Welcoming Fr Admos, our new Deacon at St C’s

Natasha, Michael, Shaun, Bishop David Father Admos, Grace and Petronella after the ordination

Many congratulations to Admos who was ordained Deacon on September 23rd, to serve in our parish. Admos and his family have worshipped with us since arriving in the UK from Zimbabwe, and Admos has had a significant part in shaping where our church is today. Among us he felt called to the priesthood, and he feels his particular call is to serve our congregation. This calling was unanimously supported by our Church Council.

Fr Admos with Fr Ian and the churchwardens outside the Cathedral

Admos completed his training for ministry recently, however, the ordination was postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic. It finally took place at Manchester Cathedral last Wednesday. Although very restriced in numbers it was a very special occasion and it was good that Grace, Admos’ wife and their children, Petronella, Shaun, Natasha and Michael, were all able to be there, together with Fr Ian and our churchwardens.

Fr Ian commented: I was so pleased we were finally able to gather for Admos’ ordination. It was a special moment for Admos, his family and us all. I found it a lovely and poignant ordination service. As the Dean remarked we are learning to appreciate more and more small, beautiful acts of worship in these strange days. This was one of them. I found the whole ethos, the gentle atmosphere and unfussy attention to detail quite lovely and felt – in the place I am at present – it was preferable to a big more fussy ordination!

In his sermon Bishop David spoke of the need for the local support to be supported and encouraged, and to place prayer and faith at the centre of the work we do.

Fr Admos will continue in his full time work as a Senior Lecturer (and associate director) in the Global Development Institute in Manchester University, while also being a deacon, and all being well from next year, a priest, here at St Chrysostom’s.

As we move forward, in uncertain days, Fr Admos’ intellectual acumen, thoughtful spirituality and broad experience is a very valuable addition to our ministry team.

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Our Lady of Walsingham: A US interpretation

Here is a challenging and beautiful  image of Our Lady of Walsingham. (Feast day 24th September). We’re delighted to have the artist’s permission to reproduce it, and even more pleased that the artist tells us about her work.

The artist is Abby Johnson, a US artist and Lutheran seminarian who says, of herself I have loved art all my life and will continue this love affair. I haven’t always been good and I’m not always good. I haven’t always made time for it and I will drop that ball more times ahead, too. But when I do settle into the paints or the pastels, the charcoal or the clay, when the Living Sprit of Creativity pays a visit and loans me some light, I get introduced to a new bit of myself and communal emotion. I always manage to smudge paint on my face and never work with shoes on.

Fr Ian invited Abby to say some words about her painting. Abby comments:

“Our Lady of Walsingham ” was a commission piece; a friend and fellow seminarian requested it as a gift to his partner, who was recently ordained in the Episcopal Church. And while I painted it for someone else, I found myself in it even still. The hydrangeas and sunflowers that surround the Holy Mother and Child surround my own home. The face of Mary is modelled on my dear friend Precious, a close friend while I lived in South Africa. It is so important, especially in America during this tense and unjust time, to remember the face of Mary was indeed that of a woman of colour. I also chose to embolden the arch on the chair, symbolic of God’s covenant in Genesis 9:12-13. Instead of the traditional golden line, the arch is a fully expressive, proud rainbow in celebration of God’s promise of love, highlighting specifically its inclusion of the LGBTQ community. This piece makes me take a breath – makes me consider the lilies and feel the sun on my face as I turn it up to God; sensing that space between elevated royalty and beautiful ordinary that the Spirit so often lives within.

Once again, many thanks to Abby for graciously sharing this with us. You can read more about Abby, and see more of her work, on her website.

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Catholic, Mary | Tagged | Leave a comment

Celebrating Mary’s Birth

Birth of St Mary c.1475(detail) by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Mary’s birthday is celebrated on September 8th. Christians have kept this happy day for centuries, initially in Syria and Jeruslaem around the sixth century and gradually it spread through the whole church. September 8th seems to be have chosen because a church in honour of Mary was consecrated in Jerusalem on this day.

Here are words from a sermon of St Andrew of Crete for the feast:

Let the whole creation therefore sing praise and dance and unite to celebrate the glories of this day. Today let there be one common feast of those in heaven and those on earth. Let everything that is, in the world and above the world, join together in rejoicing. For today a shrine is built for the Creator of the universe. The creature is newly made ready as a divine dwelling for the Creator.

Throughout history Christians have often connected their daily work with feast days. In the northern hemisphere September 8 marks for many the end of summer and the beginning of Autumn. In our Christian tradition this day has many thanksgiving celebrations and customs attached to it. In older books of Ritual there is a blessing of the summer harvest and fall planting seeds for this day.

French Tapestry c.1500 showing the Grape Harvest

For winegrowers in France this feast is often called “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest.” The best grapes are brought to the local church to be blessed and then some bunches are attached to hands of the statue of Mary. A festive meal which includes the new grapes is part of this day.

In the Austrian Alps this day is “Drive-Down Day” during which the cattle and sheep are led from their summer pastures in the slopes and brought to their winter quarters in the valleys. This was usually a large caravan, with all the finery, decorations, and festivity. In some parts of Austria, milk from this day and all the leftover food are given to the poor in honour of Our Lady’s Nativity.

Pray: Say the Angelus today, giving thanks for Mary.

Action: Consider how you, like the people in Austria can donate food to the needy. Perhaps through a harvest appeal.

Consider: Is there a special feast day that would connect with your work or life that you could celebrate?

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Catholic, Mary | Tagged | Leave a comment

Our way of being God’s Rainbow People

Saturday 4th July 1998 was a very significant day for me as it was the day I attended my first gay pride in London. It was the first time I felt a true sense of freedom. Marching through London on that warm afternoon, I sensed the whole city was celebrating my freedom to be queer.

Almost one year later, a year after my walk to freedom, a gay pub in Soho, the Admiral Duncan, was bombed in a targeted attack on the LGBTQ+ community. 3 people were killed and many more maimed.

It was a dreadful time for LGBTQ+ people everywhere but this attack followed a bombing in Brixton aimed at the black community and another in Brick Lane aimed at the Bangladeshi community. All 3 bombings within 2 weeks. Communities in the minority, communities of difference all targeted. Freedom did not feel so close at hand.

Many steps have been taken in the journey of LGBTQ+ liberation since then though. In the UK we have the single equality act, the civil partnership act, the equal marriage act and so for some it would seem that gay is now mainstream.

In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay Priest consecrated as Bishop in a mainstream Christian denomination in the Episcopal diocese of New Hampshire. Hooray, gay is mainstream in the church now as well!  BUT…..

4 years after his consecration, Bishop Gene was asked by the then Archbishop of Canterbury not to attend the Lambeth Conference due to take place in 2008 in his capacity as Bishop. Instead, he was asked to attend with a diminished status; to attend but not fully participate. For some bishops in the worldwide Anglican communion, Gene’s way of life was an abomination, it defied scripture. At this point, Gene had been in a committed relationship with his partner Mark for over 20 years.

Of course, that is a long time ago. Gay Bishops are invited to the next Lambeth conference only this time it is their partners who are asked to stay away. A new Archbishop with a similar problem!

Hate crime against LGBTQ+ people is on the increase with 1 in 5 people experiencing it within the past 12 months (www.stonewall.org.uk). Worse still for trans people, 2 in 5 have experienced hate.

Living out an LGBTQ+ identity is a criminal offence in 72 countries in the world. In 8 of those the death penalty is still applied. In others considerable prison sentences are handed out. In the Maldives, a homosexual conviction can lead to a whipping of 20 strokes.

In St Matthew’s Gospel Jesus foretells his own suffering and death and instructs his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him. Scriptures like these have been used by Christians at times as a rallying cry to LGBTQ+ people to amend our ways. To carry our crosses of abomination and in doing so, deny our God given natural inclinations, to deny ourselves love. BUT…..

The Jesus I know is love. He is the reason I can be true to myself; He is my freedom. He is more likely to be singing songs of liberation and freedom then passing sentences, planting bombs, overseeing flogging or execution. In fact, there is no supposition here; Jesus is for equality and against oppression of any kind.

The cross we must all take up in His name is the cross of liberation. The cross that stands up against oppression. The cross that does not keep its head down because “I’m alright Jack”. It is the cross of the rainbow flag seen here at a rally against LGBTQ+ oppression in St Petersburg in 2008.

We are wonderfully fortunate at St Chrysostom’s to be centred in an inclusive and equal love of Christ and for a lot of LGBTQ+ people, me included, freedom has been found in this community. But in our beautiful corner of Manchester we must take care not to be complacent and where it is safe to do so, we should call out all forms of oppression and prejudice. This is our way of being God’s rainbow people.

Paul Pritchard

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, gay, LGBT, St Chrysostoms Church | 1 Comment

The Martyrs of Nowogrodek

Blessed Mary Stella

The Marytrs of Nowogrodek – Blessed Mary Stella and Her Ten Companions (commemorated on September 3rd) –   were nuns of the order of the Holy Family of Nazareth who arrived in Nowogrodek in September 1929. Nowogrodek is a small town in the modern Belarus. Its population was very diverse, including Jews, Muslims, Belarusians and Russians and others.

From the beginning, the nuns tried to discern the needs of the community. The nuns planned to run a school for girls and one of their first students was a Muslim girl. The nuns were not only examples of deep faith, hope and love for the locals, but at same time they were hard workers.

Their help and overall assistance to Nowogrodek’s community gradually gained them the respect of the locals. But in September 1939, as the Second World War began Soviet Russia occupied the area. The sisters were expelled from their house; forbidden to wear their habits. Thousands of innocent people were arrested and transported to the steppes of Kazakhstan and to Siberia. A few years later, the Russians withdrew and then came the German occupation.

The Germans started their terror by gathering dozens of local Jewish people in the market square and killing them, while their orchestra played a waltz. Daily, the Fara Church was filled with believers, but the executions continued nonetheless. In July 1942, a mass execution took place in the forest near Nowogrodek, 60 people, including two priests—Fr. Jozef Kuczynski and Fr. Michal Dalecki—were shot.

The citizens of Nowogrodek, tormented by the regime, looked for comfort in the church where Fr. Aleksander Zienkiewicz, the only priest left in the area, celebrated daily mass.

However, the Gestapo was still arresting and killing people. On the night of July 17 and 18th 1943, 120 people were arrested and to be executed. Sister Maria Stella was meeting with Fr. Zienkiewicz and said: “My God, if sacrifice of life is needed let them kill us and not those who have families. We are even praying for that.”

And suddenly, for an unknown reason, the execution of 120 people was stopped. Those who were supposed to be killed were transported to compulsory work in Germany. Some were even released. Those who were transported survived the war. However, on July 31, 1943, Sister Maria Stella and her nuns were ordered to report to the Gestapo headquarters at 7:30 p.m. After the rosary, 11 nuns went to the building.

The sisters’ names were: Stella, Imelda, Rajmunda, Daniela, Kanuta, Sergia, Gwidona, Felicyta, Heliodora, Kanizja and Boromea. That evening the nuns thought that the worst thing that could happen to them was transportation to Germany for slave work.

The nuns did not hear any accusations, there was no investigation. On Sunday, Aug. 1, 1943, at dawn, the nuns were transported and executed in a birch-pine tree wooded area, not far from the town. Love was killed by hate.

In 1945, the Second World War ended. Fr. Zienkiewicz, Sister Malgorzata and all those 120 for whom 11 nuns had sacrificed their lives, survived the war.

The martys of Nowogredek call us to remember how great evil can enter communities. They encourage us to support one another irrespective of national boundaries, and to pray, in faith, as Christians. “No one has greater love than this—that one lays down one’s life for one’s friends,” said the late John Paul II on the day of nuns beatification in March 2000.

Pray: that Christians may courageously serve their local communities’ needs. Pray for the people of Belarus.

May the prayers of Blessed Mary Stella and Her Ten
Companions deliver you from present evil. May their
example of holy living and courageous death turn your
thoughts to the service of God and neighbour. Amen.

(From the Mass for the Martyrs)

Posted in Anglican, Catholic, Saints | Tagged | Leave a comment

Gregory the Great

Here is Saint Gregory the Great (feast day September 3rd) saying Mass. The painting is over 500 years old and was painted by Adriaen Ysenbrandt a painter in the Bruges painters’ guild.

Gregory was one of the most influential popes and most significant writers of the medieval church. He was born about 540, and in 574 he decided to hand over his wealth and became a monk. This was the happiest time of his life, and one to which, in later life he looked back with nostalgia. His ambition was to remain a simple monk. It was not to be. By popular demand he became pope on 3rd September 590. He proved himself to be wise, energetic and determined. He had a special care for the needy and vulnerable. A notable initiative was to send St Augustine and other missionaries to convert the Anglo Saxons. Gregory took a close interest in the missionaries’ work. In England where many churches are dedicated in his honour his feast day has a high rank.

Gregory was a notable pastor and one of his greatest interests was the liturgy of the church. He gave considerable attention to it, and was responsible for much development in  music and worship in his time.

Ysenbrandt portrays a popular story associated with Gregory. During a celebration of Mass one day Gregory became aware that there was an unbeliever present. He prayed about this and asked for a sign that would encourage the man to be aware of the real presence of Christ in the Mass. The man was again present when Gregory celebrated his next Mass. In a vision Christ materialised above the altar showing the wounds on his hands, surrounded by symbols of his suffering and death. In the painting we see Gregory as the first to see the vision. He kneels and looks up at Christ, with his hands spread out, mirroring Christ’s hands.  Others at Mass are yet unaware of the vision.

Pray: For those who come to worship (in person or online) enquiring, or wondering.  If possible pray for one person in particular.

Action: Find out a little about the work of a missionaries today – at St Chrysostom’s we support USPG in their work in Global Mission. You can read about their work on their website.

Posted in Anglican, Catholic, Saints, Spirituality | Tagged | Leave a comment

Detective novels: Clergy choices

Detective novels are often popular among the clergy and so for our blog we asked a variety of priests, and a bishop, for their recommendations:

Revd Jane Dicker‘s choice is in the Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne. Mthr Jane writes: “The book is called The Devil’s Seal. A deputation of religious are attacked in Ireland in AD 671. There is a murder, with a long list of suspects including an Abbess and brother Eadulf’s long lost brother Egric. Celt and Saxon do battle – but who really had motive to kill brother Cerdic? Peter Tremayne creates a character in Sr Fidelma that is bright and intelligent and who makes early medieval Ireland come alive.”

Revd Jenni Beaumont writes: “It’s so hard to pick just one murder mystery novel because one of the key traits of crime fiction is great characterisation. These characters sear themselves into your mind and crawl under your skin leaving indelible imprints on your imagination forever. Private investigator Cordelia Gray is a particularly impressive character because PD James only wrote two books with Gray. In the first, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Gray inherits Pryde Detective Agency and is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of Cambridge student Mark Callender. Full of suspense, tense drama and unravelling secrets, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman reveals the chilling and sometimes sinister skeletons that lurk in the family cupboards.”

Revd Katherine Bowyer also chooses P D James, this time Death in Holy Orders. Katherine comments I first read it when I was a theological student at a residential college. There were lots of resonances! More than the mystery aspect, it was the acute observation of church life – and knowledge of the church – that drew me in.

Revd Andrea Jones‘ chooses: With a Bare Bodkin by Cyril Hare. Andrea writes “Set in the government wartime department Pin Control and featuring the amateur detective and barrister, Pettigrew, this story centres not only on the department but on the Fernlea Residential Club where a number of Pin Control are billeted. One of their number turns out to be a mystery writer and his fellow residents begin to play a game of planning a perfect murder. Needless to say a real murder takes place. It is an amusing read and whilst Pin Control as a government department is quite ridiculous it is gently nostalgic looking back to an era of manilla files and typing pools and the plot keeps one guessing.”

And finally an episcopal choice from Bishop David Walker who writes “My favourite murder mystery is Umberto Ecos The Name of the Rose. It’s initial appeal to me was that its hero is a Franciscan brother, a member of part of that Franciscan family to which I, as a Tertiary, also belong. But what captivated me most about the novel, was how Eco weaves in the theological arguments of the day, making them integral to the plot. The central matters at dispute, whether Christianity is at its heart creation affirming or denying, whether our faith story is tragic or comic, and whether life is to be endured or enjoyed, remain at the heart of how and why Christians often differ, and differ deeply today. And whilst knowing these differences helps me accept and welcome those who disagree with me, I finished the book reaffirmed in my choice to follow Jesus after the example of St Francis, not John Calvin.”

Thank you to all who contributed. Feel free to add your recommendation by commenting below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Oswald: watching and aiding conversion today

The St Oswald window in St Chrysostom’s Church

When I was baptised and confirmed, I chose St Oswald as my confirmation Saint, and took his name. (Fred continues with the second part of his blog post on St Oswald.) Sitting where I do, in the play area of St Chrysostom’s with my children, Oswald has watched over and aided my conversion from pagan to pious from his window on the rear north wall, as he watched and aided the same conversion of his own people. Often, when I felt my most apprehensive, confused or anxious, I would catch his eye as he confidently held the cross of Heavenfield. At moments when the numinious had burst its banks I knew he was there, behind my left shoulder as I felt the presence of God at the Mass.

What stands out most, however, is the closest thing to a conversion moment (and it was much more of a realisation or recognition of a conversion already happened), when I was reading the entry on Oswald in St Bede’s “History of the English Church and People”.

I should explain that I have a nuanced approach to saints and their miracles that centres on a lengthy treatment of the meaning of ‘reality’ and ‘existence’ which I shall not go into now,(though I certainly think the majority of the Church of England doesn’t recognise the Church’s  heroes as it should). Whether Oswald’s immortal arm, or his skull, still housed in Durham cathedral, can literally heal the sick is not, I feel, as important as whether his life can heal our lives, by example and inspiration. That is, to what extent does his life evangelise the lives of Christians today.

Even here there is room for debate. The extent to which Oswald is a martyr, in the accepted sense, is questionable in the extreme. His wars with Penda were more like worldly border disputes, land grabs and cattle rustling raids than crusades, as evidenced by the presence of the Christian Britons fighting against Oswald. And to what extent Oswald really was outnumbered and doomed to lose the battle of Heavenfield (without divine intervention) is simply impossible to confirm.

However, it is not what he did then, but what he has done since that matters. His firm faith at Heavenfield has been an inspiration to untold numbers of Christians fighting all manner of ‘battles’, both literal and figurative, througout history. His feast of the poor showed how a Christian king should act towards his people, humbling himself and setting the poor first (he insisted St Aiden rode his horse while he walked, like a servant). And as to the martyrdom? Well, one does not need to die ‘because’ of Christ to die ‘for’ Him. The latter is about making sure we go to God in humility and faith, and with as clear a conscience as we are able to achieve, given our human limitations.

St Oswald receiving St Aidan (Ford Madox Brown)

What the legend of Saint Oswald shows me, is that a Christian is not just a confessor, who says the creeds and reads the Bible. A true Christian is one who’s life is transfigured by Christ; who can stand facing the Enemy knowing that God is with them (the symbolic value of the Heavenfield Cross), and will be no matter what they do. Who knows that even death has been beaten, and so even Penda, who won at Maserfield, really lost in the end, and Maserfield was just as much Oswald’s victory as Heavenfield. A Christian knows that one can’t preach the gospel without living it, and the true act of piety is the feeding of the poor and the redistribution of wealth; that the real conversion is not the creedal statement, but the active life. A true Christian knows that a Christian kingdom is a kingdom of love. This is what fired generations of Christians with after Oswald, Aidan and Bede among them; and it is in this sense that St Oswald is my patron and protector.

This sentiment is very much made clear in the Collect from the Mass of King Saint Oswald, on which I will end:

Lord God almighty, who so kindled the faith of King Oswald with your Spirit that he set up the sign of the cross in his kingdom and turned his people to the light of Christ: grant that we, being fired by the same Spirit, may always bear our cross before the world and be found faithful servants of the gospel; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Catholic, Saints | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

King of the North – the story

In this first part of a two part blog entry Fred tells us of the life of St Oswald. (Feast day August 5th)

Born in 604 with a claim to the mostly pagan Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira (jointly referred to as Northumbria in the North of England), Oswald and his brothers were raised in exile in the Irish kingdom of Dal Riata in what is now Scotland. They were converted to their hosts’ Christianity, and Oswald remained pious for the rest of his life.

In 633, Oswald succeeded to the thrones of Northumbria and proceeded to evangelise his people. A great supporter of the Irish missionary, St Aiden, he sponsored the founding of the great monastery on Lindisfarne. He translated many Latin and Irish religious texts into his native English, and was famed for his intellect and wisdom.

Oswald lived the gospel. On one occasion, while hosting a great feast, news was brought of many beggars at the gate of his hall. He immediately distributed the feast among them, and then broke up the silver plate and had that distributed too. This event led Aiden to hold up Oswald’s arm and declare “may this arm never whither”. The arm was supposedly intact until the Great Iconoclasm of the 16th Century.

Facing a massive invasion from the pagan, Penda of Mercia and his British allies, Oswald was visited by an angel who instructed him to raise a wooden cross and have his army pray. The next day, they won a great victory against the odds, and the battlefield become known as Heavenfield.

In 642, Oswald was killed fighting Penda’s Mercians and the Britons at Maserfield, and his body was hacked to pieces and limbs rearranged on a ‘tree’ of spears, possibly at what is now Oswestry (Oswald’s Tree).

His relics and burial site, as well as the remains of the cross of Heavenfield were said to work many miracles, and a popular cult of Oswald lasted across Europe until the Faith of Our Fathers was purged in the Reformation.

In the second part Fred will reflect on St Oswald’s role in his personal faith.

Posted in Anglican, Saints, Spirituality | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Prayer Novena

Imagine a group of people, men and women, who have lost a definite sense of direction. They are very uncertain about what the future holds. Their guide, their leader has disappeared and they feel his absence, they wonder what to do. Before he went he told them to pray, and so that is what they do. Behind closed doors they gather in their group and pray. They pray in their different ways, they support one another in prayer, they encourage in the difficult days.

You may well recognise the story. After the Ascension of the Lord, has disciples gathered, with Mary, behind closed doors and prayed. The story is told in the Bible – Acts 1.12-14. The disciples with Mary prayed for nine days. Then, at the end of the nine days they received new strength, they were renewed in God’s love – the Holy Spirit gave them new heart and courage.

The custom of nine days of prayer began with Mary and the disciples, and continues in the Church today. It is usually called a ‘Novena’ – a word simply meaning nine days. Sometimes there are Novenas for a particular cause or leading up to a particular feast. Sometimes they are organised by churches, sometimes individuals pray a private novena.

On August 6th you are invited to join with the people of St Chrysostom’s in a prayer novena. A special time of prayer for nine days before the feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven on August 15th. 

This novena is simply an encouragement to one another to pray in the nine days, pray for our needs, for others, for our church and for the future. It is a time also to be thankful for what we have and see around us.

People can take part in whatever way they wish. Between August 6th and August 14th inclusive on our Facebook Page there will be prayers and words to help us pray. We are helping people by having prayers each morning at 9.30am led by different members of our church and based on a scene from the life of Jesus or Mary, and using a ‘decade’ of the rosary. This lasts about 7-10 minutes. At 5pm there will be Vespers each day, and at 9pm there will be prayers and a short thought for the evening, again given by different St Chrysostom’s people.

We can join in as much as we choose. We may choose to do it differently, of course – simply ‘dipping in and out’ as we wish, or maybe doing something as simple as praying the Lord’s Prayer slowly and quietly morning and evening in the nine days.

This prayer will regularly be prayed during the Novena, and you may like to us it too:

Blessed God, Holy One,

We come before you in worship and peace.

We pray for ourselves, and for the whole world,

(Pause as in silence we name our needs)

We pray for the poor, the afflicted and the mentally ill,

The desolate and the deprived of our world.

Grant us your guidance, comfort and strength.

Blessed are you, O God, now and for ever. Amen

Whatever we choose we can be encouraged that others are praying with you and for you.

Fr Ian

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic | Tagged | Leave a comment