Vicar’s Letter – May 2016

vicars letter003For a whole week this March we had the privilege of leading about 350 children from our local community through another “Easter Experience” here in St Oswald’s. The difficult and moving story lived out by Jesus and his friends, from the hosannas of Palm Sunday through to the alleluias of Easter Day, was portrayed by three trustworthy women witnesses, Beverley Nixon, Sue Berry and Jo Belfield, accompanied by reflections from the Vicar. It was a pleasure to listen and respond to the children and staff of our schools and to explore with them the very human experiences of celebration, companionship, betrayal, courage, cruelty, sorrow, solidarity, kindness, grief, loss, and finally, delight in life and hope restored. Then on Good Friday morning, Beverley offered a captivating Craft Trail around the church, in which parents and their young children together discovered the Way of the Cross, assisted by Helen Nixon and three members of our RiCH After-School Group who graciously served refreshments and willingly moved furniture (these same lads had helped out the previous weekend at our grand Church Spring Clean too!). Witnessing some of our younger children trying to make sense of what happened to “Baby Jesus” when he grew up was a humbling and literally “wonder-full” experience. Anyone who thinks of children as disruptive in church would have done well instead to have dared to share that special Holy Week and Good Friday journey alongside these thoughtful and insightful young members of our community.

It seems to me that sometimes children demonstrate a sharper sense of spiritual hearing than we adults do, an apparent ability to hear the voice of God which perhaps we have become deaf to over the years, maybe thinking we already know what God wants and not listening out keenly enough for the fresh challenges God might be calling us to? One of those challenges for future consideration here at St Oswald’s is the idea of literally keeping our doors open more often. Last autumn we tried it very successfully after Teddy, one of our Year One children, asked his parents what it meant to be a refugee, picking up on all the coverage on the news. On having their desperate plight explained to him, Teddy’s immediate and straightforward reaction was, “We should help them!” At our next Growth Action Planning Meeting later that week, we woke up to the childlike simplicity of this call for us to show practical kindness. We organised an emergency Appeal whereby St Oswald’s became a temporary drop-off point for much-needed supplies, which were then transported on to the charity Refugees Aid in North West England, based at Warrington. The wider community of Bollington too responded readily to this Appeal to help people displaced from their homes, calling into our church throughout the day for six weeks from Monday 21 September until Friday 23 October. They brought along life-saving items of clothing, shoes, tents, toiletries and foodstuffs for onward distribution, and some also took the chance to spend a moment or two praying for a peaceful solution to the terrible conflicts and wars that cause people to flee their homes in the first place. During Lent, Tobias, another of our young church members, sent me a heartfelt letter urging us to pray for the children of Syria, again having seen coverage of their plight on the news. Thank you to Teddy and Tobias for spurring us all into action, and to all the willing volunteers who opened and closed the church last autumn and helped to sort the huge piles of donated goods, and especially to Hannah, Dave and Beverley who acted as unpaid hauliers to take the much-needed supplies to the central distribution point. Apart from helping those in need, opening our church doors must give us food for thought about the benefits of unlocking our doors more often…Why not come along to our next Growth Action Planning meeting here in church between 10am and 11am on Saturday 4 June, and share your thoughts and ideas about this or any other venture you may feel we as a local church could embark upon.

Last summer we celebrated with our part-time Assistant Curate, Michael Fox, when he was ordained priest at Chester Cathedral. Michael has continued to develop his ministry among us, including taking a full part preaching and presiding now in our Communion services on Sundays and Thursday mornings, leading Creative Writing Groups, offering a series of homilies based on the elements of the Eucharistic liturgy, working with myself and Beverley in leading our evolving family-friendly services, now on both the First and the Third Sundays of each month, contributing to our discussions at PCC meetings and also convening our Marketing and Communications Group which is looking to find new ways of encouraging financial sustainability, initiating for instance our recent “Easy Peasy” fundraising venture. I am grateful that Michael’s presence on our staff team has enabled me to take advantage of an overdue period of sabbatical leave for three months (April, May and June). Although, during my absence on sabbatical, the Churchwardens are primarily in charge of Bollington Church and Michael is still only available for 12 hours a week of parish ministry, I’m hoping this experience will stand him in good stead for when he subsequently takes up his new part-time post as Priest-in-charge of St Paul’s Macclesfield, as from 31 August 2016! We shall be sorry to see him go, but nevertheless in my other capacity as the Rural Dean, I am also pleased Michael will be filling one of the four current clergy vacancies in parishes in our Macclesfield Deanery!

At our recent Vestry Meeting on 21 March, Christine Osbaldiston and Liz Thomas were elected as our two Churchwardens for the coming year. It seems that (like our out-going Churchwarden Jackie Pengelly) both their fathers have served as Churchwardens in the past, so they both have a head start in understanding the role! They will be sworn in officially at the Archdeacon’s Visitation service on Monday 16 May at 7.30pm at St George’s Stockport. Do go along to this service, especially if you are a sidesperson or a member of the PCC, and please offer them both your prayers and your support now and over the coming year, as they seek to serve our church and wider community in this important role. During our subsequent Annual Parochial Church Meeting on that first day of Spring, we elected six new members onto the PCC, including Rachel Lake and Julie Brunt, so please also pray for this new Council whose task it is to listen to members of our congregation and our local community and to help discern the best way forward for our church in mission and ministry.

May God bless us all as we work together, young and old, to serve God to the best of our ability and to grow in faith and holiness as we follow the Christian way of truth, kindness and peace, empowered not by old prejudices or preconceptions from the past but by the ever-living, ever-challenging and ever-loving Holy Spirit celebrated afresh at Pentecost!

Veronica

Saint Anselm

Canon Roy Arnold
anselmToday as we visit the Church’s Gallery of Saints we come to St Anselm. He was born in Northern Italy in 1033. At an early age set out to travel extensively in Europe, visiting many monasteries and places of learning, eventually settling at the Abbey of Bec near Rouen in Normandy where he made his reputation as a Christian Writer and Scholar. He eventually became the Abbot of the monastery, but he found opposition to his rule, surprisingly from a man by the name of Osborne. After sorting out Osborne (good idea), Anselm was called to cross the English Channel to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1089, some 23 years after the Normans Conquered England in 1066 – the year Britain became more inextricably joined to Europe…

Anselm didn’t have an easy time as Archbishop – having fallen out with the King he was twice sent into exile – but in so many ways I would put Anselm down as being ahead of his times, not least in his attitude towards the role of women in Society and in the Church. He believed that although we refer to God as our Father we must not forget that God (and therefore Jesus) is like a Mother to us as well. Let me quote a prayer that Anselm wrote about the year 1109.

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you, you are gentle with us as a mother with her children and despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness, and through your gentleness we find comfort in fear. Your warmth gives live to the dead and your touch makes sinners righteous. Jesus in your mercy, heal us and in your love and tenderness remake us. In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness and for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

In a world mainly dominated by men there were, even at that time, many powerful women but I would like to think that it was Anselm’s deep studies about the life of Jesus where he learnt about the need for the Church, and all of us as members of the Church, to truly value the role of both men and women. For one reason or another, women make up a good proportion of churchgoers, so I am proud of the fact that the Church of England recognises this fact in the Ordination of Women, not only as Priests but also now as Bishops. Something which perhaps Anselm never even dreamt about.

And on this, the 90th birthday of Elizabeth II we thank God for this living proof of a Christian woman who has fulfilled, I believe, every aspect of her role as a family woman and as monarch of this nation and Commonwealth. As we can all say: “God Save the Queen!”

Wave of Prayer

thykingdomcomeThe Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting churches across the land to join them in a wave of prayer for the evangelization of our country during the week leading up to Pentecost (8th – 15th May).

Please pray about how you might like to join this amazing outpouring of prayer for others to know the joy of Jesus Christ. Please download this form, bring it back to church and put it in the wicker basket provided at the rear. Thank you.

Link to Archbishop of Canterbury website

A new home for the bells from St John’s

WP_20160410_16_58_48_Pro[1]The bells from St John’s Bollington were blessed and dedicated at their new home, St Thomas’s, Stockton Heath at a service on 10 April 2016. Present at the service were a number of parishioners and former bell-ringers from Bollington.

It was desirable to keep the bells within the Chester diocese, and St Thomas’s was the only church available with a tower of suitable size. Extensive repairs to the fabric of the church were necessary before the bells could be installed. The vicar at Stockton Heath, Revd Michael Ridley, was a curate at Bollington in the 1980s.

As well as the eight bells from Bollington, there are two new treble bells (a gift in memory of a parishioner) and the former school bell (the smallest bell – this will not be part of the peal, but will sound the hour). They will be installed over the coming weeks and should be ready for ringing early in January 2017.

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Angela’s Amazing Day

IMG_0122Maundy Thursday

It was such an honour to have been nominated to be a recipient of Maundy Money from the Queen, each of us was able to be accompanied by a companion and my daughter was delighted to share the day with me.

The service this year was in St George’s Chapel, Windsor; the first time that it had been held there since 1959. In the intervening years it has been held in different cathedrals throughout the country.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at 11 o’clock and the procession was magnificent with Yeomen of the Guard carrying golden salvers with the purses on them.

The music was led by the choirs of St George’s and of the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, London. At the end of the first lesson the Queen walked down the aisles and gave two purses to each of the 90 men and 90 ladies, so numbered because of Her Majesty’s age this year.

The red leather purse contained a specially minted £5 coin and a 50 pence coin commemorating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The white purse contained 90 pence, again a number recognising the age of the Queen.

After the service we were taken up the hill to Windsor Castle where we had a Luncheon Reception in the State Apartments, restored following the fire in 1992.

It was a day like no other, with memories to be cherished.

Angela