金継ぎ Kintsugi – beauty in brokenness

In 15th Century Japan the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa is said to have broken a much loved tea cup. He sent it back to China to be repaired. It was returned fixed with ugly metal staples, leading Yoshimasa to find a better way to make the repair. His craftsmen developed a technique of gluing pieces of pottery back together using a distinctive glue mixed with gold, leaving a beautiful join that spoke of the object’s history. So began the distinctive art of Kintsugi.

Examples of the beauty and variety of Kintsugi

In her sermon at the ordination of priests at Manchester Cathedral recently Revd Hilary Ison skilfully used this image to talk of our human brokenness and God’s loving action in our lives. Of course, in a sermon on such an important occasion Hilary said many things but what particularly stood out for me, writes Fr Ian, was this striking image of ourselves and God’s grace and love.

Each of us knows brokenness and failure. For some life is in many fragments, for others the pieces are coming together and being rebuilt. Kintsugi recognises brokenness as within the history of the object. The broken pieces are skilfully and carefully joined by the artist and the restored object has new life and an additional beauty of its own with the gold lacquer contributing to the reformed object.

Allowing ourselves to be reshaped by the love and  grace of God brings to ourselves change and a new beauty as threads of gold, God’s grace, gloriously restore us and strengthen us. We are renewed, and our brokenness is held together by the golden threads of God’s grace. The golden grace is inherently part of our renewed selves.

Hilary’s sermon concluded with apt words of a singer she admired as a student:

ring the bells that still can ring
forget your perfect offering
there’s a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in
– Leonard Cohen, “The Anthem”

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Conjubilant

A celebration Mass, Benediction with a Bishop, one day, then the next day a Confirmation and a church meal together with four birthdays being celebrated,  … what a varied and joyful time we had in a short period.

Here’s the definition of Conjubilant from the Oxford English Dictionary

It’s been a time of rejoicing, not only for these public church events, but also people have been celebrating more personal events too – the end of exams, family celebrations etc.

 

It’s always good to name the positives, it’s good as Christians to share good news and celebrate.

We have been “conjubilant!” Now there’s a splendid, and rather rare, word. It appeared in the last hymn at Mass on Sunday. At the end of Mass Fr Ian repeated the word encouraging us to be conjubilant, and afterwards he challenged a group of young adults gathered after Mass to see if they could weave the word into normal conversation during the week – it became a St Chrysostom’s word for the week!

When priests stand at the altar together at Sunday Mass they ‘concelebrate’ – celebrate together. Of course, in one sense, we all celebrate at Mass. The priests focus of our celebrating.

As we give thanks for many things either happening at our church, or in our personal lives we can share in that too. We can be jubilant together – we can be conjubilant.

As St Bernard of Cluny contemplated heaven he saw it as a wonderful city, and in the hymn we sang, based on his words, spoke of it as Jerusalem the golden. The halls of heaven, he wrote are ‘Conjubilant with song.’ Now, let’s hope that at times here on earth we get glimpses of God’s kingdom, God’s city. Perhaps at times when people of  different ages, and outlooks come together and are conjubilant we have a glimpse of the ‘sweet and blessèd country’ of which St Bernard writes.

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Happy, Blessed and Confirmed

Joy, prayer and enthusiasm surrounded us as  we celebrated the confirmation of seven children from St Chrysostom’s School. 

Following a tour of the school, and a school dinner, Bishop Mark led the children of Yrs 4 and 5 from school to to Church. The children come from many different faith backgrounds.

It was a lovely sight to see them walking together, and in church together. The service itself, at which two of the children were also baptised, was inspiring. Bishop Mark spoke of the value of friendship – with God, with one another. His encouraging words were appropriate for all faiths. The children were so attentive and involved. All the classes were a credit to the school, and Bishop Mark thanked both children and staff for giving him a special day too.

Congratulations to Joshua, Narcis, Jayson, Solomon, Keziah, Kayla, and Uranzaya who were confirmed. (Uranzaya and Jayson were also baptised). They commented ‘It was really wonderful…’ ‘I was very happy and blessed…’ ‘When I was confirmed I felt peaceful, holy and excited…’ ‘It was simply lovely…’

Mr Elswood, Executive Headteacher said: “In front of their peers the children declared their faith and knew the strength of support of the staff, friends and family.  A lovely afternoon service that it was a privilege to be witness to. Thanks to Father Ian and Bishop Mark for the warm welcome and enjoyable service.”

Mrs Heslop Yr4 teacher said: “It was such an honour to witness some of children get confirmed by Bishop Mark today. The service was wonderfully moving and Bishop Mark thoroughly charming and engaging as always. A joyous afternoon that left me with a beautiful sense of enlightenment. ”

“The children were wonderfully prayerful as they shared the joy of their friends’ Confirmation day” (Bishop Mark)

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20 memories, 20 years

I spent two and a half minutes today jotting down quickly twenty special points that came quickly to mind of the twenty years I have been Parish Priest at St Chrysostom’s, and for which I give thanks to God.

Here they are:

 

  1. Transitioning organist: One of the first people I met at St C’s was the then organist who was in the process of transitioning female to male. He underlined for me the acceptance and inclusivity of St C’s from my first day.
  2. Treasures of the church: Again from the early years a churchwarden described the children of the church as treasures of our church – picking up the words of St Laurence.
  3. Louise da Cocodia: her humble commitment and determination – and her hugely infectious laughter – will ever be a memory I treasure. She summed up so much of what St C’s stands for: sincere worship, inclusion, commitment to social issues and laughter.
  4. Committed people: in so many ways people have shown great commitment to what we stand for at St C’s. Some have only been with us a short time but made great impact; others longer.
  5. Students and young adults: we are so blessed as a congregation with many young adults. I appreciate their enthusiasm and fun.
  6. Growing: from a congregation of between 20 and 30 on a Sunday we have grown over the twenty years. We continue to, not just numerically, but in scope and style.
  7. Languages: It’s wonderful that week by week we usually have over 12 different first languages among us. Christmas and Easter, when we call out greetings in these different languages, are moving times, and witness to our inclusion.
  8. Liturgy: the rich, sensual Anglo Catholic liturgy of St Chrysostom’s is a great treasure for me. Singers, servers, altar party, everyone, all have their part in our worship.
  9. Welcoming the hurt: I value so much our welcome, especially of those who have been hurt or ostracised by others – including some other churches.
  10. Refugees and asylum seekers: our welcome extends to all, without question, and is so natural and relaxed. Our welcome is an inclusive people – recent arrivals quickly are fully part of our fellowship.
  11. Tenants: from the wonderfully eccentric Fr Ephrem Lash, of the Greek Church in my early days to our engaging Ethiopian friends today, from Pastor Braunston of the Metropolitan Church, to Pastor John of the Korean Church and more –  I value the wonderful committed people who have shared our space at church with us, for their traditions’ worship.
  12. Parish Assistants: What a wonderful range of young people we have encouraged in their vocations, over the last twenty years. It is so wonderful to see many now ordained and no doubt enriched by their time with us.
  13. Schools: A key feature of the last twenty years is the growth of strong relationships with our parish schools. It is always lovely to welcome children to church and to work with them in the schools.
  14. Threshold people: I very much appreciate that at St C’s we welcome people among us who are questioning, who are not sure what they believe. They are fully accepted among us – and help us accept and say that we all question at times.
  15. Prayer at 5pm: Our daily prayer at 5pm is well known, even by those who have never been. It is a special marker in the day, a time of prayer, silence before God and sacrament.
  16. Laughter: A big feature of our church. We laugh a lot, and often at ourselves. We worship as inclusive Anglo Catholics with twinkles in our eyes! We enjoy being there. St C’s lifts the soul!
  17. The marginalised: Homeless people, alcoholics, the abused, the trafficked – all bring something special to our church.
  18. Family: Kim and I married in our time at St C’s. Dominic, Gregory and Annie were baptised here. Lucy was married here. Wonderful moments I treasure.
  19. Priests: We are fortunate in having differing priests come and worship with us. Our assistants like Fr Chris, Tracy when she worked here, are or  have been great supports. Some priests have come into our congregation at a time of difficulty in ministry, some on retirement, some just pop in for a Sunday. Their presence affirms and encourages our ministry.
  20. The Mass: When I first came Kristof said to me how we were a richly diverse people united by the Mass. So true. Sunday Mass is the focus and the summit of all our life at St C’s. Thanks be to God!

Fr Ian

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Favourite churches: Twitter responses

Our @StChrys Twitter question of the week recently was ‘What is your favourite church – and why?’

We had a lovely range of replies. Some of the churches were simple and homely, some were large and majestic. Thank you to all who took an interest in and responded. Here is a collection of the responses.

Valerie Aitken @valeryanne chose St Nicholas, Perivale, London saying it is “where I was priest for 13 years. I oversaw the rebuilding of a crumbling building into an exciting new church and community space.

The wonderful people there so deserved the new church in which to express their love of God.”

Malcolm Young @MalcolmYoung perhaps not surprisingly went for …

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, where he is Dean. He writes: “It feels like a kind of heaven every time I step in the door. Thee church is older than any incorporated city in the state and making it work takes a host of volunteers stretching back all the way to its beginning.”

 

Anne Hindle @RevAnneHindle chose two very different churches:

“I love St Albans Abbey where I can absorb the prayerfulness and God-filled atmosphere; and teeny weeny Cotton Church in Staffordshire Moorlands, which now has a loo and kitchen.”

And back to the US for two more choices.

 

Tamra Beiber @35Godiva offers something different, with family connections:

Fort Sherman Chapel, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA. Childhood church. I remember my little brother, Paul, ringing the bell. I loved Sunday School there.

Rev Michele @Michele_Rev chooses similarly: “Blooming Grove Congregational Church, NY. It was my home church and family as a kid.”

And finally, back in the UK Jane Richards @janesrichards writes:

I love both churches in the parish I serve, St Andrews Holy Cross, Basildon, Essex – one is a fifties built building which while not pretty is full of love and the other is a 12th century gem where many find peace and tranquillity. Both very special places where the presence of God is very real.

You’ll find many other choices of favourite churches here on our church blog.

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Saying goodbye to the sisters

St Johns Rectory

In 2009 we were delighted to welcome sisters of the Community of the Holy Name to St John’s Rectory, in the east part of our parish. We welcomed them to help us develop and extend our work in the east part of the parish, by Longsight Market, and also to be a home for the sisters and for parish assistants. This was agreed with the blessing and encouragement of the Bishop of Manchester. The Diocese allows the house to be used, rent free, provided bills such as telephone, electricity and gas are paid. In November 2009 Bishop Mark, Bishop of Middleton, described the house as an answer to his prayers, and  blessed the house to be used by the sisters and parish assistants. (See here, from our blog in 2009).

Over the years the sisters have provided a gentle prayerful presence in the area and indeed in the diocese. They have helped create our house of hospitality used by many clergy of the diocese, and the sisters have become engaged in St Chrysostom’s church life, and pastoral work. For over twenty years the parish assistant scheme has provided many young adults with an opportunity to explore vocation in a place of welcome, variety and fun. Many parish assistants have gone on to ordination and we are rightly proud of them. At St John’s Rectory they have a friendly and homely place to live, and have clearly benefited from living there. The house provides a base for the our inclusive and prayerful style of ministry in that part of the parish.

Saying goodbye to Sr Jean and Sr Lynfa

Sr Jean and Sr Lynfa have been called back to the mother convent in Derby for health reasons, and we said goodbye to them on Sunday. We will greatly miss them. Sadly the Community of the Holy Name is an ageing community and is not able to replace the sisters. We are so grateful to the community for the contribution they have made to our parish and area by their prayerful presence and encouragement, and by the care they have shown to members of our church. We are planning ways to keep in touch with the sisters of CHN, and we will pray for them as they will for us.

St John’s Rectory is undoubtedly a great asset to parish and diocese. It is our hope in the parish to build on the sisters work and on the style developed over many years at St John’s Rectory. We hope that the house continues to be an asset to St Chrysostom’s, and indeed the diocese, as a place of prayer and hospitality in our parish, not least to parish assistants, and perhaps to religious of another community. Archbishop Justin created a community encouraging young people to take a year in God’s time – perhaps St C’s with diocesan support could create a similar community based at St John’s Rectory?

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Are you in to #EndHomelessness ?

FrIan writes: There is an appalling housing and homelessness problem in our city and area. In our own local parish here at St Chrysostom’s we see some very sad and some very difficult examples. We regularly have contact with men who have been trafficked. Sadly some of them choose to be homeless in our area rather than take up the offer of help to return to their homes. Each day I encounter at least one or two of these men locally.

The housing problems go well beyond such men. The waiting lists for those seeking more appropriate housing in our city are sadly very long. When I raised a concern I had for a family a housing officer gave a recent example of a house which has become vacant:

“It has 428 applicants bidding on it, many of which are from people living in temporary accommodation and in desperate situations. Another recent house has 328 bids on it.  On average when I looked at how long people are waiting in similar housing circumstances its between 2 to 2  1/2  years. For the last 3 years availability is decreasing across Manchester as properties just aren’t becoming empty.”

The housing and homelessness problem affects not only individuals but also families. A safe secure home is essential for good  family life.

Individually we can show our support to efforts to end homelessness. We can encourage local politicians to take action. We can support agencies and charities giving help to the homeless and those with acute housing problems.

The Archbishop of Canterbury encourages us to support Crisis, the national charity to help the homeless. One way you can show your support is by signing their petition at: https://campaigns.crisis.org.uk/page/24880/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=everybodyin

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