Though parted now, by tempests tossed

Tea and BWhich part of the Eucharist do you appreciate the most? Michael, a University Chaplain asked this of a group of students many years ago. I was one of the students. Hannah, a fellow student, surprised me by saying that she liked best the tea and biscuits afterwards. She liked to meet and to make friends over a relaxed time after worship.

Years later I see Hannah’s point more clearly.  More and more theology of the Eucharist, and study of the history of the Eucharist, remind us of the total act of the Mass. We are recovering a holistic approach to the liturgy. A community, the ‘Holy Communion’ is formed at Mass. The community is also strengthened by the conversation, friendship and goodwill over tea and biscuits after the formal liturgy.

At present churches are closed. Sadly, the Sacrament cannot be shared in the bread and the wine. A focal point of our Christian living and formation has gone for the time being.

In these days we are called to be both imaginative and creative. Worship together is a key feature of Christian living. How in these days of social separation can we celebrate and be the ‘Holy Communion?’ Over the coming days and weeks Christians will be thinking and praying about this. The Mass, celebrated by a priest with a server, or other services will be relayed on line from some churches so that those watching can join ‘remotely.’ We will be doing this at St Chrysostom’s and we are working to involve a good range of our people in this, for worship is for all not just clergy!

This can only be a part of what we do. Different ways of interacting, praying together and caring for one another will develop, and we will need to listen to each other as we explore in these unusual times. How we do things will also shape the longer term future.

Ch Chr

Think about Hannah’s point, how can we ‘meet and make friends,’ and strengthen our Christian community in days of social distancing? How can we show care among us?

At St Chrysostom’s we are encouraging people to listen in and take part in worship webcast through our Facebook page, we invite those who are able to interact through our church Facebook group, and of course picking up the phone and speaking, using WhatsApp or texting, are good ways to be in touch. I have been encouraged to receive, through the post, cards assuring me of prayer.

Praying together strengthens us and unites us, being in touch with one another strengthens us. The great 17th century Church leader and theologian, Richard Baxter, wrote, at a time of separation, of the unity of Christians in prayer. His words are very appropriate for today.

As for my friends, they are not lost:
The several vessels of thy fleet
Though parted now, by tempests tossed,
Shall safely in the haven meet.

We still are centred all in thee,
Though distant, members of one Head;
Within one family we be,
And by one faith and spirit led.

Before thy throne we daily meet
As joint-petitioners to thee;
In spirit each the other greet,
And shall again each other see.

Fr Ian

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St Óscar Romero—God among us in suffering and injustice

RomeroFor many people the assassination of Archbishop Romero on 24th March 1980 is no doubt still in living memory. Forty years have passed since his assassination, but his example and witness continue to inspire and transform lives and faith. He is now recognised as a saint. (Feast day 24th March).
Kenson continues:
Romero is now remembered as the champion of the poor, an activist against social injustice. He was a major proponent of ‘Liberation Theology’—a branch of Theology that strongly believes God’s ‘preferential option of the poor’, that God will always be on the side of the oppressed. Yet when Romero became the Archbishop of San Salvador, he was considered a ‘conservative’ that would undermine their commitment to the poor. 
Romero’s outlook changed after the assassination of Romero’s close friend Rutilio Grande. Romero became more and more outspoken against social injustice, poverty. From there, he dedicated his life to the cause of Liberation Theology.
On 24th March 1980, he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. In that Mass he preached was to become his last sermon, an exhortation to the Salvadorean soldiers to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. When he finished the sermon, as he was celebrating the Eucharist, a gunman stepped into the chapel and shot Romero in the heart.
“This is the hope that inspires us as Christians: We know that every effort to better society, especially when justice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us…”
—excerpt from Romero’s last sermon
“Sentir con la Iglesia”—‘feeling with the Church’, is Romero’s motto as a bishop. He felt with the Church by sharing the agony of the Body of Christ—a body being oppressed, abused, shot, raped, crucified, again and again…the poor broke his heart, and the wound never closed.
Romero embraced his flock made up of both sheep and wolves. He cared for the sheep that were threatened daily by the vicious oppressors, and he embraced the wolves, to the point of death, with the embrace of Christ. He embraced them with the love that will not let go until his love has persuaded them to let go of their power and greed.
Romero felt with the Church by constantly asking himself — who do I feel with? 
Romero felt with the Church not by showing sympathy, but by living a life of empathy and selfless love.
Romero felt with the Church by identifying with the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, and he was not ashamed of it.
Who do you feel with today?
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5 things to do in this time of crisis

For several years the NHS has recommended the ‘five simple things’ as a way of maintaining good mental health. They were not derived from the Christian faith but certainly do not contradict it.

For more information see NHS

Based on a paper by Rhiannon Johnson of the Church in Wales, Fr Chris offers the following suggestions based on these 5 simple things:

The ‘five simple things’ in bold with suggestions about how they can be adapted to caring for each other at the present time

Connect with other people Relationships and contact with others is important. ‘Phone-visiting’ and various apps can help us all connect with our neighbours and our friends and family. We can also contact those who we know to be alone. In Genesis God says “it is not good for the human being to be alone”. We can be “with” others using phones and Apps. There is the Church Facebook Group here – why not post or comment on what you read – and you can join with others in prayer at Mid-day and at 5pm on our Facebook page.

Be Physically Active Being active can hugely improve our mental health and wellbeing. We can find ourselves in front of the TV/Tablet/Computer for long periods. Take a break to stretch, turn on some music and dance, or put on an exercise video. If you live in a flat are there some stairs you can easily climb? Maybe take a walk in your garden or park – but maintain a safe-distance.

Be Curious- learn new things We are all going to have extra time so perhaps this is the opportunity to try new things, or to learn or develop a skill. We can recommend books, films and simple activities for one another. A “Google” search can bring up interconnectivity and on-line games.  We can also develop new ways of connecting with God.

Give to others We certainly know that the crisis is likely to make life difficult for almost everyone and almost impossible for those who were already struggling. We can give to others by being a helping hand, offering to shop for the self-isolating, phoning someone you feel may be lonely or distressed. Whatever we can do will benefit both those who receive and those who give.

Pay attention to the present moment We can become obsessed with the news, lose sight of where we are in life, accepting the blessing that is ours today, and taking a rest from worry about the future and regret for the past. There can be a temptation to want to blame the situation on someone or something or become obsessively anxious. We can find ourselves hearing a constant commentary on the News. Why not listen to one newscast a day, and connect a time of prayer to it? We can so often forget those little things that we need to be thankful for – the smile of a stranger, the phone call from a friend.

For me, the five simple things are a useful checklist for helping people to support each other in these difficult times.

May God help us to help each other at this time.

Fr Chris

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Sleeping St Joseph

I was very pleased to receive recently an unusual statue as a gift. It is of sleeping St Joseph (feast day March 19th). I first came across this statue in the chapel of the SMA fathers near St Chrysostom’s Church.

I first came across this statue in the chapel of the SMA fathers near St Chrysostom’s Church. Later I read that Pope Francis himself had a devotion to sleeping St Joseph. Speaking in Manila in 2015 Pope Francis said, about the statue:

“I have great love for Saint Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of Saint Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Saint Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!

Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act .”

Rembrandt: The Dream of Joseph

Joseph slept and in his sleep and dreams he received guidance from God. Guidance to take Mary as his wife, guidance to go to Egypt for safety, and guidance to return home.

Wordly wisdom sometimes advises us to ‘sleep on’ a problem. As Christians, at times of difficulty and anxiety we are encouraged to pray, to seek others’ prayers and seek the prayers of the saints of God.

My statue of sleeping St Joseph is at my bedside. Like Pope Francis from time to time I leave a note under it. I ask him to pray for this problem!

A friend and I recently discussed this devotion. He, like many of us can be quite sceptical. He recently told me: “A few days ago, having gone to bed thinking about sleeping St Joseph, without any specific intention, I woke next morning with an awareness of something particular I should do as an act of care for a friend. In spite of a fleeting early morning reaction of ‘can I be bothered’ I followed the prompting- it was the right thing to do, powerfully so.”

Fr Ian

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Pray Vespers at 5pm with us!

While St Chrysostom’s is closed for public worship because of the Coronavirus we invite you to join us in Vespers, wherever you are.

We’ve developed this lovely ‘Pray Vespers’ tradition at St Chrysostom’s over the years. 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)).

Each day, Sunday through to Friday Vespers will be webcast at 5pm on our Church Facebook page. You can listen in then – or indeed afterwards as it will stay on the page. This Vespers will use a simple form which is available on our website, and in print form by request.

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

We invite people YOU to join in, ideally at 5pm, but that time may not suit you – that’s OK – just find a good time.

It’s great in these days of distancing 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 Spiritual Communion

Churches are temporarily closing in some parts of the world as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. In South Korea and Hong Kong, for example, most churches have felt it wise not to have Sunday worship at present.

It is good to be prepared for times when we are prevented from being at Holy Mass, and Christians would not wish to feel isolated from their Christian community’s worship or indeed cut off from Holy Communion. A friend has sent me this guide to making a Spiritual Communion (with grateful thanks to this website). This encourages us by prayer and imagination to make our Communion as if we were in Church – a Spiritual Communion. (See this earlier post on our church blog).

Do read the guide carefully. It may well be a source of comfort and strength if you are not able to be present at Mass.

Fr Ian

Spiritual Communion


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Land Acknowledgement and Colonialism

We would like to acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples of, what we now know as, the United States of America, the traditional Custodians of the land of which we speak today. May we celebrate the perseverance of these people and recognize the disparity created by those in positions of power. We would like to pay our respects to the Elders past, present and future. May we continue to consider what paths we have taken as we walk into the future.

Defend the sacred

Dakota Access Pipeline- people came from all over the States for 11 months to protest the land taken by the government in 2016.

Across the United States of America, the majority of Indigenous Peoples (inappropriately known as American Indians) have been displaced and the land their life’s traditions had been built upon was openly stolen. The forced removal and genocide of Indigenous Peoples has happened over generations and even as recently as 2016, have Indigenous Peoples had their land stolen by the government. Often the indigenous Peoples would be pushed into completely new climates where they needed to relearn how to survive in their daily life; their traditional spiritual life was more difficult to adapt within the new climates. Throughout these trials the Indigenous communities rallied to hold a connectedness to their homeland that is celebrated still today. This can be a difficult history to understand but taking the harshness out of the situations paints a picture of half-truths and creates an under informed public.

Land Acknowledgement can be used like a prayer as a celebration of Indigenous communities. It is not intended to be grim but to be a reminder of where we all have come from as humans and as a society. Land Acknowledgement is often said at the start of a meeting or gathering, both formal and informal, much like how this blog post was started. This can be said by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, the importance comes from the time taken to do so in a genuine manner of reflection.

Water is life

Standing Rock- ‘Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation: Experiences From Standing Rock’

Land Acknowledgement is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory people reside upon, and a way of honouring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history. Land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation.

You may be wondering, “How can we do this in the UK?” The short answer is we cannot. We can honour the culture we are within and the cultures we come from, but those who were on this land originally are not still within our society, they are of the past unlike the Indigenous Peoples of States. I propose instead you focus your energies toward the influence the UK has historically had on the world; it’s involvement in colonialism past, present, and future. The cornerstones of the world stage are still pillars of colonialism. I ask you to look at colonialism with new eyes, not as something unfortunate that happened that we need to move forward from but as something we still need to make conscious effort to change.

We are grateful to Madison, Parish Assistant, for this blog post, arising from a Second Cup gathering in our Lent series on prayers at different occasions from differing cultures.

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