Confirming in hope and joy

I don’t think I’ve confirmed an Angel, before Bishop Mark remarked. Well at St Chrysostom’s Church he did confirm Angel, along with Amelinda, Hao, Jamila, Nathan and Romario, at this year’s fantastic confirmation from St Chrysostom’s School.

First of all Bishop Mark enjoyed a school dinner and a chat with Yr2 children, he had a walk on the school field as he talked with children and staff, he met the confirmation candidates informally and then led the procession of children of Yrs 4 and 5 with children of Yr 6 too who had been confirmed last year. We all walked through the streets to Church (while staff skilfully arranged road crossing). The walk in itself was a great symbol of togetherness. Then we had a moving and special Confirmation service.

Aware of recent events in our country, and the many faiths represented at St Chrysostom’s School Bishop Mark encouraged everyone, of whatever faith, to remember ‘GOD loves you.’ We are all called to go out together – people of all faiths, and make a difference to the world. He invited everyone present to pause in silence to think of who we want to be, what difference we would like to make to our world, and then we prayed for God’s strength to help us do it.

Then followed the baptisms and confirmation. All the children being baptised and confirmed were attentive and clearly enjoyed the ceremony. Their enthusiasm and their joy give us all hope, and encouraged us to reflect on our own faith and commitment to live out our faith in our lives. Bishop Mark was also reminded of this too as Hao, recently baptised, marked the Bishop with the sign of the cross with holy water.

As the service closed Bishop Mark asked all present:

Will you go out, ready to make a difference in the world? There was a resounding We will, from everyone. What a wonderful sign of hope and joy for our community – and indeed our world.

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Love, tolerance and genuine spiritual fellowship

This evening is predominantly a social event, there is a lot of cheese to get through and some wine … a few people have kindly agreed to read and sing and there is even a short part of a film, all of which show light in our world in its own different way.

Some words used at the beginning of a gathering at Church recently. Paul Pritchard, who arranged it writes:

On the evening of Saturday 3rd June, St C’s extended a warm welcome to visitors and regular members of the congregation for a cheese and wine evening arranged to celebrate our inclusiveness. The evening, which was part of our church Sharing the Light programme, had a particular emphasis on the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, questioning, inter-sex & asexual) community although everyone was welcome. Nineteen people attended and were treated to film, song and prose, all of which were chosen to emphasise the light in our world found in love, togetherness and convergence of different lifestyles through the sharing of a common purpose.

In true St Chrysostom’s style, we welcomed people without question and shared our hospitality. A number of people had never set foot through the church doors before but without exception each of those people said they felt welcome, some said uplifted and other commented that they hoped there would be more opportunities to get together again.

At the beginning of the evening some short prayers were said,  including; Jesus Christ, light of the world, you shine on every human being. Enable us to discern your presence in each person. There was real warmth and fellowship in that gathering on Saturday, surely a sign of Christ’s light in each person there.

And a comment from someone who attended:

“When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

I felt very welcome as we shared stories, poems and songs. The fellowship and moments of quiet reflection made the event a success.

Thanks especially to Paul who made me feel very welcome and arranged the evening with great skill to allow for humour, friendship and quiet prayer.

Events like this show that the church is practising what it preaches; love, tolerance and genuine spiritual fellowship.”

Did you attend? If you did you’re very welcome to comment below, and share thoughts or ideas for future such events. We’d like to consider the ‘What next’?

Posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Christian, Christianity, LGBT, Manchester, Spirituality, St Chrysostoms Church, Various Voices | Tagged | 2 Comments

Called to be a nun

Sr Jean CHN tells us how she first experienced her call to be a nun:

I was only in my early teens when the thought first came to me that I was called to be a nun  and I dismissed it as nonsense.   I had never met any nuns, but I did know there were Anglican Religious Communities. The nag did not go away, and at times of decision making made itself felt and was duly ignored as I followed my chosen path of studying History at University and then deciding what to do with it.

The crunch point came in my final year, when I had to decide where next?   I said to myself  “If that is what God is asking of me, then I am giving up on God”  and did. For 6 months I didn’t go to church, or pray or attend any of the religious activities in the University, and gradually convinced myself I had grown out of religion.   Anyone who asked why  I just said I was working hard for finals!

Some of the sisters CHN

Finals came – and went, and I had decided to stay on for the 4th year and study for an Education Diploma or PGCE That was the crunch year-  from the start.  Within six weeks I realised that this persistent call to the Religious Life had to be faced and the best way to assure myself it was not for me was to make an effort and meet some nuns, find out what they did do, and what they were like.  Not difficult, I knew there were nuns who had a house near to an inner city church.  I went to that church one Sunday, talked to one of the sisters and agreed to go and see them at the house that afternoon.  I still remember noticing with appreciation that there were chocolate biscuits on the tea tray.  Maybe life wasn’t unbearably austere!

CHN Chapel at the Convent at Derby

I didn’t talk about joining them, I needed first to sort out and restore my relationship with God  –  and what I did believe.  That took some weeks, and on a later visit to the sisters’ house I asked what I had to do to find out if this persistent call was valid or true.  Only one way –  visit the Convent. A few weeks later I was on a bus from Birmingham to Malvern, and walking up the road to the Convent of the Holy Name  –  still hoping the Superior would say   “ It may be a vocation, but you need more experience of life outside of school and university. Get a job and come back after a few years if the call persists”   She didn’t  –  she said “My dear I do think you have a vocation,  when does your course finish?”  My heart went down to  my boots, yet at the same time having seen more of the life and of the sisters maybe it was right, something was falling into place.

I left with a suggested date to “enter” as they call it, and perhaps relief I was no longer fighting an unconquerable adversary. Here I still am , and hopefully fairly normal!

You can read about the CHN sisters in St Chrysostom’s parish here, and the Community has its own website here.

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The table will be wide: Come, all are welcome

When I reflect on my Easter faith, communion is a distinctive feature. Preaching in the ‘My Easter Faith’ series at St Chrysostom’s my sermon was a reflection on communion outside of the church and how it is a way we carry Easter with us through the rest of the year. Communion connects me to the communities I worship with. It creates a sense of belonging and acceptance. Communion literally means “sharing.” It’s supposed to bring everyone together as one body. Every Sunday, we proclaim together. “Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.”

I shared a story from a retreat with the other American volunteers. One evening, we gathered around a campfire and participated in a remembrance of communion since we did not have an ordained pastor present to bless the items in a sacred way.  We broke bread and passed a cup of wine around the circle as we retold the story of the last supper. Jesus gathered with his friends for a meal, similar to the one we were sharing around the fire.

Collage: The Best Supper © Jan L. Richardson

Although the bread and wine were not blessed in the sacred way we do at church, the meaning behind these elements still existed. Everyone around the circle was invited to share in this meal of remembrance. Throughout the sharing of bread and wine, laughs and smiles were abundant. I felt the Holy Spirit blowing in the wind. God’s love shined like the star-filled sky. In that moment, God’s presences burned as bright as our campfire.

Communion continues to happen outside the church, even during times when bread and wine are not present. I have experienced communion when I have been invited to meals with members of this congregation. Even sharing a cup of tea with someone creates a sense of communion. Sharing a cup of tea has lead to conversations with a variety of people and experiencing God’s presence in these moments

I read a poem titled, ‘And the Table Will be Wide,’ written by Jan Richardson.

And the Table Will Be Wide:

And the table
will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
to receive.

And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
with bread.
And our sorrow
will be met
with wine.

And we will open our hands
to the feast
without shame.
And we will turn
toward each other
without fear.
And we will give up
our appetite
for despair.
And we will taste
and know
of delight.

And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
And everywhere

I shared this poem because I think it beautifully illustrates communion. It describes the way communion nourishes us to share God’s compassion and love. The poem reminds us that there is always room at the table, the table is never full. It’s not always easy to sit at the table with some people. But, no matter who the person was, the outcast, the sick, the prostitute, Jesus invited them to fellowship.

I challenged the congregation to reflect on the ways they engage in communion outside of the church.Inviting people into communion can be difficult, but communion gives us hope and reminds us of God’s everlasting love.

Come, all are welcome. Let us break bread together.

Hannah Loeffler-Kemp, Parish Assistant

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Mary for Today

2000 years ago a young peasant Jewish girl  faced a dilemma.  An angel appeared, told her she was thought highly of by God and would become the mother of the Saviour of the world if she said Yes.

That for me is what Mary is for today.  Someone who is faced with rejection by her family, someone who faces rejection from the man she was betrothed to, someone who faces the possibility of becoming a young single mother, someone who faces being stigmatised as being of low moral standards, indeed someone who faces the possibility of death – yet she says Yes.

She faces the dangers and still trusts in God.

There has always been a danger in Catholicism – of whatever shade – of making Mary into a sort of God.  I don’t want to raise the old arguments about the suitability of saying prayers, or singing hymns to Mary. But I do want to talk of the danger of sanitising Mary, – making her clean and respectable, losing her humanity.

I recently encountered some photographs of a church at their May devotion this year.  It was obviously a joyous occasion, but, full of tat. There were yards of lace on the altar, on the servers cottas, on the celebrants albs.  Clouds of incense arose. There were so many relics and candles on the altar that one could hardly see the chalice and paten.

Some Methodist friends of mine visited Walsingham a couple of years ago, and I asked them how they had found it.  Prayerful and spiritual came their reply – but, full of tat.  Not surprising for Methodists to say that, but, it is a comment we need to take to heart.

Is Mary for today about turning back the clock to a bygone age? Or is it about the revolutionary ideals which prompted Mary’s yes to God? Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is about revolution.

Today is a Day with Mary.  A Walsingham day. Today, what does the teenage pregnant woman of 2000 years ago say and do for the teenager pregnant today, the teenage mother frightened of her boyfriend’s and family’s reaction?

What does that teenage woman frightened of the consequences say to those on the margins of today’s society – the homeless, those stigmatised as “feckless” by the government, those unable to find work, the alcoholic and drug addict, the young gay man thrown out by his family, the women and men trafficked into the sex trade of our cities?

What does the woman who had to flee from Herod’s wrath and become a refugee say to the asylum seekers today?

What does the woman who watched her Son dying a hideous death, and who cradled his dead body in her arms say to the bereaved families and friends following Monday’s attack, to those suffering now as a consequence of a cruel and selfish act?

What does she say to you and I as people of God here in Thy Kingdom Come novena week?

She actually says nothing in words, but she speaks thousands in her actions. It is said by her obedience to the will of God. Thy Will be done Thy Kingdom Come.

Be it unto me according to thy word we say it so frequently when we recite the Angelus.  We recall Mary’s “Yes” – but her message today is for us to embrace it.

Mary says YES!  her message today is for us to embrace that.

Pray for the courage to follow her example. That is what I feel is Mary for us today.

Mary for today is in the squalor of a stable, in the worried mother who can’t find her son for the crowd, in the woman who tells the servants to do as he tells you at Cana, in the agonising woman cradling her dead son in her arms – and in all of this being faithful to God.

Mary is truly someone to honour and to ask for prayer in our weakness and for our society today, because she knows only too well that which presses on us today.

So let us enjoy our worship today, sing with joy about Mary, pray with confidence that God’s Kingdom may come.

(An abridged version of the address given at the beginning of ‘A Day with Mary’ on 27th May 2017, by Fr Chris)
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Remembering Manchester

This has been a week of deep emotion, tragedy, and concern in Manchester.

It has also been a week when we have seen courageous bravery, working together, and praying together.

It has been a week when people from all around the city have renewed their commitment to work together for the common good.

At the end of the week St John’s CE Primary School invited children, staff, parents, local faith leaders, and supporters to come together in the school playground on Friday afternoon as an act of hope and solidarity. “At St John’s school, we are uniting together to show we care.” Each children from the youngest to the oldest had made a paper flower, and all were invited to place their flowers to form a heart in the playground. Parents had brought bunches of flowers to add to the tribute. Over 500 children and adults came together, united in care and concern.

Two beautiful poems of hope, written by children, were read out. Children spoke so well and with great conviction. Fr Ian invited us to join together in prayer, for the victims of their tragedy, all affected by it, and for ourselves. Mr Choudhury a local Imam condemned those who responsible for the bombing and encouraged us to stand together in love and care. Children read from the Qu’ran. All the children were an inspiration throughout. Finally Ms Morgan led all in song encouraging us to have pride in our great city.

This was a beautiful and appropriate act at the end of a terrible week in Manchester’s history. The school created for the community, and for us all, a special moment of reflection, hope and peace.

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Our Churchwarden Emeritus

Desmond Ward has served St Chrysostom’s for 15 years as churchwarden. Now Desmond feels the time has come to stand down and hand the baton on to others. Speaking at Mass on Sunday Fr Ian commented that his outstanding work as churchwarden has helped transform our church in recent years – not only by greatly improving the building but also by guiding and encouraging our inclusive christian fellowship, and supporting our Catholic Anglican ethos. Fr Ian proposed and all agreed that we confer the honorific title Churchwarden Emeritus – a title, we believe, used for the first time at our Church. In accepting the honour Desmond movingly responded:

Some years ago I returned to the area and St. Chrysostom’s where I had worshipped in the 1970’s for many years. In the 1990’s moving closer to Manchester I returned to my spiritual home. The fact that I stayed was the fantastic welcome I had from some who had remembered me, David Percival Smith, my predecessor as churchwarden and Louise Da Cocodia, deputy lieutenant of Manchester whom I adored and she turned out to be my mentor. People are the most important thing in life and I was drawn by the friendliness and diversity from which we all benefit.

The church was dark, damp, dismal and colander like. We did not know from day to day where the buckets would be. Dry rot was around the building and we sorted it problem by problem. We served tea from a table covered with a vinyl cloth, an urn to make tea and the pots had to be carried to the kitchen sink in the vestry block to be cleaned. We had one toilet in the vestry block, adequate for the then small congregation we had of around 30 -35. It had to change and I was determined with the necessary funding it could be done.

Father Ian and I had a vision of what it could be like and we set about it mostly in difficult circumstances. We have had a strong working relationship and the same outlook for the building.

I mention these things to emphasize that all things are possible given the will and determination of the people working as a team.

My last fifteen years as churchwarden have been mostly pleasurable and I have been proud of what I have achieved right to the end. Father Ian and I have worked harmoniously in terms of aspiration and vision for the church.

I retire as churchwarden knowing that the church is in a much better shape than when I started. A church much more functional for its’ many activities and I am content.

I thank everyone for the support and encouragement given to me.

In all walks of life there is usually someone quietly in the background and equally important, holding other parts of life together, and I could not have done all my work for the church without the support of my husband, Michael, a very special person to me and for whom I am well blessed.

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