O Sacred Heart!

The first time as a newly ordained priest that I concelebrated Mass was on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, at St James, Darlington. The principal celebrant was the then Vicar, Fr Dennis Smith. The preacher was the Bishop of Jarrow.

The bishop preached with characteristic good humour and spiritual depth. We had the old favourite Sacred Heart hymns, ‘To Jesus heart all burning,’  ‘O Sacred Heart,’ and ‘Sweet Heart of Jesus.’ They remain favourites with me.

I can still remember the bishop’s key themes – the sacred heartbeat of God sustaining and creating the Cosmos, and the heart as the symbol of love and affection, and so the Sacred Heart as a symbol of the tender love and divine affection God has for us.

I was convinced then, and I still am, that Sacred Heart is a feast the Church of England should bring forward in its calendar. We simply rest and celebrate the love of God, the heartbeat of God pervading all that is.

Each year I try to celebrate a Mass of the Sacred Heart. This year at St Chrysostom’s we’re gathering for a gentle and peaceful sung Mass in the Chancel. In the stillness and calm it is my hope that we may sense and imagine the heartbeat of God.

Fr Ian

Sacred Heart

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Sharing the Light!

Let your light shine!

This Eastertide we’ve been piloting a new initiative at St Chrysostom’s – Sharing the Light. We light the Easter candle at the Easter Vigil, and there we share the light with one another as we light candles. It’s a lovely sign of what we are about as Christians.

Through Eastertide we’ve been encouraging different ways to share the light of Easter with people and among ourselves at St C’s.

One of the lovely things we’ve been reminded of as we have done this is how there is something of God’s light in us all, so as we share we also receive.

Events have included a chocolate evening for women, a Sunday afternoon gathering at St Chrysostom’s School, an event at local sheltered housing, a gathering for LGBT people, special visits from classes of St Chrysostom’s School… Each has been done very differently and involved different people, in church and in different places in the parish. Each has been special and encouraging comments have been received.

Wherever possible at each event a large candle has been lit at the events as a sign of God’s light shining upon us all. At each event there was opportunity for prayer and reflection, as well as time for people to get to know one another in a friendly and accepting atmosphere.

Our events close this coming Sunday (25th) when Bishop Mark visits us at 6pm for a special Sharing the Light celebration at Church. This will be an opportunity for us all to come together and celebrate what unites us and to rejoice in the light and love of God. There will also be opportunity for those who wish to renew their faith and receive a blessing from the Bishop. Everyone is welcome, Share the Light!

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Inspired by Ramadan

What an inspiring assembly at St John’s School about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan!  Year 6 children, the majority of whom are Muslims, had prepared so well and delivered it with joyful aplomb.

Not only was I impressed, I also felt I received helpful insights too. What did I, as a Christian, learn?

Firstly, it was very clear that the children took their faith and its duties so seriously. They clearly expected to affirm and support one another in this religious observance. They presented ideas of how the fast can be kept. The importance of listening to others, especially parents, about how to do it, was made clear. The family and community support was clear. Lent was mentioned as a comparable fasting season in Christianity. How much do Christians affirm and encourage one another in fasting?

Secondly, there was a clear commitment to try – to have a trial period of fasting – to have a go. So often we find excuses for not trying spiritual practices – why not try things out! I have been impressed by the hashtag #justpray – don’t worry about how to pray, or about techniques, try it out, just pray!

The children emphasised that Ramadan was not only a personal spiritual discipline. Ramadan comes the encouragement to pray more, to develop a disciplined life of faith. However, we learned it’s not just about the individual – we were told of the importance of caring for those in need, and giving to charity, taking care over how one uses one’s God given wealth.

And finally… As I sat in the school hall I was surrounded by Muslim parents who clearly welcomed me and appreciated the interested I had. I had a go at the quiz about Ramadan – and two parents helped with whispering the answers to me! So much can be gained by sitting among people, being with them and sharing times like this. In small but important ways we grow in understanding and insight together. How can we do this more?

Fr Ian

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Two favourite churches

Which is your favourite Church? In 2015 we asked people to tell us of a favourite church. In about 100 words or so we invited people to name the church, and tell us about their choice. It may be somewhere visited (even only once) or it may be a place well known with special associations. 

Why not have a look at where was nominated? The first two were in Cornwall and Derbyshire. (See here) We’re picking up the series again this year. Two members of staff from St John’s CE Primary School start us off.

Interior of Southwell Minster

Laura Smith, assistant head at the school writes: “One of my favourite churches is Southwell Minster. I went to high school in Southwell, and have such fond memories of services in the church and soaking in its grandeur. Plus, friends of mine at the time, performed inside, and said readings. It’s a beautiful place. Sadly, during 6th form, one of my favourite teachers suddenly died in a traffic accident. We held a special service at the church, and although that was a difficult time, the building gave comfort. The building and the services have a special place in me from teenage years and those memories will always be there.”

Thundridge Old Church

And Karen Mortlock, acting Head of School, writes of a Hertfordshire church: “My favourite church would be Thundridge old church, or what remains of it. All that can be seen today is the 15th century tower. As children we would attend an annual service in the church yard and then explore its grounds. There were always interesting stories of former residents of the village attached to very old grave stones. The church tower was part of my rural idyll as a child and can be seen from several miles away. A quiet, tranquil spot, which when out walking is a great place for reflection.”

Have you a favourite church you’d like to tell us about, in about 100 words?  You’re welcome to send us an answer and we’ll put a selection of answers on the blog.

And here’s a challenge…Why not make a point of visiting a church you’ve not visited before this Summer? Who knows it may become a special place for you – a favourite church.

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Exploring hidden parts of our Church

Each day the church bell is rung to signify the time for people to gather for worship and prayer. The ringing of bells has become a deep tradition for the church.

Here at St Chrysostom’s, our church bell is rung before morning prayer, vespers, and mass. You have heard the bell ring multiple times, but have you ever wondered what the bell looks like?

A few young adults from Church were curious about the bell tower and decided to explore it. Upstairs in the sacristy there is a door to the bell tower, which leads into a round tall room. Although this room is mostly used for storage, there is a long ladder leading up to the bell.

At the small window high above the main doors of Church

With a headlamp secured to my head and torches in the hands of the other young adults, we fearlessly climbed the tall ladder one by one to the bell.

We came across a small corridor which connects the bell tower to the attic of the church nave. We squeezed our bodies through a small hole and explored the attic above the whole nave.

We were even able to walk all the way to the small window above the St John Chrysostom’s statue at the front of the main doors. At the end of our explorations we were covered from head to toe in dirt!


Now for some Fun Facts

  • The bell tower is 25.6m (84 ft) high.
  • The bell manufacturers were John Taylor and Co., of Loughborough.
  • The bell is tuned to C#.
  • The bell weighs 610lbs or 277kg.
  • The inscription on the bell reads “A.M.D.G. Venite Adoremus” – To the greater glory of God, Come let us worship.

Hannah, Parish Assistant

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Auf Wiedersehen, Anne

We said Goodbye to Anne, yesterday, at Church. Anne has been with us as a parish assistant since August last year, and now she returns to her home in Bremen to begin preparations for going to university in October.

Before she left Anne reflected on her time with us here at St Chrysostom’s. She commented that she found the church to be a very special place for her – open minded, and accepting of everyone. It is a place, she said, enthusiastically, where she has found fun, friendship and where she has enjoyed helping with the music.

Anne has appreciated having the opportunity to do many things. She has enjoyed living with Sandra – she was quickly made to feel at home and felt Sandra’s house was a second home to her.

Beyond church Anne has enjoyed helping at St John’s School a day each week and in particular recently she has been pleased to lead a small German class for children there. Anne also enjoyed regular times of helping out at Cornerstone, working with other volunteers to help welcome and feed the homeless and those in need.

We often ask Parish Assistants if there is anything they will not miss when they leave. Anne responded quickly – ‘The Rubbish in the streets.’ Indeed! We’ll not forget how Anne, concerned about this organised times of litter picking in the area local to our church.

We asked Anne if she had a particular happy memory. She replied ‘The Carol Service, when church was so full with a huge variety of people.’ In it she especially remembered the beautiful moment of Silent Night being sung in different languages.

Anne felt she has learned a lot about herself in her time with us and has made many friends. We have appreciated her work among us, especially with music and helping form our young adults group. We have appreciated greatly her sense of fun and joy, and all she has given to our Christian community. God bless her as she takes her next steps in life.

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Confirming in hope and joy

I don’t think I’ve confirmed an Angel, before Bishop Mark remarked. Well at St Chrysostom’s Church he did confirm Angel, along with Amelinda, Hao, Jamila, Nathan and Romario, at this year’s fantastic confirmation from St Chrysostom’s School.

First of all Bishop Mark enjoyed a school dinner and a chat with Yr2 children, he had a walk on the school field as he talked with children and staff, he met the confirmation candidates informally and then led the procession of children of Yrs 4 and 5 with children of Yr 6 too who had been confirmed last year. We all walked through the streets to Church (while staff skilfully arranged road crossing). The walk in itself was a great symbol of togetherness. Then we had a moving and special Confirmation service.

Aware of recent events in our country, and the many faiths represented at St Chrysostom’s School Bishop Mark encouraged everyone, of whatever faith, to remember ‘GOD loves you.’ We are all called to go out together – people of all faiths, and make a difference to the world. He invited everyone present to pause in silence to think of who we want to be, what difference we would like to make to our world, and then we prayed for God’s strength to help us do it.

Then followed the baptisms and confirmation. All the children being baptised and confirmed were attentive and clearly enjoyed the ceremony. Their enthusiasm and their joy give us all hope, and encouraged us to reflect on our own faith and commitment to live out our faith in our lives. Bishop Mark was also reminded of this too as Hao, recently baptised, marked the Bishop with the sign of the cross with holy water.

As the service closed Bishop Mark asked all present:

Will you go out, ready to make a difference in the world? There was a resounding We will, from everyone. What a wonderful sign of hope and joy for our community – and indeed our world.

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