enhanced the evening. We saw images of statues of Mary found in Cathedrals and churches, we looked at how Mary is represented on Mothers’ Union banners, in stained glass, and by Anglicans from different cultures and outlooks. One section looked at Mary and pilgrimage and shrines in the Anglican world.

We agreed that there is a rich vein though the centuries in Anglican devotion, liturgy and prose honouring Mary and it was a delight to honour and celebrate this.

 

Words from a sermon of Fr Arthur Stanton, Curate at St Alban’s, Holborn, preached on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

A Sri Lankan Anglican’s painting of Mary.

God was imprisoned in her womb, whom the heavens cannot contain. God was nourished at her breast who giveth food to all flesh. God lay in her arms, Who bore the world. God obeyed her, Who sendeth forth his commandments upon earth. God lived in her house, Whose home is above the heavens. She was the mother of Redemption, and when Redemption was accomplished, and her mission over, she retires. And that is why it is that the Motherhood in Holy Scripture is what is presented to us especially about the Virgin Mary.

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A Golden Award

Winning team from MGS with Dr Timothy Schroder, Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company

We were delighted to learn that Manchester Grammar School boys, who volunteer in our language classes for the survivors of human trafficking, have been given a prestigious national award for this community work by The Goldsmith’s Company, one of the twelve major Livery Companies of the City of London.

Over forty different schools around the country competed. Regional heats were held, and the final was held on June 25th at Goldsmith’s Hall in London. The judges commended the amazing work of all the entrants. In awarding first place the judges praised the MGS team for their presentation and for the impact that the initiative has had on the local community and the vulnerable adults involved, as well as on the pupils themselves.

Students proudly display the certificate of their achievement after a celebratory lunch at MGS

In receiving the award Harrison Kaye, one of the MGS students said “Being a part of this project at St Chrysostom’s and seeing its impact week on week has been extremely gratifying and I’m sure the whole team would agree that it’s been a highlight of our time at MGS. We’ve faced a variety of challenges… and learned much and gained so many different skills in the process. To be recognised on a national platform in this way is incredible….”

Mrs Vivienne Horsfield, Assistant Head at MGS, with responsibility for the School’s Charity and Outreach Programme, said: “I am delighted for the boys. To win this award is such an honour and I, and everybody at MGS, are so proud of this outstanding group of young men. They are passionate about this issue. It’s an inspiring project and to see, first hand, the difference it has made is a privilege.

At the language classes in Church

Fr Ian commented “At St Chrysostom’s we love to serve our community, and build bridges between the different parts of it. We are delighted to work with MGS in this partnership with the Medaille Trust and it is wonderful that the students’ work has been recognised in this very special way. I am very grateful to the students and their teachers, for their part in supporting this very important local need and especially grateful to our churchwarden, Alan Beck, for the work he does in coordinating the English classes for survivors of trafficking and guiding all the volunteers.”

On their return to Manchester the MGS students celebrated their success at a special lunch at school attended by school staff, old boys and Fr Ian and Alan.

The MGS team received a beautiful award in gold, specially designed by the artist and gold craftsman Tom Fattorini, as well as a £3000 prize to support the continuation and expansion of the project at St Chrysostom’s Church.

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Becoming inclusive, a priest’s comment

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist…”

These words of the German Lutheran Pastor, Martin Neimoller, may be known by many of us – and they were words which I quoted in a speech at Deanery Synod in February. We were debating the need for a church to be “inclusive” and what that means, and that has led me to more thought.

I was attracted to St Chrysostom’s because of the welcoming and accepting ethos demonstrated on the web page. Here I hoped to find a church which would accept me as I am and not as they would like me to be.

I won’t bore you with detail but in many ways I was a stereotypical Anglican, but also I had my own issues which I brought which many congregations would rather not talk about, and brush under the carpet.

At St C’s I found a church and congregation which was working hard to be inclusive and welcoming – and accepting of me “warts and all”.

 

 

Inclusion and welcome are things that have to be worked at – as a Society, as a Church and even as individuals. It isn’t sufficient to merely “think” that we are inclusive people, as if thinking it makes it true. It has to be worked at in order to be achieved.

We at St C’s are happy to celebrate and live with diversity, we rejoice in the complexity of the make-up of the People of God. We rejoice in varied sexualities, value gender equality in Ministry, work hard at involving people of colour at all levels. These are not accidents, they are positive ways in seeking to be an inclusive congregation.

I feel it important that we continue to work at this, and to be proud of our stance. I was once advised by a Bishop to be less “open and frank” about myself as it was not good – I have since wondered who it was “not good” for.

We need to challenge fear and prejudice in Society and in the Church, it is a prophetic role that we at St C’s have in our deanery and Diocese – it will at times be painful for us, but “by their fruits shall you know them”.

Fr Chris

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Confirmed in celebration and joy

“I look forward to this day every year” said the Bishop!

Which day? Which Bishop? The day was the day when children from St Chrysostom’s School come to church to be confirmed. They are encouraged and supported by their friends, classmates, teachers and family – and of course by church people too. Bishop Mark (that’s the Bishop) has led the celebration each year for several years.

In some parts of the Church of England Confirmation has gone out of fashion. Not at St Chrysostom’s! Of course we are ‘church for a different world’ at St C’s. that means celebrating and honouring what is good in our tradition and proclaiming it afresh for today. That’s what our Confirmation day tries to do!

The day begins with getting church ready, and candidates are getting ready in school. The Bishop arrives at the School and is welcomed by children and staff, shown new developments, and visits classrooms before enjoying a school dinner with the children in the school hall. Then candidates for Confirmation have a special meeting with the bishop and then all going to church gather for the procession to Church. This year Mr Elswood, the executive headteacher, carefully marshalled the procession, and off the procession went complete with banners and this year, for the first time St John Chrysostom joined us! (in statue form).

At school the children were splendid in behaviour. Eleven children were confirmed and of those seven were first of all baptised. The school has children from so many different cultures and over 40 different languages are represented at the school. It was wonderful to see the variety represented in the children being confirmed.

This was evangelism in celebration – and in a multi faith setting. Great care is taken to make the words of the liturgy understandable, straightforward and with meaning for all the children. Bishop Mark took great care to honour the different faiths present and encouraged all to commit themselves to prayer – whatever their faith.

Well over 200 people (children and adults) were present on this weekday afternoon – very much showing our activities at Church are “more than Sunday!” The attention of all present was inspirational, and the sincerity and care of the children being confirmed was an example to all.

What a wonderful celebration of the Scaraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

Thank you children, thank you school staff and a special thanks to Bishop Mark.

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