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In this difficult time…

St Oswald’s Church building will be closed until further notice

There will be NO PUBLIC WORSHIP SERVICES at St Oswald’s
and NO REMEMBRANCE SERVICES at the COLUMBARIUM

– until further notice.

Following the Government announcement of 23 March, the church will NOT NOW be open for private prayer on any day.

Please do let the Vicar or Churchwardens know if you are self-isolating, or if you are aware of someone else who might need us to keep in contact with them by phone for reassurance or to assist with shopping etc.
Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.
Thank you.

More information from the Church of England here.

Bollington Town Council
(volunteers can collect shopping, prescriptions, etc)
01625 786575

Macclesfield Citizens Advice Centre phone numbers:
01625 708608
07756 023416

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What’s on at St Oswald’s

All planned services and events are suspended for the time being.

“10 for 10”

During this uncertain time when we are not permitted to hold public worship services, we invite members of our congregation and local community to join in a virtual gathering day by day.

Wherever you are, please spend 10 minutes either at 10.00am or 10.00pm each day in the presence of God, praying in silence or aloud, for the needs of our community and of the world. You may wish to light a candle as you pray.

We hope that even though we are not physically together, each of us can still feel connected to one another and still able to join in worshipping God.

North Staffs Sponsored Walk 2020 Cancelled

“ Many thanks to everyone who sponsored Ruth Rogers and Richard Jones to take part in North Staffordshire Walk for Christian Aid on the 28th March.

Of course the event was cancelled this year but the need for the work of Christian Aid is greater than ever so we shall both do the walk when it becomes possible later in the year. We hope you trust us to do so. When the church opens again we will retrieve the sponsorship forms and collect the money and send it to Christian Aid.

Once again thank you to all our sponsors.”

On your own – but still connected…

A suggestion originating from Bishop Keith (our Acting Bishop of Chester) for a simple way of praying on your own but still feeling connected with your church family 🙂

Take one hand and look at…

Your thumb – pray for your family and church community, for all those who minister in our parishes and chaplaincies;
Your first finger – pray for the NHS, all emergency services, carers and support workers, all patients suffering from other diseases or chronic conditions, and for medical researchers looking for a vaccine against COVID-19;
Your second finger – pray for the Government and its advisers, for local government councillors and employees, for the self-employed, for those on universal credit, for those who make policies and laws, and all those making tough decisions;
Your third finger – pray for care homes, for staff working in retail, utilities and education, for all volunteers and charities, for the homeless, prisoners and all refugees, and those working with the most vulnerable in our communities;
Your little finger – pray for particular individuals known to you, for those whose relationships are under strain, for the anxious and fearful, and for yourself as a special child of God.

Each prayer focus for each thumb and finger could itself open up into prayer personally, locally, nationally, and globally.

Take the other hand and read out loud:
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12)
and let your thumb and each finger represent one of these “clothes” we are to put on:

Thumb – compassion
First finger – kindness
Second finger – humility
Third finger – meekness
Little finger – patience

Then put your hands together, and let the “clothing” of one hand touch the people and places in the other, as you offer up your heartfelt prayers to God…

Maybe prayer like this could become part of our daily rhythm in this strange new time for us all. This Sunday night, if you can, wherever you are, light a candle at 7.00pm, and cry out to God in prayer for ourselves, our country and our world.

Passion Sunday

Brian Reader

A sermon prepared for Passion Sunday, the beginning of Passiontide, and the last two weeks of Lent leading up to Easter. It is based on the Gospel of Saint John Chapter 11, verses 1-45:

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

We all get disappointed in this life when we think that friends have let us down, and if you are like me, then you too may show your annoyance. Did you feel annoyed like Martha that Jesus did not come immediately he got the message about his friend’s illness? But how did Jesus receive the message, and how did they know where he would be? We will never know for sure, but according to the previous chapter of John’s Gospel he had been to the place on the Jordan where John the Baptist had been baptising and first met Jesus. One thing we can be sure of is that they didn’t have mobile phones to make immediate contact! So we don’t know how long the message took to reach him. So why did Jesus not go at once? Perhaps he knew that his friend was already dead! I don’t believe for a second that Jesus was delaying so he could then do an even greater miracle of healing.

When I have difficulty trying to unravel a passage from the bible, as well as praying, I also read a commentary by Bishop Tom Wright on the subject, which usually gives a different point of focus. The bishop believes that the story gives us an insight into prayer. We pray for justice and peace, – for prosperity and harmony between nations and races, and still it hasn’t happened. Why? God doesn’t play games with us. His ways are not our ways. His timing is not our timing. One of the most striking reminders of this is in verse 6 of the passage. When Jesus got the message from the two sisters, the cry for help, the emergency-come-quickly appeal, he stayed where he was for two days. He didn’t even mention it to the disciples. He didn’t make preparations to go. He didn’t send messages back to say ‘we’re on our way: He just stayed there. And Mary and Martha, in Bethany, watched their beloved brother die. What could be harder than that?

So what was Jesus doing? If we think about the rest of the story we can find the answer. He was praying. He was seeking to find the will of his father. He wanted to do what was right. The disciples were right: the Judaeans had been wanting to stone him, so surely he wouldn’t think of going back just yet?

Bethany was, and is, a small town near Jerusalem, on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives. Once you’re there, you’re within easy reach of the holy city, and who knows what would happen this time if he had returned.

It’s important to realize that this wonderful story about Lazarus, one of the most powerful and moving in the whole Bible, is not just about Lazarus. It’s also about Jesus, and when Jesus thanks the father that he has heard his prayer, I think he’s referring to the prayers he prayed during those two strange, silent days in the wilderness across the Jordan. He was praying for Lazarus, but he was also praying for wisdom and guidance as to his own plans and movements. Somehow the two were bound up together. What Jesus was going to do for Lazarus would be, on the one hand, a principal reason why the authorities would want him out of the way. But it would be, – on the other hand, – the most powerful sign yet, in the sequence of ‘signs’ that marks our progression through this gospel, of what Jesus’ life and work was all about, and of how in particular it would reach its climactic resolution. The time of waiting, therefore, was vital. As so often, Jesus needed to be in prayer exploring the father’s will in that intimacy and union of which he often spoke. Only then would he act – not in the way Mary and Martha had wanted him to do, but in a manner beyond their wildest dreams.

This story is all about the ways in which Jesus surprises people and overturns their expectations. He didn’t go when he received the sisters’ message. But he did eventually go, although the disciples warned him not to. He spoke about ‘sleep’; meaning death, and the disciples thought he meant ordinary sleep. And, in the middle of the passage, he told them in a strange little saying that people who walk in the daytime don’t trip up, but people who walk around in the darkness do. What did he mean? He seems to have meant that the only way to know where you were going was to follow him. If you try to steer your course by your own understanding, you’ll trip up, because you’ll be in the dark. But if you stick close to him, and see the situation from his point of view, then, even if it means days and perhaps years of puzzlement, wondering why nothing seems to be happening, you will come out at the right place in the end. There is a great deal that we don’t understand, and our hopes and plans often get thwarted. But if we go with Jesus, even if it’s into the jaws of death, we will be walking in the light.

The prayer of Jesus at the grave begins with thanksgiving as all prayer should; we take too much for granted. But if, like the Psalmists or Job, you have a complaint about arbitrary injustice or the unfairness of it all, it is right to tell him so. Martha certainly spoke her mind, and, feeling neglected, bluntly reproached Jesus. A prayer of protest is quite proper. Prayer is a dialogue of learning; in the stillness you learn more about yourself, and God, and the way things really are. You may come to understand, ‘Why should it happen to me?’, is answered with ‘Why should it not?’, and ‘Why me?’ becomes ‘Why not me?’ ‘Jesus wept’ is not an oath; it expresses his grief at the death of his friend and the distress of his sisters; for John it stresses the reality of the Incarnation. This man is truly flesh and blood, who understands a cry of pain and anguish, and shares the pain and hurt of bereavement. If ever you are almost overwhelmed by grief, he understands and shares; and comes to you as he came to Martha and Mary. The long story about Lazarus (whose name so aptly means ‘blessed by God’) is the crowning sign of victory over death. Here Lazarus is dead and buried and decaying and this resuscitated corpse is a further sign:

Jesus not only speaks of the word of life but he himself is the Resurrection (Anastasis)

Often we hear a voice that reminds us that in the midst of life we are in death; but Jesus’ commanding voice insists: In the midst of death we are in life. Don’t worry about what happens when you die for he is Resurrection. And there is more to come. Offering you a chalice, a minister may say: ‘The blood of Christ keep you in eternal life,’ – in other words – keep you where you already are. That’s John’s new theology and an understanding after his sixty years of prayer and meditation. Eternal life is here and now; we have passed from death to life already. Yet sometimes you may feel half-dead through bereavement or despair, divorce, or disappointment, or redundancy or being told about a life threatening illness for yourself or someone close to you and yet you find a new lease of life that seems like resurrection, a life that is fuller and richer, more satisfying and fulfilling, eternal in quality as well as quantity, here and now. I certainly found that when working in a hospice.

As Easter makes plain, God is in the business of raising the dead. Life is a succession of deaths and resurrections; and when you come to the end of your days and he leads you through death into Life, it will be but one more in a whole series of resurrections.

Lord Jesus, give us the courage and strength to follow you,
especially when times are hard,
so that we may experience your love
and help through all our days.

Amen

Chester Cathedral on YouTube

By Michael Beckwith – Chester Cathedral, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24305676

Even though there are no services at St Oswald’s for the time being, recent services at Chester Cathedral can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfTBv9K29kok_zzLCT7xSiQ/videos

Some current services will continue to be live-streamed from there, albeit without congregation or full choir.

Cathedral Precentor Jeremy Dussek has provided some prayers for the current troubled time:

For the world
God of love and hope,
you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strange right now.
The news is full of stories about Coronavirus.
Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.
Be with them and help them to find peace.
We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists,
and all who are working to discover the right medicines to help those who are ill.
Thank you that even in these anxious times,
you are with us.
Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe.
Amen.

For those feeling anxious
Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

For those who are ill or in isolation
God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill,
afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness,
be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

A prayer remembering God is with us
Lord God, you are always with me.
You are with me in the day and in the night.
You are with me when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
You are with me when I’m healthy and when I am ill.
You are with me when I am peaceful and when I am worried.
Today I am feeling … (name how you are feeling) 
because … (reasons you are feeling this way).
Help me to remember that you love me and are with me in everything today.
Amen.

The Cathedral is open from 10.30am – 4pm daily.

Action on Plastics and Waste in Bollington

Are you interested in how we can reduce single-use plastic in Bollington? How we can also reduce other waste streams?

Transition Bollington have a Plastics and Waste steering group and would love for you to join us.

We have already had a bunch of previous projects and have more planned for the future, including:

  • Bollington Mug Library
  • Terracycle Collection Points
  • Repair Cafe
  • Reusable bag point
  • Becoming a Surfers Against Sewage plastic-free town
  • Litter Picks
  • Business Survey

With more and more ideas come more projects. With more cool projects we need more people involved. We would love for you to come along to see how you can help. Any new ideas about how to combat plastics and waste in Bolly are also very welcome.

Dates for your diary

7pm Monday 9 March at The Dog and Partridge
AGM – Transition Bollington

March 10am-12noon Saturday 28 March – meet at the Town Hall
Bollington Community Plastic Spring Clean
organised by Transition Bollington, Bollington Civic Society and Walkers are Welcome, with the support of the Town Council
POSTPONED UNTIL AUTUMN on account of the Coronavirus

Website: Transition Bollington ~ grassroots sustainability

Vicar’s letter – March 2020

This Lent we will be encouraging one another to go deeper into the Christian Faith by walking together the Way of the Cross.

Those of you who have visited Jerusalem will know that the “Via Dolorosa” – that winding way through the narrow bustling streets of the city which (it is imagined) was the route the condemned prisoner Jesus took on that first Good Friday to the place of his execution – is a distressing, uncomfortable and far from peaceful path for anyone to embark on.

Here in St Oswald’s many of us in our own ordinary paths through life have had to experience grief and sadness, to encounter betrayal, misunderstanding or injustice, or the physical or mental pain of feeling our bodies or minds are at breaking point, just as Jesus did over 2000 years ago. As we approach the season of Easter once again, ordinary Christians like ourselves through some kind of Lenten exercise seek to explore, together with good companions, honestly and humbly something of the meaning and purpose of our lives. We do this, not to gloss over the hardships and griefs of the world, but rather to let in the light of the Risen Christ, who we believe will lead us safely out of the darkness and out of a natural human tendency to despair into a more hopeful and positive place, amazingly often hidden “just around the corner” at intervals on our life’s journey. It is from those newly discovered places of refuge and refreshment that we can begin to reach out to others along the way. Whether we find ourselves stepping out hesitantly or are more sure of ourselves, it is only by “walking the walk” that we are able to offer true empathy and compassion to those who might otherwise feel as if there is nowhere to turn or no-one in the world who understands what they’re going through.

Starting on 4 March, for five Wednesday evenings from 7.30pm till 9.00pm, we hope you will join us as we make space for informal discussion, prayer and reflection, using the book “Walking the Way of the Cross” as a guide. The book features a series short “signposts” written by three notable contemporary Christian thinkers: Paula Gooder, Philip North and Stephen Cottrell (who of course has recently been appointed as the next Archbishop of York). Each presents us with a different perspective on the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ suffering and death. As it says on the book cover:

Philip North considers where good news is to be found amid such inhumanity and how we can tell the passion story so that it resonates in our contemporary world. Paula Gooder offers short homilies, enabling readers to enter into the biblical texts, so that deeper understanding might lead to greater devotion. Stephen Cottrell draws us into the story on a very personal level, encouraging us to imagine ourselves in the thick of things, watching and reflecting as the tumultuous events unfold.”

Everyone is very welcome to join our Reader Anne Coomes and myself on this journey through Lent. Neither of us has all the answers, but we will endeavour to hold open the map and simply hope to learn and discover alongside all of you as equal companions on the Road of Faith. Copies of the book will be available either to borrow or to purchase, so a list will be put at the back of church for you to sign up for a copy and/or to take part in any or all of the Wednesday evening sessions, or else do simply email me to register that you’d like a copy of the book to use quietly at home at your own pace (vhydon@hotmail.com). We will aim to look at just three of the fifteen “Stations of the Cross” each week in sequence, so if you need to miss out on coming along to one or more of the group sessions, you will at least know where we are up to, be able to get your bearings and can catch up with us later on! As the hymn goes: “We are pilgrims on a journey and companions on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” By the time we reach Maundy Thursday on 9 April, we will probably be saying “Are we nearly there yet?”! So I’m sure we will be ready to share our customary Last Supper together at 7.30pm that evening (thanks especially to our faithful chefs Dave Williams and Sue Berry). We hope you will sign up in due course to join us for that informal Family Meal, enjoying the now legendary hospitality of St Oswald’s Church, our very own wayside Inn! The following day at 10.30am on Good Friday, our children and families will as usual be encouraged to follow the Story of Holy Week and the Way of the Cross in another informal and creative way (thanks to the hard work and irrepressible imagination of Bev Nixon!). Then at 1.15pm on Good Friday afternoon, you will have an opportunity to walk and pray through the complete set of stopping places on Jesus’s journey to the Cross, landmarks by then familiar to many of us from sharing our Lenten exercise, using the set of poster illustrations which accompany this year’s Lent Book.

May God be beside you to comfort your hearts and enliven your minds this Lent. May God guide you into all truth and fill you with all joy and peace, in believing the good news of the kingdom. May you discover you are never alone on your journey, whatever valleys you enter and whatever hills you have to climb, and may the blessing of God’s eternal Easter hope and love ultimately lead you safely home to heaven.                                                                                   

Veronica