Dr Noel Preston, 1922 – 2017

We were very sad to learn of a much respected and much loved member of our congregation, Dr Noel Preston. Noel died peacefully at home on April 21st 2017, surrounded by the love and prayers of Valerie, his wife, and his children Andrew, Christine and Hilary.

Noel with his father at the Rectory.

Noel was born in Salford on November 30th 1922. His father was an Anglican priest who became Rector of St Chrysostom’s in 1932. (Noel told us of his 1930’s childhood in an entry on the church blog, here) Noel went, on a scholarship, to William Hulme’s Grammar School and then to Manchester University Medical School. He didn’t feel a calling to general practice and from 1951 to his retirement he was a lecturer and then senior lecturer and researcher in bacteriology at Manchester University, as well as being a visiting lecturer / professor in several institutions over four continents. Although he retired in 1989 he continued giving lectures on a part time basis until 2009.

Noel and Valerie married at St Chrysostom’s in 1961 and set up home first of all in Chorlton and more recently in Heaton Mersey. They have three children and eight grandchildren.

Noel was a man of great personal faith and prayer. He was a faithful and regular communicant. He was attentive to sermons and often offered comments to preachers. He was a committed member of the Church’s Justice and Peace group – where he showed an active application of his christian beliefs to ethical and moral issues.

Noel was always a keen church organist and kept a detailed record of the voluntaries and hymns he played at church services between 1940 and 2016. He had a particular interest in hymns and their tunes, and wrote several entries on our church blog about them. (See, for example, Noel on O Jesus I have promised,  Praise to the Holiest and Love’s redeeming work is done.)

He knew the organ well at St Chrysostom’s – he was occasional organist at St C’s 1940-1952, then church organist 1952-61, and he quickly became assistant organist in 2007 when he and Valerie began attending at St Chrysostom’s. He last played for Mass on the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2016. Not surprisingly Noel has requested that the collection at his funeral be given to the church organ fund – to which he was a most generous contributor.

Noel at a church social gathering in 2010

At St Chrysostom’s we will always remember Noel’s cheerfulness, his solid commitment to the church, his encouragement to all church members, and his clear enjoyment of music and liturgy. Noel was an inspiration to us all at St Chrysostom’s. Nothing, except serious illness, would deter him from attending church every Sunday. Many will remember the concert we had at church to celebrate his 90th birthday, at which he gave tips for long life. (For an account click here)

We are grateful to God for Noel. We are thankful for Noel’s example, encouragement and for his support of our church. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Noel will be received into St Chrysostom’s Church on Friday 5th May at 7.30pm, and the Requiem Mass (for which he has helpfully left guidance on music and hymns) will be on Saturday 6th May at 11am. At the end of the Mass the committal will take place at Church allowing all to remain at Church for refreshments.

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Praying for Priests at Ars-sur-Formans

An appropriate place for a priest to visit and renew priestly commitment is undoubtedly Ars-sur-Formans, near Lyon, in eastern France.

In 1818 John-Baptist Vianney (the Curé  d’Ars) was sent to what was then a neglected and isolated small village. He remained there for forty years as parish priest.

John Vianney was the son of a peasant farmer. His road to priesthood was not an easy one. One biographer has said his progress was ‘slow and umpromising’ and ‘eventually he was ordained on account of his devoutness and good will rather than because of other qualifications.’ For forty years he devoted himself to parish ministry in a small parish. He never sought a more significant position in the church. From this remote location his holiness became famous and tens of thousands came to Ars to make their confession and to pray.

 

It was claimed by some that the Curé  was a charlatan, even deranged. His bishop commented ‘I wish that all my clergy had a touch of the same madness.’

He lived a life of great simplicity and had a special concern for the poor and weak of his parish.

He knew times of personal turmoil – at least three times he tried to ‘escape’ from Ars to a monastery, because of the personal stress and pressure he felt. Each time he was encouraged to come back.

In 1929 he was named as the patron saint of parish clergy (feast day August 4th). There is a statue of him in St Chrysostom’s church.

Prayer requests for priests at Ars

Today thousands go on pilgrimage to Ars, including priests from all over the world. The example of the holy and humble priest John Vianney is an inspiration to parish clergy today. So I recently went on a short pilgrimage to Ars and prayed for priests and especially the priests of St Chrysostom’s. I had decided this year to renew my priestly commitment at Ars. I knelt before the shrine of the saint and felt embraced and comforted by the holiness of this special place.

Fr Ian

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Asylum for Robert

Robert, on right at front.

Robert, from Uganda, has been granted asylum. This is great news.

Robert has thanked the many christian and other organisations which have helped him. St Chrysostom’s has had a part in this. Robert writes saying “Huge thanks to all members of St Chrysostom’s who helped me towards my success”

The Bishop of Manchester gave Robert his support and, writing to Fr Ian, Bishop David comments “I am delighted to receive a card from Robert giving the wonderful news that he has been granted asylum and can now really start to build his life here in the UK…  I felt able to support Robert because I had met him, through your good offices, on a couple of occasions prior to being approached.  I know that this has been a very long process for him and not without some very difficult moments along the way.  I am very grateful for all the support that you and the church have been able to give to him during this long period of fear and uncertainty.”

Robert came to England as a student and, as a gay young man, feared returning to Uganda because of the horrific attitudes of the Ugandan regime to LGBT people. In that country same-sex acts are illegal and punishable by life imprisonment.

How did we contribute to Robert’s success at St Chrysostom’s? It’s really worth stopping and thinking about the answer to that. The answers are quite simple.

Firstly, we welcomed Robert as soon as he came to us to worship. We got to know him quickly, and he got to know us. We asked no questions, he knew all were welcome. He knew as a black person, as a gay person, he was welcome and could become quietly and easily part of our Christian community – no questions asked.

Secondly, we promptly supported Robert when he needed help. He was detained suddenly and we helped give pastoral support to him during his detention. We prayed and gave practical support.

Thirdly, we took action – we supported the campaign which was set up to support Robert. Petitions were signed by church members in his favour, we wrote letters, we encouraged the Bishop to take interest.

We are strengthened as a Christian community by our welcome and inclusivity. Look around among us at St Chrysostom’s and in our community – there are many ‘Roberts’ among us.

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Postcard from Bukovina

It’s cold here in Suceava , in Northern Romania, unseasonably cold, so cold that this evening I wore socks as gloves.
I am visiting the Carpathian Mountains to fulfill a long held ambition to see the painted monasteries of Bucovina. They did not disappoint.
Built and painted mainly in 16 th century these monastery churches are covered wall to wall , inside and out with paintings of the Christian faith. No need for a preacher , no need to read – the paintings tell it all – from Adam to the last judgement with Christian councils , and martyred saints and the odd battle on route . Three hundred and sixty five panels depict three hundred and sixty five days of the Orthodox year. I was reminded of the verse in Hebrews about being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses .

The first image here shows the Last Judgement on the north exterior wall of the monastery of Sugevita . Priests climb the ladder of obstacles to celestial life . Angels aid , demons pull down to hell


At the Church Nuns in black pill box wimpoles took the entrance fees, and on the hour beat on wooden planks and sang an ethereal Liturgy .

It has been quite a day .

Sandra Continue reading

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A Postcard from Buliisa

Revd Joan Abesinga with Admos

I have just spent 2 weeks with a group of students on a field trip to Uganda, Admos Chimhowu writes.

Many of the students want to work in developing countries after they graduate. Trips like this help them to see what the ideas they learn in class look like in the real world.

On Sunday the 2nd of April while travelling in Buliisa, a district that is on the shores of Lake Albert in western Uganda, we checked into the Albert Nile Hotel for a couple nights stay with the students. In the midst of the intense heat, swarms of lake flies and the beautiful countryside, we could hear the unmistakable sound of church hymns nearby. Drawn to this sound of amazing singing a colleague and I went across to find a vibrant community of Christian worshipers just completing the service in the local language.   Even though the signing was in a local language I was amazed at how the ‘language of God’ is quite universal. The hymns sounded familiar and I felt at home.

Introducing ourselves to the amazing parish priest Rev Joan Abesinga we were made to feel special and welcome. She shared with us the story of this parish church and community. The Parish church of St Paul’s Bugungu in Bulisa district is a buzzing place of worship drawing over 800 parishioners every week. Established in 1936, it has been the centre of Christian life and service in Bugungu. The nearby 1000 pupil St Paul’s Primary School is testimony to the central role played by the Church of Uganda in this part of Uganda. It was a great feeling to be with her and to listen to the amazing work she is doing in a largely patriarchal society. After a brief tour of the ‘old’ parish church and the ‘new’ but incomplete parish church we said some prayers and exchanged addresses. As someone who has always had a fascination with the work of  Christian Missionaries in Africa, this was a highlight of my day!

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Now that Lent is over…

Give up to go up

Kevin, one of our young adults at St Chrysostom’s shares this lovely personal reflection on Lent and Easter:

During Lent, I decided to go on a vegetarian diet and gave up playing my favourite computer game. For me, it was a particularly difficult Lenten fast – to give up meat entirely and not being able to enjoy my favourite game at the time of the year when the university Easter break begins. The struggle was real, and my friends jokingly advised me to give up “homework” or “fasting during Lent” instead.

Fast forward to Maundy Thursday, the day that marks the end of Lent. Much to my amazement (and my friends’), I kept my fast obediently for 46 days. It was a milestone in my Christian life, as it was my first “successful” attempt at observing lent. So, what does the beginner think about fasting during lent?

First, giving up something that matters allowed me to offer a tangible sacrifice to God. Perhaps it is not surprising how often we subconsciously sacrifice “spending time with God” and not have any problems with it. But when it comes to sacrificing earthly desires, we find that it has to be done deliberately. The act of sacrificing during Lent reminded me to recommit my life to God and my desire to put Him first.

Second, my fast taught me self-control and patience. Frankly, there were moments when I was tempted to give up my Lenten fast – times when I just wanted to play a quick match to distract myself from troubling thoughts in mind. Knowing clearly that I’m still observing my Lenten fast, I resisted these temptations and told myself simply: “Not yet.” The times I’ve resisted these temptations reminded me of something: Too often, I get impatient waiting for God’s answer to my prayers and resorted to my own logical thinking to work things out (which almost never works out). Perhaps, it is during these times, that I should remind myself to trust in God and patiently allow God to lead the way; that sometimes, the answer is simply: “Not yet, my child.”

Third, the period of self-examination and reflection during Lent has certainly brought me closer to God. Coincidentally, I would say that the mood during the Great Three Days reflected my Lenten journey: I started Lent struggling to figure things out, feeling troubled and down; then came a period of “wrestling” with God, with God reassuring me countless times that He is with me (as He was in the past) but my stubbornness got ahead of myself. Finally, towards the end of Lent, God helped me find peace with myself one day in quiet reflection. God had been trying to speak to me, but I couldn’t hear Him in a noisy world. I remember a strange joy and calmness in my heart as God promised me that He will see through all my troubles and reassured me that He is ever present.

It never really occurred to me that Lent was something I might be interested in, or benefit from, or come to value as a way of getting to know God, and even myself better. Perhaps it is fitting to say that it is a season to “stop and refresh”, to deliberately give up earthly desires to understand the need to spend more time with the Lord. In the words of John C. Maxwell: “You have to give up to go up.”

As we celebrate Eastertide, may the peace and joy of the Lord be always with us. Happy Easter!

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Celebrate the 50 days

Alleluia! Christ is Risen

Easter isn’t just one day – it’s a season of 50 days Campaign for a real Eastertide!

Christians make a lot of Lent – giving up things, fasting, praying, and other worthy things – some of them good, some of them pretty heavy going. Lent is a season of 40 days to get ready for Easter, and Easter is a season of joy and celebration and it’s 50 days. (Easter Day to Pentecost Sunday).

Easter C at Altar

Easter candle burning on Easter day

We love the Easter Season at St Chrysostom’s. We are a welcoming church which loves to celebrate richly, and Easter season is the time to do that. Our great Easter Candle (and it is big!) is placed right at the front of the Church throughout Easter, our Easter flowers are  lovely, our liturgies resonate with Alleluias.

And more… We don’t want our Easter joy to be confined to a church building. As Easter People we want to live out our Easter faith. So at St Chrysostom’s this year we’ve a special outreach initiative – Sharing the Light. We campaign for a Real Eastertide! We look for ways to explore the beauty and joy of this special season, and show ourselves ourselves and others that we are an Easter people.

So we campaign for a real Eastertide! We invite you to make this wonderful season special for yourself and others. We’ve lots of ideas as to how to celebrate Easter.

 

Why not take some of them up or make some of your own?

Click here: 50-days-ideas for this year’s list of ideas for the 50 days.

And our Easter Chapel in Church is there for the 50 days. Why not visit?

Have you more ideas? We’d love you to contribute them here by adding a comment, or join the discussion in our Church Facebook Group.

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