With the Woman at the Well

The Retreat Association icon, the woman at the well by Iconjohn

Wells have an important place in the Bible. This is not surprising. Wells so often had a central role in ancient communities of the Middle East. Abraham provides wells for his people, Jacob on his journey is drawn to a well, Jesus meets and talks with a Samaritan woman at a well.

At the village well people gathered, especially women and children, to collect water for the home. The well was a place of meeting, where news could be exchanged, advice sought and comfort received.

Animals came to the well to drink and to be refreshed. The well was a place of equality, a place where common needs were satisfied. The well was a place of meeting, an inclusive place.

The Retreat Association Icon of the woman at the well was recently displayed over several days at St Chrysostom’s. On the Sunday evening on which it was displayed a group of people gathered around the icon and out thoughts and prayers were helpfully, and skilfully, guidedd by Andrew Rudd, Poet in Residence at Manchester Cathedral. We were encouraged to simply be still and gaze at the story the icon represented and be part of that story. Andrew helped us engage by reading the account of the woman at the well from St John’s Gospel, and by telling us of some of the significant features of the icon.

Each of us was encouraged to find our own understanding, our own space, with Christ at the icon.

The image of Christ sitting at the place of need, and talking with the woman at the well, was a powerful image of acceptance and inclusion.

There were about twelve of us united in prayer and reflection around the icon that evening. Among us there was huge variety. One person had never been in the church before, two were people in very difficult circumstances, one was homeless, seven different nationalities were represented, our ages ranged from 7 to 71… Together, equally, we gathered with the woman at the well. We came to the well, to a space with Christ where all were welcome, and we sat and listened.

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A Novel Angelus

The Angelus bell slowly rings. Sister Hermance turns in the general direction of the high altar and get to her knees as she prays, “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.” “And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.” And then an Ave Maria is said.

Sister Virginie is kneeling with scissors and hyancinths in the garth but she tenderly puts them on the grass as she says to herself, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”

Sister Marie-Madeleine holds on to a ripsaw and brushes wood shavings and dust from her gray habit as she privately gives the response, “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

In the kitchen the sisters stand by the hot stoves in rolled-up sleeves, their white aprons stained with soups and juices, steam from saucepans wetting their chins. Sister Saint-Leon’s hands are whitely gloved in flour as she prays the rest, “And the Word was made flesh.” Cook’s helpers with her respond, “And dwelt amongst us.”

The prioress stands at her desk, her palms held up to her face as though she’s in tears. She prays, “Pray for us, O Hold Mother of God.” And then she replies in antiphon, “That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

Sister Hermance smiles as Mariette recites from girlhood memory, “Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

This touching description of the Angelus being prayed in a US convent in 1906 is found in the novel Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen. The author gives us a beautiful picture of the sisters  joined in praying the Angelus wherever they are in their convent.

Similalrly we are invited to imagine, as we sing the Angelus after Sunday Mass, or say it at other times, – or indeed whenever we pray – how we are joined and encouraged in prayer with Christians wherever they may be, some using the same words which we are. Perhaps, in whatever place you pray the Angelus you may like to think of yourself standing in front of the statue of Mary in Church (See the lovely image here of Our Lady’s statue on the evening of Easter Day).

And… would you like to see the music of the version we use at Church? You may like to sing and pray. We’d love you to join in! For a copy, click here: Music for the Angelus

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Help us to name Mary’s donkey

The happy team creating the Posada figures

Children at St John’s School in Longsight are hard at work on Monday afternoons this month making figures of Mary, Joseph and the donkey for our #Posada this year. We are so grateful for the time and effort they are taking and for Mrs Juliet Francis their headteacher in planning this.

As usual the figures will be going around our community visiting lots of places and encouraging conversation, prayer and helping make connections with one another. It’s a great tradition at St C’s and a great means of outreach.

But wait! We’ve mentioned Mary and Joseph – but what is the donkey’s name? Three names have been chosen now we invite you to vote for your choice. The three names have been chosen from the names of women who travel in the Bible.

Read about the women and then cast your vote:

JochebedExodus 2:4, 15:20-21: Jochebed is the mother of Moses, Aaron and Miriam in the Hebrew Bible. In the face of tyranny she hides Moses in plants by the waters of the River Nile. She protects her son and looks after him as best she can. She is praised for her faith in God, and for her care for children.

PriscillaRomans 16:3-5, Acts 18:1-4, Acts 18:18-21, Acts 18:24-28:  Priscilla and her husband, Aquila appear in Acts, when they were in exile in Corinth because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome.  Priscilla and Aquila welcomed Paul into their home and then travelled with him to Syria by boat, where they both ministered alongside Paul.  Priscilla shows up again in Acts, this time she is in Ephesus in the synagogue, explaining the way of God to Apollos.  Her faith in Christ took her on many journeys.

RuthRuth 1:16: Following the deaths of her husband, and sons, Naomi decided to return to her home and urged her daughter in law to return to their mothers.  However Ruth said “Where you go I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God”.  Ruth’s faithfulness and loyalty to Naomi took her travelling to Bethlehem, rather than the comfort and safety of her own family.

THANK YOU to all who voted for Mary’s Donkey’s name.

Because of an equal vote in the leaders – Ruth and Priscilla – we had to extend our poll until 18.00GMT on 2nd December to receive some deciding votes. Now we can announce the winning name – Mary’s Donkey in this year’s Posada is called PRISCILLA!

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The Viciousness of Injustice: Ken Leech Memorial Lecture

Canon Mark Oakley

A plate of liver and onions in a university refectory might not be the most memorable of meals usually, but I remember it very well. I was a theology student at King’s College London. It was 1989. I was 20 years old. And I was eating liver and onions with Fr Ken Leech. I couldn’t believe it. He was a hero of mine. 

With these words Canon Mark Oakley, Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge began the first Ken Leech Memorial lecture in Manchester, The Viciousness of Injustice.

Fr Ken Leech was an outstanding and influential contextual theologian and radical Anglo Catholic priest. The lecture, in Ken’s memory was co-sponsored by St Chrysostom’s Church, Luther King House and the Society of Catholic Priests (SCP). It was excellent.

Mark Oakley urged us to consider Ken’s insights and radical challenges and follow in his footsteps today, challenging unjust structures which oppress and marginalise. We were encouraged to look at the signs of the times we live in and ‘to learn again’ from Ken. To do this we must be people of poetry, protest, prophesy and prayer.

Fr Ian, Fr Mark and Dr Graham Sparkes (President LKH)

Mark’s words were provoking and entertaining, challenging and engaging.

The large audience was very appreciative and the questions which followed were wide ranging and stimulating.


Here are just a few comments from people attending:

“I could have listened to Mark Oakley all evening long!”

” ‘Church – a gymnasium for the underused imagination?’ – what a wonderful thought. There were so many wonderful lines”

“Outstanding, challenging words the church and world need to hear today, I am sure Ken would have approved!”

“So appropriate, so interesting… and wonderfully entertaining. Thank you very much.”

“A delight to listen to”

Alan, Churchwarden at St C’s thanks Fr Mark for ‘a captivating lecture’

Mark concluded the lecture with these words:   For Ken Leech, poet, pray-er, prophet and protestor I am deeply grateful and honoured to have had the chance to say my thank you tonight. Whereas we pray he rests in peace I suspect he prays that we will not – there is far too much to be done and a gospel to be lived.

St Chrysostom’s Church, where Fr Ken’s Funeral Mass was held, is delighted to have sponsored this lecture, and delighted too that Fr Mark Oakley spoke so appropriately and so well. We look forward to future lectures.


We are very pleased to say the lecture ‘The Vicousness of Injustice: Learning again from Ken Leech’ is now available in print in our Olympias Tracts series from St Chrysostom’s Church.

To find out how to obtain a copy click here.

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39 candles for trafficking victims

Vietnamese survivors of trafficking stand before the 39 candles of remembrance

Vietnamese survivors of human trafficking gathered today (8th November) at St Chrysostom’s Church together with volunteers, church members and friends for an act of worship to remember the 39 Vietnamese trafficked people, from North and Central Vietnam, who suffocated on their journey seeking a better life in Britain.

Sheran Harper, worldwide president of the Mothers’ Union also joined the worship along with representatives of the local community.

Reflection and prayer was led in English and in Vietnamese. The Vietnamese speakers were survivors of trafficking themselves, and we briefly heard the story of one, and we were moved at his thanks for the care he receives at Church. In our work of care at St Chrysostom’s for the survivors of human trafficking we have helped over 400 people at St Chrysostom’s and we estimate that 50 – 60 of them have been from Vietnam.

Paper wreathes made at church by survivors, volunteers and church members

Prayers were offered, and 39 candles lit, one for each person who died. Prayers were also said for their families and friends, those being trafficked today, and for those who traffick other humans.

The following prayer, written by the Bishop of Manchester, Bishop David, was read in English and translated into Vietnamese.

God of all peoples, we hold before you those who have died seeking a new life in this country. We pray that they may now know the fullness of your light and your peace;

We pray, too, that their families and friends may find comfort in their darkness. We remember all those who put their lives at risk in seeking to travel here, praying that they may be kept safe, especially when they are in the hands of those that would exploit them and care little for their well-being.

May your kingdom come, when all may find welcome and kindness amongst our human family, and when true justice may be known for all. These things we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

All were united in a poignant time of silence as we pondered the horrors which human trafficking can inflict.

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Action for Revival: Ken Leech

“We need to stress that the Church is a Divine society with a life-style which is quite contrary to the values which govern western society at the present time, for it is based on sharing. The Eucharistic life, in which people are treated on absolute equality and in which they share, and become, the Body of Christ, is totally at variance with the way our society treats people.”

So wrote Ken Leech in his engaging and hard hitting booklet Action for Revival. Over the next few months here at St Chrysostom’s Church we’re publishing a series of booklets – Olympias Tracts. The booklets aim to present writings of the past and present on Anglo Catholic themes fitting in with our ethos and relevant to the church and world today.

We’re delighted that Fr Ken’s leaflet Action for Revival is the first of the series and is now available.

Fr Ken was a prolific author and many of his books remain in print. He also wrote a great number of articles and leaflets, many to address specific issues of the day. Action for Revival, long out of print, presents the key themes of his ministry and teaching in a straightforward, accessible and direct way.

Ken wrote this leaflet as a challenge to renewal in a church which, he said, was moving away from its main purpose – prayer, pastoral care and social challenge. The themes he presents here are clearly put and were to be developed at greater length in his books.

The booklet was specifically produced for the Ken Leech Memorial lecture delivered by Canon Mark Oakley on November 5th 2019, sponsored by St Chrysostom’s at Luther King House. It serves as a stimulating introduction and reminder of Ken’s thought and challenge to the Church today.

Copies are available £2 from church, or by post. Click:  Olympias Tracts information  for details on how to order.

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What the Bishop says …. about St Chrysostom’s People

Bishop David talked with, and encouraged, members of the congregation, trafficked and homeless men, gay couples, those seeking asylum, local councillors, schools staff and many more…

Watching members of St Chrysostom’s Church play the parts of their predecessors at the recent anniversary service proved a deeply encouraging experience. Not least because this is a church prepared to define its history not via a series of photographs and biographies of vicars, however eminent they may have been, but by the lives and witness of members of the congregation and parish. And what a diverse group they turned out to be!

 Today’s St Chrysostom’s is well-known in Manchester for how it welcomes diversity, and creates the context in which Christians from very different backgrounds can flourish in discipleship and ministry. It’s work supporting refugees and asylum seekers, and people who have been trafficked, as well as individuals marginalised on grounds of gender and sexuality, has gained it high respect across the city and beyond. But this is not a mere modern innovation. Ever since it first opened its door 142 years ago, this church has led the way in how it has included the marginalised, cared for the most needy, and sustained excellence in music and worship. The congregation members who, for an evening, briefly put on the guise of those who worked and worshipped here in previous generations, were not at all in unfamiliar clothing. Rather, they were demonstrating how they have taken up the mantle of their predecessors.

 St Chrysostom’s parish has long been home to those who have sought solace and comfort for themselves and their loved ones in unfamiliar, and potentially hostile, surroundings. The wide range of civic and other leaders who joined us to celebrate this living heritage was itself a tribute to the impact that a group of open hearted Christians can have, both in its community and far beyond.

+David, Bishop of Manchester

We are very grateful to Bishop David for these kind and encouraging words, and for the time and attention he gave to speak with so many at our celebration: ‘St Chrysostom’s People.’

We have produced a book giving the stories of over 50 different people connected in some way with the church. Copies, £4.50, are available from Church. (For more details, including a list of those included please click here).
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