Coronavirus: minimising risk at Church

Coronavirus wyntd

The number of people diagnosed with the Coronavirus is increasing every day. We all have an obligation, ‘for the common good,’ to do what we can to stop it spreading. Working together to slow down the spread of the virus is a step towards its eradication, and helps give time to those involved in medical research to seek a cure.

We are introducing some simple and sensible steps at church which will help us feel  comfortable in worship, and also help us to take our part in doing what we can as a community of people gathering together to lower risk. The steps follow national guidelines.

From Sunday (8th March) communion at Mass at St Chrysostom’s will be administered in the form of the Body of Christ (the consecrated bread) only. We ask that if at all possible those receiving do so on their hands and not on the tongue. The Church has always taught that Holy Communion is received in its fullness even if just one kind is received.

The Holy Water stoups at the entry to church will be emptied, and a sign in place encouraging those who enter church to simply make the sign of the cross as they do so, remembering their baptism.

Hymn sheets for the specific Sunday will be printed and we will refrain from using hymn books in the congregation.

We encourage those coming to church to wash their hands thoroughly before coming. Hand sanitising gel will be available at the welcome table to those who wish to use it. Tissues will also be available in church.

At the sign of the peace we ask people not to shake hands but to turn and greet those around them with a smile and the words ‘peace be with you.’

Tea and coffee will be served as usual after worship. During Lent we will maintain our tradition of not serving biscuits or cake with after worship drinks.

In this way we aim to take a part in minimising risk and the spread of the virus in our community. We will review practice regularly in accordance with national guidelines.

This BBC web page gives a simple and clear information about the virus and staying safe.

Fr Ian

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Called to Trust

An Icon of Perpetua and Felicity by Elisabeth Lamour

Imagine you are a well-educated, 22-year-old of high standing. Your societal needs and wants could be met without question. Now imagine the love you have for your child; still breastfeeding, this young human is dependent upon you and your connection. This was the reality for Perpetua (feast day 7th March), a woman in ancient Carthage who had been freshly introduced to Christ. Her passion and understanding for the Lord ran deep.

When questioned by her Pagan father of the choice to follow Christ she said simply, “Father, do you see this vessel lying here to be a little pitcher or something else?”

“I see it to be so.” he responded.

“Can it be called by any other name than what it is?”

“No.” he replied.

“Neither can I call myself anything than what I am: a Christian.”

Statue of Perpetua at Catholic Church, Royal Oak, Michigan

Soon after this Perpetua ran away with her child to continue her education for baptism. Perpetua and four other Christians were found and imprisoned. Felicity, an expectant mother of 8 months was among those with Perpetua. Felicity was fearful she would not be martyred with the rest but on her own after she had given birth. Imagine the community that had been cultivated to feel that there would be a disservice done if she did not receive her death sentence with the rest? Through every step of their journey they were mocked and belittled for their faith, yet they knew the Lord to be good. Their teacher volunteered to be imprisoned with them in order to keep teaching, knowing their imprisonment would lead to death by wild beasts or gladiators. While this seems a short and gruesome story of martyrdom, the commitment to the Lord’s call was the profound subject. These Christians exemplified endurance through the challenges they faced. Through the support of their community and perseverance through the Lord these humans found comfort and reason to continue down the path the they were called.

Ss Perpetua and Felicity in the arena (unknown artist)

This account is from the year 203 A.D., Perpetua’s journal was kept by another Christian and shared with the masses to bring humanity and faith together. This situation was long ago but the minds eye can understand its depth. Consider Anne Frank, a young female whose words have influenced the world due to her faith and hardship. Think of the similarities between these young humans.

We are not all called to be martyrs and saints talked about by Christian academics for years to come, but we are called to trust in the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Trust in the Lord and seek God’s intentions to move through us. We are to others a sliver of the light of God, small actions are the ones that exemplify our commitment to the Lord.

My friends I ask you, what is it that you call yourself?

Madison McCabe, Parish Assistant

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Postcard from Lahore

Seven curates and I visited the Diocese of Lahore in Pakistan in February.  A lovely reception in a marquee in the Bishop’s garden welcomed us and gave the opportunity to meet local pastors, whose churches we would be preaching at the following Sunday. I preached at Galilee Church, in a deprived suburb of Lahore.  The church was a colourful tent between two buildings, although they are currently building a new church.  The service was in Urdu. Bishop Irfan translated my sermon.  I was struck by the difference in culture.  Women sat apart from men, with covered heads. People left their shoes at the door and sat on the floor – not a pew to be seen!  Music was led by a small worship group, more psalms than hymns were sung. Afterwards, I felt enveloped in warmth and welcome: lots of hugs and selfies, with around 350 people, followed by refreshments at the Pastor’s home.

We visited schools, hostels for children and a college training young men as mechanics, all run by the Diocese.  I was particularly moved by two women’s projects in very deprived villages: a sewing project and a reading project.  The sewing project taught women how to embroider and make clothes from old clothes; their skill and creativity was inspiring.  The women made additional money for their families, using their skills, but they received just £1.75 for making the embroidered tablecloth in the photos.

At the reading project women and girls were taught to read and write, using the Bible. This clearly had an empowering effect on the women, who proudly read aloud to us.  In both projects, we received such a warm welcome and were so impressed at the resilience and positivity of the women and girls.

Some amusing moments included bumping into our local MP Afzal Khan at the border of Pakistan and India. We found the driving in Pakistan fascinating, especially entire families travelling on a single motorbike, the record was 6 people on one motorbike.

Christianity is a minority religion in Pakistan, and Christians are not well treated in some quarters, often impacting on job opportunities.  It is a community that experiences theological struggles such as the ordination of women, and the place of LGBTQ people within the church, also with severe poverty within its congregations and few resources.  However, we received the most incredible warmth, love and generous hospitality from the people we met, that I felt that I had seen in action, John 13:35  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Mtr Kate

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Many faiths with a shared responsibilty

A gathering with five faiths sharing a common concern

Sikh, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu friends joined us for a special evening on the 1st Sunday in Lent. Beauty and Care of Creation is the theme of our Sunday evening Lent series and together we joined in a specially worded vespers and in friendly conversation as we explored together our faith perspectives on caring for our planet.

Rabbi Warren Elf (Judaism) referred us to the creation stories in Genesis.  In chapter 1 the scripture says that humanity was to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the sky and over all the beasts that tread upon the earth. “.  However Genesis 2, humanity is made from the dust, with a responsibility to tend the earth.

Sukhbir Singh (Sikhism) told us that within his faith, we have a responsibility to care for creation and all that we have, beginning with ourselves and our family, and then the wider community. Nidhi Sinha (Hinduism) spoke about the five elements in the Hindu faith: air, water, fire, earth and ether and how these thread through the understanding of creation.  She described Gandhi’s life of simplicity and how that gives a model to us for care for creation.  Ahmed Ali (Islam), explained how care for creation is often tied into everyday practice, such as ablutions (ritual).  Worshippers at Mosque see signs saying ‘Don’t Waste the Water’ a reminder to treat reverentially a precious and valuable resource.

In the discussion, we explored together the value of direct action, the role of the individual, and the role of women in decision making and leading the way.  Sukhbir felt the role of mothers was important. Children learn most from their mothers through the nurturing process. Mtr Kate spoke of how mothers, through the act of childbirth are engaged physically with creation, in a way that sometimes inspires a concern for the planet which leads to lifestyle decisions that protect the planet, such as use of cloth nappies, breastfeeding etc.

As the discussion drew to a close, hope for the future, the importance of prayer, peace and respect for each other, and a greater gender balance in decision making were expressed.  During the discussion it was thought that there had been little interfaith dialogue locally on Eco matters, and that this should be developed. All believed it was so encouraging and thought provoking, to hear and learn from other faith traditions and discovering so much common ground in our shared responsibility for our planet.  We hoped we could explore ways of working together for the future.

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Incense-ibility and Pernicious Nonsense

200 years ago on 28th February 2020 the great illustrator Sir John Tenniel was born. His wonderful illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and in Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice found there continue to be enjoyed by millions of people of all ages. Tenniel worked hard with a very exacting Lewis Carroll, to produce the images which to this day shape our image of such figures as the Mad hatter, the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the Jabberwock and Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Tenniel began book illustrating in 1842 and from then his career developed. In 1865 Alice was published, and he continued work with Lewis Carroll for the publication in 1871 of Looking Glass.

Tenniel had a remarkable eye for detail and included interesting backgrounds – thus developing the art of book illustration. In 1893 his outstanding work was recognised when Queen Victoria conferred a knighthood upon him.

Tenniel was also a cartoonist for the satirical magazine Punch. As such he was an acute observer of the society of his day. Although his Punch cartoons will not stand the test of time as well as those he did for Alice  nevertheless they are of equal quality and show great insight and humour.

The 1860s were dynamic years in the Church of England. The Oxford Movement had introduced attention to detail in worship, greater reverence and also ritualism. The latter strand became subject to ribald comment, not least from Punch. Tenniel contributed to the critique in characteristic style.

Tenniel’s cartoon Pernicious Nonsense  (1866) shows a  “pernicious” priest, who pretends to take no notice of English sentiment represented by ‘John Bull’ and his Church of England friends yet who slightly turns his eye to check he is being seen. The cartoon is suggesting that Ritualism is a sham act, a mere performance.

In Incense-ibilty (also 1866) Tenniel shows a Ritualist priest standing at a store counter discussing the merits of a large container of incense with a rather sinister looking shopkeeper. We see him surrounded by props required for Ritualistic worship: votive candles, “hair shirts,” “perfumed rods,” and elaborate electroplated candlesticks “from Rome.”

The suggestion is clear – the Ritualist is preparing not for a service but for a show. Tenniel shows the priest as an angular thin figure worthy of suspicion.

For those for whom ceremony and ritual is important today, as indeed they are in our worship at St Chrysostom’s, Tenniel’s illustrations offer a challenge and a warning. We are not to be so concerned about the ‘show’ or the ‘detail’ that we ignore the wonders and realities of our faith which the ritual serves by helping to convey worship, awe and faith through our senses.

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A poet of divine love

“In addition to his work as rector and his intense poetic activities in this period, George Herbert was also afforded the opportunity to enjoy what he termed ‘the sweetest of sweets‘—liturgical music—and to practise his own considerable skills as a musician.” So writes the Dictionary of National Biography about one of the most highly esteemed of all Anglicans, George Herbert (commemorated February 27th)

Herbert is included among the 39 Beati of the Anglican Communion named by ‘Clement Humilis’ several of whom we are telling of here on our church blog. (See the entry about this here.)

In his characteristic style Clement Humilis writes:

“George Herbert (1593-1633) was brother of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, and was educated at Westminster and Trinity College, Cambridge, of which college he was elected fellow in 1616. He was a linguist, a classic, and a musician. He became Public Orator of the University and took Orders only within three years of his death. He died of consumption. He was drawn to the religious life by his friendship with Nicholas Ferrar. Appointed Vicar of Bemerton near Salisbury, his three years in that place were the crown of a saintly life. He was the poet of divine love, and one of the sweet singers of Caroline Catholicism in the Church of England. Of his Priest to the Temple which was published after his death in 1633, twenty thousand copies were sold by 1670.”

Several of Herbert’s poems are sung as hymns and are found in most Anglican hymn books. They include Teach me my God and King, King of Glory, King of Peace and Let all the world. Others are less well know but still profoundly beautiful – for example, Come, my way, my truth, my life and The God of love, my shepherd is.

This great priest and poet is an inspiration to clergy today to consider the value of pastoral work and the place of poetry in worship and Christian living.

As you read of George Herbert, the ‘poet of divine love’, think of which clergy have inspired you by their poetry and insight. (You are welcome to share your thoughts by commenting here).

O Almighty and Merciful God, who didst call Thy blessed servant George from the halls of kings and the courts of the learned to be a humble shepherd of souls; grant unto us such grace, that we also may offer ourselves in all humility at the altar of Thine obedience. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

(Collect from the Supplement to the Missal). 

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Margaret of Cortona

St Margaret of Cortona

Born a daughter of a Tuscan peasant in 1297, from the age of eighteen Margaret of Cortona (feast day February 22nd) was a mistress of a young nobleman. They had a son. When Margaret was twenty seven, the young nobleman died in a violent incident. Margaret then moved to Cortona, living with a family who kindly offered her and her son accommodation.

From then on Margaret’s lifestyle was to change from self-indulgent to self-denying. She became a Franciscan, and spent her time in making a living while doing many works of kindness. But her past was to haunt her in Cortona. Some people doubted her sincerity in her charitable works; Margaret and her friends did not escape slanderous gossip.

Perhaps because of this hostile attitude of her neighbours, Margaret grew more and more reclusive. She started to cut herself off from public life, and devoted herself to a private life of prayer. Her confessor Friar Giunta noted the miracles and conversions that were brought about by Margaret’s fervent prayers.

Margaret’s life shows us how people who have made a genuine effort to turn their lives around are often forced to live in the shadows of their regrettable past by their unforgiving neighbours. It also shows us the damage malicious gossips can do to people, even those with great faith.

 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. (Psalm 34:13)

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians  4:29)

Caroline Flack, a celebrity television presenter, committed suicide after what must have been an unbearable few weeks of constant media scrutiny. Princess Diana’s tragic death is still fresh in many’s memory. The horrific consequences of what some may consider as ‘lighthearted gossip’ is very clear—it will always cause unnecessary stress and psychological distress to those involved. And the motto ‘careless talk costs lives’ is still as true as ever in this age.

Margaret of Cortona’s life must have been hard as a single mother in a patriarchal society, her neighbours’ slander only made her life even more difficult. We as Christians, just as everyone else, are prone to mindless comments. We must remind ourselves that the people around us are entrusted to our care by God, and we must see everyone as our siblings in Christ, made in God’s own image. Then, we may start to learn how to bridle our tongue and guard our mouth.

Reflect on the different occasions in which you and your friends exchanged gossip, and how such exchange can be avoided in the future.

Pray: Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your wisdom. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts, purify the words we speak, that all may experience your grace through our thoughtful and kind words. Amen.

Margaret is a patron saint of the homeless, single mothers and people ridiculed for their piety. Remember such people in your thoughts and prayers today.

Kenson, Parish Assistant

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