Mary for Today

2000 years ago a young peasant Jewish girl  faced a dilemma.  An angel appeared, told her she was thought highly of by God and would become the mother of the Saviour of the world if she said Yes.

That for me is what Mary is for today.  Someone who is faced with rejection by her family, someone who faces rejection from the man she was betrothed to, someone who faces the possibility of becoming a young single mother, someone who faces being stigmatised as being of low moral standards, indeed someone who faces the possibility of death – yet she says Yes.

She faces the dangers and still trusts in God.

There has always been a danger in Catholicism – of whatever shade – of making Mary into a sort of God.  I don’t want to raise the old arguments about the suitability of saying prayers, or singing hymns to Mary. But I do want to talk of the danger of sanitising Mary, – making her clean and respectable, losing her humanity.

I recently encountered some photographs of a church at their May devotion this year.  It was obviously a joyous occasion, but, full of tat. There were yards of lace on the altar, on the servers cottas, on the celebrants albs.  Clouds of incense arose. There were so many relics and candles on the altar that one could hardly see the chalice and paten.

Some Methodist friends of mine visited Walsingham a couple of years ago, and I asked them how they had found it.  Prayerful and spiritual came their reply – but, full of tat.  Not surprising for Methodists to say that, but, it is a comment we need to take to heart.

Is Mary for today about turning back the clock to a bygone age? Or is it about the revolutionary ideals which prompted Mary’s yes to God? Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is about revolution.

Today is a Day with Mary.  A Walsingham day. Today, what does the teenage pregnant woman of 2000 years ago say and do for the teenager pregnant today, the teenage mother frightened of her boyfriend’s and family’s reaction?

What does that teenage woman frightened of the consequences say to those on the margins of today’s society – the homeless, those stigmatised as “feckless” by the government, those unable to find work, the alcoholic and drug addict, the young gay man thrown out by his family, the women and men trafficked into the sex trade of our cities?

What does the woman who had to flee from Herod’s wrath and become a refugee say to the asylum seekers today?

What does the woman who watched her Son dying a hideous death, and who cradled his dead body in her arms say to the bereaved families and friends following Monday’s attack, to those suffering now as a consequence of a cruel and selfish act?

What does she say to you and I as people of God here in Thy Kingdom Come novena week?

She actually says nothing in words, but she speaks thousands in her actions. It is said by her obedience to the will of God. Thy Will be done Thy Kingdom Come.

Be it unto me according to thy word we say it so frequently when we recite the Angelus.  We recall Mary’s “Yes” – but her message today is for us to embrace it.

Mary says YES!  her message today is for us to embrace that.

Pray for the courage to follow her example. That is what I feel is Mary for us today.

Mary for today is in the squalor of a stable, in the worried mother who can’t find her son for the crowd, in the woman who tells the servants to do as he tells you at Cana, in the agonising woman cradling her dead son in her arms – and in all of this being faithful to God.

Mary is truly someone to honour and to ask for prayer in our weakness and for our society today, because she knows only too well that which presses on us today.

So let us enjoy our worship today, sing with joy about Mary, pray with confidence that God’s Kingdom may come.

(An abridged version of the address given at the beginning of ‘A Day with Mary’ on 27th May 2017, by Fr Chris)
Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Catholic, Mary | Tagged | Leave a comment

Remembering Manchester

This has been a week of deep emotion, tragedy, and concern in Manchester.

It has also been a week when we have seen courageous bravery, working together, and praying together.

It has been a week when people from all around the city have renewed their commitment to work together for the common good.

At the end of the week St John’s CE Primary School invited children, staff, parents, local faith leaders, and supporters to come together in the school playground on Friday afternoon as an act of hope and solidarity. “At St John’s school, we are uniting together to show we care.” Each children from the youngest to the oldest had made a paper flower, and all were invited to place their flowers to form a heart in the playground. Parents had brought bunches of flowers to add to the tribute. Over 500 children and adults came together, united in care and concern.

Two beautiful poems of hope, written by children, were read out. Children spoke so well and with great conviction. Fr Ian invited us to join together in prayer, for the victims of their tragedy, all affected by it, and for ourselves. Mr Choudhury a local Imam condemned those who responsible for the bombing and encouraged us to stand together in love and care. Children read from the Qu’ran. All the children were an inspiration throughout. Finally Ms Morgan led all in song encouraging us to have pride in our great city.

This was a beautiful and appropriate act at the end of a terrible week in Manchester’s history. The school created for the community, and for us all, a special moment of reflection, hope and peace.

Posted in Anglican, Muslim, St Johns School | Tagged | Leave a comment

Our Churchwarden Emeritus

Desmond Ward has served St Chrysostom’s for 15 years as churchwarden. Now Desmond feels the time has come to stand down and hand the baton on to others. Speaking at Mass on Sunday Fr Ian commented that his outstanding work as churchwarden has helped transform our church in recent years – not only by greatly improving the building but also by guiding and encouraging our inclusive christian fellowship, and supporting our Catholic Anglican ethos. Fr Ian proposed and all agreed that we confer the honorific title Churchwarden Emeritus – a title, we believe, used for the first time at our Church. In accepting the honour Desmond movingly responded:

Some years ago I returned to the area and St. Chrysostom’s where I had worshipped in the 1970’s for many years. In the 1990’s moving closer to Manchester I returned to my spiritual home. The fact that I stayed was the fantastic welcome I had from some who had remembered me, David Percival Smith, my predecessor as churchwarden and Louise Da Cocodia, deputy lieutenant of Manchester whom I adored and she turned out to be my mentor. People are the most important thing in life and I was drawn by the friendliness and diversity from which we all benefit.

The church was dark, damp, dismal and colander like. We did not know from day to day where the buckets would be. Dry rot was around the building and we sorted it problem by problem. We served tea from a table covered with a vinyl cloth, an urn to make tea and the pots had to be carried to the kitchen sink in the vestry block to be cleaned. We had one toilet in the vestry block, adequate for the then small congregation we had of around 30 -35. It had to change and I was determined with the necessary funding it could be done.

Father Ian and I had a vision of what it could be like and we set about it mostly in difficult circumstances. We have had a strong working relationship and the same outlook for the building.

I mention these things to emphasize that all things are possible given the will and determination of the people working as a team.

My last fifteen years as churchwarden have been mostly pleasurable and I have been proud of what I have achieved right to the end. Father Ian and I have worked harmoniously in terms of aspiration and vision for the church.

I retire as churchwarden knowing that the church is in a much better shape than when I started. A church much more functional for its’ many activities and I am content.

I thank everyone for the support and encouragement given to me.

In all walks of life there is usually someone quietly in the background and equally important, holding other parts of life together, and I could not have done all my work for the church without the support of my husband, Michael, a very special person to me and for whom I am well blessed.

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, St Chrysostoms Church | Tagged | Leave a comment

Running together for Mary’s Meals

Over forty people, of Christian, Muslim and other faith backgrounds gathered together in our local Birchfields Park on Sunday at 1pm to have a short fun run to draw attention to the wonderful work Mary’s Meals do for children in need of education and food in our world. It was a short and simple event yet wonderfully uniting and enriching.

We had a lovely age range of people present – from those over sixty to those not yet of school age. We had keen runners, those willing to try to run, those who preferred to walk, and youngsters who went the 1 or 2km in pushchairs. Dog walkers also joined in. We also had those who preferred to support by watching and cheering.

It was so pleasing to have Muslim and Christian people of our community meeting is such a friendly and welcoming way, to support, together, this splendid charity.

St John’s School and St Chrysostom’s Church were particularly well represented and there was a wonderful sense of togetherness, fun and enjoyment. The children were real treasures, many, if not all, putting heart and soul into the running.

There were, of course, no winners and no loosers, but we should give a special mention of Tayo, church member and Chair of Governors of the schools’ federation, who with Anne, Parish Assistant beside her, ran with enthusiasm and joy leading for most of the way – and we must mention Annie (aged 6) who was on her third such run and who raised over £100 in sponsorship.

So often our world seems troubled, anxious and divided. Small events such as this are so inspiring in offering a totally different picture – people of all kinds and ages coming together and enjoying working to help others.

Posted in Anglican, Manchester, Mary, Muslim, St Chrysostoms Church, St Johns School | Tagged | Leave a comment

Clinging to Easter hope in tragic days

On Sunday I preached at St Chrysostom’s Church about ‘My Easter Faith’.  Just as the first witnesses to the resurrection were women, so each week during Easter St Chrysostom’s is having a female preacher giving witness to the resurrection in their own lives. 

I talked about Easter hope.  A hope that, at times, is all we have when terrible things go on around the world and in our society today; a hope that, at times, is the only thing that gets me through really difficult days in ministry, sustaining and enabling me as a priest.

I talked about discovering the depth of that hope during my time at theological college; about the experience of being part of a wonderful yet broken community that was divided and hurt by differing views among students on the ordination of women.  I talked about the difficult journey we went on to work out how we, all having been baptised into the death and resurrection of Christ, could celebrate that death and resurrection together during Holy Week and Easter.

I talked about the wonder and the joy of that Easter Day.  The journey there had been painful; we’d hurt one another; we’d made a real mess of the situation.  Yet Easter still came; Jesus was still alive; there was still great joy and rejoicing.

That experience taught me so much about Easter hope.  Whatever mess the world, the church, or our lives are, whatever difficulties we face: Easter still comes, Jesus is still alive and one day all shall be well.  Until that day we have Easter hope and Easter faith to get us through.

Today I feel broken and hurt again.  This time for the wonderful City of Manchester that is my home:  for those who have died; who grieve; who are injured; who have witnessed the effects of last night’s terrorist attack at the MEN arena; whose lives are changed forever as a result.  So today is a day for clinging on to that Easter hope and Easter faith: despite everything, Easter still comes, Jesus is still alive and one day all shall be well.

Revd Katy Cunliffe

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Challenging indifference to modern slavery

Bishop Alistair addresses the Clewer Initiative gathering at Lambeth Palace

Hundreds of victims of human trafficking (modern slaves) have come through the doors of St Chrysostom’s in the past two years.

Our language classes set up to serve such victims, in partnership with the Medaille Trust, have grown and developed with the support of church members and members of other churches too. They serve not only to teach basic English but also are a relaxed place where people can find affirmation, and where we, at Church, can have a part in restoring hope. In addition we’ve welcomed women and children victims for a Christmas party in partnership with City Hearts, and with the help of Stop the Traffik have held awareness evenings to help people spot the signs of trafficking. It was encouraging that these evenings were attended by police officers, university staff, religious sisters and local residents. We have introduced an icon of St Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of human trafficking) into church as a focus of prayer for victims and an end to slavery.

Sharing thoughts and insights with others from around the country

I recently was invited, as a representative of Manchester Diocese, to Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to a Church of England consultation, The Clewer Initiative, on how the church can help rid our society of this appalling phenomenon. Many people from around England attended, not only Church of England representatives, but also members of campaigning groups and official agencies.  It was an inspiring day, led by the Bishop of Derby. ‘Slavery is growing exponentially … People are treated like commodities with no rights,’ the Bishop said. He added ‘What the Church brings is a kind of passion to be with people; to go the extra mile to provide voluntary energy for official resources… We also have a role as community intelligence; to be people who notice what is going on.’ Bishop Alastair encouraged people not to be indifferent. Commenting on Pope Francis’ challenge to the ‘globalisation of indifference’ he said ‘Modern Slavery arises when people are so busy… organising our lives, they are in indifferent to what is going on around them.’

As Christians we must challenge the evil of modern slavery. I am proud of what we are doing at St Chrysostom’s and I am inspired by the work of such organisations as the Medaille Trust with whom we work. It is my hope and prayer that this work will extend and develop. I am convinced that alongside national initiatives, local practical help, care, and sensitivity to the tragedy of modern slavery is essential to rid our communities and society of this terrible de-humanising crime.

Fr Ian

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

Which US States have four letters? A quiz evening at Church

ATOTC – which novel by Charles Dickens has these initials?

The Quiz had begun.

Teams from St Chrysostom’s School, St John’s School and St Chrysostom’s School competed in a fun quiz at Church. Food was shared, much laughter, entertaining questions, and a good ‘let’s have a go’ atmosphere. Friendships were built up, and new ones formed, and schools and church together raised £80 for our May charity, Mary’s Meals.

The joining of the church schools as a federation within our parish encourages this coming together. Not only do the schools benefit educationally by their federation, but socially too. In addition they can work together not only for themselves but also in service to the community – in raising money for a deserving charity in partnership with the church.

Which state of the USA can be typed on one line of a QWERTY keyboard?

Well one of our parish assistants got the answer to that one, quite easily! We were a lovely ‘St Chrysostom’s church style’ mix from school governors to executive head teacher, from teachers to nuns. And a pupil slipped in and supported a church team!

Mrs Gordon and Miss Douglas of St John’s School had produced a great quiz, and Mr Gordon husband had designed and printed off, on a 3D printer unique trophies for the winning team – who were from

… St Chrysostom’s School.

Quizmasters with the winning team holding their unique trophies

We’d not want you to feel left out so we’ve included two of the quiz sheets here – have a go!

Finally – thank you to all who organised the evening and thank you to all who came and took part, someone asked – is it now an annual event? Let’s hope so.

Posted in St Chrysostoms Church, St Chrysostoms School, St Johns School | Tagged , | Leave a comment