My Mother, My Role Model

Here’s a lovely little contribution for our series on black lives which influence us. Thank you so much to Alison George for helping is look to our own congregation and our own homes for inspiration!

The older I get, the more I realise how fortunate I am to have my Mother in my life. She wasn’t simply my role model when I was a child, but she continues to show me the way every day, with her energy, empathy, selflessness and kindness. 

My Mother does not only inspire me to reach for my goals and work hard. She has taught me to love, to be kind, to listen and to empathise with others. 

My Mother’s faith is strong and I admire how she starts and ends her day with prayers. By trusting and honouring God, Mum has raised me and my siblings to ensure we feel fulfilled and happy with life and above all, giving thanks daily to God. 

As we celebrate Black History Month, I celebrate my Mother, my role model and these traits I try to aspire each day. 

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Mpho Tutu van Furth: A call to equality and inclusiveness

“I do not know the words to describe my grief”.  This is the final line of Mpho Tutu van Furth’s essay ‘Speaking Love to Power’ in The Book Of Queer Prophets published this year. The grief of which she speaks is that caused by relinquishing her license to officiate as a priest in the diocese of Saldanha Bay, South Africa. A very gracious action that saved the Bishop having to withdraw it.

Why did she impose such heart break? Well because she fell in love with and married a woman. Not such a heinous crime in the twenty first century one may think but unfortunately it was a step too far for the Anglican Church.

Paul Pritchard continues: Recently, Father Ian invited me to write a blog focusing on an inspirational person of colour as part of our observance of Black History month. For me, there were two women I was keen to write about, both black, both ordained Anglicans and both members of the LGBTQ+ community. One, Pauli Murray, is dead and has already been written about (see  https://stchrysostoms.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/celebrating-pauli-murray-in-lgbt-history-month/), the other, Mpho is very much alive and well. Pauli Murray remained single and so did not face the jeopardy faced by Mpho but still bore the same cross.

When I read Mpho’s essay I wept; not tears of sentiment but tears of pain! The pain I feel I admit is not entirely ultraistic, it is a confusing business as my pain is not just about my empathy with a sister but about being a white middle class western man. You see there is a juxtaposition of being a member of the oppressed whilst having membership, through virtue of my gender and skin colour, of the oppressor’s club.

My pain is for me to deal with but I think it is important to call it out if we are ever going to be able to truly move on and deal with issues of inequality which corner a gifted priest like Mpho Tutu van Furth into surrendering her license in order to be with the woman she loves.

Patriarchal shackles are the backdrop for racism, sexism, homophobia, trans-phobia, snobbishness and many other actions and emotions that exclude. So, we have to search our souls in order to find our own truth, to understand when we have been responsible for perpetuating inequality whether explicitly or complicitly. It is a painful process, but only then can we address it.

At St C’s we are known for and proud of our “inclusiveness” which is laudable and certainly drew me into the fold when I was looking for a worshipping community to be part of. The question is, is this really enough? When I came out in my twenties it was generally accepted that if one encountered ‘tolerance’ that ought to be enough and I know I bought into that as well as buying into the notion in some circumstances of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. I am no longer satisfied with these notions of acceptance as they don’t go far enough. And so it is with inclusiveness.  

Mpho & Marceline Tutu van Furth on their wedding day

Inclusiveness is wonderful if it follows equality. In other words, we are all equal as human beings, children of God and included in this place. For Mpho, a black African woman born into a Christian family with parents who fought for equality on many fronts; racial, gender and LGBTQ+, she understood in her home that she was equal whilst at the same time knowing the staggering level of racial inequality born out of colonialism and cemented by apartheid. She also knew that as a woman called to priesthood she followed in the footsteps of the women and men (her Father being one of them) that had fought a long hard fight for the ordination of women in the Anglican church. So what a blow it must have been later on in her life to find herself the victim of inequality for being in love.

In 2013, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said:“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. “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

 You see, it makes no difference what the issue is. If it concerns inequality, it is wrong! The only way for us to achieve our potential as the people of God is equality. Yes it is important to be inclusive, it is good to be tolerant (of another’s annoying habits for instance) but unless all humans are treated equal, these other adjectives are superlative.

I don’t imagine that Mpho Tutu van Furth would ever consider herself to be better than anyone else, she seems too humble for that but far from being less than equal to others, she is truly awe inspiring. During her college years she raised funds to build schools in South Africa then after college she ran a scholarship fund for refugees from apartheid South-Africa and Namibia, a country racked with civil war. Later on, she ran an after-school programme and summer day camp for children in inner-city Massachusetts. She created and ran the Tutu institute for prayer and pilgrimage and was the inaugural Chief Executive of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, a post she held until 2016 when she moved to the Netherlands to be with her wife.

Of her mission now, Mpho says:-

“I am working to create a world that is good for girls.

For girls to flourish our world must be safe, our environment clean, our planet healthy.

For girls to flourish their voices must be heard, their choices honoured, and their right to bodily integrity affirmed.

When girls flourish the whole world flourishes.”

A hugely impressive CV and one that grows but one that as a result of inequality is tinged with the sadness of rejection. She says, “like every LGBTQIA+ child who has come out of the closet only to be thrown out of the house, I feel bereft. The South African church that was the mother of my faith has disowned me”.

 I thank God for The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, for her inspiring work and faith and I pray for the alleviation of her pain, and ask that we all urgently search our souls to find own equality truth; we may then together be able to call it out and work for a brighter and more equal tomorrow. 

 The following article on the BBC news website gives a very insightful glimpse of Mpho. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-36462240  

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Music to raise the spirits – the clergy choose

The Roman Catholic Poor Clares sisters of Arundel in the south of England have produced a CD of spiritually uplifting music to share in the pandemic. What a lovely and kind thing to do.

I thought about this and thought it would be good to ask a variety of people what their choices of uplifting music were, and to share choices. I began by asking some of the clergy connected with St Chrysostom’s. I asked what would you nominate as uplifting to help us through the dark days of the coming winter? It could be high brow it could be low brow, it may or not be directly ‘religious’ but it would be something that raised spirits. If possible I hoped we could give a link so we can listen to the piece offered. Here is the first list – from St Chrysostom’s clergy.

First of all Mtr Hilary writes, suggesting a lovely variety: I love Josh Groban’s voice particularly ‘Bring him home‘ from Les Miserables,  ‘Over the rainbow‘ also by him.I’ve been discovering different classical music mostly through the Morse and Endeavour programmes. No surprise there! So Gabriel Faure ‘In paradisum’ ‘Sanctus’ and ‘Agnus Dei’ 
I have recently been listening to the yellow brick cinema on you tube, it’s meditative music of Tibetan style with images to match, very relaxing in these difficult times I find. 

Fr Chris takes us to a different place – looking back at familiar hymns and especially ones from our tradition. He writes: “I have very diverse musical tastes, and I listen to many different things.  In these days I use music to”lift” my mood and thoughts.  Time and again I turn to “Walsingham Way” which is a collection of hymns of our Lady sung by the choir of SS Peter and Paul Wantage.  They are hymns that I can sing or hum along to, and be reminded of the joy and peace of Walsingham and “loose” myself.”

Fr Admos moves us to a different culture, writing:  I find the inculturation of traditional hymns by the Blind South African musician Steve Kekana spiritually uplifting but also soothing.

Mtr Kate reminds us that the music of Glenn Miller helped many people through the difficult days of the Second World War. Her choice is: Moonlight Serenade.

And from the Rectory… Mtr Kim nominates “Handel’s stirring anthem Zadok the Priest, and Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell, the common feature being they are very loud!”

And my choice arises from student days when began my love of the romantic and passionate music of Ravel. His Piano Concerto in G Major continues to lift me to new places. Its a wonderful blend of experiment and different traditions, while remaining resolutely French in feel. I love the recording made at the Nobel Prize Concert in 2009 with the outstanding pianist Martha Argerich.

And finally Mtr Kim suggests to raise a smile we listen to this song – The Worship Song Song – making gentle fun of some worship songs of the modern evangelical tradition – it’s a gem!

Fr Ian

Do listen to the pieces chosen.

This is the first in a series in the coming weeks in which people share their choices of uplifting music.

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The Patron Saint of Troublemakers

Catholic News World : Novena to St. Mary Mackillop - Mother Mary of the  Cross of Australia - #Mackillop

I wish I had known about Saint Mary Mackillop, Australia’s only canonized saint in the RC church,  when I was drawing up a programme for Kharis ( children’s church) on saints  a couple of years ago. Sandra Palmer writes.

 I must have passed a museum and church dedicated to her a number of times but she only came to my attention when I listened to Soul Search an excellent podcast from the Australian Broadcast Commission (ABC).

Mary was the eldest child of a large RC. family; her father was a clever man but not practical and could not provide for his family. They were often dependent on relatives for a roof over their heads , yet somehow Mary got an education. At 16 she became governess to her cousins  on a homestead in South Australia;  there she became aware of the large numbers of ragged children living in shacks on the edge of the town.  Moved by their plight, convinced  of the importance of a basic  education  for all children and with the assistance of a  visionary Catholic priest , Father Tennison Woods,  she founded an order of nuns , The Sisters of the Order of St Joseph. The Josephites  took a vow of absolute poverty, owning nothing but the simple black dresses which led the sisters to be known as the black joeys. They worked in pairs throughout Australia wherever there was a need for a school for the poor. They owned no properties but rented rooms or lived in tents and sometimes taught outdoors .

Perhaps inevitably she made enemies among the hierarchy. It seems she accused one of sexual abuse but most of all she was a maverick. The bishops did not like these women running loose, responding to need rather than controlled by one of them. They made false accusations which led Mary to be excommunicated for five months.  The sisters were turned out of their homes

They might have been homeless but for the generosity of a Jewish Member of Parliament and business men , Emanuel Solomen.

But the battle with the hierarchy continued. It was the norm for Religious Orders to be under the control of a Bishop. Mary didn’t want this: the Josephite sisters had jointed to serve ‘ the poor, the homeless, and the uneducated and unemployed rather that the wishes of a particular bishop.’

She took herself to Rome and appealed to Pope Pius IX. She won, but there was a price to pay. The Josephites had to surrender their absolute poverty and own property to provide some security.

 She lived with the pain of endometriosis for much of her life, and then the aftermath of a stroke  but always with endurance.

I think it is brilliant that a woman who was a thorn in the flesh of the church has been canonized though I fear that the relics and the shrines could  interfere with what she actually stood for.

Pope John Paul II praised Mary as for openness, hope, hospitality. perseverance in the face of adversity, kindness, justice and generosity:  values I hope we are all nurturing in our children.

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Chi Rho at Chrysostom’s

Chi Rho is an exciting new initiative and we’re delighted to begin a branch for our area. Although based at St Chrysostom’s, the branch looks out beyond the local church.

Chi Rho launched on August 6th 2020 and is being developed and encouraged by the Society of Catholic Priests (SCP) European Province.

Primarily Chi Rho is a lay movement built on prayer (with a focus on the Mass), encouragement and service, and it is totally inclusive. Priests can also join – as Priests Associate.

Members draw up a simple rule of life based on the Holy Eucharist and built on the three areas of PRAYER, COMMUNITY and SERVICE. They are guided in making their rule of life by the branch chaplain. They agree to meet regularly. They help one another to make and follow their personal rules. They also give one another support, friendship and there is a sense of fun!

Members agree to pray daily, worship each week at a Church or online, to meet together (on Zoom) each week if they can – for a short time of prayer and catch up, and also have a branch meeting every month. The Eucharist is seen as a particular focus for Chi Rho and members’ prayers and meetings will often include Mass, Benediction or devotion before the Blessed Sacrament. Guest speakers will encourage and inform the group.

Members agree to offer at least an hour’s service to the community or church each month.

We decided at our branch we’d want to welcome priests who share Chi Rho’s approach. Priests would attend on equal terms, (as associate members) having their own rules of life as the lay people do.

At the same time we saw the need to have separate as well as joint meetings. So priests, who may or may not be be SCP members, and laity, will form two sections of the branch. The whole branch will have St Josephine Bakhita as patron, and probably be known as the Chi Rho Bakhita Branch.

Andrew, our Chi Rho branch convener

The convenor of our branch is Andrew Omokaro – a lay man and a much loved churchwarden at St C’s.

Chi Rho is not bound by diocesan boundaries and indeed two members of our local branch are from beyond our diocese – one of our members lives in Changsha, Hunan Province, China and commits to the branch as best he can. He joined in the Zoom inauguration. It is great that we can support him. We will link up with other branches being formed in the North West.

Friendship, a positive atmosphere, and mutual support are key elements of Chi Rho and so if our branch gets too large we will divide into smaller groups.

Resources to help members are being prepared, and we are looking to recruit further to the branch.

There was a very encouraging feel at the founding meeting – albeit by Zoom. We look forward to the group developing. We felt small committed groups groups of laity and clergy, like this, which are outward looking, inclusive and welcoming, will be important as the church adapts in current and future years, to be a church for a different world.

The Bishop of Manchester, Bishop David has sent his prayers and blessings on the initiative which he described as a great development, and he hopes to come along to a meeting.

Please pray for Chi Rho, and just ask if you’re interested in joining!

St Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.

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Shrine of Mary, Mother of Welcome and Hope

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is m-mother-w-and-h.jpg

A shrine is a special place of prayer. We know of some of the great shrine sites in our world, such as Lourdes, Walsingham, or in other world faiths, Mecca, or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

We also know of smaller, more intimate shrines, perhaps in a niche among rocks, in a home or by a roadside. They too are places of special devotion and a focus for prayer.

Shrines, we can say, are places where people go for special prayer or devotion. When we think of our own Church, St Chrysostom’s, we can quickly see two such places. Firstly the Anson Chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and where a candle constantly burns. It is a place of regular prayer and devotion.

In addition Our Lady’s statue in church is undoubtedly a place of prayer and comfort to many. On Sunday after Mass many people gather there to light candles, and during the week people come in to light candles too.

To honour this we have rededicated our statue of Mary, with the title Mary, Mother of Welcome and Hope. Welcome is so central to our life and work at St C’s. We welcome so many different people and have a particular heart for the less fortunate, the marginalised and those who feel cast out. This is emphasised in our minister to survivors of human traficking, but also to the welcome we give to a wide range of people.

Hope, looking forward with hope, saying ‘Yes’ to God, is also central to our Christian life at St C’s. More and more, especially in difficult days, we wish to be a place where in darkness or sadness people find light, find hope for the future. Mary’s son is the basis of our hope and of our welcome. Mary herself is then mother of these gifts.

We are so grateful to children of St John’s School who, under the guidance of their Headteacher Mrs Juliet Francis, have made a lovely banner for our statue which has on it the words Welcome and Hope in languages spoken in our local community.

Mary, Mother of Welcome and Hope, pray for us.

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Having words about St Chrysostom’s

Isn’t this lovely?

At the time of the 143rd Anniversary of our wonderful Church’s consecration we asked people to offer a group of words about our Church. Now, of course, our Church is more than a building it is also our Christian Community, past, present and future, and you’ll see that the words chosen focus on our church community as well.

We aimed at having 143 words but ended up with lots more and here they are in this splendid word cloud. There are a fascinating variety – showing lovely different insights into our varied church life.

Now people of St Chrysostom’s can try to guess who may have said what! For example who said frisson, who said biscuits and who said wax.

The larger the word in the word cloud the more often it was chosen. You may like to read out loud the larger words.

Our cloud gives a precious snap shot of St Chrysostom’s church’s life and witness today, and we have to say it is encouraging. Thank you to Lucy for gathering the words and creating the word cloud.

Thank you to all who offered words.

But wait! some words are missing – what we don’t find are protestant, or cold, or boring… or (embarrassingly, perhaps) Bible!

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Why Mary, Mother of Hope?

Our statue of Mary at St Chrysostom’s is a beautiful focus for prayer. After Sunday Mass we have a particular focus of prayer as we turn to the statue and remember Mary’s ‘Yes’ as we sing the Angelus. Many people light candles at the statue, so many at times that we wonder whether a third candle stand is needed!

At this time we celebrate our Church’s dedication,we are dedicating our statue to Mary, Mother of Welcome and Hope. Here Fr Chris explains why ‘Mother of Hope’

Mother of Hope has recently been added to the long list of the beautiful names used when speaking of our Lady – and is one which I feel resonates with us at St Chrysostom’s so much more than such quaint ones as “Tower of Ivory” or “House of Gold”.

Mary risked everything that she had when she said Yes to God’s angel and became the mother of Jesus.  We can often overlook that she risked reputation, status, even her life by consenting to this – and becoming an unmarried mother.  A young, pregnant, peasant woman – so many things to alienate her from the power structure of her day  – says Yes to God, and has Hope.

She had hope – not in some magic, not in a fanciful day dream, but in the faithfulness and love of God.

God is faithful to us even when we turn our backs on him.  We see this throughout the Old Testament when time and again God shows himself as the God who intervenes – the great “I am”. We might well go “off track” and forget God, but he never goes “off track” with us.

Mary was convinced that despite many things pointing differently she was doing something great and special for God.  She had a hard time – knowing fear, knowing despair and even having to witness her son dying on a cross.

That conviction, that HOPE, was turned into reality when she also witnesses her son’s triumph on Easter Day, and when she is assumed at the point of death into heaven.

We have those among us who like Mary are on the margins of society because of immigration status, or addiction, crime, unemployment – and her Hope can be realised in their lives.  We have folk who like Mary are worried about the future, about their children’s future and about Covid19 and other diseases – and Mary’s Hope can be shared with them. We have parents who like Mary see their children suffering and even dying – and Mary can give Hope to them.

Mary can give Hope to all of us – Mary, Mother of Hope, Pray for us.

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Be calm, be still

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt

These are stormy and uncertain days.

I suspect, like me, you may often ask yourself questions such as: What will happen next? Is it safe to do this? Can I go there?

These are questions that show us how uncertain things are. We feel pushed about – stressed – by the changes, and chances of the current situation.

We often encourage one another to ‘keep safe’ and to ‘take care’. These are kind words of encouragement.

I also hope I will keep calm, and seek peace.

Apparently a person in trouble in swimming is told not to splash about, not to flail around, but rather to be still, to try and float on the back in a star position on top of the water. It is good advice and, I believe, is good advice for us all in the storms of life.

The disciples were caught in a storm. They were nearly swamped by the water, and cast about seeking help. Jesus slept through the storm until the disciples woke him and then he simply says ‘Peace! Be still!’

In these stormy days the words of Christ are a guide to us to be calm, to be still, take time. It is not a time for making many decisions or plans. It is a time to be calm, to rest, to pray, and to be nurtured in the stillness you can find.

These are stormy and uncertain days for churches. The Church of England is going through very stormy days. The Independent Inquiry on Child Sex Abuse has shown how the Church of England has appalling failed in its care. The Archbishop of Canterbury comments: “The report … is a stark and shocking reminder of how so many times we have failed – and continue to fail – survivors.” Trust and confidence in church leadership, not least the bishops, has very seriously diminished.

In these uncertain days church attendance has significantly dropped. It is unlikely to return to the levels it once was, and that may, indeed, be God’s will.

Christians, including many church goers, are realising the value of forms fo worship and spiritual expression beyond church buildings.

For the church as a whole, as for us, these are then not days for big plans, or great change. Rather the Church too – the disciples in the boat, is called not to ‘flail around’ but rather, in faith and hope to turn to Christ in prayer, to be calm and still – and to calmly have hope.

A Prayer often used at Night Prayer (Compline)

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may rest upon your eternal changelessness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Fr Ian

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Writing a letter

We receive fewer and fewer hand written letters or cards. For many of us social media has become the way to communicate. It has many merits, but I still enjoy receiving a letter from a friend. One friend always sends me a very newsy letter to me with a birthday card. I greatly enjoy reading it.

I would like to encourage us to write a letter or two to a friend or relative in these strange days. Sending a letter can be such a caring and loving act. Letters don’t need to be carefully crafted. They can be simply chatty and friendly.

Our letter can send appreciation. We are warmed and encouraged by the kindness of appreciation. Saying thank you, or well done to someone, in writing, is a lovely act of kindness.

Our letter can develop contact. We like to share our news, and people like to hear what we have been doing – even if we are saying we are doing very little. Sharing how we are and what has been happening strengthens friendship and mutual support.

Our letter can send sympathy. We are comforted by knowing that others are thinking of us in difficult times. If we believe someone is depressed or sorrowful a card expressing our good wishes and care can go a long way.

Our letter or card can send our congratulations. We live in a strange world where sometimes envy or jealousy are far too common. We can do a lot of good if we tell our friends or relatives that we are please at some happiness or success that has come their way.

Our letters can be sent at specific times to greet people. I suspect more Christmas cards will be sent this year and that, if we prepare in time, can be an opportunity to include a letter.

The Royal Mail regularly issue beautiful ‘commemorative’ stamps which add something special to an envelope. We can specifically ask for them at post offices. We may particularly like to ask for Christmas stamps for our cards. It is worth brightening our envelope with an attractive stamp.

The kindness of a personal letter can do great work.

Fr Ian

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