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.’

Vicar’s Letter June 2015

vicars letter003Once or twice a year I venture up the steep hill to look at the view from White Nancy! From there on a clear day I can take in the whole panorama of my parish, picking out the hidden chimney tops of the Vicarage at one end and the distinctive red roof of St Oswald’s Church at the other end, with Kerridge nestling just out of sight in the valley between. Whilst I recover my breath after the slow climb (yes, I know I’d get fitter if I tried going up there more regularly!), I always take the opportunity to pray for the people and places I am called to serve here in this beautiful part of Cheshire. I also give thanks for my many predecessors who have ministered as Vicars and Assistant Curates in the Parish of Bollington, especially mentioning some of my favourites: George Palmer the first Vicar, who opened St John’s School and built Bollington Cross School, but after thirteen years sadly died from overwork and anxiety about the financial burdens of the church, and Charles Brooke-Gwynne, who in his thirteen years as incumbent had the vision to oversee the building of our Vicarage, Holy Trinity Kerridge and St Oswald’s Bollington Cross, whilst simultaneously moving a lot of the furniture around in St John’s Parish Church, including making it a more flexible worship space by replacing the original pews with chairs! As someone who so far has only served eight years in the parish, I hope (God willing) to survive well enough until my retirement within the next five years, if possible unscathed by too many financial worries and having helped in my time to encourage similarly constructive developments in the ever-changing life and work of our local church community.

At the Vestry Meeting before our Annual Parochial Church Meeting at the end of April, you elected your two Churchwardens for 2015/16: I’m pleased to say Jackie Pengelly was willing to serve another year and Christine Osbaldiston has been elected in place of Sue Whitehurst who, after serving the parish faithfully as Churchwarden, had come to the end of her possible six years in this role. Alongside Jackie and Christine I look forward to continuing to seek God’s will in our way forward as a worshipping community. We also are fortunate to have a newly elected member of our PCC, Sally Garnett, who is willing to serve as our new Treasurer. Many thanks once again go to her two excellent predecessors in that role, Ray Mills and Mike Hall, without whose dedication and skill we literally would have been so much the poorer! We are currently on the look-out for a new PCC Secretary, as Chris Ward has indicated that he’d prefer to relinquish this role, after nearly six years dedicated service, so watch this space! The people inhabiting these four roles (Churchwardens, Secretary and Treasurer) form what we call the Ministry Team, alongside the clergy, who take a lead in formulating the agenda for our PCC Meetings and try to keep an overview of what’s happening in the parish generally (although we have not so far trekked up to White Nancy to do this bit!?) If this is something you feel you might like to join us in doing in the role of PCC Secretary, then do let me know.
This month sees another exciting development in our life together! Our Assistant Curate, Revd Michael Fox, will be going forward for ordination as a Priest in the Church of God (can it really only be a year since he joined us as a Deacon?!). The ordination service will be at Chester Cathedral at 5.00pm on Saturday 20 June and members of the parish are very warmly invited to attend! Please pray for Michael as he prepares for this next important stage in his faith journey. In the service, the Bishops and some invited clergy (including me as Michael’s training incumbent!) will come forward to lay hands on Michael’s head, asking God to continue to inspire and encourage him in his ministry and to bless him as he becomes a priest, authorised from then on to pronounce God’s absolution and blessing and to preside at Holy Communion. Those who were able to attend the recent Confirmation Service at St Michael’s Macclesfield will know how moving that sacramental act of laying on of hands can be, in that case Bishop Libby blessing our three young Mums (Alison, Rachel and Nicola) and praying for God’s Spirit to encourage and inspire them in their life of faith. (I’m sure the three of them have since that evening looked ten foot taller as a result of their experience!?)
Michael will be presiding at our Parish Communion service for the first time at 10.30am on Sunday 21 June, followed by drinks and light refreshments to celebrate this great occasion in our parish! Please do make a note in your diary to be there for this Sunday service, which, although it falls on a Third Sunday of the month, we have decided will best be in the form of our “regular” Parish Communion on this occasion and so we’ll not be using the “Family Communion” books this time – though of course children and families are, as on every Sunday morning in our church, very welcome to attend! That day happens also to be both Father’s Day (we probably won’t need to start calling our Curate “Father Michael” though!) and the 200th Celebration of White Nancy in Bollington (and in Rainow, who do make some territorial claim on this lovely local folly too!). So there promises to be much to celebrate that particular weekend!
May God richly bless all of us as we seek to overcome whatever “enemies” we encounter in life (praying that we may be victorious in finding hope and peace when meeting our personal Waterloos in times of illness or bereavement). May each of us truly know ourselves to be “called by name” by God in Christ and to be empowered every day by God’s Holy Spirit, to work and witness in our various places of employment or leisure, amongst friends and family, and equally in the company of strangers we meet along our way. May we be enabled, young or old, ordained or lay, to fulfil our true potential as servants of Christ, this day and always.
Every blessing,
Veronica
Revd Charles Brooke-Gwynne
Revd Charles Brooke-Gwynne

Precious in the sight of God

Canon Roy Arnold

I think that I can take it for granted that most of us now have had enough of Elections! It’s sad that something so important can seem so tedious, but I want you to spare a thought today for those who have been unsuccessful in their attempts to get elected in Local Government Elections, but especially in Elections to get into (or back into) Parliament. When I was at General Synod a few years ago I had a long conversation with someone who had just lost his seat in Parliament. He was – to put it mildly – absolutely devastated by the experience of going from someone being in power to being just one of yesterday’s men; from being one of the chosen (elected ones) to being unemployed (give or take a few directorships), not to speak of the loss of self-esteem.

But actually I want to contrast this man’s experience to our Bible readings for today, where we were reminded by God and God’s Son Jesus who said YOU DID NOT CHOSE ME; BUT I CHOSE YOU. Do you see what this means? That God chooses, and we all of us (as it were) GET IN; we are all of us elected, not because we deserve to, but simply because GOD loves us. And this is God’s gracious experiment with humanity, which he began long ago it with his first Chosen People the Jews, whose story is told in the Old Testament. Of how they were by and large disobedient, so much so that God had to send his only begotten Son – Jesus – to redeem (that is to rescue) Mankind and (in the process) to make us into a new and enlarged Chosen Race. Jews and Non-Jews and the whole human race, and all this bearing in mind that God in his great love for us does not force our obedience.

He actually wants us to be his friends – and certainly not his slaves – hence his gift to us all of Free Will. In other words, although he has chosen us, he gives us the choice NOT to be his friends, which most of us do from time to time – in choosing not to be friends with God – in things petty like sheer meanness and peevishness, or by totally fundamental mistakes like the Holocaust or World Wars, ignoring the command of Jesus THAT WE MUST, WE MUST, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. First loving and serving God and then our neighbours.

Psalm 146 reminds us of this when it tells us: As long as we have any being we must sing praise (and worship) our God… not putting our trust in princes nor in any human power (Conservative, Labour, not even UKIP) for there is no help in them. And the psalm goes on to remind us that what counts is providing justice for those who suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger (as we aim to do through Christian Aid Week which begins today) lifting up those who are bowed down… with the strangers in our land and the orphan and the widow.

Because our God (out of his great love) chose us to be his friends, and friends and followers of Jesus his Son, and to go out into our everyday lives to tell other people about Jesus; not by door-stepping them or delivering pamphlets, or arguing with them or threatening them, but instead by helping them when they need help and maybe (secretly of course) praying for them, or by lots of ways trying our very best to follow Jesus ourselves. But (surprisingly) not by trying and trying to love God and Jesus but by LETTING GOD AND JESUS LOVE US.

That is our task – to let God love us. To let God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit love us, being open to the love of God. For it is only when we know ourselves to be loved that we can (as God’s chosen and elected people) be loving ourselves. And knowing that we are precious in the sight of God.

Acts 10:44-end
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

1 John 5.1-6
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

John 15.9-17
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

 

Vicar’s Letter May 2015

vicars letter003The first Sunday after Easter is what people call “Low Sunday”. The flamboyant earrings are put away for another year…the chocolate eggs are all eaten…(particular thanks, by the way, for the delicious little box of eggs left for me in the vestry, coming from that most heavenly of all holiday resorts: “Hotel Chocolat”!) …and now after all the drama of Easter, it’s back to work as usual. So I guess we can readily identify with those Gospel stories of Jesus’ disciples gathered again in the Upper Room, after the trauma of Good Friday, coping with what they felt were unlikely and unsubstantiated rumours of the Resurrection, put about by “some of the women”, and as a group generally not feeling very optimistic at all about the future.
Sometimes I think your average Parochial Church Council is the natural successor of that small group – huddled together in a small room somewhere set apart, behind closed doors, discussing a little gloomily the state of the church finances and whether or not we have a future at all. Maybe we are not always aware of Christ stepping into our midst and calling for “Peace!” Occasionally as a group we are tempted to give up and follow our ancestor St Peter out through the door, saying in effect “Blow this for a lark! I’m going fishing!”, and then being surprised and delighted to encounter Jesus already out there in ordinary everyday life, cooking a simple breakfast on the lakeside. (Perhaps our equivalent is finding bacon butties on offer for our new Dads’ and Grandads’ group on the fourth Saturday of each month!) Daring to go beyond our walls, to keep asking questions about what’s important and to push our boundaries of expectation, reminds me of how amazed and delighted we were, just two years ago, to hear Christ speaking words of encouragement through people “out there” who told us they were so pleased to be asked their opinion about what kind of artwork should adorn the redundant doorway of our church extension, the splendid new addition to an old and well-loved building which in essence is both “ours” and “theirs”: clearly the Parish Church of Bollington, open for all.
Each year around this time at our Annual Parochial Church Meeting, I believe Christ breathes his Spirit afresh on those we have chosen as our representatives to serve as Churchwardens and on the PCC, empowering them to pray, study and act in his name, so that the good news of forgiveness and love can be spread and increasing numbers of people are enriched and transformed and enlivened for the good of the whole community and thus we become some of the “many other signs” St John refers to towards the end of his Gospel, and as St Paul puts it, we become “living stones”, building God’s kingdom on earth.
Amongst the Bible readings set for Low Sunday, we heard of that very down-to-earth disciple, St Thomas, “known as the Twin”. Let’s just focus for a moment on that almost throwaway description, “the Twin”. The Bible tells us nothing about Thomas’s twin brother or sister; we can only imagine that somewhere out there, outside the Upper Room, Thomas treasured a deep intimacy of shared life experience with another human being; in other words, he had a natural affinity and connectedness with at least one other person beyond the group of disciples and his close friend Jesus. Sometimes people who come regularly to church find that those closest to them, their families and friends, just “don’t get it”, and don’t understand the attraction of this church-going thing at all. Maybe your wife or husband or children say they’ve tried it and it’s just not for them – “After all you can be a perfectly good person without going to church, can’t you?” Maybe Thomas felt a similar disappointment in those circumstances, when his twin sister or brother declined to come with him to see what it was all about. And it’s so hard to explain your faith, isn’t it, even to those nearest and dearest to you?
In the penultimate chapter of John’s Gospel, we hear of Thomas the Twin coming back into the group on the evening of the very first Easter Day, but finding he’d just missed out on an unbelievably powerful encounter with the risen Christ! After all that! Having followed Jesus faithfully for the past three years and never having been afraid to get to grips with the painful and difficult questions, he missed hearing the definitive answer with his own ears! Remember Thomas had been the one at the Last Supper to interrupt when Jesus was mysteriously trying to explain that “his hour had come”. “But, hang on a minute, Lord,” says Thomas, “We do not know where you are going! How can we know the way?!” And this elicits the clear and resoundingly memorable words we often hear at that common deeply traumatic time of transition when someone we love has died: Jesus says to Thomas, and to each of us who seek authentic answers to life’s agonising mysteries: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life… Peace I give you, not as the world gives… Do not let your hearts be troubled… neither let them be afraid!” (a response finding an echo of course for us in St Oswald’s excellent motto 600 years later!)
All human endeavour and discovery comes from often a small group of people not just taking things at face value, but painstakingly and sometimes at great personal cost, probing deeper into the mysteries and complexities of the created order. Jesus said equally memorably elsewhere in the Gospels: “Ask, and you will receive; Seek, and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened to you.”…. in other words (especially resonant with those who have been on a Cursillo Weekend): PRAY, STUDY, ACT! (Incidentally, please do ask the Vicar about joining her on the next Cursillo Weekend taking place in Crewe from 21 to 24 May! I wonder whether God may be courteously holding open that door for you this month, inviting you to take advantage of being treated to three whole days away – absolutely free of charge! – in the company of friends, with plenty of cake, but more importantly, the luxury of time to pay attention to yourself as God’s precious child on your unique journey of faith. Worth asking, don’t you think?!)
Once again as the Easter season unfolds into Pentecost, we celebrate St Thomas, affirmed in his continuing quest for Truth and Life by the risen Jesus. Tradition has it that Thomas went on with great courage to preach the message of new life and hope through Christ to the people of India who, like our friends in the Delhi Brotherhood, remain today acutely conscious of a need to respond creatively in the face of human vulnerability and mortality. May we learn to recognise in Thomas the face of our own Twin Self, asking deep questions, reaching out to be in touch with God through prayer, social action and the sacraments of bread and wine, and seeking new meaning in all the complexities and woundedness of our own relationships, choosing to renew our baptismal promises to go on being followers of “The Way”.
Every blessing this Easter and always,
Veronica
Doubting Thomas (Bernardo Strozzi)
Doubting Thomas (Bernardo Strozzi)