Pippa’s wonderful achievement

We are constantly amazed by the wonderful variety of things members of our fantastic church congregation do. Here’s a lovely example. Pippa Allen writes:

May be an image of Philippa Allen, standing and outdoors

“On Sunday, 3rd October, I did something I have always said “no” to when asked the question “would I ever run a marathon?”

At 10.49am I crossed the start line of the London Marathon. I had a plan to get me round, I had put in the training but nothing prepares you for the “wall”.

My wall came at 24k just after I had completed half the marathon. It was too early to hit the wall, everything hurt I wanted to quit there and then. However due to sheer stubbornness, determination and my inner coach I realised I just had to focus on a goal….30k, get to 30k and then plan again.

I got to 30k and then the rain and wind came I was at breaking point again and then I heard people shouting “go soldier go!” Sergeant Major Rupert appeared carrying 36lbs who just like me was struggling. However carrying 36lbs I think I would be struggling!

So we started chatting and I realised I wasn’t the only runner struggling so together we ran / walked the last 12k and we crossed that finish line after 6 hours 39 minutes.

Today I’m reflecting on what I achieved yesterday and I am super proud of my courage, determination, resilience and stubbornness. But what I am immensely proud of is my amazing family and friends I could not of done it without their support and belief that I could do it.”

... and as a Church we are so proud of Pippa. Congratulations to her.

Now we can show our congratulations by sponsoring Pippa – who in doing the marathon was raising money for Allergy UK.

Pippa writes: My chosen charity is Allergy UK,  a charity close to my heart who have provided my family with invaluable resources, support and information since my daughter Grace was born. Grace was diagnosed with a suspected milk allergy a few weeks after she was born and officially diagnosed with a milk allergy at aged one.

So let’s show generous support by donating at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/philippa-allen2

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The gift of a drawing

During the Summer Mtr Kim returned from a visit to Church to tell me there was a beautiful drawing of the church on the kitchen counter and we’d need to take care to look after it.

I was puzzled. I couldn’t work out what Kim was referring to. When I later went into church I discovered the remarkable drawing above, and when I asked Alan, churchwarden, he explained. Totally unknown to us one of the trafficked men who attended our language classes and who regulalrly comes to Sunday Mass had spent a great deal of time painstakingly drawing the church, and once he had completed the drawing he brought it to church as a gift to us.

The detail is amazing. The drawing, writing and the dove are all the artist’s work and make a very special gift for us at Church. We are so grateful to him for this very special gift which we have since framed, and it is at present on display in church. We’ve also had the drawing scanned so that we can use it in our church publicity and social media.

THANK YOU so much to our gifted artist, who has obviously spent hours of very careful work in creating this wonderful drawing for us.

Fr Ian

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Alan writes: “My faith changes – it grows stronger”

Alan, churchwarden, is seriously ill, we hold him in our thoughts and prayers, and, of course, miss his friendly presence at Church. Alan has kindly written us this as an encouragement to us all at St Chrysostom’s. He describes how, in prayer and imagination, he is praying and finding solace in being in prayer with us at Church.

I have a mission: to be an example. I keep in the faith, however long and changing and lonely my journey is. I fast. I feel I am fed by the prayers of my Church family. I say their names. I unpack their regular “postbag” of prayers in the night, when I need those prayers the most.  My faith changes – it grows stronger. Outside, I fill in longer medical forms, but my spiritual diagnosis becomes simpler: kneeling (not physically), waiting, happier.

My priests faithfully bring me communion. I am so thankful to them for staying with me. I am not alone when I receive. I feel I walk up St C’s central aisle, surrounded.

Saying the Rosary, my hand is on the pedestal of Our Lady of Welcome at Church, with Ann’s flowers alongside me. Ann’s faithful flowers are our incense of prayer.

Saying the Lord’s Prayer, for forgiveness, I am in front of my favourite of the Stations of the Cross – the First. You have to make an effort to view it fully. It is the most dramatic: “We accuse”. Her face obscured, there is the slave girl. I pray for all the trafficked. That First Station forever includes them,  even though they are hidden behind that girl. When the artist made that Station, the Project for Trafficked Men was still in the future. Saint C’s now remembers them, among humanity’s sins.

When I say “Hallelujah”, I am in front of my favourite window, the Transfiguration, in the Anson Chapel. This Christ challenges and his face is never still, to my eyes, a pretaste of Heaven. We know we must “come down from that mountain”. I am now ready to climb to it for the last time, and when He wills.

My two arms are spread out – the First Station, Our Lady of Welcome, the Transfiguration. I raise my head to our wonderful East End Crucifix – our Christ in Glory. He is my Lord of Judgement. His arms open wide. This is the gift of Father Ian. It brings the whole Church together.

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Five new lay ministers at St C’s

We’ve five new Authorised Lay Ministers (ALMs) at St Chrysostom’s. They were commissioned at Manchester cathedral by the Bishop of Manchester today, Sunday 26th September

We are so grateful to them for offering themselves for this role, and for taking the time to do the training. We are also very grateful to those who have helped and supported them, not least in difficult Covid days, including the course tutors but also those who have worked to help them in our own parish particularly Fr Admos and Alan. We have found this training course to be a valuable resource, not least in helping our ALMs meet others in the same position. We are grateful to the diocese for providing it.

Our five new ALMs are Blessing, Khodabaksh, David, Gideon and Maryam. It was lovely that Maryam read at the service in the Cathedral from Psalm 19 (v 7-14). We were proud that our ALMs raised very significantly the number of BAME ALMs at the commissioning.

Each of the ALMs has a specific area of work, and within that area will have duties at church relating to the area. Maryam’s area of training was Children and Families, and Maryam will be helping with Kharis, our Sunday School, Khodabaksh will be working in the area of Ecology and Creation, encourage us to care for God’s creation in our church and homes. Blessing trained in the pastoral care and listening area and will assist with care in our parish. Gideon trained in worship and liturgy and will be helping us in that area, especially with informal all age worship. David trained in the prayer and spiritulaity area and will be bringing the skills he has learned to assist growth in those areas at Church.

Each of the ALMs has a brief job description which they agree after discussion and help from Fr Admos.

This is a very encouraging sign for us at St Chrysostom’s as we seek to equip our people more and more for ministry and christian living. As we welcome our new ALMs please pray for them and encourage them as they develop their role among us.

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Delighting in what is around us: A Victorian inspiration

Why do I keep this voluminous journal? I can hardly tell. Partly because life seems to me such a curious and wonderful thing that it seems a pity that even such a humble and uneventful life as mine should pass altogether away without some such record as this, and partly too because I think the record may amuse and interest some who come after me.”

Many years after these words were written the twenty two closely written notebooks containing the diaries were discovered. They are the work of the Revd Francis Kilvert who for most of his sadly short life kept a diary. Born in 1841 Kilvert died on 23rd September 1879 at the age of thirty eight, only five weeks after his marriage.

Nothing greatly newsworthy, exciting or spectacular happened to this rural priest. Between 1865 and 1872 Kilvert was curate at Clyro, a parish which covered an area between Herefordshire and Wales. These years seem to have been Kilvert’s happiest years. He was a very caring and pastoral priest who was deeply concerned to visit his parishioners who lived in and around Clyro, where he served as their priest. He was fond of the people and they were fond of him.

What is so special about Kilvert is his sensitive powers of observation. Everyday life to him was not ordinary and humdrum. He saw it as curious and wonderful, and indeed, enjoyable. He had eyes to see, and he used them to notice the beauty of the coutryside and life around hime, as well as loving his people and noting their charm and their little quirks. He saw beauty, but also hardship and poverty. He was a kind, thoughtful and shrewd man whose lovely writing bring to life for us today the countryside and people of over 150 years.

In this season of creation, newly introduced into the Church’s Calendar we do well to remember, honour, and be inspired by people like Kilvert who used his eyes to see the wonder and variety of creation around him, and the individuality of people. He marvelled at it all. His writing and example ‘amuse and interest’ today and call us, who live so often uneventful lives to look around and wonder at what we see.

Clyro and part of ‘Kilvert country’

There is a lovely documentary made by Sir John Betjeman reflecting on Kilvert’s diary for BBC Cymru Wales in 1976 on YouTube here. Do watch it if you have time.

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The Gift of a Poem

What a lovely and appropriate poem! Visiting St Chrysostom’s, or to give it its full title Rules for Visiting St Chrysostom’s.

Dr Andrew Rudd, a creative writing lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, kindly led a quiet evening, The Womam at the Well, in November 2019. (See here)

We are now delighted that Andrew has now kindly written this poem for us. In fact he has adapted it from a poem he wrote for Manchester Cathedral when he was poet in residence there. We are very grateful for this gift – another of the unexpected gifts church has received this summer.

We have had the poem enlarged and added it to a photograph of the Church interior.

It now stands close to the entrance of Church to encourage us, and all who come into our church to visit in a spiritual way. The poem invites us to take time to be still and to use the sacred space of St Chrysostom’s as a space to refresh the soul.

The poem helps us to spiritually see into the objects in church, candles, seats, silence…. and invites us to take a journey around our church. Do please read and reflect on the poem, especially when you are in church – perhaps taking one verse at a time and looking, listening – sensing the object about which the poet writes.

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The inspiration of La Salette

In 1865 Brooke Foss Westcott, at the time a noted academic and New Testament scholar and later to be Bishop of Durham, visited the shrine of Mary at La Salette, near Grenoble in France. Here, nineteen years before Westcott’s visit, two young children Melanie and Maximin were tending their village’s cows when they saw a vision of a beautiful lady, and spoke to her.

Later the lady was identified as the Virgin Mary. La Salette became, and 175 years later remains a place of pilgrimage, a beautiful, unique and remote place which I found to be deeply spiritual. (See an earlier post: here)

Westcott was a clear thinking scholar, a man of deep faith, but not one who would have described himself as an Anglo Catholic. However his visit to La Salette inspired him. He wrote a paper about what the inspiration he gained at La Salette. Unfortunately it was not published. Nevertheless it greatly impressed his friends J B Lightfoot (at the time Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and also a future Bishop of Durham) and E W Benson (to become later Archbishop of Canterbury).

That such an event – an apparition to two illiterate peasant children should make such an impression on such great leaders in the Church of England in the nineteenth and early twentieth century is quite remarkable. It reveals an openness and generosity to an expression of faith different from theirs, and this, in a way, is the message of La Salette for us today. A message which can be listened to, as it was by Westcott, Lightfoot and Benson, by us today.

In their vision Melanie and Maximin were told to pray, even just by saying the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary, morning and evening. They were called to realise how close God is to the world and how God feels for the world, and they were called to share this message. Their message, the message of Mary, was accepted in faith, and miracles began to be attributed to La Salette and the power of prayer there. Westcott himself heard the accounts of some of the miracles at La Salette and wrote:

‘Sans croire, comment l’expliquer’ – without believing how can this be explained? At La Salette pilgrims, like Westcott, and indeed like myself, have experienced the power, strength and significance of belief.

Fr Ian

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The Gift of a Cross

When we hear the call to ‘give to Church’ or the word ‘stewardship’ many immediately think we are about to hear an appeal for money. Of course churches need money to keep going. St Chrysostom’s is not a financially wealthy congregation, and we need to pay bills!

HOWEVER, as a member of our lovely church community recently said, ‘We may not be rich fiancially but we are rich in the lovely people we have…’ Too true!

Recently we have been delighted to receive some unasked for gifts at Church. Over the coming weeks, here on our church blog, we’ll tell you about some of them, and we feel sure you will be both surprised and heartened. These are somewhat difficult days, not least for churches wondering about the Post Covid future. Gifts encourage us in our day to day work and the love behind them inspires us on our christian journey in life.

First of all, earlier in the summer we received the gift of a box full of varied crosses and crucifixes from the CHN Sisters. The sisters were downsizing as they moved to their new convent in Hessle and in the process gave us some gifts. They included the sanctuary chairs we now use at the main altar, several Bibles – which we offer to those unable to buy their own, and also a box of crosses.

We invited Confirmation candidates at the Confirmation a few weeks ago to take a cross home and now we are inviting households of our church family to take one free of charge. One or two of the crosses were damaged but Maryam has kindly cleaned them all and repaired those in need of repair. We now have over 25 crosses. We begin to offer the crosses on the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Cross – a feast which encourages us to rejoice in the glorious saving work of Our Lord.

The crosses are blessed, and freely offered. We are making a couple of conditions.

First of all we ask those taking to take one of their choice and not to take for anyone else (we are giving priority to those who are at church and able to choose for their own home).

Secondly, we ask those who take them to think carefully about where they will place them prominently where they live – in a hallway, perhaps, above a door, in a bedroom, or on a desk or table. Where is, of course, up to the person, but we are hoping they will be prominent – and the person having the cross can say where it has come from to anyone who asks. We hope the person will keep the cross for many years.

Although we are giving them freely, and emphasise that, should anyone wish to give a donation we will receive it to enable us to get more similar crosses for the future.

THANK YOU to the sisters of the Community of the Holy Name for this gift, let’s assure them they will be a blessing and have good homes.

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Ninian’s message for today

Here we see an oil painting on a stone. My father painted it on holiday in Galloway in South Scotland about 45 years ago. He enjoyed trying his hand at painting, especially in holiday times. The painting is special to me, not only because he painted it, but because the painting shows a special place for me, and it would seem for him too. It shows St Ninian’s Cave near Whithorn in Galloway, as my father saw it then. The painting is on a stone he found on the beach.

St Ninian, feast day 16th September, is honoured as a holy saint, yet most details of his life are lost in history, and legends have been added to his story. What seems to be clear, though, is that in the fourth century, when sea routes were the safest way to travel, Ninian arrived in Whithorn, by boat.

Whithorn became his home. He settled there, build a stone church (one of the earliest in Britain) and lived, prayed and worked there. His fame extended to the area and people came to work with him, and live in that community, inspired by his simple example, Several in their turn became priests, and travelled onwards, carrying on Christian work in the way Ninian did. Whithorn became a centre of Christianity, and pilgrimage.

Ninian has become one of the most venerated of Scottish saints, yet his life story is a simple one. No great heroic acts are recorded, no fights against heretics, no miraculous healings, yet clearly he was a person of great influence in the small area where he lived. His example and his strength lie in the church and community he formed, the pastoral care he gave in his area of life, and the prayers and worship he offered there.

Today, in days when one part of the Church of England pushes hard for mission action plans, increasing numbers, doing things differently, another section stands for a ministry of loving Christian care and presence, often based on place – the parish. Both have merit, and changes are needed. However Ninian, one of the founders of our Christian faith in Britain reminds us of the value of a patient sustained ministry of parish church ministry in a community – pastoral care, prayer and presence in our community.

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On the beach near Ninian’s cave many of the stones are marked with crosses, and pilgrims often take one home. I hold mine today, collected 45 years ago, and still treasured, and as I hold it I recall Ninian and the ‘Ninians’ in other generations of church history, and in the church today. Pray with me for wisdom for the Church of today of which, in distant days and for today, Ninian is a founder and inspiration.

Fr Ian

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Celebrating a life: Bassiatu Williams

Sharing life stories in our wonderfully varied local community, is a special part of life in our parish and our church. St Chrysostom’s church, at the heart of our multi cultural community, through its history has heard of the lives of so many different people who have contributed in so many different ways to build up family and community life.

On Tuesday, 14th September 2021, the family and friends of Bassiatu Williams gathered at church to celebrate Bass’ life. Jamal and Nathaniel, grandsons, spoke movingly of their grand mother’s gentle and sensitive care for them, and how she held together the family. (Bass’ husband, Samuel died in February 2019 and the celebration of his life was also held at St Chrysostom’s.)

Julius, one of Bass’ four children told the story of Bass’ life to the gathered people in Church.

Bass was born in Aberdeen, a suburb of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Aberdeen was formed in the early nineteenth century as a community for slaves who had been set free from the evils of slavery and who were brought to Sierra Leone by the British Navy to settle and begin a new life.

At the time of Bass’ birth on 7th February 1936, Aberdeen was a distinct community. She went to school locally and then to high school in Freetown, and then began nursing training. In 1958 she came by boat to England to pursue a career in nursing, hoping to be a midwife. By an act of fortune she met a lady on the boat to Liverpool, who knew her family and guided Bassiatu to stay in Liverpool rather than London where she had thought to go.

Bass married Samuel and they had four children. She worked as a nurse in the NHS and dedicated her life to her family, she was also a loyal and special friend to many, having the gift of being a good listener and having a kind and open heart.

Our NHS has benefitted so much from nurses, like Bass, who have been prepared to leave their homelands and settle in this country. In recent troubled years, with the Covid virus, we realise just how much the NHS has been built on the hard work and service of so many from lands beyond the UK, and we give thanks for them.

As Bass’ family thanked God in Church for her life, and especially for her love and dedication for her family, we all do well to thank God for women like her who support, love and strengthen family life. May such women be an inspiration to us all, and a reminder of the importance, joy and centrality of family life.

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