On the Anniversary of Roy’s Ordination

Canon Roy Arnold

We had a good Easter in Bollington and Kerridge in 1962 at the three Anglican churches (St John’s, St Oswald’s and Holy Trinity) with a total of just short of 400 communicants. 400! They even ran out of service books at St Oswald’s. This year – 2015 – we had a total of 125 communicants.

Two years later than 1962, on this actual day 27 September 1964 in Bristol Cathedral, I was ordained as a priest in the Church of England. Sad to say, these past 50 years and more have seen a dramatic fall in the number of those attending Church everywhere. This hasn’t been all my fault and I can say that the Churches where I have served increased slightly in size, but the fact is many fewer people go to Church nowadays. Not only in the Anglican Church but in the Methodist Church and even the Roman Catholic Church and generally throughout Europe. Apart from the fact that people die or move away, I would say that this has come about by a massive change in the way most people live their lives, and shopping, entertainment and sport, car trips (or even car cleaning) take up a major part of people’s weekend lives and the thought of a Day of Rest and Worship have gone by the board. “For the world is too much with us… getting and spending” as the poet Wordsworth says.

Getting and spending… and yet, and yet… There does remain some hint of thought for others. I am thinking here of the generosity of people (church folk and others) when there are appeals for money in times of national and international disaster and in this we may call to mind Christ’s words from our Gospel this morning. Those words about giving a cup of water to anyone who is thirsty. People’s donations represent (albeit at arms-length) that kindness and care. I have a strong personal remembrance that when I was in hospital once and my blood sugar was down, the Night Sister said “Get Roy a warm milky drink and a biscuit.” You know, I have never forgotten this simple act of kindness, that someone had thought to give ME a drink…. as Jesus instructed people to do. I wouldn’t know whether that kind nurse was a church person or not but (as we heard Jesus say in our Gospel) any act of kindness and gentleness and caring counts, whoever does it, whether they be Christians or Muslims or persons of little or no faith.

That, I believe, is why we must not entirely despair at the thought of dwindling congregations, sad as the thought may be, and in any case – as I once read – trends in society may empty churches but may also fill them. What we must be aware of – whether we are ordained or lay people – is the danger of becoming stumbling blocks – as Jesus put it. We must do our very best to be reasons why people would want to come to Church, and not to trip them up on their way here. And, of course, we must try our very best to get more people to Church; simply this is what Jesus wants us to do – to hear the good news that He brings about the love of God and His call to share that love in our own lives, through simple acts of personal kindness and thought for others like that cup of cold water (or milk and a biscuit). Acts of kindness and gentleness and love to people of all ages; children, yes, and those with the care of children – but we must not concentrate on one group and forget about the others.

Looking back over these past 50 years, (I think,) in an effort to get more people to church, we have spent too much time on re-ordering our worship, and on new translations of the Bible and other General Synod preoccupations. But I believe that one thing from General Synod has been truly worthwhile, and that is the Ordination of Women and the hope thereby of a kinder and more gentle approach to Ministry and a more inclusive Church. But whether we are women or men-folk of the Church (lay-folk or ordained), let us remember this: we shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore we can do or any kindness that we can show to any human being, let us do it now. Let us not defer or neglect it for we shall not pass this way again.

That is for sure. We shall not pass this way again.


Mark chapter 9:38-end

John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’

Bollington Refugee Appeal

We launched our refugee appeal at the Civic Service on Sunday 20th September, 12.00 noon. We appealed for donations of waterproofs, men’s clothing, socks, hats, gloves, walking shoes, blankets and sleeping bags, folding chairs, tea, coffee, sugar and toiletries, as well as donations of cash.

The church was open 8.30 am – 5.30 pm from Monday 21st September – Friday 23rd October to receive donations. We liaised directly with agencies taking supplies to refugees in Calais, Greece and Eastern Europe.

refugeeAppeal

 

RIP Stella Gascoigne

Sadly we must now say farewell to two more faithful members of our congregation, Joan Barton and Stella Gascoigne, who have died during these last weeks of August and who have both been very much part of the life and witness of St Oswald’s Church over many years.

Stella is pictured (standing, second from right) alongside her devoted husband Derek, joining in one of our regular services held at St John’s Columbarium over the past few years. Her bright smiling face, her kind and gentle character and her admirable steadfastness in the face of recent ill-health will be long remembered by her many friends across our whole community.

Our prayers continue to be with the families of both Stella and Joan at this sad time.

Stella’s funeral service tookplace at 10.45am on Friday 11 September in St Oswald’s Church, where she and Derek were married nearly 58 years ago. It was followed by cremation at Macclesfield at 12.00noon.

Words from Roy Arnold at Stella’s funeral:

I grew up at the other end of Bollington and went to Water Street School, whereas Stella was a pupil at Bollington Cross, so I never knew Stella as a child and as a young woman… and we never had our bread actually delivered, so I never knew Derek. But latterly, through the family of the Church, it has been a real privilege to know them both, and in these latter times to feel for them in their struggles with ill-health, and particularly to admire both Derek’s care for Stella (with the help of family, friends and very good neighbours) and Stella’s quiet courage in adversity.

Of such adversity people often say, “There is a purpose in all this!” implying that God intended this awful situation and that this disaster was his idea in the first place. But I believe all that we can say is that the experience is deeply significant… but strangely with a significance we can’t understand. To the believer and the non-believer alike, it is a mystery why God, who we believe is a God of Love, allows such things to happen to our loved ones and friends. The Book of Job in the Bible is an attempt to answer the mystery, but when Jesus was on the cross, even he (as the Son of God) seems baffled by it all and cries out, “My God, why have you deserted me?”

So it all remains a mystery… but even more mysterious when we think of all the good things which God has given us throughout our lives and which far outweigh the bad. Maybe that thought can console us when “the strife is o’er” (as it is for Stella) but still leaves us clinging, by the skin of our teeth, believing that maybe we shall get all our questions answered one day, as we hold on to the hope that the book is not ended and another chapter awaits us. I’m sure Stella, as an avid reader like me, would appreciate that thought. I believe if we trust Jesus, it will be all right in the end… eventually… and we can be grateful for love whether human or divine, and grateful (as the saying goes) for peace at the last. May Stella rest in that peace and rise with us in glory.

AMEN

stella_gascoigne

Vicar’s Letter September 2015

vicars letter003During August our Children’s Work Co-ordinator kindly organised an outing for a group of younger congregation members, with parents and a grandparent (plus the Vicar!) to Buxton Opera House to see a delightful performance of Julia Donaldson’s story “Room on the Broom”. Essentially the story is about an unconventional witch and her faithful cat setting out on a risky adventure and learning along the way the importance of making space for anyone who wishes or needs to share their companionship. After brief consideration of each new encounter, the witch’s default response to all enquirers is “Yes!”, being willing to embrace the new and unknown, whereas the cat is habitually more cautious, fears change and (before the opposite is joyfully proven towards the end of the adventure) cannot really see the benefit of letting anyone else find room on the broom. We all enjoyed an imaginative and interactive theatre production, lasting not much more than an hour (only just a fraction longer than our new Third Sunday Family Communions!), including a brilliantly improvised “frog in the throat” moment particularly appreciated by the adults (…you had to be there!).

If you get a chance to watch the story on DVD, do also look at the extras at the end, one of which is entitled “The Magnificent Broom” plus a description of how this animated version was created. The producer, director, composer and animators speak about the themes suggested by the book that can lead to a variety of possible interpretations and applications of the story to everyday life. One person suggested that, although it essentially seems to refer to relationships within a family, the ideas behind the narrative “can apply to all kinds of groups, anywhere you work or play or travel or live together” – and I would say that this description surely encompasses the whole of church life too! The overarching theme of the story is of Kindness – realising that your “kith and kin” are a motley crew, each of whom desires acceptance and being treated with respect and as worthwhile in their own right. As one commentator said, “You have to learn that not everything belongs to you – you have to share it!”
Applied to church life, it could be about being able to share both our inherited resources as well as our capacity for friendship, even with those we don’t perhaps feel a natural affinity to at first encounter. Having taken Christ’s parables to heart, we should be constantly willing to become known as people who warmly invite others in and learn to adapt our ways accordingly, as well as being people daring to go out together on the equally risky adventure of meeting others where they are and, of course, defeating dragons together! And if you were to equate the witch’s broomstick with our church building itself, then this further comment from a back-stage technician rings true as well: “The size of the broom should not define the group, but the group should find a way to shape the broom so there’s room for everyone.”
With that in mind, our PCC is now beginning practically to address the next phase of our church building development, that of making best use of the space at the West End of St Oswald’s and improving our kitchen facility, bearing in mind the most desirable feature we identified several years ago, that of achieving maximum “light and space” in whatever design we go for. Following on from discussions at our last GAP meeting in July, I have invited Irene Mills to convene a small Working Group to consider the range of possibilities open to us, both in spacial and financial terms, for enhancing our potential for hospitality at that end of the church. Do come along to our next GAP meeting, open to everyone, on Saturday 12 September from 10.00am till 11.00am, and share your own visions and thoughts about this for consideration by the new Working Group, leading on then to wider consultation and, in due course, to a well-informed decision being made by our PCC.
My personal opinion is that it would be good to bring more light back into the baptistery area (as was originally designed in 1908) by re-thinking the existing kitchen facility in a way that both meets our changing needs as well as visually “de-clutters” the back of the church. The Diocesan Advisory Committee Secretary has offered us guidance as to what procedures need to be followed prior to any firm decisions being made by the PCC and prior to the necessary faculty permission being applied for by the Vicar and Churchwardens from the Chancellor of the Diocese. But I’m pleased to report that we are off to a great start! £400.00 has recently been received from donations given in memory of our friend Peggy Wakefield, and in a timely way her family has requested that this sum should be used to launch St Oswald’s Kitchen Redevelopment Fund! So, whenever we raise our glasses in future in whatever form of new more workable kitchen and hospitality area we create, we will remember with fondness one of the special people who always made “room on the broom” and was often the last to leave any church social event! As members of St Oswald’s congregation, let us continually thank God for encouragement “not to be afraid” and to recognise God-given opportunities for enlarging and celebrating our membership of God’s worldwide family on the risky adventure of life, both now and in eternity.
Veronica
broom2

RIP Joan Barton

Sadly we must now say farewell to two more faithful members of our congregation, Joan Barton and Stella Gascoigne, who have died during these last weeks of August and who have both been very much part of the life and witness of St Oswald’s Church over many years.

Joan is pictured here on our Parish Trip in November 2010 to visit the Delhi Brotherhood, and also taking part in our Schools Epiphany Experience Week in January 2011. We will miss her adventurous spirit and her dedicated service to others, shown in so many ways over the past twenty years since settling down in our parish with her late husband Cyril after his retirement in 1995.

Joan’s funeral took place here at St Oswald’s at 1.30pm on Tuesday 1 September, followed by burial in the family grave at Norbury Parish Church.

At Joan’s funeral, Roy added these words to the Eulogy:

(I normally wear a black shirt but following Joan’s instructions this one is bit brighter.)

I know from 52 years in the ministry that clergy wives must be obeyed and although the one who originally has the calling to serve God is the Vicar (male or female), being married to a clergyperson you find yourself going along for the ride with them. And, for instance, enjoying the adventure of having a fifteen bedroom Vicarage (lovely in the summer but coolish in the winter), bringing up a family, and making cheese sandwiches for the occasional tramp at the door, or entertaining a passing bishop or archdeacon or missionary just dropping in from Africa or India. Or being there when the Vicar comes home after a particularly grumpy PCC meeting or sharing the joy of a service and a sermon well received and understood.

Well I know that Joan [and you her family] would recognise some of this – the highs and lows of Vicarage life; as I believe that Joan – as she faced the prospect of her own death with cheerfulness – had picked up the pieces after Cyril died. And as before, continued to make her home a second Vicarage with a welcome for all who came to it from the Mothers Union to Parish Magazine Committee, and in Church reading lessons and prayer with the unmistakeable voice of a former teacher.

We do sometimes forget what a great blessing it is that we belong to a Church which has recognised the value of having a Married Clergy – as a truly shared ministry. I remember a Bishop telling me that he thought most clergy and their spouses have in their memories the parish where they were most happy and had the most fruitful ministry. And although I believe that they have enjoyed their time in Bollington, I guess that for Cyril and Joan the parish of Norbury (Hazel Grove) would be their star parish; and it is most fitting that Joan’s mortal remains will return there to be beside Cyril’s (and their son who went before them), although we hope and pray that by now their souls may all be happily reunited in the glorious resurrection experience which is the hope we hold onto and which is why we can say for Joan and Cyril in words from the Book of Common Prayer: “may their portion this day be in peace and their dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

May we all say AMEN to that.