Olympias Books

Child poverty is alarmingly high in the local area around St Chrysostom’s Church. Earlier this year we learned (see here) that the parliamentary constituency in which St Chrysostom’s Church stands has the highest incidence of child poverty outside London.

Janyce and Jasmine helping sort some of the books

Many organisations are working to address this massive problem. We’ve been praying about this at Church and thinking of ways we can support efforts to alleviate poverty.  Our response will, naturally, be on the local level and much of what we can do will be to support the many agencies tackling the issue.

We have started a small and special initiative – Olympias Books. Following discussion with local teachers and parents we have become very aware that encouraging education, and especially reading, helps alleviate poverty. Schools are doing a good job, and we have always encouraged volunteers to assist with reading in local schools.

However, books can be very expensive, especially to households with limited income. Although children have free and easy access to books in school, they often don’t have such access at home.

St Chrysostom’s Church has therefore launched Olympias Books  – a simple but very worthwhile project to provide quality reading books for local primary school aged children at inexpensive prices. It’s an initiative connecting many different people. Our church acts as a catalyst. We chose the name Olympias Books, after St Olympias the great woman saint who showed love and care to her community and was a supportive companion of St John Chrysostom.

Volunteers price the books

The initiative is simple – we invite people to donate good quality second hand children’s books to church. Church people have done so, and we have worked hard to cast the net wider. We have formed a partnership with Manchester Grammar School and parents of boys there have given a large quantity of excellent books. Amazing work has been done by ‘our book scouts’ who have bought large amounts from charity shops both locally and further afield. A teaching assistant, Janyce, at St Chrysostom’s School has done amazing work in this area. We’ve also encouraged links with some churches in more affluent areas to help us and some charity shops have even looked out for donations of large sets of high quality books and alerted us.

The response has simply been amazing. We have received hundreds and hundreds of excellent quality books. They were all then carefully sorted into age groups and we had our first book sale at St John’s CE School, Longsight recently. Miss Mercer, assistant head at the school marshalled children to organise the sale itself in the school playground at the end of the school day . They did so with energy and enthusiasm and gained skills in mental maths, managing money and customer service, as well as knowing they were doing something worthwhile for their own community, and for another community across the world at the same time.

A busy sale of the books

We charged very low prices for the books and a huge number were sold to a large number of different parents and carers. It was lovely to see some families able to afford to get their own copies of Harry Potter and many more wonderful books!   The money raised at the book sale itself has been dedicated to help a school in Gambia desperately in need of resources. So not only does Olympias Books help provide children with good books, it encourages connections in the community and supports a needy school in Africa.

The next step? We are continuing to collect and build up more partnerships, and we’re also having an Olympias Books church book sale soon, this time of books for adults, money from which will support the children’s books initiative.

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Inspiring Books: The choices of two retired priests

Wondering what to read this Summer? Well we’ve a few suggestions for Summer reading soon, but before we get to our Summer selection we’ve a few more in our Inspiring Books series. These two choices are from two retired priests who are part of our community at St Chrysostom’s.

First of all Fr Julian writes: I am not actually recommending this book, (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius  ed. Louis J. Puhl S.J.), but I am saying for me it is an Inspiring Book. In fact the book is as exciting as a car maintenance manual. What I do recommend is doing the exercises – under the guidance of a spiritual director. In fact the book is a set of instructions giving advice to the director. Whilst continuing to work I spent a leisurely nine months doing the exercises, praying each day. My faith told me that God loved me; but through the meditations I experienced that love, filled my heart with that love, fresh each day – and wherever there is the divine love there is great joy and spiritual freedom as well. One terrifying result oif doing the exercises was the great discomfort of losing all my doubts – ‘Then it is all true’ I said in my prayer. But when your doubts are taken away you have nowhere to hide – you give yourself totally to the service of God’s Kingdom. Later in training in how to give the exercises I came to treasure this dull foreboding book.

And our second choice is from Canon Alma Servant:  The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (Vintage Paperback 2010). Alma writes:

 Edmund de Waal’s book describes a journey to Japan, and all across Europe. He is tracing the history of the 264 wood and ivory carvings which he inherited from his great-uncle. His travels also uncover the story of his father’s family, dispossessed by the Nazis, because they were Jewish and rich. Of all their wealth, only the carvings, the ‘netsuke’ survive. A brilliantly researched and written book. It has won three literary prizes. One of my all time favourites.

What a wonderful variety of different books, from a wide variety of people, we are being shown in this series. This post is the ninth in our ongoing series in which different people share their Inspiring Books, for the first post, the choices of two University Librarians,  click here. and for the second, the choice of two students, click here. In the third post two women priests gave their choices here.  We crossed the sea to the US for our fourth post the choice of  two young ladies – here. Our fifth choice was from two local children and teachers, and two cathedral deans offered their choices here. Then, in our seventh choice two life sentenced prisoners gave their choices, here. And after this two bishops gave choices.

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Cycling and Singing the distance for MIND

5 singers, 5 Bikes, 1,000 miles, 14 concerts – and tonight’s concert was at St Chrysostom’s.

We were delighted to welcome the Song Cyclists – five young men who are cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 14 days, giving a concert each evening, all in aid of Mind, the Mental Health Charity.

The enthusiasm and dedication of the young men shone throughout the evening. We heard music from different centuries, different regions of the UK, and wide ranging in style. Durufle’s Ubi Caritas was simply exquisite and I can go the distance from ‘Hercules’ was a moving encore in a special event.

We had a lovely varied audience, all of whom enjoyed a very special evening. Here are just a few of the comments we received:

What a beautiful and inspiring evening. It was great to see young men standing up for mental health issues in such a creative way.

Absolutely fantastic, a very uplifting and inspirational evening for a worthwhile, often overlooked, charity

I loved it – the contemporary music at the end lifted me. The whole event had a sense of great purpose and vibrancy

Thoroughly enjoyable – fantastic.

Well done, Song cyclists!

We were reminded during the concert that there most common form of death for men under 35 is suicide, and we heard of the outstanding work MIND. Jonny Venvell, one of the singers says: “Having witnessed first-hand the debilitating effects of mental illness, particularly among musicians, I feel privileged to be able to contribute to the great work Mind are doing in destigmatising and treating mental health problems.”

You can support the Song Cyclists in their amazing project find out more on their website and why not give a donation to support them?

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Take care, Tutivillus may be about.

Who knows – who cares… Where can you find the proper texts for the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the Divine Office?

Tutivillus recording gossip. A medieval carving in Ely Cathedral.

This tantalising question was asked by one of the priests on the coach during our recent pilgrimage to Ladyewell. Well, we have to admit it wouldn’t have been a question taxing the minds of many that day. It’s a question which would cause our protestant gremlin, which we believe to sometimes try and keep us in order at St Chrysostom’s church, to have a fit.  Nevertheless it occupied the priests on the coach for a few moments! The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the day after the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but the texts for the feast don’t follow the Sacred Heart texts in the breviary. What a puzzle!

What do we think of this?

First of all, in a world with it’s problems, and priesthood can have many stresses, a not very serious approach to liturgical technicalities (without obsessiveness) can bring a smile, and a twinkle to the eye and  lead to light hearted diversion. So let’s take things lightly!

Secondly, don’t forget Tutivillus.

For those who don’t know him here is a helpful definition:

In the Middle Ages in popular and theological belief alike, demons were everywhere – ready to pounce upon the souls and bodies of the unwary, to deceive and trick even the most saintly. Indeed, the least deviation from the “right path,” or even from faithful thoughts, cleared the way for their crafty attacks.

About 1220 Cardinal de Vitry, whom Pope Gregory XI admired, described a holy man who saw a devil (Tutivillus) weighed down with a full sack. “When, the holy man commanded the demon to tell what he carried, the evil one said: “These are the syllables and syncopated words and verses of the psalms, mistakes of the clergy made in the saying of the public prayers …  you can be sure I am keeping these diligently for their accusation.””

Oh my! It’s important to get things right lest Tutivillus’ sack gets bigger and bigger.

And finally; The proper texts for the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are found in the section of  texts for saints’ days, after the Feast of the Visitation of Mary, at the very end of May.

Now what’s the next tantalising question to answer to address before Tutivillus can get his sack out?

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Pray Vespers at 5pm with us!

Wherever you are this Summer, at 5pm (or about that time) we invite you to join us in Vespers. We invite you, if you wish, to choose a specific day or days when you will say vespers on our rota – wherever in the world you happen to be. Just choose a day or days in the period July 23rd to September 1st inclusive and join in!

We’ve developed this lovely ‘Pray vespers’ tradition at St Chrysostom’s over the years. At two different seasons, we invite friends to join us in prayer wherever they are. Whether you are in Beijing or Bognor, Malaysia or Manchester, YOU are invited to  join in wherever you are, and “Pray Vespers!

All you have to do is follow this link: Take me to Vespers

This will take you to the form of Vespers for the day which we are encouraging people to use (of course you can use a different version if you prefer).

We believe the version we suggest is simple to read and follow.

Click here for another version – slightly longer but good too. (In this we suggest going from the psalm to the second Bible reading (missing out the first Bible reading and what follows it)).

So why not join with others who have already said that they will do this?

We invite people to volunteer through our church Facebook group or you can simply e mail (office [at] stchrysostoms.co.uk )with offered dates. It’s great if people can share a photo on the day you say Vespers – perhaps a selfie, showing where they are.

Prayer is never alone – we are always joined by others – and it’s lovely to remember that as we pray at 5pm we join in with other members of our congregation in praise and worship.

#PrayVespers at 5pm!


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An interest in the Saviour’s Blood

At a recent wedding at St Chrysostom’s a black African pastor enthusiastically prayed that the couple may be covered in the blood of Jesus. It was an uncomfortable image for  me, and one very rarely used at St Chrysostom’s. However, it was clear that the prayer was very sincerely meant and understood by many present.

I was reminded of a keen evangelical visitor to the prison in which I once worked. She was asked by a prisoner if she was a Christian. ‘Yes, indeed,’ was the reply ‘born again, spirit filled and washed in the blood of the lamb.’ Wow! Sometimes, I couldn’t help womderig what the prisoner made of that – christians often speak a very ‘in house’ language. No doubt I do in my way too.

I’m happy to speak about and reflect on ‘the Body of Christ,’ but ‘the Blood of Christ’ is more uncomfortable for me. Yet there it is, said at Mass day by day as Holy Communion is given.

The full name of the popular feast Corpus Christi is Corpus et Sanguis Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. Until recently there was a annual feast in the Roman Catholic Church – the Feast of the Precious Blood. There is an Anglican order of nuns called the Society of the Precious Blood.

In both Catholic and Protestant traditions ‘the Blood of Christ’ has devotional significance to many. For many Christians just as June is the month of the Sacred Heart so July is the month of the Precious Blood. A popular hymn of the founder of Methodism, Charles Wesley begins And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Saviour’s blood? and from a different tradition we sing louder still and louder praise the precious blood.

So what am I to make of this? Well, first of all I’d have to say Christian faith and devotion is wonderfully varied, as indeed is the Catholic tradition. What suits some doesn’t suit others.

However, reflecting further… We talk of ‘life blood,’ the force the energy that goes through the body and gives life. We can use the words more figuratively. We can say, for example, that love is the life blood of marriage. In this way the words the ‘Blood of Christ’ can have helpful meaning and spiritual insight for me. The heart pumps blood through the body, the Sacred Heart of Christ spreads Christ’s life blood though the universe. In this month of the Precious Blood I can indeed pray that the Precious Life Blood of Christ, the loving power of Jesus, may enliven, inspire, wash us,  and spread though the whole of creation.

Fr Ian

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Welcome, Fr Sydwell

Deacons at the ordination Mass, Sydwell second from left

Welcome to Fr Sydwell Isaac, our new curate!

Sydwell was born in Elliot in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa and grew up in Cape Town. He is the fourth of his parents’ nine children – Sydwell has seven brothers and a sister, and all are still in South Africa. Sydwell grew up in the repression of apartheid. Childhood was tough. It was not easy for black children to go to school, and there was an atmosphere of fear and threat. By the age of twelve Sydwell had been taught how to use a gun. At the time black people could be detained for 90 days for no given reason, and during that time they would be treated harshly as they were interrogated. Families fled to avoid detention, Sydwell and his family for a time lived in the hills in his home area to avoid security forces.

Eventually under the guidance of a kind teacher Sydwell moved to Ngcobo, a quieter town and it was here, at All Saints Anglican church that at the age of sixteen he first had his call to priesthood. In the church black and white people mixed, but outside the church building it was forbidden to do so.

In Ngcobo Sydwell first met his wife Piwe. They were married in 1989. In 2003 they moved to England, first to Sheffield and then in 2007 they settled in Manchester.

Sydwell has been studying and preparing for priesthood in recent years, and comes now as curate at St Chrysostom’s. Piwe is a nurse and they have two grown up daughters, Ona and Usie.

Sydwell with friends and family and Bishop Ashcroft at the ordination

Sydwell enjoys going to the gym, road running, catching up on the news and watching football. When asked what a favourite meal would be he replied steak and chips, followed by trifle. So maybe we’ll ask him to organise a Church steak evening at Church.

We pray for blessing on Father Sydwell and his family as they become part of our Christian community at St Chrysostom’s.

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