Saint Monica of Hippo

Canon Roy Arnold

I served my first curacy in Bristol where I discovered that in Bristol gym pumps became dabs, plain tea cakes became baps and unsmoked bacon was known as green bacon, and that natives of that city have a habit of adding an L to words which end with A. So (for instance) when they say the word AREA they pronounce it as AERIAL. I remember an old lady once telling me that her son in the army served in Indial, Burmal and Malayal and suffered from Malarial as a consequence.

My first Vicar knowing all about this was once taking a Baptism and the baby’s name was Monica and when he asked the question: “Name this child”, the parents solemnly answered MONICAL to which my Vicar replied “I don’t mind calling her MONACLE so long as she doesn’t make a SPECTACLE of herself during the service!”

Well today we remember another Monica; Saint Monica who was born in North Africa in the year 332 and went on to be the Mother of St Augustine of Hippo (not to be confused with Augustine of Canterbury). Augustine of Hippo – one of the most famous teachers of the early Church – always attributed his conversion to Christianity to the prayers of his mother Monica, not least when he started to stray from the straight and narrow, which is why she has always been held up as a real example of a mother’s love and prayers.

And when you think of it our prayers for family and friends are truly expressions of our love for them; and I believe there may be few things more important that we can do than to pray for our loved ones and anyone else that they may come to know – as we have – the love of Jesus and the true value of his Church. Maybe we don’t do this enough, and I must admit that I have totally failed in this. We pray in a general way for their wellbeing and health and safekeeping… but as to praying for their spiritual wellbeing and perhaps conversion we maybe fail in this important aspect of their lives.

Monica didn’t fail in this for her son Augustine, and without a doubt we must try to follow her example, even though Augustine was not without his faults. He certainly would have opposed the Ordination of Women and it was said that he would never sit on a seat when a woman had sat on it, which goes to show that even saints are not without their faults even when his mother (a woman) had done so much for him – and as Veronica does for us all.

 

Those who abide in Me

Revd Michael Fox

There is a song from 1980 by the punk band The Clash – I expect you all still remember it – called Should I Stay or Should I Go? It was very high energy and I’m not going to sing it to you, but the lyrics went:

Darlin’ you got to let me knowTheClash
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

Joe Strummer seems to be putting his fate into the hands of (I presume) a young woman, but he sums up an anxiety that affects all of us in some way – where do I belong? Is it with this person, this community, this group or with that one? Am I wanted here, or would I be better off somewhere else?

Indeed staying anywhere, or with anyone, for any length of time is increasingly difficult for us in a commitment-phobic world. There is a restlessness that afflicts humans sooner or later and sends them wandering off looking for better pasture. Perhaps it stems from the genes inherited from the period when humans were hunter-gatherers, roaming the prairies looking for woolly mammoths.

The word abide is old-fashioned now, but it has lots of meanings – to dwell, to rest, to continue, to be true to, to remain, to wait, to await… We say “I will abide by that decision,” or “I can’t abide punk rock music” and I suppose in both cases we mean ‘live with.’ And of course we use the word ‘abode’ – jokingly nowadays – to mean home: “Welcome to my humble abode.”

And at the moment there is a so-called ‘migrant crisis’ where people are fleeing war, oppression, hunger, poverty – they are leaving home and all that word implies of roots, shelter, identity, security, and casting themselves upon the waters, in small fragile boats. They face an unknown future, unknown dangers including drowning, tear gas and stun grenades, hunger, thirst, hostility, rejection.

If you saw the BBC’s Songs of Praise programme with its report on the migrant camp in Calais – the link is on our St. Oswald’s facebook page – you’ll have seen that in the midst of an area known as ‘the jungle’, in Calais, a muddy, rubbish-strewn encampment of tents, some made from corrugated plastic or old iron, there is a church – a makeshift, wood and plastic building that stands shakily in the midst of the camp. One of the French Christian volunteers who helped the Christian migrants build the church says on camera “These people wanted a church before they wanted a home.”

CalaisJungleChurchInside this little church Christians from Ethiopia and Eritrea, Syria and many other countries meet to pray and worship. There are beautiful pictures – one of St. Michael after whom the church is named. They worship and pray together with the many French and English Christians who come to bring aid and fellowship and hope.

One young man, a theology student from Ethiopia, is one of leaders of the church there. He says he has fled from persecution but he will not make any attempt to enter the UK illegally. Another young Christian man also fleeing persecution in Eritrea has tried several times to board a train illegally. When challenged he says he is seeking a better home, a safer home. He prays every day and then he says, “I have another house – it’s heaven.”

It seems to me that little church – St. Michael’s – is the embodiment of what John, in his gospel this morning, is telling us about abiding. Those who meet together in the fellowship of the Eucharist know what it is to dwell with Christ. However tough life is, however lacking in security, their commitment to follow him and to worship him and to receive him is a sign that they are in the dwelling place of God himself.

The Eucharist, the practice of eating bread and drinking wine in memory of the crucified Christ and in fellowship with the risen Christ, is clearly what John, writing in the hungry times of the first century AD – is referring to. Some people think John was writing in Syria, the very place from which many modern-day migrants come.

At the back of John’s image of finding fellowship with Christ in the Eucharist – of living, staying with, awaiting, staying true to Christ – is the experience of the Jews wandering in the wilderness, being fed with the manna from heaven. God provides for them and sustains them in their desperate need. They were in a strange land, and they were migrants, aiming to live in someone else’s country.

For John, Jesus is the manna that God gives to all humanity, regardless of who they are, of where they are living. He is the spiritual food that gives us life. And it’s significant that the word John uses for abide in this section is used 40 times throughout the gospel – his Gospel is all about what it means to live with Jesus, and for Jesus to live with you. Of course the breaking of bread, the sharing of a meal, is one of the most basic things we do in our homes.

Those of us here this morning, we have homes. Some of us may have just moved in, with all the excitement of a new space, new neighbours, and the adventure of a new life in a place we have chosen. Or we have been in our home for many years, seen our families grow up, experienced joy, and also sadness and loss. It has been a refuge and a shelter, a place for us to be ourselves. It answers our most basic need. Perhaps, even, we are facing a move from our familiar home and facing the loss of familiar surroundings and friends’ faces.

I wonder how many of us would say, with the migrants of Calais, that we wanted a church before we wanted a home? But when we meet to celebrate the Eucharist, as we will do in a few moments, we enact the meeting of our earthly home and our heavenly one, as that young man in Calais reminds us.

Perhaps that will help us to remember to keep our earthly home always open to the stranger, the migrant, to the needs of others for shelter and food. But most importantly to remember that whether we stay or go, it is Christ who sustains us, shelters us, and who is the true meaning of ‘home’.

Amen

 

The former Holy Trinity church at Kerridge

Visit by some parishioners

Thanks to the kind hospitality of the present owner, a group of parishioners visited the former Holy Trinity Church in Kerridge this afternoon! The building has been imaginatively transformed into a delightful home which has kept all the beauty of the church whilst offering an incredibly versatile, warm and welcoming living space. May God bless all who dwell there, now and in the future!

Support for the community of Bosley

The events in Bosley this July shocked everyone in the local area, and the community has rallied around to help and raise funds to help the people affected by the disaster.
If you would like to contribute to the BOSLEY DISASTER APPEAL please send donations to:
BOSLEY DISASTER APPEAL
PO Box 645
MACCLESFIELD
SK10 9LU

Memories

Canon Roy Arnold

Well we are few and far between today. We have two of our flock cruising the river Thames at Henley while some are in Guernsey. One has gone to see the Duke of Westminster (well, his garden to be exact). Two are looking after their respective grandchildren and we thought we should have been looking after our youngest daughter’s cat, but seemingly that is next week.

Others are on holidays and sadly some of our very faithful members are not at all well but thankfully we have our Vicar and Dave back from Belgium and Margaret Booth has come rushing back from Malta, and, as it happens, Holidays come into my sermon as they did with Michael last week – for I want to talk about MEMORIES.

One of God’s gifts to us is the gift of MEMORY. Without our memories we would be lost and have to learn again every morning how to do the most basic of human tasks such as how to dress ourselves or use the toaster; let alone how to drive a car or to read and write.

And then there is the wider scope of memory, whereby we remember things that have happened to us in the past – of things happy or sad. Even on this very day – July 26 – I have memories buzzing round in MY head of holiday times and of Bollington Wakes Week (which always was in this last week of July), when all the mills shut – and the shops – as Bollington folk went off to the seaside; and with Palmerston Street lined with Coaches to take them there “to be beside the seaside”; where a happy time was had by all.

But my next memory of this very day is definitely not a happy one: this day 19 years ago was when we buried our daughter’s ashes in the Columbarium here in Bollington. Rachel our second daughter had died in a cycle accident.

All of us (I guess) have sad memories mixed in with our happy ones. And perhaps it is our memories, happy or sad (of people or events), which make us who we are and how we see the world. It is worth noting, that I am saying all this in a church, because, when you think of it, churches are stacked high with so many memories (happy or sad); memories of Births, Marriages and Deaths – Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals.

And as well as churches holding our own personal memories it is, of course, here it in church that we keep alive the memory of God and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord, which is our aim in this very service of Holy Communion. “Do this in remembrance of Me” is what He said, and what we say and do in this service.

But harking back to the memories of seaside holidays, do you remember how the sun shone and the sea sparkled? Although it was so far out at Southport (where I spent several holidays as a child) you could hardly see the sea. But then in contrast, I remember a holiday in Scarborough with the sea in all its fury; with the waves smashing against the promenade and sending its spray high into the air – like that storm on the Sea of Galilee of which we heard in our Gospel this morning and the disciples fearful for their lives. But then came Jesus surprisingly walking on the waves, as somehow – equally surprisingly – He has walked into our lives (yours and mine). Impossible but true; and in part He has entered our lives because the stories of Jesus became embedded in the memory of the Church. Stories passed on through the long ages to me and you; the memories of what He taught people, and about His miracles, and of how He told His first disciples and us to “Have faith and be not be afraid”

As in another seaside story when Jesus was in the same boat as the apostles and when they were very frightened until He stilled the storm. Reminding us that Jesus is ALWAYS, ALWAYS in the same boat as us. In dark and stormy times and in those golden and special times, for God – through His Son Jesus and His Holy Spirit – has somehow ALWAYS been with us; as one of my favourite quotes from the bible reminds us that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever”. Experience tells us that He has been with us in the past (as we remember) and hope whispers that He will be with us in the future.

But then the past is yesterday and the future is tomorrow and the reality is we are left with is the Jesus who is with us today. So while today is still today let us remember His presence with us now.

I heard the voice of Jesus say: “I am this dark world’s light.
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus and I found in Him my star, my sun.
And in that light of life I’ll walk till travelling days are done.


John chapter 6 vv 1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Vicar’s Letter Summer 2015

vicars letter003As the school year comes to an end once more, we enjoy the longer summer days and look forward to some leisure time, whether in joyful company or in blessed solitude. Being part of a church community can be a valued feature of many people’s lives, whether it seems a passing phase or a more constant guiding star. Last month we celebrated with Michael, our Assistant Curate, his evolving ministerial calling in our midst as he was ordained to the priesthood. This July sees yet another batch of Year Six children leaving their familiar primary schools and looking forward to joining us next term at RiCH! Of course some of our older teens, like James, are busy planning an autumn move farther afield to the greater independence afforded by university or college life. Other people, like Angela, Viki and Eddie, find themselves now at a crossroads in terms of deciding to move house elsewhere in the country to be nearer their children, and though we will naturally miss each of their unique contributions to our worshipping life here, we do wish them well as they settle into their new abodes. Clearly for many in our community these summer months are a real time of transition, in the throes of which we are urged to hold on especially firmly to St Oswald’s motto: Be strong and of good courage, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go…
And as we notice the changing seasons, with a mixture of sadness for our loss and yet thanksgiving for lives well lived, we mark the recent passing of others who are dear to us, especially our good friend Peggy, a faithful member of our congregation, who even in time of illness had a sparkle in her eye and whose lively yet thoughtful presence we will miss very much. Yet even as old and trusted companions pass from our sight, we are equally blessed to greet new friends, especially the very young as they venture in, shyly at first, through our church doors, maybe for Praise and Play or Who Let The Dads Out or for a christening, and having found a home here, then to worship with us at Family Services. May we recognise in these little ones that same delight in life that those (like Peggy) who are older and wiser take care never to lose. Because of the relaxed welcome their children receive, parents are encouraged themselves to take further steps as companions with us in the Way of Christ, as we saw happen with our three recent candidates for Confirmation. Whatever our age and at whatever stage in our life’s journey, old and young together, may God truly bless our going out and our coming in, from this time forth and for evermore.
Veronica

RIP Peggy Wakefield

Peggy died peacefully at the East Cheshire Hospice on 13 June 2015.

Funeral at St Oswald’s 10.30am Friday 26 June

She will be much missed at St Oswald’s

The slide show shows images of her in happy times, organising the Posh Tea, arranging flowers, creating our mosaic, participating in Faith Hour, being a “wise woman” at our “Epiphany Experience”, generally socialising, and with her beloved triplets (her grandchildren) on Easter Day. There are also a couple of archive photos taken at the Centenary Edwardian Supper, held in church in 2008.

A new Priest!

Great celebrations this weekend…
Both in Chester on Saturday for the Midsummer Parade plus the ordination of 20 people as priests in the Church of England – and at St Oswald’s on Sunday morning as our assistant curate Michael presided for the first time at our 10.30am Parish Communion! Huge thanks to the lovely Beryl and Audrey for creating our very own “White Nancy” for this festive weekend too! Do come along to church again during this week to enjoy walking through the best daisy chain arch in the world!


Midsummer parade at Chester

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Sorry – we don’t have any pictures from the Ordination Service in Chester Cathedral…
But during the service at St Oswald’s on Sunday morning, Revd Michael, presiding at Holy Communion for the first time, was presented with a creation by Bollington Baloon Man Alex…

2 curates

 


Beryl and Audrey created the White Nancy Archway. And the Vicar and Assistant Curate celebrated with a glass of Fizz!

Giving – Where today is your heart?

Venerable Ian Bishop
Archdeacon of Macclesfield

I’d like to make four observations about the story of Adam and Eve that we’ve heard this morning.

Firstly just how much we take God’s abundance for granted.
If the writer of Genesis was telling us anything about the creation that God had put together, it is that it was pretty good! Abundant, peaceful and beautiful. God had made a place for men and women that was all they needed.

Of course we can’t help it… When we have much we take it for granted. Our hearts should be full of thankfulness for what we have, but more often than not we find ourselves looking at what we don’t have. You’ll know we live in a materialistic culture that tempts you and entices you, that invites you to take what you can’t afford and buy what you just don’t need. Like the serpent in the garden whispering away -“Hey this looks good – go one try it — you know you want to!”

But Jesus said “You cannot serve both God and money”. If we get drawn in we forget to be thankful for what we’ve got and we find ourselves driven to acquire what we haven’t got. And that means we take our eyes off God because we’re too focused on the baubles of earth. The apple that we’re not supposed to take.

Which partly makes my second point. You see we’re never content with what we have. My favourite verse in the whole of the Bible is in 1 Timothy 6:6 when Paul writes to a young man saying “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

What is truly the right way to live for people of faith is to find contentment through holiness. Jesus said “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Never was that better illustrated than in the garden, as Eve took the one apple she had been asked not to take; she took the treasure and gave her heart away. Contentment was lost, the innocence of the garden was replaced with knowledge of fear of what they had become. One thing I have learned through years of following Christ is that I am most content when I am on track with him. When I entrust my treasure, my family, my money, my time and gifts to him and live his way — then I am most content.

Which leads on to my third point. Which is that when it comes to making decisions, we are lousy judges of what is right and wrong and we get it wrong too often. It was a bad decision in the garden, the first of a billion bad decisions people have made in life. It might have been the first — it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

To be sure we make lots of great decisions. Church folk I think probably on balance make a lot better decisions than people who don’t go to Church. God called Adam and Eve to look after the creation, and I think the people of faith generally get that. We are a generous people, in any year the people of faith in this country give way more to charity than Children in Need will ever raise, we look after some of the most amazing buildings in this country at no cost to the nation, we employ thousands of people who care for the poor and the weak, who go out and look for the lost and the lonely, who bring hope to the sad and joy to the depressed. And then there is the army of volunteers like you, who roll up their sleeves and make our communities work, who contribute time and energy that builds a better world and remakes the creation.

The people of God are astonishing. But we still make bad decisions about what to do with our money and our time and our energy. As you read the stories of the early Church you see that it was characterised by an astonishing generosity. I think Churches get it — just not enough — their treasure is a bit in the bank with Jesus but mostly not, and that means their heart is missing from Jesus’s safe keeping as well.

The Bible sets a very high standard. Deuteronomy 14 sets a figure of 10% for the people of God in their giving. 10% of what you earn should be given back to God. And before you moan about that, remember Jesus also told the rich young man to give away everything and then follow him, and he commended the widow who gave a mite — all she had. At least I’m only suggesting 10% for starters!  Think what that would mean for you?

I see the giving figures across the Diocese and I’m astonished how little people do give.  So many people give less than £5 a week. But what is £5 worth today? It certainly doesn’t make up 10% even for someone on a basic pension. And then every now and again you see someone giving much much more than that — and it usually isn’t the one with the most money — instead it’s someone you wouldn’t expect, but who gets it.

The theologian Helmut Thielicke once wrote (in a time when we still used cheques), “Our cheque books have more to do with Heaven and Hell than our hymn books.” And he was correct.

I remember when I was taking a funeral of a very wealthy man once, I was chatting to the undertaker in the car on the way to the cemetery, and the undertaker asked me — “how much did he leave?” To which I was able to answer, “Everything!”

But most don’t get it, and my fourth and final point from the reading this morning is this.  We are always trying to make excuses. In the garden, the man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent and the fact was that they all got it wrong and should have just owned up.

I know that if I sat you all down this morning and asked you to give more I would probably get a Church full of excuses, so I won’t ask. Instead I reckon that most of you should be giving at least twice what you’re giving regularly and that still probably won’t be 10% – but it would be a start.

Many of you won’t be giving by standing order — which you should be, otherwise someone has to trudge to the bank every week.. Save your treasurers aching feet and sign a standing order.

Some of you won’t have signed a Gift Aid form — which is a nonsense because that way the Government adds 25% to what you give (if you pay tax!)

It has never been easier to give. You may — like I do – have the ability to have your giving deducted from your pay before it lands in your account. I like giving that way because it reminds me that the money was never mine anyway — it’s God’s.

As more and more churches face uncertain financial futures, and I know St Oswald’s is one,  I’m reminded of the Vicar who stood up before his congregation and declared “You will be glad to know we have found the money to solve the financial crisis at the Church.” There were hopeful smiles all round the congregation, until the Vicar said with a beaming smile, “It’s there in your pockets!”

Let me draw my four points together.

Never forget the context in which we live; God has created a world of abundance – we need to live with hearts full of thankfulness.

Sadly we’re rarely content — but make contentment your aim

We do often make lousy decisions and many excuses, but the best way is to be generous.

Remember when the wealthy tax collector Zachaeus threw a party and gave away half of all he had to the poor. That was when Jesus said “salvation has come to this house today.” Budgets are moral documents, the way we use what God has abundantly given tells us where our hearts truly are.  So let me leave you with a question — where today is your heart?

Genesis chapter 3 vv 8-15

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’

The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’