Our Assumption

NonoPaintings of the Assumption into heaven of Our Lady can be very beautiful. Mary taken into glory often surrounded by angels. At the same time they can feel rather remote, and somewhat removed from Mary’s simple humanity.

In this striking painting, by the French Symbolist artist Maurice Denis (1870-1943), the artist shows his daughter, ‘Nono’, crowning, with flowers, her mother, the artist’s first wife, Marthe.

Denis was a committed Catholic christian. In the painting, as in much of this artist’s work, the boundary between the sacred and the everyday dissolves.

This is a family scene. As we celebrate the  Feast of the Assumption this lovely painting encourages us to contemplate Mary, the mother of Jesus. Nono, the little girl represents us, who in our generation, call Mary blessed. (Luke 1.47).

We call Mary blessed, and in the Assumption (August 15th) we celebrate her entry into glorious divine dimensions, we crown her Queen.

Look! In the painting Nono and Marthe are painted in the same colours. We share the same humanity as the everyday peasant girl of Palestine, Mary. The Assumption, the ‘chiefest joy of Mary’ is an Easter feast. It has been described as ‘a poetic meditation on the resurrection.’ The human Mary is received into heaven. On this feast of her Assumption we dare to hope, in faith, that like her we too will share in the glory of her son’s resurrection.

(An edited version of the address given by Fr Ian at Mass on the Feast of the Assumption 2018)
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Bishops, Poems and Hymns

How wonderful that a Bishop should leave a legacy of  poems and hymns!

We recently sang at St Chrysostom’s church the lovely traditional hymn Hark, the sound of holy voices – the words of Bishop Christopher Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln (1869-1885). (Sung here, by the Choir of All Saints, Margaret Street). The Bishop was the nephew of the poet, William Wordsworth, and his son, John, was to become Bishop of Salisbury. The hymn, one of many he wrote, was written for All Saints’ Day, and was, he said, to be seen as a ‘triumphant song of a vision of the final gathering of saints.’

How wonderful that Bishop Christopher Wordsworth inspired Christians through  scholarly writing and poetry, whilst also presiding over a vast diocese. Other bishops have done similarly. Bishop Reginald Heber and Bishop Timothy Dudley Smith are other examples.  As is the less well known Bishop Cecil Boutflower who, reflecting on his ministry of Confirmation and Eucharist, articulated his thoughts in poetry and hymns for these occasions. And, of course, in more recent years Archbishop Rowan Williams has set a shining example. (Do you know others? – let us know in the comments here if you’d like to).

Statue of Blessed Anton Martin Slomsek outside Maribor Cathedral, Slovenia

This aspect of christian vision and leadership has been found elsewhere in the history and geography of God’s people. As early as the fourth century St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, wrote hymns.

Blessed Anton Martin Slomsek (1800-1862), (Feast Day 24th September) was Bishop of Lavant, in Slovenia from 1846 to his death in 1885. He came from a humble background and was orphaned at the age of 11. He worked hard to gain an education and later served as a parish priest, before becoming a bishop. As well as being a Bishop he was also a great author, poet and song writer. To this day some of his songs are still popular in Slovenia.

Slovenia is a beautiful, small country, with a rich history. Bishop Slomsek was seen as a staunch advocate of the culture of the Slovene people, and a great poet, he encouraged the building of schools, and was a leading supporter of education for all.

Pray that more Christian leaders will follow these examples, encouraging culture and sharing their own faith and experience in poetry and hymns!

Where these bishops have gone, may we follow! Why not in the context of our daily life and work find time to articulate our vision – have a go at writing a poem or hymn of hope, vision or inspiration.

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Encouraging Inclusion


Fr Clive

Mass at South Creake is a highlight of our parish pilgrimage to Walsingham each year. Fr Clive Wylie SCP, the Rector, is so welcoming and encouraging.

We are delighted the encouragement works both ways, as Fr Clive explains:

It is always a delight to welcome visitors and pilgrims to Our Lady Saint Mary’s, South Creake but the pilgrims from St Peter’s, Oughtrington & St Chrysostom’s, Manchester Pilgrimage Group to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham are always especially welcome.

The St Peters and St Chrysostom’s pilgrimage celebrants to which Fr Clive refers

Several years ago (see here, earlier in this blog) I was asked if it would be possible for one of your female priests to be the principal celebrant at Mass when the group visited the church. As this was a first for OLSM I consulted my Churchwardens, PCC members, and all the members of the congregation to discern if any had any objection or reservation (prior to my appointment Resolutions A and B has been in place). Being confident that this was the correct thing to do I gave my permission.

Unfortunately some of the clergy in and around the local area did not share our enthusiasm. To say their words and actions were nasty and vicious would not be an exaggeration but as a result the PCC at South Creake drafted a ‘Statement of Inclusivity’ that was unanimously adopted at the APCM. Since then the congregation has firmly ‘nailed its colours to the mast’.

The beautiful chancel at South Creake Church

OLSM is now the only church in the Diocese of Norwich registered with Inclusive Church and we are thrilled that our congregation is growing, albeit slowly, because of our progressive stance.

Following on from the example of OLSM our congregation at St Mary’s, Syderstone has followed suit adopting their own version of the ‘Inclusivity Statement’.

So a huge THANK YOU to you all for setting us off on this incredible journey! You were the catalyst for our pilgrimage of transformation.

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Biblical Women: Hannah

Hannah took her pain and her longing directly to God “deeply distressed, she prayed to God, weeping bitterly.”

Primarily Hannah’s story is testament to the power of God, the ability of God to overcome the obstacles of our human world, to hear the cries, pain and longing of faithful women, and to use their perceived weakness, to bring life and transformation to the world.

Hannah’s story enables us to say with confidence that God hears, God knows and understands the pain of those struggling with infertility or loss. God hears and draws close and responds to all those who are in deeply felt need, for whatever reason.

Secondly, Hannah’s story tells us that God is able to work with us in those places of pain and sorrow, loss and grief, longing and despair, God works with us to bring about transformation and new life. This is the heart of our faith, it is the message of the crucifixion and resurrection.

And Hannah’s story shows that this applies to every area of our lives, the most personal and intimate, the most heartbreaking and challenging.

God is with us right there in our brokenness, as on the cross – and there is resurrection hope.

New life can break in to places of hopelessness, a new future can be made.

The significant thing is Hannah’s openness to God.

An openness so great that the priest accuses her of being drunk!

Hannah is real with God. In the gritty reality of her pain, and longing and brokenness, Hannah cries out to God just as she is, wholly woman (Holy woman!).

And God’s response is fulsome and loving and life-giving for Hannah, though not without cost.

Hannah’s faith and example show us:

  • firstly that, God Knows, God hears and understands the things that matter most deeply to us in our hearts.
  • and secondly, that God is able to work with us in those difficult places to bring about transformation and new life

But for that to be true for us in our lives, we need to have Hannah’s courage to

  • be honest and real before God
  • and to trust: to trust not only in God, but also to trust in ourselves as Hannah did, so that God’s abundant new life may spring up in us.

(This is an abridged version of the sermon preached by Revd Dr Kim Wasey, in our Summer, Women of the Bible, series. These reflections draw on WomanWisdom by Miriam Therese Winter: CollinsDove 1991)

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Embracing Inclusion

Inclusion is in the DNA of St Chrysostom’s.

From it’s earliest days St Chrysostom’s church has served a parish of wide and constantly changing variety. The church has welcomed people from different backgrounds, countries and ethnicities. St Chrysostom’s was one of the first churches in England to have a black reader (then called lay reader), and we were one of the first to have a black woman churchwarden. The church has affirmed the role of women. Women ‘sidesmen’ (welcomers) were appointed as early as 1917 at St Chrysostom’s. Some churches were still not appointing them in the 1980s! The first deaconesses in Manchester Diocese were commissioned for their work at St Chrysostom’s.

We are well known for our inclusion of people of different languages and ethnicities, and on an average Sunday between 10-15 first languages are represented at Mass. LGBT people have found a spiritual home at St C’s when the churches have been unwelcoming. Now LGBT people are in leadership roles at St C’s. Encouraged by the Bishop of Manchester we began a monthly Mass aimed at LGBT people and their friends, the first in the Church of England. This has now evolved into a monthly celebration of variety and inclusion – Evening Oasis.

We are a growing church and we are enjoying working to make Mass and all aspects of church life even more inclusive.

So a fantastic track record! Inevitably at times steps to inclusion have been joyful, at times they have been difficult – sometimes in the face of disapproval. The St Chrysostom’s Church Council recently endorsed the Inclusive Church statement. We had hesitated to do so in the past as we felt inclusion wasn’t being seen as the wide issue which it is now recognised as being. As one church member said – The Inclusive Church Statement is a statement of what we are doing already another remarked It’s everyday at St C’s! Indeed, and endorsing it helps us to connect with churches and congregations of a similar outlook.

The statement reads:

We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.

We are grateful to the Inclusive Church network for their work and for their statement. Now we’d not be St C’s if we didn’t work on boundaries, and yes, while endorsing the statement we also felt we’d like to explore it more – What about discrimination on grounds of age, are we inclusive of a variety of views of the nature and content of Christian faith…

So – More thoughts on inclusion coming!

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Only at St Chrysostom’s 4. A Protestant Gremlin

One of the frustrations of day to day ministry and worship at St Chrysostom’s is when, at the last moment there is a ‘hiccup,’ something goes wrong at the wrong time. Why does it happen?

These annoying little events often seem to happen just at the last moment. Sometimes it seems the photocopier has a mind of its own, or goes on strike, just when we hope to produce an Order of Service. A few weeks ago we arrived at Church on Sunday morning to find we were without electricity. On another day a local dignitary visited, we offered a cup of tea, only to find the milk in the heat had soured. (Actually we said nothing and found out the local worthy didn’t take milk in tea!). A commonly recurring problem is the mysterious disappearance the reappearance of teaspoons at Church.

Sometimes we feel we are victims of Resistentialism. Do you know it? Well maybe not by that name. Resistentialism is defined as “seemingly spiteful behaviour manifested by inanimate objects.” Fortunately it seems research into the problem is being done. The British Medical Journal in 2005 published an article (see here) on one aspect of the problem, which as we say, we share: The Case of the Disappearing Teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australiaan research institute.

A Protestant Gremlin in stone at St Chrysostom’s

For ourselves, as an Anglo Catholic Church, we blame a sneaky Protestant Gremlin which visits from time to time to be a wet blanket on our wonderful activities, and to, in an unhelpful and protesting style, simply get in the way.

Have we seen him?  No we haven’t. But we are sure it is a ‘he’. It has been suggested he lurks behind closed doors in the church basement. Whatever we do know our worthy predecessors experienced him. They have placed a statue of him by the outside guttering in the vestry area.

That at least gives us a clue as to what we are looking for. Meanwhile we know a solution to keep him away – laughter, music and a sense of fun…

This is the fourth, and final post in our silly season posts!
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Only at St Chrysostom’s 3. A Censation

What is the collective noun for a group of thuribles?

Worship at St Chrysostom’s is well known for our use of incense. One of our regular worshippers who has been coming to church since she was a little girl recently commented she cannot remember a Sunday when incense wasn’t used. We’re quite proud of that!

Here in our silly season of posts ‘Only at St Chrysostom’s’ we thought we’d have a peep into the sacristy, and let the world see one or two things.

Look here we have a group of five thuribles. Actually there are more in church, but these five are together here. You’ll see two traditional ‘western’ thuribles. You’ll also see some thuribles in the style often used in Orthodox churches. They are thuribles too – in Greek Θυμιατο, Thymiato or for those who prefer Old Church Slavonic Кадилница, kadilnitsa. These thuribles have been given to use by visiting Orthodox clergy, one in particular we treasure – the gift of Archimandrite Ephrem Lash – a great supporter of St Chrysostom’s. The Orthodox style of thurible has small bells attached to the chains which explains why, less respectfully, they have been referred to as ding-a-ling smoke pots.

Now we know some may object to incense (an accompaniment to worship, often, in the Bible), but then most things have admirers and protestors. One thing we appreciaste at St Chrysostom’s is the use of the senses in worship, and at times an extravagance in worship too. It’s all done with a sense of joy – or as one of our people says ‘with a twinkle in the eye’. Fr Ken Leech whose requiem mass was held at St Chrysostom’s requested lashings of holy water and lots of incense at his requiem – we did our best to grant his reasonable request!

Many years ago Fr Ken wrote encouraging exuberance and joy at Mass; “one striking feature of most modern liturgies is their moderation and restraint. There is no excess in word or gesture… they are reflective of ‘one dimensional man’, clean and functional, expressing little but the middle-class taste of the 60’s! In case you haven’t got it yet, I’m all for the opposite, bringing back the colour, drama, movement and music of the medieval church.” So bring out the thuribles!

Now looking around the sacristy we find this curious piece of liturgical equipment. Can you identify what it is? It doesn’t come out much but has a special role when it does. Answers in the comments below, please.

But no sight in the sacristy, yet, of a funghellino – although at least two people are trying to track one down. 

And finally – that collective noun for a group of Thuribles. We asked for suggestions. Here are some of them: a clank, a clutter, a cough, a thuribulation, a smoggers, a te deum, a cloud, a thrust, a cyclone, a plume…

And our suggestion is ‘A Censation of Thuribles.

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Only at St Chrysostom’s: 2. The Book of Uncommon Prayer

From time to time we are given unusual church worship books at St Chrysostom’s. We have quite a collection. Some we occasionally put in small auctions on eBay for church charities. Others we pass on to interested folk. Some we keep.

A current book we have has the snappy title: The Priest’s Prayer Book containing Private Prayers and Intercessions; Occasional, School and Parochial Offices; Offices for the Visitation of the Sick, with notes, readings, collects hymns, litanies with a brief Pontifical. The worthy authors are Rev R F Littledale LL.D., D.C.L., and the Rev J. Edward Vaux, M.A., F.S.A.

Well the good fathers have produced in their book a fascinating cornucopia of curious worship to supplement the prayer books of their day (1897).

As part of our silly season of posts ‘Only at St Chrysostom’s’ – here on the church blog we thought you may like to try and identify the acts of worship from which these extracts come.

The first image shows extracts from two different liturgies. Hint for the second extract – swimming pools were not really found at the time of Frs Littledale and Vaux.






The second image shows extracts from three different liturgies. Hint for the second liturgy, this is not a ‘Traditional’ Anglo Catholic bishop speaking to a woman found in the sanctuary.

Which acts of worship are these extracts taken from?

You are very welcome to post your suggestions or answers as comments below. We’ll give the answers in a few weeks time.

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