A letter for Summer 2016 from our Curate Michael Fox

It seems no more than a moment ago that I was first pinning on my deacon’s sash in the vestry in preparation for my first service as the new assistant curate at St. Oswald. Now a mere two years later, here I am saying goodbye.

For me it has been an extraordinary journey of discovery, surprise and delight. Welcomed in to the St. Oswald community (I already knew Bollington well and have many friends in the town), I can certainly testify to the warmth and friendliness of the congregation and their genuine commitment to the well-being of the neighbourhood and of those who are in need of any sort.

My way into St. Oswald was paved by your vicar, Veronica, to whom I must now pay tribute as mentor, supervisor, trainer-upperer, colleague and friend.

White-Nancy-Arch2I could not have wished for a wiser or more generous person to induct me into the mysteries of parish life. She is generous not only in the thoughtful presents she has provided on countless occasions – the pre-ordination retreat survival pack was an earnest of things to come – but more profoundly in the way she gives space for others to flourish. This giving of ‘space’ may seem insubstantial, but it is the most important thing a leader can do for those she leads. It enables others to be creative and to give of their best selves, safe in the knowledge that the leader’s wisdom and experience are available when help is needed. Veronica’s leadership is certainly resilient and firm when it needs to be for the sake of the health of the whole, but it is flexible, encouraging and good-humoured, as well as being genuinely self- sacrificing. If I am able to bring even a very little of these qualities to my new post as priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s, Macclesfield, then I will be able to serve the community there well.

What have been the highlights of my time? I was plunged on arrival straight into the middle of the preparations for a Schools Creation Experience week, which was memorable firstly for the wonderful teamwork between the church members who created and led various ‘days’ – I remember moving quickly from the cacophony of the ‘chaos orchestra’ into the waters covering the earth, or the chancel in this case, and getting quite wet, before participating in a ‘living planetarium’ as the solar system sprang into being.

Secondly the week showed me the potential for the development of children’s spirituality, a theme which has spread through my time here, with the reinvention of family worship and the opportunity to encourage children to express themselves in worship and to know that they have as much right to the space as adults do. Seeing children feel ‘at home’ in church with a real desire to be there has been one of the special joys of the last two years. It is also the secret to that most sought-after phenomenon, church growth. This was emphasized for me recently when the prayer stations that church members created during the Wave of Prayer week leading up to Pentecost were visited and used with such alacrity by children from three of the Bollington schools. The prayers they left behind were a testimony to the depth of children’s spiritual lives.

Continuing the creative theme, another highlight has been the writing workshops I have been privileged to lead. The first of these in Advent 2014 was in preparation for a ‘community litany’, an exploration of the thoughts and feelings generated by the town’s losses during the First World War. A number of church members found new ways of expressing themselves confidently in what became a moving reflection on conflict and the search for peace. A second series of workshops open to the community during the autumn of 2015 led up to a public poetry reading, Poems and Pies, just before Christmas. The poets concerned grew in confidence and scope throughout the process, discovering in themselves a new voice and new potential for personal growth. I hope in future that this workshop might be repeated in the company of writers from my new parish, if I can persuade them to join in some of the silly games necessary to the ‘creative process’.

Perhaps the greatest joys, though, have come from the quiet, everyday realities of parish life; listening to your stories, triumphs, pains, sorrows; sharing life and also death; worshipping the Lord together and exploring the heights, depths and widths of our mutual faith; praying and learning together – even if it was to the soundtrack of Les Miserables!

Now it is time to prepare myself for my new role at St. Paul’s, Macclesfield but I hope to welcome some of you to my ‘installation’ on 31 August at 7.30pm. I shall certainly never forget my time in ‘Happy Valley’ – how could I? It has some of the best pubs and people I know! God bless and thank you (as we comperes like to say).

Referendum Day – 23 June 2016

Canon Roy Arnold

I finished writing this sermon a week ago on the Monday before the death of Jo Cox MP.

StEtheldredaAs well as being the big day to vote whether we wish to stay in or out of the European Union, it is also the day we remember Etheldreda; an Anglo Saxon Princess and Abbess of Ely which Abbey she founded. She was born in Suffolk near Newmarket and died on this day in the year 638 after a life known for its prayerfulness and simplicity and prophecy. Apart from her posh name Etheldreda she was also known as Audrey, and in October-time in Ely they had an annual event called St Audrey’s Fair, which sadly got a name for second rate and shoddy goods and from which we get our derogatory term “tawdry” (meaning just that: cheap and nasty).

Which (in my opinion) is how I would describe the Referendum Campaign now thankfully reaching its last few hours: cheap and nasty. It was dressed up as a once in a lifetime chance to choose our political destiny but we all perhaps know that its real object was to save Mr Cameron’s bacon and pacify the strong anti-European element of his Party. A ploy which blew up his face when seemingly lifelong friends and colleagues turned against him and became the Leave Campaign with the might of Mr Farage (with his majority of one seat in the Commons). And then it all became like a Pantomime; you know., where the actors and actresses engage in one of those OH YES IT IS…OH NO IT ISN’T routines, in this case egged on by our so called free press – sadly not free of powerful influences by (ironically non-elected) folk such Rupert Murdoch and the editors or owners of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph. The result, almost inevitably will be a win – whichever way it goes – that will leave large swathes of the population disgruntled and disaffected and certainly a nation sadly divided.

In – or Out – or shake it all about. Sadly our political leaders are not like St Audrey – uncomplicated and prayerful and able to see into the future – but are all too human like us. Whether it be David Cameron with this shambles of the EU Referendum or Tony Blair with his disastrous invasion of Iraq; they make mistakes and misjudgements like we all do, but with more widespread and toxic results. Tomorrow we must accept the democratic results of the vote; but maybe (as the old Prayer for Unity had it) recognising the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. It will take -I believe – all our best efforts and prayers to overcome this state of affairs and try to build bridges and a better way of being a united nation. Maybe as Britons we have never been good at making our minds up one way or other about really important matters such as Private Education (Eton and Harrow) or Tytherington Secondary School, or between a National Health Service or private health providers… or the EU. Having said this I reckon that most of us would not want to live anywhere else but Britain. So whatever the result of the referendum, perhaps we might take advice from the last few lines of the poem called Desiderata…

…the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals…
…in the noisy confusion of life keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


India Direct – a charity based nearby

On Thursday 16 June we were visited by Jenny (from Rainow) and Pastor Martin (founder of Bethel Children’s Home in Chennai, South East India) who gave us a brief presentation during the sermon slot at our 9.30 Communion service. We learnt a little more over coffee after the service.

India Direct is a charity based in the Macclesfield area, supporting work with children in Chennai (formerly known as Madras). It has a connection with Poynton School.

Pastor Martin now runs two children’s homes for orphans and the children of widows. Following the Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, a second home, named Joy by local families, was built to house survivors of the disaster. With his wife Annie, and with the assistance of other staff members, Martin provides accommodation, food and the money for education in local schools for some of the poorest children in India. They also provide shelter and work for widows, as such people are shunned by their society as bringers of bad luck. The children of Bethel and Joy grow up to lead flourishing lives, capable of providing for themselves and their families.
india direct

The annual cost of running these two homes is £60,000. A donation to India Direct, the British-based charity supporting the work of Pastor Martin, helps to ensure that some of the most destitute children on earth can grow up with a future full of hope.

If you would like to learn more about the charity, visit their website. To download a monthly donation form click IndiaDirectmonthlydonation.

RIP Guy Wharton

Following the tragic death of Tytherington School science teacher Guy Wharton in a traffic accident on Tuesday, St Oswald’s will be open during the day for the next ten days (provisionally 8.45am to 6.45pm) as a place of sanctuary for all those who are mourning his loss within the community of Bollington and beyond.

A book of condolence will be available in the church from this afternoon.

The family have a close connection with both Bollington Cross School and our young people’s after-school group RiCH.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Guy’s family, friends and colleagues.

RIP Sue Bennett

It was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden death on 4 June 2016 of Sue Bennett (left of picture), a creative musician, a caring friend and a forward-looking, faithful member of St Oswald’s congregation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ken and all the family. Below is a message she posted to her friends on Facebook the day before she died. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen

I like to think of myself as a free spirit and include love thy neighbour as thyself as a way of interacting with others. I don’t usually post on Facebook but as a poetry lover I felt obliged to share part of a piece of work by one of my favourite poets:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Sue’s funeral will be at St Oswald’s at 9.15 on Friday 24 June,
followed by cremation at Macclesfield.