Giving Thanks for Alan

We gathered on Saturday 15th January to give thanks for the life and inspiring example of Alan Beck, our much loved churchwarden. Despite the Covid restrictions many people travelled to be there and there was a lovely atmosphere in Church.

People from different times of Alan’s life were present with Vivienne, Alan’s twin sister, and members of their family from Dublin. There were a huge range of Alan’s friends present and of course many from our congregation. It was lovely to see several who had benefitted from Alan’s work through the language classes for trafficked people at Church.

It was certainly inspiring to hear how much Alan has done to stand up for injustice, to teach others, and to welcome and care for so many. It was clear that these threads were present through his life, and not least in his very active retirement when he based much of his life at St Chrysostom’s and made and encourage many friends there.

Vivienne and Stephen, a dear friend of Alan, placed a statue of St Philomena in Church during the service. The statue was a gift of Alan who had a great devotion to the saint.

Alan has given his friends and family much. He has given St Chrysostom’s a great deal and we will build on the goof work he encouraged – not least in our Bakhita Project of community care and outreach to trafficked and homeless people of our area.

People were invited to contribute memories of Alan and these were collated and distributed at the Thanksgiving Mass. They can be read below, and a copy of the order of service of the Thanksgiving Mass can be read there too. Further memories can be added through posting as a comment, below.

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Venerable Elizabeth Prout – Mother Mary Joseph CP

We are pleased that our ‘Bakhita Project’ from St C’s is developing. The project is the name we give to our community outreach work, and includes our work for the trafficked, the homeless etc. We call the project ‘Bakhita’ after St Joosephine Balhita, a Sudanese woman who was trafficked. Our Chi Rho group at Church is overseeing our Bakhita Project, and has nominated Venerable Elizabeth Prout as a ‘patron saint’ too along with Josephine Bakhita. Wayne, of our congregation, has kindly contributed this information about Elizabeth Prout (commemorated on January 11th):

Elizabeth Prout was born in Shrewsbury, England, in 1820. Her parents baptised her in the Anglican Church.  In her early twenties she became a Roman Catholic.

Elizabeth moved to Manchester in 1849.  There, touched by the misery and deprivation of the poor, she and a few companions came together to form a community to help the voiceless, downtrodden workers in the large industrial towns of nineteenth-century England. In Manchester Elizabeth worked self sacrificially in whatever way she could to assist the destitute of Manchester. In particular she visited the sick and poor in some of the most deprived areas, taught children and provided educational and training opportunities for women, especially mill workers.

The community was directed and helped by two Passionists, Father Gaudentius Rossi CP and Father Ignatius Spencer CP.  The rule was based on that of St Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists.  Elizabeth recognised that the Passion of Jesus is the great sign of God’s love reaching out to those in pain.

Now known as Mother Mary Joseph, Elizabeth continued to meet the challenges presented to her in her life of suffering, and to grow in solidarity with the crucified of the world.  She died on 11th January 1864 at Sutton, St Helens, Lancashire. In recent years a call has been made to canonise her and in 2021 the Vatican declared her to be ‘Venerable’ – a step towards canonisation.

Her body, together with that of Blessed Dominic Barberi CP. and Venerable Ignatius Spencer CP., lies in the shrine of St Anne’s Church, Sutton.  People gather around the shrine annually to commemorate their lives.

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Tutufication of the Church

Desmond Tutu in 1998.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has left a wonderful legacy to the Church. It’s a spirit of courage and joy, a boldness in proclaiming the Gospel especially in the face of injustice, and a tempering of this with good humour and love.

Canon Mark Oakley, Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge posted this challenging tweet on December 26th. A wonderful challenge for church leaders, and other christians too, for 2023. Fr Mark also wrote to The Times:

And here he coined the wonderful word ‘Tutufication’ This year, 2023, lets work on ‘Tutufication’ – by standing up ‘with grace and good humour’ for freedom, justice, rights of minorities and the overlooked. And we can do that in our parish situation here at St Chrysostom’s, as indeed we try to in our church work and worship, and we can do this beyond the parish too.

Let’s take up Fr Mark Oakley’s challenge, and lets encourage one another to do so. It would be a wonderful tribute to Desmond Tutu: #Tutufication

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The Announcement of Easter & the Moveable Feasts 2022

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2022 Veni Creator Spiritus: God Knows!


In 1939 the then Princess Elizabeth gave to her father, King George VI, a copy of a poem. It became famous when the King quoted it in his 1939 Christmas Broadcast. The poem,  God Knows is by Minnie Louise Haskins. It encourages hope and trust in God at a difficult time. The section the King quoted was:

opened-gate 1And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Hope and trust in God, leading us into the future, are appropriate things to ponder and pray for at the beginning of a New Year, and surely this is particularly true as we move into 2022. Hope and trust are qualities to encourage in ourselves and others.

At Mass on New Years Day at St Chrysostom’s we join with Christians all over the world in following the Christian tradition of praying together, Veni Creator Spiritus, asking for the Spirit of God, to inspire and guide us as we begin a new year. We pray for hope and trust in God.

VENI, Creator SpiritusWhy not, as part of your personal prayer, join your voice with other Christians and pray this ancient hymn perhaps in the traditional form of John Cosin, (Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire). You can listen to it sung at St Paul’s Cathedral, here,  from time to time at Mass at St Chrysostom’s we use the less well known but also poetic version of John Dryden, (Creator Spirit by whose aid).

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Te Deum Laudamus! The past year

Giving thanks with Angels The Angels window in the Anson Chapel at St Chrysostoms

Giving thanks with Angels
The Angels window in the Anson Chapel
at St Chrysostoms

So often the news seems to be worrying or even upsetting, this has been so true in 2021.  

It’s hardly surprising that many end the year tired and perhaps a little bewildered. The blight of the Coronavirus has affected us all. However, let’s be careful in case we slip into being too negative. We’d not want to be people who find it difficult to see what is good and beautiful.

There has been good news, and among the awful times there have been positives too. The Positive News website gives us 26 positive news items to be thankful for in 2021. Have a look, and be thankful!

Why not pause and look back over 2021? Can you list some positives of last year? We may not be able to reach 99 reasons but we will surprise ourselves by how many reasons we can find. It is a good and honoured Christian tradition to ‘count our blessings,’ many of them simple and everyday.

As the year ends it is ‘good to give thanks and praise.’ Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures for ever. (Psalm 107.1)

Saying ‘Thank You’ to God is at the heart of the Christian faith, and it’s at the heart of our worship. Another name for the Mass is Eucharist, a Greek word meaning thanksgiving.

One good tradition many Christians follow at the end of the year is to say or sing the ancient hymn Te Deum Laudamus (We Praise you, O God). It’s found in many prayer books of many Christian traditions.

“Te Deum laudamus! We praise you, O God! The Church suggests that we should not end the year without expressing our thanks to the Lord for all his benefits. It is in God that our last hour must come to a close, the last hour of time and history. To overlook this goal of our lives would be to fall into the void, to live without meaning. Hence the Church places on our lips the ancient hymn Te Deum. It is a hymn filled with the wisdom of many Christian generations, who feel the need to address on high their heart’s desires, knowing that all of us are in the Lord’s merciful hands.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)

Stanford BfSo as the year ends give thanks for blessings received, and why not say a Te Deum Laudamus?

Click here for an English version of Te Deum Laudamus from Common Worship, or if you prefer the traditional English language version click here.

Why not take a moment and pause to listen to it, for example in the glorious version sung at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 – Stanford in B Flat. (Sung by Winchester Cathedral Choir here). Or if you’d prefer a traditional plainsong version here it is sung by the Monks of Solesmes.

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Desmond Tutu: South Africa and the Church’s Moral Campus

Desmond Mpilo Tutu who died in Cape Town at the age of 90 on Boxing Day 2021 was retired Archbishop of Cape Town and a prominent social justice campaigner. He won the 1984 Nobel Prize for Peace for his non-violet resistance against racial segregation in South Africa. At a time when many of the anti-apartheid leaders (including Nelson Mandela) were incarcerated by the white minority regime, Tutu became a vocal campaigner against racial segregation. Often combining a form of liberation theology that also drew on Ubuntu, he used this to prick the conscience of those in the West that continued to trade with the white minority regime arguing that ambivalence or neutrality was not an option. Quoted in the 1984 book Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes by Robert McAfee Tutu argued that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

When majority rule came to South Africa in 1994, Tutu assumed a new role of the conscience of the new Rainbow Nation. His empathetic leading of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission earned his the title of Moral Compass of the Nation. He continued to speak truth to power and never shied away from challenging elements of the global church and its treatment of sexuality issues. During the 2013 launch of the Free and Equal Campaign for LGBTQ rights in South Africa he was unequivocal in challenging discrimination on the basis of sexuality arguing ‘I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”  Desmond Tutu knew the hurt that excluding others meant especially when done in service of the Christ he knew well.

Archbishop Tutu was a remarkable man of wisdom and courage and many will credit him with ensuring that all are seen as equal before God. He espoused a theology of Hope and Inclusivity even if it meant he was speaking and acting against the official fudge that often characterises debates like these in the Christian Communities in Africa and beyond.

Fr Admos

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The Private and Intimate friend of Christ

St. John the Evangelist
Domenico Zampieri, called Il Domenichino, 1620

The Apostle and Evangelist St John (feast day 27th December) is called in John’s Gospel simply, “the one Jesus loved”. We honour him greatly in the Church and he encourages us and prays for to come close to Jesus, and also to be loving towards our own friends.

St John Henry Newman wrote these words:

“Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist is chiefly and most familiarly known to us as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was one of the three or four who always attended our Blessed Lord, and had the privilege of the most intimate conversation with him. He was his bosom friend, as we commonly express ourselves. At the solemn supper before Christ suffered, he took his place next him, and leaned on his breast. Peter dared not ask Jesus a question himself, but bade John put it to him—who it was that should betray him.

Thus Saint John was the private and intimate friend of Christ. Again, it was to Saint John that our Lord committed his Mother, when he was dying on the cross; it was to Saint John that he revealed in vision after his departure the fortunes of his Church….

We know he is celebrated for his declarations about Christian love. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. God is love, and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him (1 Jn 4:7, 12, 16).

Now, did he begin with some vast effort at loving on a large scale? No, he had the unspeakable privilege of being the friend of Christ. Thus he was taught to love others; first his affection was concentrated, then it was expanded. Next he had the solemn and comfortable charge of tending to our Lord’s Mother, the Blessed Virgin, after his departure. Do we not here discern the secret sources of his especial love of the brethren? Could he, who first was favored with his Savior’s affection, then trusted with a son’s office towards his Mother, could he be other than a memorial and pattern (as far as man can be) of love—deep, contemplative, fervent, unruffled, unbounded?”

Above the altar at St Chrysostom’s we see a stained glass window of St John. Look up at it and as you do ask St John to pray for you and to ask for God’s blessing on your friends.

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Ice and Rainbows at Christmas

The Rev Francis Kilvert wrote in his diary for Christmas Day 1870 in the village of Draycot Cerne, Wiltshire. That morning was so cold that Kilvert had an unusual bath.

‘As I lay awake praying in the early morning I thought I heard a sound of distant bells. It was intense frost.”

“I sat down in my bath upon a sheet of thick ice which broke in the middle into large pieces whilst sharp points and jagged edges stuck all around the sides of the tub like chevaux de frise, not particularly comforting to the naked thighs and loins, for the keen ice cut like broken glass.

“The ice water stung and scorched like fire. I had to collect the floating pieces of ice and pile them on a chair before I could use the sponge and then I had to thaw the sponge in my hands for it was a mass of ice.”

And on that cold, crisp Christmas morning in 1870 Kilvert walked to Sunday School in bright sunlight when he saw an astonishing phenomenon. He wrote that “the road sparkled with millions of rainbows, the seven colours gleaming in every glittering point of hoar frost.”

PS Chevaux de frise may be a new term to you. They are a form of defence in battle:

Chevaux de Frise | Medieval, Scene design, Fortification
Chevaux de frise – imagine Kilvert in his bath!
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Lines from Carols: A Quiz

Christmas Joy!: Good King Wenceslas: The History and The Legend

A little quiz for a Christmastime evening.

We’ve been looking at the Christmas section of our hymn book (New English Hymnal) and from a selection of the carols there we’ve chosen some lines. Can you say which carols the following lines come from?

Where misery cries out to thee, Son of the mother mild

Shadows of the past are gone with the advent of the Son

Nails, spear, shall pierce him through

Sea and forest, frost and zephyr, day and night their Lord adore

Fain we embrace thee, with awe and love

Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign

Now in mystic union join thine to ours, and ours to thine

Trace we the Babe, who hath retrieved our loss

Rejoice, ye vales and mountains, Ye oceans clap your hands.

And with his blood mankind hath bought

You are welcome to put your answers in the comments section here.

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