Sandra’s Five Poems

Sandra Palmer writes: A poem a day on Facebook for five days – it sounded a little like an apple a day – something sweet and nutritious -and so I accepted the invitation to receive the baton from Fr Ian. (For his choice click here)

My first poem Trees by Philip Larkin was read at the funeral of a friend’s husband  who had taken his own life during a bout of severe depression. In the circumstances I had  expected  the occassion  to be dark and gloomy but instead it was filled with light and with the possibility of the renewal that the poem expresses –  a celebration of Dave’s life despite the shadow of pain. On the motorway drive down friends and I had discussed another wonderful poem  An Angel in Blythburgh Church by  Peter Porter whose wife had also committed suicide.  Because of the subject matter and the length,  I didn’t include it as one of my five poems but, as its final lines  helped me  gain a glimpse of understanding, I include it now.

BFLight breaking through the clouds, starts my second poem, a real favourite, The Bright Field by R.S. Thomas, heard first in the light infused chapel at Othona, a community on the Dorset coast .


I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Something I often forget and have to remind myself of daily.

In contrast Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley  learnt at school, loved at school, tells us about that which is transient  though  I only see a link between the two poems as I write now.

I love my fourth poem, Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy, for its sound and the sense of the rhythm of day and date as  much as for its meaning. It resonates with my experience of prayer.

My final poem  Friendship by Elizabeth Jennings  leapt off the page at me in the way it celebrates  one of life’s great gifts. It felt a fitting poem with which to finish my set of poems before I passed on the baton.


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Two favourite African churches

Zim 2We’re a wonderfully varied people at St C’s and that’s expressed in lots of different ways, not least in the choice of favourite churches. It’s wonderful to think of the many links we have with brother and sister Christians around the world.

We’re inviting members of St Chrysostom’s who come from beyond and within the UK to tell us of a favourite church, and we’ll share many of the answers here on our church blog. Previous choices are here and here. Sometimes the choice is made because of beauty or special location. More often it is because of personal association.

Interior of St Philip's Church

Interior of St Philip’s Church

Admos and Grace, and Robert choose favourite churches from their home countries in Africa, and tell us of their connection with these churches.

Admos writes: For Grace and I, our favourite church in Zimbabwe is St Philips Parish Church in the Midlands city of Gweru in the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe. This church was built from scratch by local parishioners.

As a young server I participated in the construction of the church(as a server). Later Grace and I had our wedding there and both Petronella and Shaun were baptised here.

From Gweru, Zimbabwe we travel over 1330 miles to Kampala in Uganda.

lubaga-cathedralRobert tells us: My favourite church in Uganda is Rubaga Cathedral, Kampala. I was confirmed there. It is a beautiful and holy building, treasured by many in Uganda. It is also the burial place of the much revered Ugandan Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka and many go to his tomb and receive a blessing there.

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St C’s – encouraging vocations

We are proud at St Chrysostom’s of the great number of men and women who have been encouraged in their vocations to priesthood through our church and its special ministry. The Parish Assistant scheme has been going for over fifteen years now and we’ve seen a great variety of men and women going through it. They have found it a great help in discerning their calling. A good number have gone on to training and ordination to the priesthood.

New LogoBefore anyone is ordained priest they are ordained deacon. At a recent mass at St Chrysostom’s Bishop Mark reminded us that bishops and priests do well to remember that they are also deacons. They are ‘deacons first,’ chronologically. The deacon, – from the Greek diakonos – is a servant, a helper, a minister.

Men and women who are deacons are called to be a ‘sign or sacrament of the Lord Christ himself, who came not to be served but to serve.’ The deacon reminds us all of our own servant ministry as Christians.

This year two of our former parish assistants are being ordained deacon. Ordinations often take place on or near the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul at the end of June. Neil Elliot is being ordained deacon at Manchester Cathedral on Sunday 28th June, and he will serve nearby, in the parish of St Edmund, Whalley Range. Jack Noble is being ordained deacon in St Paul’s Cathedral, London and he will serve in the parish of St Martin, Ruislip.

More than that though! Two people who have found St Chrysostom’s inspiring for prayer while working nearby are also being ordained deacon soon. Robin Pye often came to 5pm weekday Mass when working at FC United, and at one 5pm mass met, for the first time, fellow Chester ordinand Lisa Redfern.  Robin and Lisa are being deacon on Sunday 5th July at Chester Cathedral.


Four very different people from different backgrounds. Please pray for them all as they begin their ministries as deacons, and please pray that St Chrysostom’s may continue to inspire and encourage people into ordained ministry.

Robin writes with gratitude ‘for the ministry and inspiration during my discernment and training period’ which he received at St Chrysostom’s.

Whom now among us shall we inspire to consider ordained ministry?

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A choice of five poems

Fr Ian writes: I recently enjoyed a challenge to post five poems of my choice, one each day, for five days on Facebook. It was more difficult than I expected, and inevitably my choices kept changing.

An unintentional theme began to develop. The poems could help in pastoral ministry.

Some of the poems I have already posted on our church blog, namely: Robert Frost’s On a tree fallen across a road  and Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things  and Vladimir Holan’s wonderful Easter poem, Resurrection


“Is there anybody there? “said the traveller Knocking on the moonlit door (Opening line of Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners)

My remaining two choices are very different from each other. First of all one of the first poems I learnt at my prep school. It will be known to many and still stays with me. It has a strange and haunting quality about it. A sense of the closeness but at the same time the mystery of the spiritual world. The Listeners by Walter de la Mare.

And my final choice is by the Albanian poet Ismail Kadare, who in this poem written while in exile in Moscow, longs for his homeland.

One reader of the poem (Bishop Nigel McCulloch) or reading this posted poem said it is a”very poignant and a germane reminder to us all of how beneath the need to escape from repression the yearning for home and the people left behind is heart-rending”

Longing for Albania (extract, translated)

I was filled with longing for Albania
Tonight as I returned home on the trolley,
The smoke of a Partizani cigarette in the hand of a Russian
Curled bluish, twirled upwards
As if whispering to me, its compatriot,
In the language of the Albanians.

Tirana-AlbaniaI long to stroll through the streets of Tiranë in the evening,
Where I used to get into mischief,
And through the streets where I never got into mischief.
Those old wooden doorways know me,
They will still hold a grudge against me
And will snub their noses at me,
But I won’t mind
Because I am filled with longing.
I long to stroll through the lanes full of dry leaves,
Dry leaves, autumn leaves,
For which comparisons can so easily be found.

I was filled with longing for Albania,
For that great, wide and deep sky,
For the azure course of the Adriatic waves,
For clouds at sunset ablaze like castles,
For the Albanian Alps with their white hair and green beards,
For the nylon nights fluttering in the breeze,
For the mists, like red Indians, on the prowl at dawn,
For the locomotives and the horses
That huff and puff, dripping in sweat,
For the cypresses, the herds and graves
I was filled with longing.
I was filled with longing
For the Albanians.

Other  church members have been challenged to post their choices, – first of all Sandra Palmer – click here to see her choices. Want to join in? Comment below to say so and we’ll be in touch!

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60,995 meals for children in May

May, Mary’s month, is over and here is a summary of what we raised at Church and in the local community during May for the fantastic charity Mary’s meals.

 THANK YOU to everyone who helped, took part and contributed – it was a wonderful team effort from a great number and variety of people.

Spirited Running for Mary's Meals in our local park

Running for Mary’s Meals

Here is how the money was raised:

Donations in church £138.24

Given on the Ladyewell Pilgrimage £68.00

St John’s School own clothes day £307.68

St Chrysostom’s School own clothes day £412.67

Harris Singers concert £55.00

Music and Readings for Mary evening £75.00

Raffle  £57.15

Birchfields Park Run sponsorship £932.85

… which make a fantastic FINAL TOTAL of £2046.59

This money will provide a daily meal at school, for a year, for 167 children which equates to an impressive 60,995 meals! THANK YOU!

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Lingerie, a wheelbarrow and a frozen lover

The lives of the saints can, at times, seem just a little bit too virtuous and distant from us.

This evening, at Vespers, Rosie introduced us to unusual stories told of some saints. She was assisted in this by Richard Coles’ book Improbable Saints. We delighted in the strange, the eccentric and the down right bizarre.

Unusual saints vespersThose introducing the stories showed objects to strengthen the story. In our photo Canon Alma reminds us of how St Margueritte d’Youville sold lingerie to make ends meet, and Andrew reminds us of how one of our diocesan patrons, St Denys continued on his journey after execution by carrying his head, thus making him a member of the worthy band of cephalophores – saints depicted carrying their own heads.

Although some of the stories were very strange there was also something endearingly earthy about them.

Behind the unusual and at times improbable stories we also encountered holiness in forthright terms. Denys couldn’t stop talking, the story told us, even after his head was cut off! Cuthmann loved his mother so much he took her around in a wheelbarrow while he looked for a new home. Dwynwen, is surely not alone in life in having an ambiguous relationship with her lover. Although she may be alone in that this was expressed in freezing him and then releasing him from her frost.

Mingled with the fun and strangeness of the stories was also an appreciation of the humanity of these saints.

Have you a favourite unusual story of a saint?

We prayed this evening: God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Film Night – “Son of Man”

Rosie reports on a recent film night at Church:

After evening worship on Sunday a few us stayed on to and watched the excellent 2006 South African film Son of Man – the life of Jesus in a modern Black South African context.


I found it very moving.  Jesus’ story came to life, in a very real way. The political struggles, oppression and violence shown in the film’s modern setting made the link between how things may have been in Jesus’ day and howthey still continue in some parts of our world.

Preaching to the people

Preaching to the people

The focus was on Jesus as a political and moral activist (with his action shaped by his beliefs) than from a wholly spiritual angle. His response in challenging the regime by peace was beautifully done in a sequence where he states “we will fight, but not with weapons”, with the disciples one by one placing their guns into a bag, whereupon a ‘flashback’ is shown of that person’s life, where they have been the victim of the ruling violence. The raising of Lazarus and instances of healings, and the peoples’ response to those were shown in the cultural context, however the idea stayed close to that portrayed in the gospels.

2006 Son of Man Halo

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”

Mary’s character, and her relationship with Jesus, was very powerful, in keeping with her role in scripture, though again in the new context. The Annunciation took place in the aftermath of a massacre in a school where she worked, which made her response all the more powerful. At the end of the film, she holds Jesus’ broken body in her arms, in the back of a pickup truck.



The music and culture of Jesus’ family and disciples knit the whole film together. The sense of community sharing in the atrocities and joys of life alongside each other, and responding to Jesus’ message was extremely powerful – and one I think we can all be inspired by.

I could write lots more, but perhaps enough for now… I think I’m going to have to watch it again!

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