Advent Sunday 2015

Canon Roy Arnold

Today we begin another year in the long history of the Christian Church on this Advent Sunday 2015… but first there is a farewell to note today… because this is Angela’s last Sunday with us before she moves to Hampshire to be near her son Simon in his new home at Upham, near where Mike Hall used to live.

Angela came to Bollington to look after her young grandsons – now fine young men – after the sad death of their mother and not so long after the death of her own husband John who was Vicar of a lively Church in Hounslow in the Diocese of London.

Her introduction to Bollington was by Jessie Beard on the doorstep with a cake, more than 20 years ago, since when Angela – in her own quiet way – has added her friends in Bollington to a wide range of friends elsewhere. And as well as looking after her family (some of them in Australia and some near Bristol) she has sailed up the Amazon and to the Galapagos Island as well as frequent visits to the Isle of Wight.

I would like to personally thank Angela for her generosity (not least to St Oswald’s Church) and to us, and no doubt many of you as well, for her Prayers and for her friendship. We wish you well Angela in your new home although we shall miss you, and we hope you will pop back to see us often.

The picture shows Angela (second left) standing by the handrails at the chancel steps.
Her gift to the parish, much appreciated by many of us!


Appropriately enough, turning to our Reading for this Advent Sunday, we read of St Paul thanking God for dear friends in Thessalonia and saying how much he has been missing them and hoping for their return. And on the subject of a returning friend he goes on to remind us of the important teaching of the Church that one day Jesus himself is going to return, not as a baby again but as our Judge.

Despite the fact that most of our great Advent hymns remind us of this Second Coming of Jesus (to judge both the living and the dead) we always seem to end up with Advent as a preparation for Christmas, rather than the Second Coming of Jesus. Yet as we avidly watch the news on TV night after night, we may well wonder what our world is coming to. But then we are normally rescued from such shock and awe with yet another advert or shopping at Sainsburys or Strictly Come Dancing… unaware of the trap that awaits us, which is the Doomsday trap.

Surprisingly the early Christians stood up and raised their heads because they believed that their redemption was drawing near. 2000 years later – perhaps tired of waiting – we get on with other things, and leave all this End of the World business to such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I rather believe it is not to be ignored not least because it is a significant part of the teaching of Jesus; foretelling that He will come again and to all people who live on the face of the earth and we will all stand before him as our Judge.

The question is… what will he judge us on? I guess the answer to that will be on the evidence of the way we have lived our lives, and such things as love and simple kindness and forgiveness.
Psalm 90 advises to count our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom, which might be a good idea so that we may love mercy and walk humbly with our God. Our Post Communion Prayer for today when we get to it reminds us, not to be dozing in sin but to be active in God’s service and joyful in his praise, which I believe Jesus wants his Church to be; doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

As to whether Heaven exists (or not) is a matter of faith and hope, but if heaven does exist, how can we ensure that we actually get there. Perhaps shocking to us, the young Muslim gunmen in Paris last Friday but one believed that it was by killing their perceived enemies and then themselves into the bargain that was for them they believed, a guaranteed way to heaven. But we have been taught differently; that our way to heaven is the way of love – by being peacemakers and thirsty for right and justice to prevail, and by being merciful and kind.

And so in this season of Advent when we consider the thought of God’s judgement of us all and when our politicians are pondering whether to bomb ISL, we pray that they may judge aright and not least remembering St Paul (quoting the Old Testament) may bear in mind the words “vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay.”

Vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay.

It is God who will have the last say.


1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

 

HOPE – Volunteer and paid job opportunities

A message from the HOPE centre

We should like to draw your attention to the following volunteering and employed job opportunities.  Please do all you can to publicise them in your Churches:

1. Macclesfield Night Shelter – Volunteer Equipment Co-ordinator

The WHAM Night Shelter is to run from the week-end before Christmas to the week-end before Easter inclusive. There is an urgent  need for this three month period for an Equipment Co-ordinator, a volunteer who is a good organiser, to check the equipment each week, ensure that it is complete, clean and in good working order, and liaise with Cre8 who transport it from location to location.  Anyone who is interested and would like to know more should contact Reverend David Wightman at david.wightman1@ntlworld.com as soon as possible please.

2. Sunday Morning Hospital Services in St Luke’s Chapel – once per month – but come first for a ‘taster’!

A number of Macclesfield Churches support this very valuable initiative but there is an urgent need for more volunteers to ensure that the Service can be sustained.

Volunteers arrive at Macclesfield Hospital at about 10.00am each Sunday, visit patients and encourage them to come to the service in the Chapel. The volunteers then help the patients who wish to come to the service to get to the Chapel. They then take an active part in conducting the service itself, afterwards chatting to the patients and helping them back to their wards. The management and the administrative and the nursing staff of the Hospital are very supportive and helpful.

In the first instance, anyone who is interested and would like to know more should contact Eileen Delight, the Co-ordinator for Holy Trinity Church Hurdsfield by calling her on 01625 428117 or emailing Pip at the Hope Centre.

3. The Message Trust is seeking two key people for its Finance Team in the employed posts of Management Accountant (full-time) and Payroll Officer (part-time).

Please use this link http://www.message.org.uk/category/jobs/ or contact Les Hutchinson, HR Manager by email at Les.Hutchinson@message.org.uk.  Alternatively call him on 0161 946 2330, 07729 582911 or 0161 946 2300 (Reception) or write to him at Lancaster House, Harper Road, Sharston, Manchester, M22 4RG

Bishop Libby visits our parish church and schools

As part of a triennially scheduled Visitation to Macclesfield Deanery clergy over three days in early November, Bishop Libby Lane (the Bishop of Stockport since January 2015) presided on Wednesday 4 November at an evening Holy Communion Service at St Oswald’s here in Bollington. She offered challenging words in her sermon to the mixed congregation of Deanery Synod members representing the nineteen parishes in the deanery, plus several more Bollington parishioners. She encouraged us to let go of those familiar things we perhaps fearfully cling onto too tightly (even those things or people we think we need primarily to preserve or protect) and instead to leave them in God’s much safer keeping and, by relaxing our grip, to open our hands now freed up to receive graciously whatever good things God has had in store to give us all the time. The service was followed by an opportunity for people to meet the Bishop informally over posh cakes and wine!

The next day, an otherwise dull and drizzly Thursday was transformed by Bishop Libby Lane visiting various groups of young people connected with Bollington Church, firstly meeting parents and their bright sparks, who were busy practising being fireworks at our Praise & Play Toddler Group! The Bishop then had lunch with a group of children from St John’s School, and, duly fortified, she subsequently spent the afternoon sharing faith and life stories with staff and children at each of our Anglican primary schools. The children were delighted and enthralled by meeting with the first woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Church of England. She particularly enjoyed meeting the Ethos Group of mixed ages in the Federation of Pott Shrigley and St John’s, exploring amongst other things how hard it is to overcome your fears, to fulfill your God-given potential and to be true peace-makers.

Later Bishop Libby answered some equally excellent questions thought up by Key Stage Two children at Bollington Cross School and visited all the classrooms in turn, showing one particular class her cross, ring, crook, cope and mitre, and explaining what was the significance of each item. Another moment I particularly liked was when sharing in the delightful story of “The Little Red Hen” with the Reception class, one pupil animatedly expressed to the Bishop how important it is to help other people – “Otherwise you’ll have NO FRIENDS!” – and, by way of illustration of that lonely place of friendlessness, he held up his two clenched fists (as opposed to opening his fingers out to be ready to count the number of people you could be friends with, if you chose to be helpful!). After a cup of tea with the Headteacher, finally Bishop Libby called in again at St Oswald’s for our pre-teen After School Group, RiCH, where volunteer Alex (of Bollington Balloons fame) presented the Bishop with a rare balloon chess-piece! She then headed home to Dunham Massey for a quick break before fulfilling her evening commitments elsewhere in the diocese.

We greatly appreciated the time, personal interest and attention which Bishop Libby gave to the whole variety of groups and individuals she encountered. She was a shining and genuinely saintly presence, and we felt truly blessed here in Macclesfield Deanery over those three days!

Veronica

 

All Souls’ Day 2015

Canon Roy Arnold

Filmgoers among you may have seen “The secret life of Walter Mitty” re-made in 2013 starring Ben Stiller but (showing my age) I remember Danny Kaye in the 1947 version seen at the Empire Cinema here in Bollington. It is about a man with a very vivid imagination who sees himself as a wartime hero, an eminent surgeon and a gangster. The original story was by James Thurber who was a cartoonist, author and humourist. In 1927, Thurber writing to his brother said this:

“It seems to me that life goes by like a flash of rain and that’s all we amount to in this world. But I think there ought to be more point to it all, so I live in the hope that the adventure of death is somehow equivalent to the adventure of life. It would seem strange to me if God made such a complicated world and such complicated people in it and then had no more to offer than a total blankness at the end of it all. So I live in the curiosity and the hope and the excitement of what there may be afterwards, and thus I have got myself to believe that those who pass on perhaps pass on to something as interesting but lovelier and more happy than this life”.

A very funny man – James Thurber – being very serious, as we are here tonight. Remembering and praying for our departed loved ones. But not only praying for them, but praying with them; which is a major theme of All Souls Day, that those on earth and those in heaven are joined together when we pray to God, with our departed loved ones on one side of God and we – for the time being – on this side.

Which is a very comforting thought – that our departed loved ones are joined with us when we pray and especially when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, to the God who is our Father in heaven, but accessible (through Jesus Christ) to you and me on this earth. Which will be the case until we also get to heaven (if we do) and join with our loved ones in God’s glorious new world. And if we travel on with hope and faith and love in our hearts I believe we will get there in the end.

We will get there in the end.

Vicar’s Letter November 2015

vicars letter003As the clocks change and the nights are drawing in, as human beings we can be forgiven for turning inwards on ourselves. We think of building up provisions in the store-cupboard ready to survive the winter, or shopping early to beat the Christmas rush. We delve into the wardrobe for a familiar warm coat to wrap up in again. We dig out that well-worn Christmas card list and bring to mind good times we shared with old friends. We gather firewood to dispel the November fog and to keep out the chill. We light candles and wear red poppies to remember loved ones who have died, and we set off fireworks to celebrate the life and peace we can share with friends around us. We put on cosy gloves and fur-lined boots, and bright scarves veil our faces against the dull wintry weather.
The Church calendar draws to its close and we look forward to Advent Sunday, which falls this year on what would be the feast of St Andrew, 29 November. This month we celebrate all the saints of God, well-known or obscure, in whose faces we have glimpsed the compassion and challenge of Christ. We give thanks for the lives of those who have enabled us to be free. We look inwards at our own lives and examine our consciences in response to our children’s persistent awkward questions about our choice of lifestyle or the meaning of it all. Before we are tempted to close the door to keep out the more chilling factors about the imbalance and inequality of our world, we dare to hold it ajar a little longer by venturing into a church building once in a while to pray (or perhaps preferring sometimes to brave getting a different perspective from the breezier vantage point of White Nancy).
We may be pleasantly surprised to find others around us within and around our chosen places of contemplation, all trying to re-connect with that divine spark of hope and love offered to us first perhaps in difficult times. We are pleased to find that our companions in specifically Christian worship, gathered either here at St Oswald’s or in our local nursing homes, are likely to be people from every age-group, from tiny tots to centenarians. And we rejoice together that we can encourage one another to look beyond our immediate circumstances and to respond positively in dark times to those in greater need of comfort and support than we ourselves may be.
During the five weeks leading up to the October Half-Term Holiday, St Oswald’s Church has been overwhelmed by the generosity of those who have responded to our Bollington Refugee Crisis Appeal. As we have opened our doors each weekday, so multiple gifts of clothing, toiletries, shoes, tinned foods, coffee, tea, sugar, waterproofs, gloves, hats, scarves and camping equipment have been brought in, ready to be sorted, bagged up and forwarded on urgently to refugees now held up at various borders, especially those nearest to us in Calais. Someone from our local community recently said a profound “thank you” to us for enabling her to respond to this crisis, and many others have been grateful to have had a practical outlet for their concern, especially as the European winter sets in and refugees from war-torn countries are left exposed to our inclement weather. So may I pass on sincere thanks to all within our worshipping community who have both initiated and made this Appeal workable. At this St Andrews-tide, we might remember how the disciple Andrew once responded to Jesus’ call to “give the crowds something to eat” by noticing a small child bringing forward his lunch of “five loaves and two fish”. Although Andrew thought to himself, “What is that among so many?”, yet Jesus showed him that miracles can happen, if we are each simply willing give of what resources we have. In that instance the followers of Christ ended up helping to “feed over 5,000 men, let alone all the women and children in the crowd with them”, not to mention the twelve basketfuls of food left over! Elsewhere in the gospels we hear Jesus say that, in co-operation “with God, all things are possible”.
May we all have a renewed sense of God’s love and purposes for all his children, of whatever race, creed, sexuality or gender, and may we continue to open the doors, not only those of our church building but also those of our hearts, to be beacons of light and hope within our local community and in the wider world, this Advent and always.
Every blessing,
Veronica