#Posada2018 By the banks of the Mersey

Our Advent #Posada2018 has begun.

#Posada2018 begins on the banks of the Mersey

The small figures of Mary, Joseph, and Deborah their donkey began their journey at Chorlton Water Park in South Manchester, on the banks of the River Mersey.

On Saturdays a walk is often organised for members of our Church language classes for the trafficked, and homeless. Alan chooses different locations for the walks, and is encouraging volunteers to join too. Not only are these walks good for conversation in English, its also an opportunity for exercise, fresh air and mutual encouragement.

As the Posada figures joined the walk the conversations centred around travelling – both locally and across nations. For the trafficked people journeys are an integral part of their life stories.

The setting of the walk following the flow of the River Mersey gave a sense of flowing energy in the river, a glimpse of the drive and flow of life, and our part in something greater. This year our #Posada2018 has a particular focus,’Seeing God’ (for more on this see an earlier post – click here) and we are encouraging one another to look for, and talk about, glimpses of the divine, the presence of God, around us. Pausing to look at the flowing river encouraged a sense of continuous flowing energy around us. The beauty of the walk in the many colours of late Autumn, and the animals around pointed to something greater than our small, frequently narrow, lives. A surrounding beauty.

The walk allowed people of differing background and culture to connect with one another, to share stories, and to learn from one another.

In our Christian faith we so often meet people different from ourselves, whose life can enrich our own. This can be a great blessing.

The companionship of the walk was further strengthened by sharing drinks of hot chocolate, resting after the walk, and listening to one another.

The story of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem joins so many different people, and opens our eyes to seeing God journeying with us, and sensing the flow of God’s love around us and guiding us.

Think of a time in your life when you shared a walk or longer journey. What do you particularly remember about it? What did you gain from the sharing and the journey?

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Andrew: Called in the workplace

St Andrew by Simone Martini (1344)

Andrew (feast day November 30th) was one of the first apostles Jesus recruited. He abandoned his net immediately when Jesus called him and his brother Simon Peter. Andrew was the apostle who told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fish.

 Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at Patras. The tradition holds that Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, because he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified in the same form of cross as Jesus did. Scotland’s flag bears the same cross, now named after him—St. Andrew’s Cross.

 Andrew was a fisherman, and St. Mark noted that Andrew with his brother Peter was casting a net into the sea when Jesus said to them “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. So Jesus called Andrew, and Peter, in their workplace, he ‘caught’ them in the middle of their work. And what was their reaction? They immediately left their nets and followed him.

 Our vocation can come to us at any moment in our lives. Sometimes it may come at an ‘inconvenient’ time to us. I certainly have had many occasions when I feel that God is calling me to do something while I was extremely busy studying or working. And now as I reflect upon the callings I had, they were always well timed, and proved to be crucial to my future.

St Andrew by Hans Holbein the younger (1520)

Andrew pointed out that there was a boy with five loaves and two fish, he also said “but what are they among so many people”.

 Sometimes we may be unaware of the gifts and talents of the people among us, especially children. How five thousand hungry men, plus eleven apostles, failed to notice that among them were a little boy with five loaves and two fish! Andrew questioned, rightly, “what are they among so many”, and Jesus proved to everyone that however small one’s gift can be, through the work of God, it can be more than enough than we can ever imagine.

 On this feast of St. Andrew, think about our readiness to answer God’s calling, even if we are called in the middle of our daily work; and let us always be observant for the gifts and talents of the people among us, however small and seemingly trivial they may be, trusting that through God’s transformation, they may all be life-changing and pivotal to everyone of us. 

Kenson Li, Parish Assistant

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#Posada2018 Seeing God

At the beginning of their Gospels Matthew and Luke tell us through simple beautiful words of the coming of God into the confusion and muddle of our world in Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem. The stories of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels are at the heart of Christian faith. They unite Christians around the world. 

Woonbo Kim Ki-chang (Korea), The Birth of Jesus Christ, 1953

The stories weave together the lives and experiences of many people. In their different ways the characters involved ‘see’ God.

Mary, the young woman of Nazareth, sees an angel who gives God message to her, and she receives into her womb the son of God, who is to grow within her and whom she is to give birth to, and nurture, nourish and guide.

Joseph receives God’s message through a dream, and takes care of Mary, and the child Jesus. Shepherds in the fields, caring for their sheep at night hear God’s messengers, the angels telling them of God coming to the world, and singing of God’s glory. The shepherds see God, in Jesus, and go and tell of the wonders they have seen. The Magi (the wise men) follow the star which leads them to see Jesus Christ at Bethlehem and leads them to worship.

There is more – others in the stories encounter God, some knowingly, some without realising it. The innkeeper, people of Bethlehem, animals – sheep, cattle, donkey, all have a part in the stories as told, and sung about, by Christians through the centuries to our day. All glimpse, see God, in some way – through dreams, angels, by stars, above all in a baby.

Our small Posada figures are a reminder of this wonderful good news. The figures encourage us in Advent to pause. They invite us to seek God around us, to see God moving among us today.

This year, 2018, as the Posada figures journey in our community we will invite people to share ways in which in their lives they have felt God’s presence, seen God at work, or felt they may have had a glimpse of the divine. We will share some of the thoughts and words we receive on the #Posada2018 journey here on our church blog, and in our facebook group too.

Where in your life have you ‘seen’ God?

Where have you ‘felt the touch’ of the divine?

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Giving the donkey a name

Our Advent Posada is a popular and well established Advent outreach programme in St Chrysostom’s parish. Our small knitted figures of Mary, Joseph, and the donkey travel around our parish, and places we have connection with. They are always welcomed, and their visit is a lovely opportunity for sharing together.

They visit, schools, homes, University halls, institutions and with them bring a reminder of the message of Christmas, and an opportunity for people to pause, pray and think about the meaning of Christmas. Each year many places look forward to the visit – as we look forward to visiting. We visit some places each year, and each year we have new places on the list. 2018 is no exception!

But before they set off we choose a name for the donkey. Hannah and Kenson, our respected Parish Assistants,  chose three Old Testament women’s names. Our tradition is to choose a woman’s name – to help raise familiarity with women of the Bible.

We then had a poll inviting people to cast their vote.

Here are the names that were in the poll:

Deborah, the only female judge in the Bible.

“The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I, Deborah, arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. Song of Deborah (Judges 5)

Esther, used her queenship to save the Jews from persecution.

If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman  the Agagite which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?  (Esther 8)

 Rahab, assisted the Israelites to capture the city of Jericho. (Joshua 2 and 6)

“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. Hebrews 11:31

And the result of the poll:

Rahab, was in third place, Esther was in second running close to this year’s winner Deborah.

Thank you to all who voted

 

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The Presentation of Mary

 

Gresford, All Saints, Oxfordshire. 15th century stained glass window of Presentation of Mary

The Holy Scripture tells us nothing about Mary’s childhood, not even her parents name, nor her ancestry. In the apocryphal work, The Gospel of James, we are told her parents are Anne and Joachim, and that they were childless until they received a heavenly message that they would have a child. In thanksgiving they presented Mary in the temple in Jerusalem, probably at the age of three, to consecrate her to God. 

The Feast of the Presentation of Mary (21st November) is an ancient feast shared by Christians of the East and of the West of thanksgiving, and an occasion for all of us, to consider, and reconsider our vocation, our calling.

 Vocation goes beyond the calling to priesthood. We can be called to do all sorts of things in our lives, to be teachers, to be carers, even to run an English language class for the victims of human trafficking. Our universal vocation, a calling which we all share, is to do God’s will on earth. Indeed Jesus said to the crowd “whoever does the will of my Father is my brother and sister, and mother.

A good way of reminding ourselves to do God’s will, is to pray. To pray that our work, through God’s mercy and grace, and the intercession of all the saints, may be sanctified. In all our daily work and chores, do it with love and care, do it for God. However little an act may be, if it is done for Love and with love, is worth so much!

Modern Icon of Presentation of Mary

The theme of dedication also runs in the Presentation of Mary. She was dedicated and consecrated to God when she was still very young, much like those who were baptised in their infancy, would have been presented by their parents, and their godparents, to be baptised into Christ’s body, and so in some way dedicated to God. For Mary, she gave birth to Christ, and thus our faith is born of the mother church. We are all members of the body of Christ, a union God created through Mary’s unreserved dedication to do God’s will.

So let us on this feast offer our lives to do God’s will on earth, wholeheartedly and with humility. May Mary’s devotion to a life of sanctity inspire all of us, to offer our work as sacrifice to God; and through Mary’s intercession, may our work contribute to the perpetual increase of God’s government and peace on earth.

Kenson Li, Parish Assistant

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A bold and courageous woman of the Church

Growing up near Whitby, I feel a close connection to St Hilda of Whitby (feast day 19th November). The connection is both geographical and spiritual.

Hilda holding a model of Whitby Abbey, from the stained glass window in St Chrysostom’s Church

Hilda was the Abbess of Hartlepool and later in 649 Abbess at Whitby. Hilda put Whitby on the map as a place of great theological learning and reform. Hilda was a woman of many talents. People travelled far and wide to seek her advice and counsel. She is described as a preacher of great distinction and a born leader, traits historically the Church has disregarded in women. Church history is often overshadowed by male figures, that’s why people like Hilda are of great importance.

The Synod of Whitby in 664 had profound implications for the direction of the Church, deciding which one of the Western traditions would be practised in England. St. Hilda met with male leaders deciding that England would follow the Roman tradition rather than the Celtic. When we think of reform it is easy to point to men of great historical prestige. Yet, Hilda, with her spiritual gifts reformed the Church peacefully, without the bloodshed that would later ensue. Not only did the decision heavily impact the practice of the Church but it highlights the historical significance that women played within decision making in the Church.

The ruins of Whitby Abbey

During her time in the Abbey, men and women learnt together, illustrating the maturity of the Anglo Saxon Period. The Church has not always been institutionally patriarchal and male-dominated. Hilda’s emphasis on learning for both men and women shows a remarkably progressive attitude for the time. It really was a place where all could learn about and deepen their relationship with God, regardless of gender. This emphasises St Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he made no distinction between men and women but that we are all equal and unified in Christ Jesus. Hilda made a huge impact within her time, but sadly in later years female leadership in the church declined.

Hilda reformed the Church in terms of spirituality, learning and creative language, leading an inclusive and equal monastery. Thankfully, today’s Church is re-discovering women, their voices, and the gifts they can give to our Church. Hilda taught the Church lessons of equality and education, seeking a vision of inclusiveness that the contemporary Church is now striving for. Hilda was a bold and courageous woman full of wisdom; defying society’s expectation of women, staying true to the Gospel, and for that she must be remembered and celebrated.

Hannah Pyke (Parish Assistant)

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My special stones

Stones are often uses to mark places,  for memory. Some are very special and even holy. After his life changing dream Jacob sets up a stone to mark the holy place, where he had felt at the gateway of God’s kingdom.

Today I spoke to a group of children at St Chrysostom’s School about stones which are special to me. They are stones from special places. Five small stones come from the hill of apparitions at Medjugorje in Bosnia Herzogovina. Remembering how David chose five stones for his sling, which which he slew the giant Goliath, pilgrims to the hill are invited to select five stones to remind them of tools they need for their journey in life. I made my choice, now they are part of my collection and remind me of the tools I need to journey as a Christian – such as prayer, repentance, sacraments…

A lovely red granite stone, polished by the sea, comes from a special visit to the very remote settlement of Grense Jacobslev by the Barents Sea, at the Norwegian Russian border, in the far north of Norway. I spent a special day, feeling close to God in that faraway, barren place. Holding the stone allows me, in a spiritual way, to return there in memory and with prayer.

A grey stone with white markings in the form of a cross comes from Whithorn in the south of Scotland. Centuries ago the rather mysterious quiet figure, Ninian of Whithorn ministered pastorally and gently in this part of Scotland. His example made a lasting impression among the people and he is honoured to this day in the Church. Near Whithorn a country path leads to the sea shore to the site of Ninian’s cave, a special place, it is said, for the saint. There, like many pilgrims, I picked up a stone from the beach with the characteristic cross marking.

Other stones from places such as Montserrat, Walsingham etc have special significance to me. One curious stone is particularly connected to me. It is like a bird’s egg, black with white freckles. I don’t know where it came from, or how I came to have it. What I do know is that it is part of my earliest memories as a child. It has accompanied me through all my life.

These stones, for me, are holy, they are evocative and part of my story. They help me to enter God’s story  for me as part of humanity, and as part of God’s work – creation.

Fr Ian

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