#soapbox No love in exclusion

  • One in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months 
  • Two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months 
  • Four in five anti-LGBT hate crimes and incidents go unreported, with younger LGBT people particularly reluctant to go to the police

 These statistics are taken from the Stonewall report Hate Crime and Incidents, published in 2017. A depressing read, isn’t it? What is even more depressing is that the situation has reportedly deteriorated, there are now more homophobic hate crimes being reported than there were 5 years ago.

How can this be in a progressive, allegedly liberal and inclusive country?

I heard an Anglican Bishop say recently that the problem for us today is “Populism”, which, put rather clumsily perhaps, is politics that supposedly speaks for the will of the people above the interests of the elite. This depresses me further as I find it heart-breaking that ordinary people could want such a thing. After all, are most LGBTQ+ people not ordinary, just like me? I don’t buy it…. The Stonewall study suggests that the majority of the incidents reported (87%) involve LGBTQ+ people being insulted, pestered, intimidated or harassed. Maybe the view could be that this isn’t such a big deal but from personal experience it is!

Whilst I was staying at Hope University in Liverpool recently, a young man at a bus stop made noises as I walked past him which I knew were homophobic, I kept looking forward and walked on but it was humiliating, it affected my sleep that night and I am still thinking about it now…. My experience dented my confidence a little but for someone else it could have had a far more serious impact.





I can’t help but wonder then what the difference is between the young man hissing at me at the bus stop and the Archbishop’s decision not to invite same sex spouses to the 2020 Lambeth Conference. There’s all sorts of loving rhetoric around why it should be so but ultimately it gives the same message – ‘you are not a proper person’, well at least that’s the message I take from it.

What I take heart from though are the words of Jesus in John 13:34 – I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Nowhere in this scripture does it say unless you are LGBTQ+, black, a woman, have a disability or any other ‘difference’. No! Jesus meant everyone and there is certainly no love in exclusion of any kind!


To commemorate in a small way the courage and determination of Peterloo we have invited church people of St Chrysostom’s to contribute a blog post on a subject about which they have concern and passion. We are calling this small blog series #soapbox.

Thank you to Paul Pritchard for stepping on the soapbox, previous concerns have been about Alcohol  Hong KongEducation in schools and helping modern slaves.

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#soapbox Work to stop human trafficking

Human trafficking is the perfect business: stealing another’s economic capacity by violence. Human trafficking is slavery, and it is at its worst levels ever in our world today. Last month, the largest-ever modern slavery ring in the UK was uncovered. Hundreds of Polish men worked for as little as 50p a day. They were homeless, ex-prisoners and alcoholics. More needs to be done to tackle this crime and help its victims.

Bishop Sarah, Bishop of Shrewsbury meets victims of trafficking at St Chrysostom’s

Such survivors are part of our Church family at St Chrysostom’s. They attend our English classes. They chat and socialise with our team of volunteers. They get out into the countryside on our Saturday Walks. (Some of them are too frightened to go out unaccompanied.) Through this summer, they are in Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery, at practical art classes. Our volunteering is with the Medaille Trust’s safe confidential houses and we’ve been doing this for four years. We’ve supported about four hundred men.

Where are the women survivors of trafficking? In other safe Medaille houses, elsewhere. As Mary Robinson, ex-United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, commented, visiting these Manchester men last month: “You don’t hear about trafficked men”.

What brings our volunteers through the Church door? Empathy. Faith. Duty. That’s the first step. However, the torture and PTSD experiences of the men are so enormous that here’s the ruling principle: making things normal.

There’s a new arrival. Probably without a phrase in English. His front teeth and his glasses may have been smashed. He’s been found by a police raid on a car wash, a meat factory, a vegetable field, a cannabis factory. With no belongings, he’s been driven across the UK, away from his gangmasters (hopefully). He’s given his first police interview, for evidence to convict these traffickers. He’s started on counselling – all in the safe house. What is Manchester to him? He could be here for eight months, or longer.

A Saturday walk together

We sit him down with a “play box” of fake UK notes and coins. It’s comical. Can he count? What English words does he have? (He may have left education at twelve.) Our classes are always practical: shopping, café, going to the doctor, asking directions, Job Centre interviews. Then it’s off with us to the countryside, for a walk and a picnic. “Mike”, who’s just moved to his new life, said: “I didn’t want to come to Manchester. I’m glad I did.”

Alan Beck

At  St Chrysostom’s our wonderful volunteers support survivors of human trafficking, through English Classes, Walks and Art Classes. Will you volunteer to help at St Chrysostom’s? Contact: office@stchrysostoms.co.uk

This is the latest in our #soapbox series, honouring the spirit of #Peterloo and calling for change.

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#soapbox Give children the time and space to flourish

Slow down you move too fast …

I want to shout from a soapbox : stop pushing children to do everything early, stop trying to accelerate them as though they are cars and life is a race to rush through as speedily as possible .

Why have formal lessons teaching reading at 4 going on 5 when they learn much more quickly at 6? By  the time they reach 8 yrs old  the age at which they learnt to read makes no difference to their enjoyment and comprehension.

And do primary aged children really need to know how to name and use a fronted adverbial , one of many grammatical terms stipulated in the national curriculum .

Yes, teachers can teach the overload of grammatical terms currently required , and children are learning them  but at great cost .  Art , music , history , geography , physical activity and more are being squeezed out of school time.

Moreover, maths educators are now saying firmly that taking things slowly at the start builds a firm foundation for mathematical concepts for the future . Playing with bricks in early years  is of more value than pen and paper sums whether in school or as homework.

And what about the prodigies? Evidence suggests time for play is even more important for them to give them life skills as well as space for self directed investigation and experimentation . The history of young mathematicians starting at university in their early teens is not a happy one . Those who have their head in a book from a very early age need to learn to enjoy physical activity for their own well being.

My cry is thus  : give children the time and space to flourish now so  they can  flourish as adults.


On 16 August 1819, at St Peter’s Field, Manchester a peaceful rally of 60,000 pro-democracy reformers, men, women and children, was attacked by armed cavalry resulting in 15 deaths and over 600 injuries. This is commonly called Peterloo and it is an important radical event in British history. Everyday people voiced their opinions and made a stand for free speech and popular democracy.

To commemorate in a small way the courage and determination of Peterloo we have invited church people of St Chrysostom’s to contribute a blog post on a subject about which they have concern and passion. We are calling this small blog series #soapbox.

Thank you to Sandra Palmer for stepping on the soapbox, previous concerns have been about Alcohol and Hong Kong.

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#soapbox – The unjust treatment of protesters in Hong Kong

Here is the second contribution in our #soapbox blog series from members of our church congregation, in the spirit of #Peterloo

Hong Kong has been in the spotlight of international news in the past few months because of its weekly large scale protests. It all started with a demand to withdraw a bill that, if passed in the parliament, would allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. Many fear that this new law would be an easy way for the communist party to lay their hands on dissidents in Hong Kong. One protest saw as many as two million people on the streets, that is more than a quarter of the whole population.

The photos show “Lennon walls” in different parts of Hong Kong, with memos filled with words of support and encouragement for the protesters.

In recent weeks, the world saw some very disturbing scenes at the end of the protests. Members of gangs stormed into an already closed metro station to beat protesters returning from the protests with rods. In a press conference later that day, the chief executive of Hong Kong (equivalent to the British Prime Minister) denounced the protesters’ defacing of the national emblem of China, before denouncing the horrific act carried out by the gangs in the metro station. A week later, policemen were seen storming into the same metro station, doing exactly what the gangs did, beating the unarmed passersby.

 The police has also fired tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds, at protesters, although they were already trying to leave the vicinity. They also fired teargas at reporters during the protests. Helmets and shields have now become the normal dress code for protests in Hong Kong, and reporters are geared up as if they were reporting in war zones.

Five people have already committed suicide because they saw no hope in the situation, and with at least 50 protesters seriously injured after every protests, the protests in Hong Kong will soon match that of the Peterloo massacre in casualties.

 I find it deeply upsetting that, two centuries on from the Peterloo Massacre, the demand for a better parliamentary and governmental representation in a modern and civilised city is still met with blatant aggression from those in power. I am even more disappointed by the silence from the leaders of the Hong Kong Anglican Church.

 May the people of Hong Kong stand with ever greater fortitude behind this great movement, which, stage by stage throughout the protests, is to impose a new political order upon society. We are showing the world that we will not kowtow to institutional injustice, and may our protests inspire a new generation of youth that is not afraid to speak truth to power, and demand justice and freedom from the oppressor.

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#soapbox Alcohol

On 16 August 1819, at St Peter’s Field, Manchester a peaceful rally of 60,000 pro-democracy reformers, men, women and children, was attacked by armed cavalry resulting in 15 deaths and over 600 injuries. This is commonly called Peterloo and it is an important radical event in British history. Everyday people voiced their opinions and made a stand for free speech and popular democracy.

To commemorate in a small way the courage and determination of Peterloo we have invited church people of St Chrysostom’s to contribute a blog post on a subject about which they have concern and passion.

We are calling this small blog series #soapbox.

Here is the first contribution from Fr Chris:

Alcohol abuse or misuse is becoming more and more prevalent, yet services to respond to this increase are caught in the austerity cuts of this decade. The cost of a hospital bed was estimated at £400 night in 2017, and many people return time and time again to hospital because there just aren’t services or specialists to intervene in harmful alcohol use.

A trip into Manchester city centre at a weekend will see folk who are drinking and/or taking drugs to excess. When I come to Mass on a Sunday morning I pass a city centre pub serving breakfasts with some sitting outside at 10am with pints of lager.

As a young man I worked in France, where there was a relaxed attitude to drinking, and this European behaviour was supposed to cross the Channel when all-day, and later 24 hour drinking, became socially acceptable and legal.

When I worked in health promotion I learned that in the 1990s France was a leader in problematic Alcohol use – something that it has reversed as a nation.

Unfortunately, we still need to learn from other countries- Scandinavia has very high unit rate for alcohol, France a realistic educational policy, Scotland can teach us a lot.

There are “politics” in alcohol health promotion- a lot of the campaigns are backed or financed by the Portman Group which is, in turn, the respectable face of the brewers and distillers. Whilst it is in their interest to ostensibly promote sensible or responsible drinking, it is similarly against their interests to suggest curtailing or refraining from consumption.

We need a concerted and co-ordinated approach to sensible and responsible alcohol consumption. We need folk to have a positive regard for those who say publicly that they don’t drink, and for them not to have to hide behind lame excuses. We need money collected in alcohol taxes to be used to provide services for those who need them.

15 years ago a problem drinker in Manchester could be referred or self refer for detoxification and usually be admitted to a detox within days. There was follow on treatment, there were several dry houses and residential units providing rehabilitation and resettlement. Not everyone succeeded first time – addiction and recovery is like that – but the services were there.

Where are they now?! “One in 10 people in a hospital bed are alcohol-dependent and one in five are harming themselves by drinking” When and how will it end?

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The Angelus: Stop, pause and pray

Just over 100 years ago Jean-Francois Millet’s painting L’Angélus was one of the most popular paintings in Western Europe and the United States. Painted in 1857 Millet’s depiction of two French peasants praying rapidly became an icon of Catholic identity.

A print of the painting hangs close to the bell pull in St Chrysostom’s church by which we sound the Angelus bell. We were delighted that a church member recently sent us a postcard from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris where the painting hangs.

In the painting we see two French peasants pause in their work during the potato harvest. In the distance we see a church bell tower which presumably is sounding the Angelus bell. The peasants pause to recite the angelus as they hear the bell sound.

The Angelus bell is a call to stay in the place we are and to redirect our thoughts to God, and to pray. The ringing of the Angelus bell is, then, a public call to a private act of prayer.

Similarly people of Muslim faith pause five times a day for Salat, a time of prayer. The faithful Muslim is called to stop the business in hand, to pause and to think of God.

At 5pm each day, and after 11am Sunday Mass at around 12 Noon, at St Chrysostom’s the Angelus bell is rung. On Sundays, the Mass having ended, we turn to Our Lady’s statue and sing the Angelus together, it is a much loved act of prayer in our church, and people, especially children come forward to light candles at Mary’s statue as we sing. (You can find the music we use here)

The 5pm invitation is closely connected to our call to daily prayer at 5pm in church and indeed to our #PrayVespers initiative.

When you hear the Angelus bell, or even when you imagine it is being rung, pause like the French peasants in Millet’s painting. Redirect your actions and thoughts to prayer and recite the Angelus. A special moment of private prayer, which by using the traditional words of the Angelus also strengthens your unity in prayer with the people of St Chrysostom’s and of course the wider church.


V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
    Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

R. Be it unto me according to thy word.
    Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.

R. And dwelt among us.
    Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, pour Thy grace into our hearts, that as we have know the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son by the message of an angel, so by Cross and Passion we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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The Guild of St Phoebe

We’re really pleased to have formed a Guild of Servers at Church. We’ve a great group of servers at our church and we want to encourage them in the splendid work they do in our worship. The Guild is for all members of our wonderful serving team of all ages – acolytes, thurifers, M.C.s… It’s aimed at developing our servers and we’ll have social events, training and spiritual events too.

Serving at the Altar is a wonderful privilege and experience. Many a priest’s vocation has had its seeds sown as they have served at the Altar – and St Paul wrote

“Those who serve at the altar share in what is offered at the altar” 1 Cor.9.13

Earlier in June we had a meeting with servers and since then Amar, Andrew and Fr Chris have explored ways of supporting our serving team. We decided to form a group for any of our servers who wish to join, and we are keen the group is led by servers themselves. We’re calling the group the Guild of St Phoebe. Phoebe was an early Church deacon, and we read about her in the Letter to the Romans.

Serving is a joy, but, it is not without its demands. There is always the nagging fear of doing something “wrong”, and then there is the temperament of priests to contend with! We are all aware of being on show, and no one likes looking foolish. We like to do things right and we like to support one another too.

The members of Church guilds, or societies often support one another in prayer. To know that others pray and support your ministry helps when the going gets difficult – and there is a Rule of Life to sustain members.

It will be the same for our servers of the Guild of St Phoebe – they will sustain one another by their prayers and service, joining together for special acts of worship, and having fun and the occasional outing with each other.

Please pray for our servers regularly, and especially as we form the Guild. As the Guild develops we hope also to meet with servers from neighbouring churches.

Fr Chris

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