Inspiring books: The choices of two bishops

Two bishops kindly let us know their personal choices of a book which inspires them, in our ongoing series of inspiring books.

First of all thank you to our own bishop, David, Bishop of Manchester who writes:

“The book I would choose is Prayers of Life by Michel Quoist

First published in French in the 1950s it was translated into English sometime in the 1960s and I was given a copy whilst an undergraduate at Kings College Cambridge. The book is simply a selection of short prayers and meditations based on the things that he sees as he goes around his daily routine. There are prayers about a football match, a banknote, and a bald head. What inspired me as a young Christian, and continues to do, is the linking of prayer to the ordinary things of life. There is no separate section of our lives into which our spirituality is confined and constrained, rather we can look at any object and any situation with a mind focussed on God, so that it becomes the source of prayer.”

And thank you too to Christine, Bishop of Newcastle, for her choice of an inspiring book for this series:

“My choice is  Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

I love this book, it has been wonderful source of inspiration for me for many years. Many people find it quite difficult to put words on the spiritual journey, by its nature the inner journey can be quite mysterious and often surprising, and yet Walter Bruggemann manages to write in a way that connects at a very deep level with the soul of the reader. In offering a spiritual perspective, this book calls us to question many accepted norms around us. It encourages the reader to harness the power of imagination, of how things could be different for our world and of how this might be achieved. Ultimately, it is a book about hope and transformation, seeking to inspire the reader to look for a new reality, and to point to futures that are not thought to be possible. I think we all need something of this in our lives, and we need it for our world.”

What a wonderful variety of different books, from a wide variety of people, we are being shown in this series. This post is the eighth 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. Then, in our seventh choice two life sentenced prisoners gave their choices, here.

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Celebrate your Baptism anniversary

Celebrate the anniversary of your baptism like a birthday, says Pope Francis. Speaking recently to a large number of Christians the Pope encouraged them to hold dear to the importance of baptism in their lives. He said:

“Baptism illuminates our entire life, guiding our steps until (we reach) the heavenly Jerusalem.”

“No one deserves baptism, which is always a gift for everyone, adults and newborns. But like what happens to a seed full of life, this gift takes root and brings forth fruit in a land nourished by faith,” the pope said.

As the first of the seven sacraments, Pope Francis said, “Baptism is the door that permits Christ the Lord to make his dwelling in us and allows us to immerse ourselves in his mystery.”

So – do you know when you were baptised? If you don’t – find out! Do you celebrate it?

Marking the anniversary of baptism in a special way reminds us of the importance of our Christian faith and celebrates our own personal commitment to it. It is a day to give thanks for God’s gift of faith to us, and to give thanks for baptism, the foundation of our Christian life. Celebrate the day like a birthday. It is a day to remind ourselves that we are loved and cherished by God.

Here are some suggestions:

Firstly note the date in your diary or calendar, so you don’t forget. Find out where you were baptised and see if you can find out about the day and what happened and think about your christian journey since that day.

Then choose something special to eat for the day – perhaps a cake you like, or a special meal.

Light a candle, and say a prayer, at home or at church, giving thanks for your Christian faith.

Give a gift to church or a charity as a thank you to God for your baptism.

When you come to church near the anniversary or on it, if you can use holy water to make the sign of the cross, as a reminder of your baptism.

Fr Ian reflects on his baptismal anniversary in an earlier blog post here.

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Hymns come again into use today

Quasimodo, Low, Dominica in Albis, Divine Mercy, Octave Day of Easter … all names which are, or have been used, for the Sunday after Easter Day.

In the old prayer books a curious instruction comes at the beginning of Lauds (Morning Prayer) on the Sunday after Easter Day ‘The hymns come again into use today.’ What is that about?

Well, at the beginning of the Great Three Days, on Maundy Thursday, the hymns stopped being used at Lauds and Vespers. Singing hymns wasn’t felt to be appropriate in these solemn days. Then along comes Easter, and yet still no hymns. Why? I like to explain it in this way – but I fully admit I am suggesting a fanciful and personal point of view!

Faced with the glory and mystery of the resurrection the church hymns fall silent. In Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings when Gandalf, who was believed to have died, returns his friends ‘Between wonder, joy and fear … found no words to say.’

Text for Low Sunday from the Cowley Missal

Church worship can be so wordy, and even muddled. In among the words ‘wonder, joy and fear’ can be lost. Understandably, Pope Francis has encouraged the use of more periods of silence at Mass. There will be times when human words fail. No more must this be so than when we stand in the wonder of the glorious days of Easter. Then, as the theologian Gerald O’Collins remarks, ‘We can do no more than pay silent homage to the awesome nature of this resurrection from the dead, the beginning of God’s new creation.’

Then comes a time of words of joy and praise. The ‘wonder, joy and fear,’ ‘the silent homage’ turns to praise as the hymns return on Low Sunday. ‘Hymns come again into use.’ On this Sunday the tradition of the Church encourages church members to move on from silent wonder to sing out in praise of the glorious resurrection. Alleluia!

Fr Ian

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Paul Brown nominated for Bishop in the Church of England

We are delighted at the news that Paul Brown has been nominated for the post of bishop in the Church of England.

Brown has had a wonderfully rich and varied ministry so far. He has worked in Cobhole in Essex, and in Camberwell, Putney, all in the Diocese of Southwark; and also in Greenford and Scarborough. His ministry has been enriched by a spell in prison chaplaincy and by a period of work in South America.

Many speak of his understanding of the human heart, his psychological insights into human nature and his sense of humour. Gilbert Chesterton, who knows him well, has written of Brown as a man whose priority is to be among people – listening, encouraging and serving. In his speaking Brown talks clearly and openly about about sin, and forgiveness, faith and unbelief.

Without doubt Brown has grasped difficult situations and with gentle thoughtfulness he has solved many problems. His work has come to the attention of many people around the UK, and indeed beyond, through his appearance on the BBC.

As one commentator has remarked ‘Paul Brown’s nomination brings an insightful and intelligent candidate before the Church. His dedication to service, pastoral sensitivity, insight into good and evil, and honouring of what is good in tradition bring a much needed balance to the modern church. Paul is an excellent pastor who will lead by good example and show exemplary pastoral skills, not least in sacrificial care to people and their families. A welcome balance to a more managerial approach.’

While being traditional in many respects Brown speaks to the modern age.  “Unlike my predecessors, I believe that scientific discoveries should be celebrated, not damned,” he comments. He has been described as ‘very open minded, and Christ like.’ At one time he invited an interracial couple to live with him in his own home, and they remained there even when the woman turned out to be a practitioner of voodoo. In another celebrated incident when many local Christians became very heated about local practices of witchcraft Brown took a refreshingly accommodating view and rather than confronting he spoke with the neo-pagans, remarking “they follow a spiritual path, which is rooted in nature and the cycle of the seasons.”

This generous and open attitude and willingness to engage should undoubtedly be welcomed in the current renewal and reform movement in the Church of England. Brown is prepared to get on his (motor) bike and take action. We wish this nomination well. (read more about Paul Brown here.)

Do support Paul Brown’s nomination, – spread the word. You may like to support the nomination by using the buttons below to share on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you.

Don’t forget some earlier nominees have yet to become bishops. They too need your support, for example, remember Peter Timms was nominated in 2015Alan Franks was nominated in 2016, and Jack Callahan in 2017.

1st April 2018

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The Living WC Fresh Expression of Church

 A new Springtime Fresh Expression has been launched in the Church of England. The Living Water Closet is a church plant which has breathed a breath of fresh air into a disused public convenience building, after numbers at a local church began to sink. A representative from the Diocese said, “Church leaders were beginning to feel the strain before the discovery of this unusual facility. Members decided to take the plunge, and things have flowed from there.” 

The chain of events which followed has delighted the local community. Mrs Courtney-Brown, 82, said, “We are just so relieved. Not only does it make use of a very old and treasured building, but there are so many new ideas which will encourage people to keep going and going and going.” 

The old turn-style system of entry has been replaced by a modern welcome team. The 20p payment system has been replaced with chip and pin devices, whereby generous giving can be encouraged and Gift Aid claimed on donations.

Of course access to facilities are not a problem at Living WC. “We have water on tap for baptisms, and the hand driers are really useful in our creative worship, representing the movement of the Holy Spirit.” 

Serious preaching is at the heart of worship at the Living WC, with sermons being described by one member of the church as “soft, strong and very, very long”. 

The Fresh Expressions Officer for the Diocese said, “We are bursting with excitement about this new community and hope that it will be flushed with success. We hope that this will really lift the lid on creative opportunities for evangelism in the town.

There are piles of new initiatives like this waiting to overflow into the life of the church – we are on a roll. It’s just the idea that will keep people engaged.”

Plans to develop The Living WC are currently in the pipeline and a new minister is being sought – so far there is a trickle of interest. Meanwhile a unique site for a new Living WC has come on the market (see photos) generating even more enthusiasm for this splendid project.

Thank you to our own correspondent for sending us this contribution.  1st April 2018

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And it was night

Four one-syllable words give moving poignancy to the account of the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. Judas leaves the Upper Room – and it was night. (John 13.30)

The darkness of that night penetrates the soul. Our places of anguish and suffering are held in, and joined to, that darkness. We reflect, we feel, we enter the shadows. In the darkness of that night Jesus prays, and invites his followers to pray too.

Tenebrae, meaning in Latin darkness, or shadows, is a poignant act of worship held at St Chrysostom’s in Passiontide. The plaintive music, the words of lament, anger and desertion articulate deep feelings in the darkness of the church. Slowly as the worship proceeds candles are extinguished until one alone remains. We enter the depths.

“Exploring themes of abandonment and persecution, especially in darkness, made Tenebrae a poignant and emotional service, but the single candle left unextinguished reminded me that light can always be found.” Sarah

“I found it a deeply moving service, feeling connected to the Lord in His hour of pain. It was therapeutic to be still in the shadows and yet united with the warmth of the whole church, present and departed, bearing witness side-by-side in grief.” Val

The words of the prayers help us to articulate our feelings and hopes:

Infinite God, before whom darkness is light and night shines like the day, show to us, in the night of abandonment the light of your faithfulness and love, and in the depths of despair come, seek us out and lead us into hope. We ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.

You lead us, O Christ, through dark and desolate places, for you have entered the abyss and known the depths of abandonment. Put hope in our steps and light on our path, that we may have words to counsel the despairing and strength to support the faint hearted; you who suffered and bore our grief, our Saviour, now and for ever. Amen.

For a description and history of Tenebrae see this earlier entry on our church blog.

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Our ocean is like plastic soup – Children speak out

“When I saw the sea creatures in danger I was so sad and wanted to make a big change quick! We need our fish to be happy and keep our world a beautiful place.”  Bethany 

“I loved creating our class assembly, but our ocean is still like plastic soup! We need to carry on making a change and help our world.”   Zobaida 

“I am really happy that we have learnt about this topic because I was so shocked that all of this plastic is going into our oceans. It also taught our parents and family a really valuable lesson about how we are affecting our world.”  Janjua

“When I heard that the sea was full of pollution, I was shocked and wanted to make a change! All kinds of fish are in danger and other marine creatures are getting tangled up or eating plastic. If we all help and recycle more we could save the fish and live in a peaceful world.”  Hooria 

“When Miss Jenkins showed us the pictures of pollution in our oceans I wanted to help all of the animals straight away! It is our responsibility to look after the world and make God proud. I love our world and 2EJ want to teach everybody how to keep it safe.” Yaw 

After taking part in a recycling workshop led by Manchester City Council, the children were so eager to find out more about the effects of pollution on our environment. I was so impressed with the level of passion, maturity and enthusiasm that the children demonstrated and knew that we had to continue to learn more! The children decided that they wanted to use their upcoming class assembly as an opportunity to send out a very important message. They collaborated together to plan and create things for their assembly, I simply facilitated learning and followed their lead. They all worked so hard and many children even made information booklets and posters at home in their spare time. I personally feel incredibly proud to teach such a caring, responsible and passionate class of very special children.  Miss Jenkins

The School Assembly the children did was outstanding. Well done children, well done Miss Jenkins! The children worked so well together as a team and clearly were impassioned by their message. All who saw it received an important challenge and inspiration to bring change to our world – No ordinary world, a diamond in the universe the children sang.

Like the children let’s take action where we can – now!

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