The Gift of a Cross

When we hear the call to ‘give to Church’ or the word ‘stewardship’ many immediately think we are about to hear an appeal for money. Of course churches need money to keep going. St Chrysostom’s is not a financially wealthy congregation, and we need to pay bills!

HOWEVER, as a member of our lovely church community recently said, ‘We may not be rich fiancially but we are rich in the lovely people we have…’ Too true!

Recently we have been delighted to receive some unasked for gifts at Church. Over the coming weeks, here on our church blog, we’ll tell you about some of them, and we feel sure you will be both surprised and heartened. These are somewhat difficult days, not least for churches wondering about the Post Covid future. Gifts encourage us in our day to day work and the love behind them inspires us on our christian journey in life.

First of all, earlier in the summer we received the gift of a box full of varied crosses and crucifixes from the CHN Sisters. The sisters were downsizing as they moved to their new convent in Hessle and in the process gave us some gifts. They included the sanctuary chairs we now use at the main altar, several Bibles – which we offer to those unable to buy their own, and also a box of crosses.

We invited Confirmation candidates at the Confirmation a few weeks ago to take a cross home and now we are inviting households of our church family to take one free of charge. One or two of the crosses were damaged but Maryam has kindly cleaned them all and repaired those in need of repair. We now have over 25 crosses. We begin to offer the crosses on the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Cross – a feast which encourages us to rejoice in the glorious saving work of Our Lord.

The crosses are blessed, and freely offered. We are making a couple of conditions.

First of all we ask those taking to take one of their choice and not to take for anyone else (we are giving priority to those who are at church and able to choose for their own home).

Secondly, we ask those who take them to think carefully about where they will place them prominently where they live – in a hallway, perhaps, above a door, in a bedroom, or on a desk or table. Where is, of course, up to the person, but we are hoping they will be prominent – and the person having the cross can say where it has come from to anyone who asks. We hope the person will keep the cross for many years.

Although we are giving them freely, and emphasise that, should anyone wish to give a donation we will receive it to enable us to get more similar crosses for the future.

THANK YOU to the sisters of the Community of the Holy Name for this gift, let’s assure them they will be a blessing and have good homes.

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Ninian’s message for today

Here we see an oil painting on a stone. My father painted it on holiday in Galloway in South Scotland about 45 years ago. He enjoyed trying his hand at painting, especially in holiday times. The painting is special to me, not only because he painted it, but because the painting shows a special place for me, and it would seem for him too. It shows St Ninian’s Cave near Whithorn in Galloway, as my father saw it then. The painting is on a stone he found on the beach.

St Ninian, feast day 16th September, is honoured as a holy saint, yet most details of his life are lost in history, and legends have been added to his story. What seems to be clear, though, is that in the fourth century, when sea routes were the safest way to travel, Ninian arrived in Whithorn, by boat.

Whithorn became his home. He settled there, build a stone church (one of the earliest in Britain) and lived, prayed and worked there. His fame extended to the area and people came to work with him, and live in that community, inspired by his simple example, Several in their turn became priests, and travelled onwards, carrying on Christian work in the way Ninian did. Whithorn became a centre of Christianity, and pilgrimage.

Ninian has become one of the most venerated of Scottish saints, yet his life story is a simple one. No great heroic acts are recorded, no fights against heretics, no miraculous healings, yet clearly he was a person of great influence in the small area where he lived. His example and his strength lie in the church and community he formed, the pastoral care he gave in his area of life, and the prayers and worship he offered there.

Today, in days when one part of the Church of England pushes hard for mission action plans, increasing numbers, doing things differently, another section stands for a ministry of loving Christian care and presence, often based on place – the parish. Both have merit, and changes are needed. However Ninian, one of the founders of our Christian faith in Britain reminds us of the value of a patient sustained ministry of parish church ministry in a community – pastoral care, prayer and presence in our community.

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On the beach near Ninian’s cave many of the stones are marked with crosses, and pilgrims often take one home. I hold mine today, collected 45 years ago, and still treasured, and as I hold it I recall Ninian and the ‘Ninians’ in other generations of church history, and in the church today. Pray with me for wisdom for the Church of today of which, in distant days and for today, Ninian is a founder and inspiration.

Fr Ian

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Celebrating a life: Bassiatu Williams

Sharing life stories in our wonderfully varied local community, is a special part of life in our parish and our church. St Chrysostom’s church, at the heart of our multi cultural community, through its history has heard of the lives of so many different people who have contributed in so many different ways to build up family and community life.

On Tuesday, 14th September 2021, the family and friends of Bassiatu Williams gathered at church to celebrate Bass’ life. Jamal and Nathaniel, grandsons, spoke movingly of their grand mother’s gentle and sensitive care for them, and how she held together the family. (Bass’ husband, Samuel died in February 2019 and the celebration of his life was also held at St Chrysostom’s.)

Julius, one of Bass’ four children told the story of Bass’ life to the gathered people in Church.

Bass was born in Aberdeen, a suburb of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Aberdeen was formed in the early nineteenth century as a community for slaves who had been set free from the evils of slavery and who were brought to Sierra Leone by the British Navy to settle and begin a new life.

At the time of Bass’ birth on 7th February 1936, Aberdeen was a distinct community. She went to school locally and then to high school in Freetown, and then began nursing training. In 1958 she came by boat to England to pursue a career in nursing, hoping to be a midwife. By an act of fortune she met a lady on the boat to Liverpool, who knew her family and guided Bassiatu to stay in Liverpool rather than London where she had thought to go.

Bass married Samuel and they had four children. She worked as a nurse in the NHS and dedicated her life to her family, she was also a loyal and special friend to many, having the gift of being a good listener and having a kind and open heart.

Our NHS has benefitted so much from nurses, like Bass, who have been prepared to leave their homelands and settle in this country. In recent troubled years, with the Covid virus, we realise just how much the NHS has been built on the hard work and service of so many from lands beyond the UK, and we give thanks for them.

As Bass’ family thanked God in Church for her life, and especially for her love and dedication for her family, we all do well to thank God for women like her who support, love and strengthen family life. May such women be an inspiration to us all, and a reminder of the importance, joy and centrality of family life.

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Hashtag #LoveTheParish

The Parish of Victoria Park: St Chrysostom

For over a thousand years the parish has provided a framework to day to day life. Parishes are local entities which have always been different in size and nature. In essence they have formed a basic building block of community, and Church in England, and indeed in much of Western Europe.

State and Church authorities through the centuries have recognised the value of the parish and the church’s role in the parish. In England the role of the Church of England parish church in the parish is encouraged and supported by law. It is a role which recognises the church’s role in serving and caring for all people of a parish, whether they are aware of their parish church or not, and whatever faith they have. More than this it is a role which has a care for the whole environment, all that makes up the parish as well as having a care or the well being of the communities within a parish.

Praying for, and worshipping on behalf of, the parish, pastorally caring for all people of the parish, nurturing all that is good in the parish, serving, speaking up for the parish, and caring for that part of God’s creation which is the parish, are all parts of the duty of the parish church and its clergy and people. The parish church stands in the parish as a symbol of this care, God’s care.

The parish system has had its critics. In 1883 the great evangelical Bishop of Liverpool, J C Ryle, sharply pointed to its shortcomings. He was bothered about the cases where the ‘minister of the parish is ignorant of the gospel.’ In more measured words in 1874, the Bishop of Winchester, Anthony Thorold, wrote ‘In our large towns, if the parochial enterprise is not supplemented by missionary enterprise, either occasional or permanent, it must hopelessly and ignominiously fail.’ Parish churches of all traditions did indeed then, as of course they do today in many places, take place in ‘missionary enterprise,’ within the parishes.

Of course, like any human system the parish system is not perfect. Communities change, populations move. However, the parish system has been shown to be adaptable. In 1839 the parish of Manchester – a very populous and unmanageable parish, was divided into 23 parishes. More were to follow. In 1875 St Chrysostom’s Parish was formed from the then St James, St Saviour’s and St John’s parishes and recently it has expanded to include St John’s School and Longsight market.

In other areas of the country depopulation has resulted in parishes joining with neighbours.

St Chrysostom’s Parish Church

Fr Ian (the Rector) and Alan and Andrew (churchwardens) are proud of our parish church of St Chrysostom’s and the parish of Victoria Park, of which St Chrysostom’s is the parish church. In the coming days and weeks they are inviting people, using the hashtag #LoveTheParish to share on our social media aspects of the Church’s life in our parish. The intitiative comes from another aprish and we are delighted to associate ourselves with it. Who knows? – perhaps other churches may also use the hashtag, it would be wonderful if they did.

This is not a campaign. It is simply an acknowledgement and sharing of how much we appreciate, value and love the parish in our particular setting.

In a very concentrated and culturally and ethnically varied parish St Chrysostom’s parish church seeks to be a place of holiness, prayer, inclusion and welcome. We are an inclusive welcoming church which seeks to serve its parish in whatever way it can. This we believe is central to God’s mission in our parish.

We pray daily for the parish, and offer worship on behalf of all our parish. We have a concern for the well being of all the people of our parish, especially those on the margins. St Chrysostom’s rejoices to be a parish church, and we #LoveTheParish.

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Ladyewell 2021

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We had our first parish pilgrimage after lockdown today, and it was a delight. We resumed our tradition of a parish pilgrimage to Ladyewell, near Preston – we’d not been for two years. As always we were made very welcome and we discovered we were the first parish pilgrimage the shrine has welcomed since Covid began. So the shrine staff were delighted to see us, and encouraged us and were very hospitable.

Of course we went with friends from St Peter’s Oughtrington, and as always we were joined by a few priests from other places too. Whether we had met for the first time, or knew each other well we were pilgrims and friends together. The weather kept fine for us, and we found peace in this holy setting.

We celebrated a Mass of Our Lady, Queen of Creation. Creationtide had just begun and so we joined our thoughts and prayers with christians around the world as we thanked God for creation and prayed for the care of our world. Fr Admos inspired us in the sermon to be prepared, as Mary was, to be subversive. Mary looked to the casting down of the mighty and the raising of the humble. We too should be prepared to challenge powers and authorities in our world and have a special care for the creation, for the weak and for the under privileged.

A special part of our short pilgrimage is simply eating together and sharing food. Fr Ernest, the shrine priest welcomed us and we relaxed together over lunch catching up on news and sharing laughter together.

Each pilgrimage has a special time when we offer our prayers and intercessions together. This is a particularly moving time as we offer heart felt prayers, either in silence or read out. It is moving to hear prayers so sincerely written and offered. A special part of the prayers is remembering those who cannot be there because of illness, or because they have passed into God’s fuller presence. We joined our prayers with pilgrims to Ladyewell over the centuries. At the end of prayers holy water from the well was poured over our hands to strengthen and support us as we journeyed home.

Each pilgrimage is different, and each has its special moments. In today’s pilgrimage there was a marked feeling of stillness, as the shrine woke from months of rest, the grounds were beautiful and we felt held in the heart of God’s creation, loved by Mary, Mother of Creation.

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Guess who is coming today

The first time I visited St Chrysostom’s was to preach. The then Parish Priest said to me ‘You never know who will come through the door!’ and that remains a wonderful feature of our Parish Church.

Having the door open when we can, being visible in what we do are so important to our mission at St C’s. For this we are blessed in having a prominent building at a crossroads with a significant ‘footfall.’

It is lovely, and surprising to have such a variety of occasional visitors. Some simply pop in to look, some to say a prayer – of these many we see only once, and their journey in life continues. Hopefully the pause on their journey with us has strengthened and enriched them.

Some people, in our very transitory area, may just be living or staying in the area for a short time. We find some such people attend our church simply for a few weeks before they move away. They are very welcome and we love variety!

Some come battered by life and circumstances, seeking solace in our space, and for them especially, who ever they are, of whatever faith, we offer welcome and prayer.

You never know who will come through the door! Another strange and unusual feature I find is that if I stand at the door, say before Mass, the streets can seem to me quite empty and yet suddenly someone appears at the door. A reminder to us that perhaps at times we welcome angels unawares!

Recently Fliss has been tidying cupboards out at church and we decided to put a small table outside offering for free the items we no longer need. As she and I lifted the table out before we had quite positioned it two people ‘appeared’ whom we had not seen, and one stayed chose a few items, asked if there were more to look at and then cycled off. It was extraordinary! neither of us had seen the person approaching – he suddenly was there!

Being generous with welcome, expecting people of difference to come through the door are an integral part of our life at St Chrysostom’s, as a parish church, and we thank God that we are able to do this – so visibly, so openly. Of course such simple mission may not (but it may) produce people in the pews, or money in the bank, however it is at the heart of the Gospel we proclaim at St C’s. We pray and hope too that generous, and radical hospitality is at the heart of the ministry of our parish churches in England.

Fr Ian

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Shrine Prayers at St C’s

Our Shrine prayers at St Chrysostom’s were said for the first time yesterday, very appropriately on the Feast of the Assumption.

At first this may sound rather unusual, however, the location is very special to us and our prayers are very simple and devotional. For a long time now people have gathered, especially after Mass, at Mary’s statue, to pray a personal prayer and to light a candle. Young and old, people of different backgrounds, find this a special and helpful spiritual practice. Obviously we wish to encourage this at church.

At the side of the statue we have now placed a small table on which there is a book for prayer requests. Anyone who wishes to can leave a request for prayer there, perhaps for a loved one, for themselves, or for a cause that is near to their hearts. Moving and heartfelt prayers are written there. Our clergy and members of our church, especially our Maranatha Prayer Circle, pray the prayers, and anyone is very welcome to pray for what is requested. The sisters of the Community of the Holy Name take up our prayer requests too.

From time on a Sunday evening we are inviting people to gather at the shrine to pray the prayers and for a time of worship. Yesterday the format was very simple. candles around the statue were lit, a small group of church members gathered and prayed, Scripture was read, we prayed in silence, the Litany of Mary of Nazreth was said and prayer requests were read out. We prayed, and at the end each person took a blessed yellow rose home with them as a remembrance of the prayers and to remind them to pray at home too.

We use the term ‘shrine’ because within our church this is a place many are drawn to for prayer, and many have spoken of the strength of God’s love they have felt there, and the inspiration they have received from seeing the lit candles, and people praying. It is a special place for many, not just our church goers. Here we pray with Mary – often under the title we love ‘Mother of welcome, Mother of Hope.’

For those who are unable to come to church in person we welcome prayers sent to us. Prayers for the shrine can be sent by e-mail, texted or written and posted.

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Give us this bread always

We all want miracles.

Kenson preaching the sermon

Wouldn’t it be marvellous if our problems miraculously disappear? Throughout the whole pandemic, how many miracles we wished had happened, and today, how many more miracles we wish would occur this very instant, to take our sorrows and distress away! It is human to pray for miracles, even Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane: if it is your will, take this cup of suffering away from me…

In the Gospels, we are told clearly that miracles do happen, and happen very frequently in Jesus’ ministry; why then, do we not see the miracles we want to see happen in our lives? A passage from St John’s Gospel may help us to see how Jesus still works miracles in our lives today.

John 6:24-35, the crowd went everywhere to find Jesus. Jesus saw through them, and told them that they have been wasting their time looking for what they thought was their newly found meal ticket, instead, they should seek the food that he himself will give them, which will endure for eternal life. They asked Jesus: what signs will you give us so that we can be sure we are definitely following the right person?

They want Manna from heaven, they want something that conforms to their understanding of miracles. They even have the faith to say to Jesus: Give us this bread always.

CCF: So That You May Know the Bread of Life

Facing such a crowd, Jesus answers them: I am the bread of life.

What must have been immediately obvious to the crowd is the implication that, bread being the staple food of their time, Christ is first saying to them: depend on me completely as you would depend on bread to feed a whole nation. Secondly, Jesus is the answer to all that they want, all the satisfaction they are looking for.

Today, think about the miracles we so desperately want to see in our lives, are we, like those who joined in the crowd around Jesus, demanding manna from heaven, are we looking for signs that we can easily recognise? Are we prepared to be surprised by God, who says to us today: look no further, I am the bread of life, in me there is the fullness of life; I am the bread of life, broken for you so that your sins are forgiven; I am the bread of life, the miracle you are looking for itself.

This statement is said to us not without an invitation and a promise, for Christ said ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry…’ Jesus thus invites us to come to him and depend on him. Jesus invites us to his own table and share in his meal, to draw spiritual and physical strength from it.

Through the bread of life which we receive in the Holy Communion, we receive the body of Christ broken for us in the bread. We also receive the body of Christ which is formed by everyone of us sitting here, receiving the communion or not. This also includes the extended community joining us online. We realise the miracle of friendship and companionship existing among us—the miracle of human relationships which is nurtured by God’s Grace, which gives us the new attitude and insight to look at our circumstances differently.

Therefore, we must not be afraid to ask for miracles, we need to dare to say to Christ: give us this bread always; knowing that empowered by the Bread of Life which we receive in the Mass, we will dare to pray for even more miracles, we will dare to pray for new insight and new strength, we will dare to pray for a better future. And with the Grace which we receive from God through the people around us, we will find the faith we need to depend on him, and pray to him, who says to us today: look no further, I am the bread of life, the source of all miracles. Amen.

This is a shortened version of a sermon given at Sunday Mass by Kenson Li on Sunday 1st August 2021

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The Good God

The Good God has given it to us’ a man said to me a while ago. I was slightly taken aback. Firstly, for myself I wasn’t so sure the circumstance was one to be thankful for, and secondly I’d not heard the man speak in such a religious way before. His comment was sincerely meant, and clearly part of his understanding of how things are. This man’s personal circumstances were very difficult and although not a particularly ‘religious’ person he deeply believed what he said. He believed the Good God watched over him and cared for him.

When recently visiting an elderly woman who came to England from Jamaica she spoke to me of her bereavement – her husband had died, I knew her grandson was in prison, and a grand daughter who lived with her was having a baby – with no partner in sight. In all this she suddenly said ‘But God is good, Father.‘ She could lament at the state of affairs in her life and she could in that have hope in the Good God.

I thank God for these expressions of hope and faith. This is the type of faith and hope that slaves, especially the women, in the Americas often had and is expressed often in the songs they sang – the spirituals. Often soulful songs of lament, and heart felt cries for freedom, they expressed a deep faith and hope in the Good God who leads and calls people to be released to to a land of liberty.

A reliquary of the heart of St Jean Marie Vianney

St John Vianney – the Cure d’Ars (feats day 4th August) always referred to God as Le Bon Dieu, the Good God: a simple, beautiful and affectionate way to talk about God. These simple words, the Good God, encourage us to have a deep faith, and hold onto God’s goodness whatever issues we have to face, whatever life brings.  

The Good God gives hope and strength. For Christians of our Anglican Catholic tradition, we know that God gives us strength weekly, even daily, in the Mass, of which St John Vianney said:

‘There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. 

If God had something more precious, 

He would have given it to us.’

Sometimes, often, it is good to reflect that our Christian faith, which can so much enrich our lives, can be so simply expressed, and be so encouraging – the Good God loves us and feeds us.

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Look and believe

They said to Jesus, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ (John 6.28)

We often wonder ‘What can we do?’ In the face of tragedy, in the face of the sadness of a loved one, to help a charity… What can we do?

In training for priesthood I accompanied a priest taking Holy Communion to a mother and her son. The young man could not walk, and could not eat or drink – he was fed intravenously. He communicated with great difficulty. His mother patently and lovingly cared for him.

We prayed together and then came the time to receive the Holy Sacrament. The priest held the small host up for the young man to see and said ‘The Body of Christ, keep you in eternal life.’ With a struggle the young man said ‘Amen.’ Seldom have I felt so powerfully the presence of Christ. The young man visibly received the Sacrament, although he did not actually eat or drink. He believed and through his belief my belief was strengthened.

‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’

No photo description available.

This evening we look at the Holy Sacrament in the monstrance, and later we receive Christ’s blessing as the sign of the cross is made over us, and Christ blesses us whether we are present here, or watching online. ‘Seeing is believing’ we look, as that young man looked at the Sacrament and we receive. We receive love and grace.

In Covid days we have learned to look – to look more around us, and to look more at screens for contact. This evening either in person, or virtually, we look upon Christ, present in the Scarament, present among us, and we believe. This is the work of God.

(A summary of the address given at Benediction by Fr Ian on Sunday 1st August).

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