Christ in the beggar at the Church door

The king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25.34-40)

The Gospel challenges us to see Christ in the hungry, the imprisoned, the stranger, those in need of clothing …

How do we respond?

Well, many churches, St Chrysostom’s included, seek to welcome the stranger, collect food for the hungry, and clothing for those who need it. This is kind and Christian work. It is to be encouraged, and in part this is what our Bakhita project at St Chrysostom’s works to do in our local area. Without doubt such work must be a Christian priority.

Our own patron saint, John Chrysostom says:

More challenge to our way of looking at things! In posts that follow we’ll look a little more at this challenge. For now here is a question:

If Christ is ‘in the beggar at the Church door’ or in the stranger who comes to us, or in those in need of food or clothing – then what is Christ, in those people saying to us?

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Working together in mission – that’s Ecumenism!

Here at St Chrysostom’s we are developing our outreach work among the needy of our parish and beyond. This is a part all our church members can have a part in – it is our Bakhita Project. We collect clothing and food for the homeless, the trafficked, local hostels etc. We provide our conversation classes for trafficked people… And our work is ecumenical we are delighted that members of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches support us in this work too.

Here is an article from the RC Passionist family in England about the cooperation – and we are so grateful to them for a special icon in church to encourage us in our work together:

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Modern Slavery – the response of one Church of England Parish

On the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita, and on the eve of the day when the General Synod of the Church of England considers Human Slavery, Fr Ian sent this briefing note to some General Synod reps.

I’m emailing with a note on our experience here at St Chrysostom’s on Modern Slavery.

Since our project at St Chrysostom’s began to help those freed from slavery we have assisted between 400 and 500 people, the majority being men. (This is to do with hostel locations – the majority of those in slavery are, of course women). The men have been trafficked for labour or for the sex trade. They often come from such countries as Romania, Hungary, Baltic States, Vietnam, but also it should be noted a few are from within England and from Ireland.

We assist through conversation classes, providing clothing, helping with special events, and other help we can. We have organised walks, and with the help of the Whitworth Gallery art classes. One of the art classes was attended by Mary Robinson (former Irish President and UN Commissioner) who was very encouraging of the work and emphasised the need to be alert to the fact that men trafficked could be forgotten.

A key point we have discovered is the importance of being simply welcoming, and being friendly – this is crucial for those who so often are profoundly lacking in self esteem.

We have also run evenings to help those in agencies, and those living in the locality, to look for signs of trafficking. These have been attended by police officers, university staff, and NHS staff as well as local residents. These have been run by local agencies also working with the trafficked.

We have found that forming partnerships is essential. We particularly work closely with the Medaille Trust. We have a team of volunteers from our church, and sixth formers from Manchester Grammar School help in the conversation class, as well as other volunteers from the community. The ratio volunteer to ‘client’ has, understandably to be low – sometimes two volunteers or even three to a client to help general and supportive conversation.

We have found generous response in our local area to appeals for material help – especially clothing.

We all know this is a huge problem and so often unseen. For example, we had a regular worshipper at Church who when in hospital admitted to us that they had been trafficked for the sex trade and physically abused by a person they lived with. Because the person was in England ‘illegally’ they were afraid to go to the police. We were able to act as an advocate and friend, and fortunately months later the position was regularised and now they are building up a new life and continue to worship with us.

We have, then, found issues for individuals can be very complicated. Many who come here as trafficked people are afraid, or have no desire, to return to their home country and would rather go homeless here. Some have been trafficked by a family member, or key person in their home community. A significant number have little or no English, and suffer from mental health issues, and addiction problems.

Of course it is right that bodies like synods speak out and seek laws which address this blight on our society. Awareness of the magnitude and closeness of the issue is so important. In the Church of England the Clewer Trust does excellent work with limited resources. Locally the Mothers’ Union has helped us too. Significantly the MGS boys who help received first place in a national award from the Goldsmith’s Company for their work with us in helping the trafficked. This is work where the Church can and should work closely with other agencies.

I believe quite strongly that local churches can, with help, do more – not least in the area of a generous welcome, friendship and pastoral care for those who have been trafficked and those who work to ‘rehabilitate’ them. This is something not to be afraid of – complex issues of status and repatriation etc. are rightly dealt with by others, the church can be a place of welcome and friendly sanctuary. We have learned much from those who have come to us – especially lessons of hope and resilience in difficult circumstances. We would strongly maintain that our work is very much part of, and has enriched our inclusive agenda.

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77

77% of men suffer from anxiety, depression or stress at some point in their lives, Fr Chris writes, – an extremely large number, and a frightening statement . Men have to be known by their peers and by their families for their resilience to the pressures which we all have. For men to show emotion is for them to appear weak and vulnerable, and there is those much hackneyed phrases used to question the masculinity of men who do show emotion – exhortation to “man up” etc.

Our Facebook group emphasised the point this week.  Mental health issues – depression, anxiety, stress – can cause us all to stop in our tracks, and can show itself in many ways. (Changes in personality, someone’s diet, appearance, demeanour, mood and so on can indicate that someone is having problems).

As a church we can be a lifeline for someone suffering in this way.  We can facilitate the opening of church at set times where people can access a quiet space, a place to pray and be still, a place with a welcome smiling face, a place where all are welcome and can experience the unconditional acceptance that comes from God.

Routine is so important for good mental, and spiritual, health. A routine of prayer, of course, but for someone suffering with anxiety or depression it is important to know that at a specific time they can access our church.

Space, acceptance and routine can be a lifesaver.  We don’t need to have answers or expertise- that is for others -we need to provide the comfort of patience and stability, a harbour in the storm of life.

The last two years has seen us all facing exceptional challenges regardless of our gender, ethnicity etc. As a church we can offer the hand of friendship.

We all need extra help at times and here is a link to a booklet of useful contacts for our area of South Manchester published by Manchester Local Care Organisation:

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Giving Thanks for Alan

We gathered on Saturday 15th January to give thanks for the life and inspiring example of Alan Beck, our much loved churchwarden. Despite the Covid restrictions many people travelled to be there and there was a lovely atmosphere in Church.

People from different times of Alan’s life were present with Vivienne, Alan’s twin sister, and members of their family from Dublin. There were a huge range of Alan’s friends present and of course many from our congregation. It was lovely to see several who had benefitted from Alan’s work through the language classes for trafficked people at Church.

It was certainly inspiring to hear how much Alan has done to stand up for injustice, to teach others, and to welcome and care for so many. It was clear that these threads were present through his life, and not least in his very active retirement when he based much of his life at St Chrysostom’s and made and encourage many friends there.

Vivienne and Stephen, a dear friend of Alan, placed a statue of St Philomena in Church during the service. The statue was a gift of Alan who had a great devotion to the saint.

Alan has given his friends and family much. He has given St Chrysostom’s a great deal and we will build on the goof work he encouraged – not least in our Bakhita Project of community care and outreach to trafficked and homeless people of our area.

People were invited to contribute memories of Alan and these were collated and distributed at the Thanksgiving Mass. They can be read below, and a copy of the order of service of the Thanksgiving Mass can be read there too. Further memories can be added through posting as a comment, below.

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Venerable Elizabeth Prout – Mother Mary Joseph CP

We are pleased that our ‘Bakhita Project’ from St C’s is developing. The project is the name we give to our community outreach work, and includes our work for the trafficked, the homeless etc. We call the project ‘Bakhita’ after St Joosephine Balhita, a Sudanese woman who was trafficked. Our Chi Rho group at Church is overseeing our Bakhita Project, and has nominated Venerable Elizabeth Prout as a ‘patron saint’ too along with Josephine Bakhita. Wayne, of our congregation, has kindly contributed this information about Elizabeth Prout (commemorated on January 11th):

Elizabeth Prout was born in Shrewsbury, England, in 1820. Her parents baptised her in the Anglican Church.  In her early twenties she became a Roman Catholic.

Elizabeth moved to Manchester in 1849.  There, touched by the misery and deprivation of the poor, she and a few companions came together to form a community to help the voiceless, downtrodden workers in the large industrial towns of nineteenth-century England. In Manchester Elizabeth worked self sacrificially in whatever way she could to assist the destitute of Manchester. In particular she visited the sick and poor in some of the most deprived areas, taught children and provided educational and training opportunities for women, especially mill workers.

The community was directed and helped by two Passionists, Father Gaudentius Rossi CP and Father Ignatius Spencer CP.  The rule was based on that of St Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists.  Elizabeth recognised that the Passion of Jesus is the great sign of God’s love reaching out to those in pain.

Now known as Mother Mary Joseph, Elizabeth continued to meet the challenges presented to her in her life of suffering, and to grow in solidarity with the crucified of the world.  She died on 11th January 1864 at Sutton, St Helens, Lancashire. In recent years a call has been made to canonise her and in 2021 the Vatican declared her to be ‘Venerable’ – a step towards canonisation.

Her body, together with that of Blessed Dominic Barberi CP. and Venerable Ignatius Spencer CP., lies in the shrine of St Anne’s Church, Sutton.  People gather around the shrine annually to commemorate their lives.

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Tutufication of the Church

Desmond Tutu in 1998.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has left a wonderful legacy to the Church. It’s a spirit of courage and joy, a boldness in proclaiming the Gospel especially in the face of injustice, and a tempering of this with good humour and love.

Canon Mark Oakley, Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge posted this challenging tweet on December 26th. A wonderful challenge for church leaders, and other christians too, for 2023. Fr Mark also wrote to The Times:

And here he coined the wonderful word ‘Tutufication’ This year, 2023, lets work on ‘Tutufication’ – by standing up ‘with grace and good humour’ for freedom, justice, rights of minorities and the overlooked. And we can do that in our parish situation here at St Chrysostom’s, as indeed we try to in our church work and worship, and we can do this beyond the parish too.

Let’s take up Fr Mark Oakley’s challenge, and lets encourage one another to do so. It would be a wonderful tribute to Desmond Tutu: #Tutufication

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The Announcement of Easter & the Moveable Feasts 2022

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2022 Veni Creator Spiritus: God Knows!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

In 1939 the then Princess Elizabeth gave to her father, King George VI, a copy of a poem. It became famous when the King quoted it in his 1939 Christmas Broadcast. The poem,  God Knows is by Minnie Louise Haskins. It encourages hope and trust in God at a difficult time. The section the King quoted was:

opened-gate 1And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Hope and trust in God, leading us into the future, are appropriate things to ponder and pray for at the beginning of a New Year, and surely this is particularly true as we move into 2022. Hope and trust are qualities to encourage in ourselves and others.

At Mass on New Years Day at St Chrysostom’s we join with Christians all over the world in following the Christian tradition of praying together, Veni Creator Spiritus, asking for the Spirit of God, to inspire and guide us as we begin a new year. We pray for hope and trust in God.

VENI, Creator SpiritusWhy not, as part of your personal prayer, join your voice with other Christians and pray this ancient hymn perhaps in the traditional form of John Cosin, (Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire). You can listen to it sung at St Paul’s Cathedral, here,  from time to time at Mass at St Chrysostom’s we use the less well known but also poetic version of John Dryden, (Creator Spirit by whose aid).

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Te Deum Laudamus! The past year

Giving thanks with Angels The Angels window in the Anson Chapel at St Chrysostoms

Giving thanks with Angels
The Angels window in the Anson Chapel
at St Chrysostoms

So often the news seems to be worrying or even upsetting, this has been so true in 2021.  

It’s hardly surprising that many end the year tired and perhaps a little bewildered. The blight of the Coronavirus has affected us all. However, let’s be careful in case we slip into being too negative. We’d not want to be people who find it difficult to see what is good and beautiful.

There has been good news, and among the awful times there have been positives too. The Positive News website gives us 26 positive news items to be thankful for in 2021. Have a look, and be thankful!

Why not pause and look back over 2021? Can you list some positives of last year? We may not be able to reach 99 reasons but we will surprise ourselves by how many reasons we can find. It is a good and honoured Christian tradition to ‘count our blessings,’ many of them simple and everyday.

As the year ends it is ‘good to give thanks and praise.’ Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures for ever. (Psalm 107.1)

Saying ‘Thank You’ to God is at the heart of the Christian faith, and it’s at the heart of our worship. Another name for the Mass is Eucharist, a Greek word meaning thanksgiving.

One good tradition many Christians follow at the end of the year is to say or sing the ancient hymn Te Deum Laudamus (We Praise you, O God). It’s found in many prayer books of many Christian traditions.

“Te Deum laudamus! We praise you, O God! The Church suggests that we should not end the year without expressing our thanks to the Lord for all his benefits. It is in God that our last hour must come to a close, the last hour of time and history. To overlook this goal of our lives would be to fall into the void, to live without meaning. Hence the Church places on our lips the ancient hymn Te Deum. It is a hymn filled with the wisdom of many Christian generations, who feel the need to address on high their heart’s desires, knowing that all of us are in the Lord’s merciful hands.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)

Stanford BfSo as the year ends give thanks for blessings received, and why not say a Te Deum Laudamus?

Click here for an English version of Te Deum Laudamus from Common Worship, or if you prefer the traditional English language version click here.

Why not take a moment and pause to listen to it, for example in the glorious version sung at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 – Stanford in B Flat. (Sung by Winchester Cathedral Choir here). Or if you’d prefer a traditional plainsong version here it is sung by the Monks of Solesmes.

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