Kindness matters in lockdown and beyond

These unprecedented lockdown days are making us look again at life, and we are finding that priorities are changing. Over the next few days we’ll be looking at some of the things we are discovering as St Chrysostom’s people, and how these things may shape the world, and our community and church in the future.

Recently in a Zoom conversation – something we’d never have had three months ago! – we were talking about small acts of kindness we had experienced and how much they meant at the time. We were greatly encouraged by our the conversation.

Fliss told of how she had herself received by being able to help a child that was lost near her home. Kate told how unexpectedly a friend had sent her a home made cushion after hearing Kate’s dog had died. Albert (aged three) told us how his young sister was kind to him. Julie mentioned the unexpected kindness of a store manager to an elederly lady who had lost her hearing aid. Bernie was able to rest in bed longer through the kindness of someone who unexpectedly did one of her work tasks for her. Admos and Michael had found a wood pigeon which had been killed by a cat and gently gave it a decent burial. Paul spoke of special kindnesses in his family life. Sandra told us of a friend in distress who was given a bed for the night by a kind person whom she did not know. Andrew told of the initiative of a neighbour to collect and look after a parcel for him, and Alan spoke of the small acts of church kindness in sending out letters to members.

Kindness matters. In our conversation we realised how we were recognising and appreciating acts of kindness in new ways. We were appreciating unexpected kindness and we were finding it in unexpected places.

This led us to hope this would continue beyond lockdown days. Care and kindness clearly should be a priority of our lives and of course of our church life. We will think about how precisely we can develop kindness in our church life.

We hoped that we would step out of our usual circles and be prepared to be kind and considerate to our neighbours whoever they are. We also felt we ourselves benefitted by being kind and open to the needs, however small, of others. We were encouraged to look out for small opportunities to be kind in our daily lives.

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Films for lockdown

At a recent church Sunday Zoom meeting, Alan asked what films St Chrysostom’s people have been watching during lockdown. Some commented that they had found it rather difficult to concentrate at the moment, not surprisingly. Here are some of the films and TV programmes we have enjoyed:
 Notes on Blindness [U] (2016) recommended by Admos This is a very moving film tracking the experiences of a man (John Hull) born with sight who goes blind before the birth of his son. Admos comments that the film is about him trying to make sense of his condition, adaptations to his life and the frustrations he has. As you watch it you actually almost can feel and share his life.

White crowThe White Crow [12A] (2018) Recommended by Kenson. Kenson describes it as a film about Nureyev, the famous Soviet ballet dancer who defected to France after a ballet tour at Paris. Packed with romantic and political drama, actual ballet scenes, and (most importantly for me) Ralph Fiennes speaking fluent Russian throughout the whole film.

The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert [15] (1994) Recommended by Edward. Two drag performers and a transgender woman travel across the desert to perform their unique style of cabaret. Edward said that it made him laugh like a drain pipe! Edward also suggested, for suspense the Alien series.

La La Land [12A] (2016) Recommended by Fliss While navigating their careers in Los Angeles, a pianist and an actress fall in love while attempting to reconcile their aspirations for the future. Fliss comments that it is a great feel-good movie, full of songs, dancing and a bit of good old romance.

About_TimeAbout Time [12A] (2013) Recommended by Mtr Kate At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think. Kate describes it as a delightful, heartwarming film, which encourages us to make the most of every moment.

Maigret [12] (beginning 2016) and Poirot [12] (1989-2013) recommended by Fr Ian Maigret starring Rowan Atkinson in the lead role, based on novels by Georges Simenon, set in Paris during the 1950s. Poirot starring David Suchet as Poirot, based on novels by Agatha Christie. The cases of eccentric, but sharp, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Fr Ian commented that he is enjoying revisiting these this with Dominic.

The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society [12A] (2018) Recommended by Lucy  In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war. Lucy enjoyed the film enormously and was very pleasantly surprised.

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Echoes of Easter

St Cuthberts Isle

St Cuthbert’s Isle, Lindisfarne, January 2020

I look back, back through Eastertide, back through the appearances of the Risen Christ– in a quiet garden, in a tucked-away room, on the road to Emmaus, in breaking of bread, the sharing of wine and at the water’s edge.

In them I hear the echoes of my own special places and moments when God’s peace and presence have drawn close.

In a Quiet Garden – during this glorious spring, after a lockdown day of working from home, I step into the garden and sink into a deck chair, I gaze at the sky, at the opening buds, at the spring blossom. I listen to bird song, I tune into music. Stresses and strains are eased away, sometimes with sighs too deep for words. A deep peace trickles its way through my being. It feels like the Risen Christ at work to touch and to heal.

In a Tucked-Away Room – “work from home” office packed away for Maundy Thursday, time set aside for the high points of Holy Week: a Chrism Mass from the Diocese of Southwark, the Divine Office chanted by Worth Abbey monks and spoken by the clergy of St Elisabeth’s Reddish… moved to tears as the depths of my being are reawakened by the touch of God, by the gaze of Christ.

On the road to Emmaus – swept back over thirty years –weighed down with huge burdens of my failings as I travel alone through France, but those burdens suddenly lifting, vanishing far, far away as I climb into the heights of the Massif Central one glorious July afternoon. Such peace – such contentment – such knowledge of God’s forgiveness.

Breaking Bread and Sharing Wine – Maundy Thursday evening, a lockdown service about to begin, “Facebook live notices” popping up from Manchester, from Mirfield, from London, the world coming together to celebrate this incredible gift. I’m overwhelmed with joy and gratitude – caught up into the mystery of the flow of God’s Love throughout humanity.

By the Water’s Edge – St Cuthbert’s Isle, Lindisfarne, from Easter back to Epiphany, watching the sun go down over the tidal waters. Lying down on the bench, feeling the wind, hearing the waves. God coming close, washing my insides aching like worn-out feet, putting (literally) a new song in my heart – “Hail Gladdening Light…”.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia !

Thank you to Fr Mark Chilcott for writing for us this special and inspirational reflection on Easter in his life. 

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Rise again, yes, Rise again

The Resurrection, by Gustav Mahler, was the choice Kenson Li made for a poem about Easter to be read at Vespers in Eastertide. Kenson remarks:

An autographed manuscript of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony

This poem concludes Mahler’s monumental  2nd Symphony, “The Resurrection”. (Listen to the symphony here:, watch from 1:07:00 for the chorus singing the poem)

Listening to Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, especially live in a concert hall, is always a profound experience. Gustav Mahler takes the audience through a journey of life, death, and resurrection in 90 minutes of extraordinary music. One can really feel that one has gone through the darkest valley, and at last, as if led by the very hands of the composer, into the glorious light of Easter. I still remember the first time I heard the symphony was in St David’s Hall, Cardiff, some years ago. I was simply overwhelmed by the transcendence of the music. I did not just listen to 90 minutes of music, I experienced the beauty and meaning of life by immersing myself in the beauty of God’s creation. I believe that in the strange times we currently live in, we too can make life colourful and beautiful by making time to listen to music, reading, and perhaps, admiring paintings on online galleries.

This poem is very poignant for me. My grandfather passed away when I was in my second year in university, and because of assignments and exams, I could not go home for the funeral. It is very upsetting that I could not be there to see my grandfather off, and it does sometimes seem to me that he simply vanished. I had this poem read in his funeral in lieu of my presence. Many people who attended the funeral remarked how touched they were by the words of the poem.

To this day this poem, and this symphony, is still my comfort, and to me, the most appropriate music to signify and celebrate the immeasurable Easter Joy we experience every year as Christians. I know many people are experiencing this because of the restrictions on attending funerals. I hope this poem and the music Mahler wrote will also become for them a source of strength, to journey on with hope, knowing that through Christ’s resurrection, we have been promised that death on earth is not final, and we will meet again on the day of universal resurrection.

“The Resurrection” by  Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (first two verses) and Gustav Mahler


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See the land, her Easter keeping


Easter Week, by Charles Kingsley was the choice Sandra Palmer made for a poem about Easter to be read at Vespers in Eastertide. Sandra remarks:

It was a strange Easter Day. No communal triumphal joyful singing of Jesus Christ is Risen Today or Jesus Lives thy Terrors Now, no sense of the church bursting into life with Easter colours and flowers after a subdued Lent, no children racing round the pews collecting eggs.

See the Land Kingsley

Easter Week by Charles Kingsley

But I am finding this Easter season  meaningful in a new, quieter but more intense way. The seeds in my garden ‘so long in darkness sleeping’ are coming to life .

Day by day I am noticing  small resurrections as plants bud and flower. Birds sing. Blue tits visit, as does a robin . A solitary butterfly flies across each day .

There are many reports that, with the reduction in road and rail traffic, nature is being renewed.  We live in a time of tragedy and fear as did those first disciples but Easter reminds us of hope of renewal.

And not only a hope of renewal of the earth but also a hope of renewal for our unjust world. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) was a Christian Socialist . His faith gave him hope of a renewal of society – that,  too , is my Easter hope .

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Today I saw Mary among us

Mary J o NAn unusual thing happened to me today. Paul, from Church, asked people to send to him images of Mary which they liked. He is preparing a presentation showing different representations.

I’ve visited several Marian shrines and at some I’ve bought a statue of Mary depicted in the form she is venerated there. So I decided to photograph some and send them. As I uploaded the images I looked at the face of one in particular and saw in it a member of the congregation. It was extraordinary! I looked at the statue to check but curiously the photograph was not quite in focus and in looking at it my eyes had resolved it a little differently to the face of the statue.

The image I saw was of Mary as a young woman among us. An everyday smiling young woman living her life in our day, in our community. As I looked I thought of the extraordinary things ordinary people, women and men, are doing in our community, in our day. People are showing acts of kindness, working in hospitals and care homes to help others live, doing everyday menial tasks to help and support their families, friends and neighbours. Love, saying ‘Yes’ to life, is all around us in these troubled days. Some women, in particular, are working and living in situations of great self sacrifice – caring for children and relatives and working too – often working for lower wages than men.

A US Muslim poet wrote a meditation on Mary:

Mary Verse US

Today I saw Mary as an ordinary young woman among us. I saw Mary as a young woman who said Yes to God, and did the wonderfully everyday work of making God’s love and life real in our world. To her I light a candle.

Fr Ian


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The Risen Christ in the ‘Indian Way’

Wesley appearance fishermen

This striking painting by the Indian artist Frank Wesley (1923 – 2002) shows the Resurrection appearance of Christ to the fishermen, as described in St John’s Gospel. (John 21).

Wesley was born in India and studied art in Lucknow, and later Japan. He had a passion to illustrate Biblical scenes in what he described as ‘our own Indian way.’ In 1973 he emigrated to Australia, continuing to paint. The missionary and artist Naomi Wray knew Frank Wesley in India and here she makes some comments about this painting.

“The risen Christ stands in the sand on the bank, speaking to the two disciples still seated in a small fishing boat just grounded.

To still their obvious fear, he holds his right hand down, palm outward in the Indian gesture of blessing, showing the stigmata from the nails by which he was held to the cross.

His palm is covered with saffron paste, signifying his suffering, and we are reminded that such paste is utilised in sacrificial worship in India. Christ’s single flowing garment is also saffron ….

The disciples are the color of their boat, a rich brown which indicates life as it is, and reminds us that they went back to their old occupation after Jesus’ death ….

At the far end of the land upon which Christ stands, the ground gives way to blue and brown mixed and one feels that there are villages there and cities – the whole world stretched beyond.

The gold leaf of the sky, which indicates the living presence of God, is applied over a base of vermillion, the colour for joy”

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Around the world in the Coronavirus: A wide world at home

KangaLots of people are posting photos from their daily walks on their Facebook pages . I love to see the trees in blossom, the open fields and my favourite beach in Sydney. It reminds me that there is a wide world out there .

My own world is confined to the house and garden as I have a suppressed immune system and am therefore one of the 1.3 million who can’t go outside their own home at all. I have taken to walking from front to back door when I’m talking to friends. Yesterday I covered three miles.

Then I remembered that, with a little imagination, I too can see a wider world by looking in the pictures on my wall and the features of my house. A Japanese wall print takes me to a Japanese tea room . Stare into a painting by my sister and I see kangaroos among the trees.

Tea JapanMy bookshelves become a branch of the local library . Fortunately it has a good section of cookery books. My kitchen is no longer a kitchen but a cafe. I am so lucky in having a garden – like many I am learning to enjoy the small changes each day brings. The garden nourishes me but so does looking at the interior of my house with fresh eyes.

As a primary school teacher I have long valued children’s play . It is how they learn and grow . And now in this crisis I am learning the value of being playful myself: playing in transforming my hall walk , playing by wearing hats for Easter Sunday dinner, playing by ‘ ‘going to the cinema with popcorn’ rather than just plonking myself in front of the television. It is all giving me fresh insight into the words of Jesus found in Matthew18. 3 ‘ ‘except you become as little children ye shall not enter the kingdom of God.

Sandra Palmer

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A Song of Living

Amelia Josephine Burr blogsevenpondscomwpcontentuploads201201ameA Song of Living, by Amelia Josephine Burr was the choice Paul Pritchard made for a poem about Easter to be read at Vespers in Eastertide. Paul writes: 

Amelia Josephine Burr (1878 – 1968) was an American poet born in New York City. She married Reverend Carl H. Elmore of Englewood, New Jersey. She was described as a “popular lyricist, whose work yet flashes with genuine poetic feeling”.

Her poem, A Song of Living, published in her book Life and Living, a book of verse in 1916 is not necessarily an Easter Poem; at least it was not written as such. Indeed, its usual place within the canon is the section on death and dying but for me it is as the title suggest, about living and when are we more alive as Christians than in the joy of Easter?

The sorrow of death is the portion of those left behind and does not belong to the dead. Each stanza of this poem brims with life, ending with the same line “Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die”.

For many, life is tough and for some it is tough beyond the comprehension of most of us but I hope that for everyone there are moments of love, moments of gladness, moments of peace; these are the promises of Easter, and we as Easter people are duty bound, through our care for each other, to be instruments of such promises.


A Song of Living by Amelia Josephine Burr

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.

I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.

My cheeks like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.


I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard his song to the end,

I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.

I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.

I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.


I gave a share of my soul to the world, when and where my course is run.

I know that another shall finish the task I surely must leave undone.

I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.

As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God,

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

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The Kitchen Maid

KM Velazquez

What do you see in this painting?

What is the young black maid – sometimes referred to as a ‘Moorish maid’ – doing?

What do you think is her cultural or religious background?

The maid is bent over her kitchen table, where her work is done. She has helped prepare the meal. There are her pots and pans. However her mind and attention is elsewhere. She has her head turned and is focussed on what is happening behind her. We get the impression she is discretely listening to what is being said behind her.

This is Velazquez’s fascinating painting  Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus (1618) on display in Dublin at the National Gallery of Ireland. It is a deep and slightly solemn painting.

We see the maid, separate from the supper itself. She in fact is in the foreground, the light shines on her. Looking at the painting we see her first and then only as we look more carefully do we see Christ and the man at the table, visible through the kitchen hatch. The maid’s table is bare. Her work, the meal, has been taken to the dining room behind. There is a sense of unity about the painting. The maid intently listens to the words being spoken over her hand work, the words of blessing are said over what she has produced. She is curious, not distressed, she is quite intent on listening to what is being said and appears content in her work.

She, perhaps of a different culture or religion to those whom she serves, has prepared the bread which is broken. The bread which is the means by which Christ is revealed. She is in a real way part of the supper and part of the time of revelation, though in a different room. She hears her bread being blessed and hears of it becoming a source of wonder.

We are left thinking what her reaction was, how things later developed for her.

This is the third and final post in a series where we look at paintings relating to the Emmaus story in St Luke’s Gospel. The first is here, and the second can be read here.

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