The Vicar and some parishioners visited Manchester Cathedral on Thursday evening for a truly “spiritual” occasion. It was, in fact, a meeting arranged by the Gin Society. It was well attended.
A good time was had by all.
The photo above (from Bollington Photo Archive) shows how the “west” end of St Oswald’s looked when the church was first built. Below is how it looks now.
The parish has submitted a Statement of Need document to the Diocesan Advisory Committee for them to give us informal advice about redeveloping our kitchen facilities. It reads as follows:
Statement of Need
1. In addition to our Sunday and Mid-week Eucharists and our monthly Family Worship Services, our church building is presently used on a regular basis, for
Beyond these weekly commitments, on a regular basis we have the “occasional offices” such as Funerals, Baptisms and Weddings, All Souls’ Day Services, Lent Groups and Lent Charity Lunches, monthly Mothers’ Union meetings, PCC meetings and Growth Action Planning meetings. The Church also hosts occasional Deanery Synod meetings, Bollington Festival Choir Concerts, Maundy Thursday Agape Meals and Watch of Prayer, numerous Christmas events, Family Fun Days in the summer holidays, Fundraising activities, Teaching Opportunities for schools and uniformed groups, our annual Schools’ Experience Weeks offered to all five of our local primary schools, and Bollington Cross School’s PTA regularly offer refreshments prior to their children’s events such as annual Reception Class welcome services, Harvest Festivals and Christmas Plays.
2. An extension with fully accessible glazed main entrance porch and three toilets plus an adjoining small storage room was opened in December 2012, using a large proportion of the proceeds of the sale of Holy Trinity Church, Kerridge. The PCC decision to allow the closure of Kerridge Church in 2009 was made with the plan that we would use the sale proceeds to improve the comprehensive welcome and hospitality provision at St Oswald’s, now the Parish Church of Bollington. The new extension (together with our subsequent beautiful community mosaic installation of 2014) has signalled to the local community that we are indeed a vibrant, healthy Church. However this positive image is marred by the inadequate and unsightly kitchen facility that impacts on the eye of the newcomer as they now enter our building from the new porch.
Since its installation under a Faculty granted on 30 July 1999, the existing kitchen/servery hatch and adjacent space (formerly housing an accessible loo) has served its original limited purpose well. However, now that St Oswald’s is our only place of Anglican worship and outreach, our limited catering facilities are restricting our growth, given the ever-increasing necessity of finding innovative ways to accommodate the needs of young and old alike. With inadequate washing-up facilities, limited &/or inaccessible storage cupboards, no fridge, no cooking facilities, and a cramped (and at times unsafe) serving hatch and with only room for two kettles or a small urn to heat water for drinks, we recognise the urgent need for expansion. The consensus is that we need a larger, more fully equipped kitchen so that we are able to offer a wider range of refreshments to our congregation and also importantly to the variety of groups presently using the church, plus other community groups who might be encouraged to use the church in the future. We need greater floor space within the kitchen facility and far more work surfaces so as to allow safe and proper preparation of food and drink, and to enable speedy service of refreshments to all, including members of our regular congregation, our young peoples’ groups and other existing users. Ideally we also need to create better and more discreet storage space for our eleven large and four small folding tables and the rack of 50 stacking chairs, when not in immediate use.
3. Following initial advice from the DAC Secretary in July 2015, reinforced by comments from our Archdeacon in August 2015, we were encouraged to “be bold” in our plans as we consider possible ways forward. The Archdeacon has also suggested that funds may well be available to us as a PCC from the net proceeds of the sale of the former Vicarage, up to a maximum of £20,000, only for use on a mission project, into which category substantial improvements to our kitchen facilities would indeed fall. In considering any plans, the DAC Secretary Paul Broadhurst ventured that “tinkering with your existing west end arrangement is highly unlikely to be the best way forward.” Consequently the PCC is considering two possible proposals, the first idea offered by David Nixon (a student of architecture from our congregation) and the second suggestion offered by our Church Quinquennial Architect, Mark Pearce:
The proposed options can be downloaded by clicking on the highlighted text. each file may take some time to download!
4. At present, our one (awkwardly placed) sink and the single work surface are not sufficient to allow us to cater for anything more adventurous than cakes/biscuits/tea/coffee/juices and are inadequate in catering for increasingly large numbers of people. Currently only a maximum of two people can work (albeit with difficulty) in the enclosed space at any given time. There is no room for a fridge or any other appliance. Inviting greater use of the church building by local community groups/societies is hampered by our limited catering facilities. By providing better kitchen facilities and a more open and flexible space (to complement our new extension) we would hope to increase the use of the building by groups from the wider community, with the added bonus of increasing our income. (For more ambitious catering occasions, as a congregation we are presently able to access the neighbouring Bollington Cross School Hall, but this is subject to permissions, restrictions, payment and other conditions of hire as may be set out by the Head Teacher and Governors of the School pro tem.) We are a forward-looking Church, wanting to invite the community to participate more in activities and services within our own building, including those events that attract larger numbers, such as Christingle Services and Nativity Plays, but also thinking on a more moderate scale where we could offer refreshments after Funerals or Baptisms when families do not always wish to move on to another venue afterwards. We need to be able to offer suitable facilities for refreshments, more safely, quickly and efficiently, whilst spending time with our guests and ministering to them in a more open and unhindered way.
It was agreed at our PCC Meeting 30 January 2017 (12 in favour, 1 abstention) to send our SoN, accompanying photos and outline plans to the Diocesan Advisory Committee for informal advice.
A good time was had by all!
The evening raised £441 for Church funds. Thank you to all who organised, performed, prepared cakes and refreshments, and bought raffle tickets!
Six Lent Study Groups led by Anne Coomes and Canon Veronica, on Wednesday evenings in church, from 7.30pm till 9.00pm, starting Wednesday 8 March. Anyone is welcome to join us in reading Archbishop Rowan Williams’ little book called “Being Disciples”. Refreshments provided. Please sign up on the list at the back of church if you’d like to come along for any or all of these weekly sessions.
The wedding at Cana
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
My father was a Presbyterian minister on Long Island, New York, and so I grew up attending church. And at every single service, everybody prayed.
This led me to ask my mom one of those impossible questions that kids come up with. My crazy question was: how many prayers has Jesus received down the centuries? Not surprisingly, my mom said she had no idea.
Well, I never have found out how many prayers in total Jesus has received, but when I came to this reading this morning, I suddenly realised that the story of the Wedding at Cana is very special.
For it takes us back to the very first-ever prayer made to Jesus. And there are some really lovely things about this simple story, and also some surprising ones.
The story, of course, comes in chapter 2 of John’s Gospel, and when you think about where it comes in the gospel, it is quite astonishing. For chapter 1 of John’s Gospel could not be more different. It is sublime – John has just written one of most magnificent descriptions of Jesus in the Bible:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made…
What an opening scenario! The majesty of the creator of the universe in the dawn of time. John goes on:
…the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. To all who received him, he gave the right to become the children of God…
This is all high Christology, soteriology, – all the ologies you can think of. From the towering majesty of this, the next chapter could not be more different. For having introduced Jesus in all his glory and grace, where does John set him in chapter 2?
Jesus who made the universe is attending a wedding in a small town in a back water of the Roman empire. And the people around him are not asking him to save them from their sins. No, instead, his mother tells him that the wine has run out. It’s sort of like a film where superman flies in from outer space to rescue the earth, and then helps out with coffees at a Saturday morning bake sale.
I mean – why would you? Why not describe Jesus as doing something more important? So why did John not think this was odd?
Let’s look again at chapter 2.
There is a wedding, and Mary knew at least one of the families involved, because she and her family had been invited along for the feast.
The party has begun and is obviously going well – so well that the wine has run out. That is not really surprising, as Jewish weddings went on for a week – and they would have got through a lot of wine. Anyway, Mary sees a social crisis about to happen. To run out of wine would have reflected very badly on the bridegroom and his family.
Mary is deeply concerned for her friends, and in the crisis of the moment, she does something that no one in history has ever done before – she turns to Jesus for help. John tells us:
when the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘they have no more wine.’
This simple statement at the wedding marks a tipping point. Up until now, Mary has been Jesus’ mother, and he her oldest son. She knows who he is, and he knows who he is, but until now neither Mary nor Jesus has ever acted on it. Now Mary has suddenly appealed to her son’s supernatural powers for help. It is a prayer.
No wonder that John has included the story here in his gospel. We have the Word made flesh, and come among us to reveal his glory, and here is the first time that a person has acted in faith and reached out to him as Immanuel, God with us.
And how lovely that it should be Mary who is first to pray to Jesus, and who is first to have a prayer answered. And Mary’s prayer was so humble. Her prayer was not for herself. It was an intercessory prayer on behalf of her friends, the bridegroom’s family. Her prayer was very short – only one line long. She said: ‘They have no more wine.’
Her prayer was not bossy. She informed Jesus of the need. She did not tell him what he should do about it – she left that to him.
But even so, at first, Jesus did not respond well! He seems taken aback by her sudden appeal.
‘Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.’
Jesus is saying that when it come to his life-mission, sorting out wine at a wedding was NOT it. But Mary does not argue with him. She simply tells the servants to be sure to do whatever Jesus commands them.
We are not told why Jesus changed his mind, only that he pointed to six stone water jars, and told the servants to fill them with water, and then draw some out and take it to the Master of the banquet. They did, and the new wine was praised as being better than the old.
So – what can we take from this story? Several things.
First, that the everyday problems of our lives are not too little to bring to God. If we are in trouble, and need help, we are right to turn to him in prayer.
Last year I was in Exeter at the exhibition ground, and it was horrendous winter weather. I got totally lost on the Exeter ring road, and ended up back at the exhibition ground, quite desperate. A little old man was walking out of the ground, and I asked if he knew where a certain street was. He lived around the corner from it! He got in the car and guided me straight there. Of all the hundreds of roads in Exeter, he lived around the corner from it. God had answered my everyday crisis prayer. (But I did not push it – I got a satnav!)
What else can we take?
Mary presented the need – she did not tell Jesus HOW to answer her. When we pray for ourselves and others, we can simply tell him the need, and trust him to work out the answer by himself.
Mary told the servants to be obedient. That is also critical. If we are to get anywhere with God, we need to obey what he says to us.
So – the story of Cana wedding is beautiful. From the majesty of a Creator at the dawn of the universe, to Immanuel, God-with-us in the everyday, who cares for us on an everyday level. No wonder that John concluded the story by telling us that in this first of his miracles, Jesus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
We also can put our faith in him.
God willing, when we see the signs of Spring in a few weeks’ time, I will have served a whole decade as your Vicar here in the Parish of Bollington! Doesn’t time fly! During the course of these past ten years, together we have experienced all sorts of new developments both in the content and shape of our buildings and in the styles of worship we are fortunate to be able to offer to our community. I realise I personally have seen a whole generation of children move on within our church life from Reception to RiCH! And thanks to many gifted colleagues, both lay and ordained, we have ministered to the needs of young and old in a whole variety of circumstances and in many different ways. My task of being a Vicar has only been made possible by the friendship and support (and occasional challenge!) offered variously by a series of dedicated Churchwardens, patient and diligent Treasurers and Secretaries, a whole variety of PCC and Congregation members, Sacristans, Sidespeople, Vergers, Sextons, Flower Arrangers, Door Keepers, Intercessors, Administrators of Communion, Magazine Editors and Distributors, Group Leaders, Project Managers, Diocesan Officers, Mothers’ Union members, Head Teachers, School Governors, Readers, an occasional Assistant Curate, a very wise and experienced fellow Canon, a dedicated and energetic Children and Families’ Worker, a swell group of Organists, a tuneful bunch of Choristers, a willing and imaginative group of Praise & Play leaders, a long-suffering and compassionate group of RiCH volunteers, a whole hidden army of Cake Bakers, Church Cleaners, Gardeners, Floor Polishers, Linen Launderers, Brass Cleaners, Money Counters and Bankers, Furniture Movers, Maintenance Workers and Jacks of All Trades, not to mention all those essential people who step up regularly to become Fund-Raisers, Caterers and Prayers! Thank you! May God bless all of you in your different and complementary ministries in the service of Christ in this place!
Looking forward, no doubt this coming year will bring its own unique challenges and opportunities, sorrows and joys. As the seasons turn, so I reflect on the loss over the course of ten years of so many friends and family no longer beside us here, whether they have moved away or died. As we continue to hold in our hearts the precious memories of them all and as we entrust the living and departed to God’s safe keeping, we know that, whatever our personal situation, we are all still called by God to build up and nurture new relationships amongst people in our community. As companions on life’s journey, we have uniquely been given the unchanging task of finding ways to plant seeds of hope, love, joy and peace in the world around us and to share the Gospel afresh with each new generation. May we continue to be inspired and encouraged in all we undertake in Christ’s name, now and always.
Advance Notice! Lent is traditionally a time for thinking together about our personal faith journeys and sharing some of the experiences and challenges we face as Christians in the modern world. We are planning to hold our popular weekly Lent Lunch Hours once again in St Oswald’s on Tuesdays from 12 noon till 1.00pm for six weeks, starting on 07 March and finishing on 11 April. As usual we are asking for volunteers to provide simple “food for the journey”, such as bread and soup, cheese or pate, offered in return for a gift of money from those who participate in the meal. We’ve not yet decided to which good cause the proceeds will be given this year, but any suggestions are welcome. I’m very pleased to say that Canon Roy Arnold has kindly agreed to offer us another little series of “Food for Thought” to mull over during our lunches! When the list appears in due course at the back of church, please do sign up if you’d like to be catered for, or if you are willing to host any of the lunches. Come along and bring your friends and enjoy good food and one another’s company in an informal and friendly setting.
Gathering in the whole woolly flock from our Bollington Advent Sheep Trail!
Hallelujah! The sheep were safely gathered in tonight from all around Bollington! Thank you, innkeeper Bev and all your willing staff, for helping the children experience the timeless Christmas story in such a lively and engaging way! We heard the angels’ message loud and clear: “Do not be afraid!” Wishing everyone a very happy and holy Christmas and a joyous and peaceful New Year!
Isaiah 2: 1-5 ; Romans 13: 11 – end; Matthew 24: 36 – 44
You’ll never guess who I ran into last night. Michael Fox, our former curate, and his wife Ginny. I was up at the Royal Northern College of Music, where Ginny, who is a member of the St George’s Singers, was singing the wonderful Brahms Requiem.
Brahms’ requiem is a magnificent affirmation of faith and hope in Jesus Christ, and of an eternal future in the comfort of his presence, and so it reminded me of our readings this morning – the longing which St Paul had for the second coming of Jesus, and his joy and utter confidence in Christ’s eventual return.
There is a line in the requiem which quotes Jesus from the gospel of John. It runs:
‘You now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you.’
I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice.
What a wonderful promise! And of course, that is what Advent is all about – the coming of Jesus. Or the ‘adventus’ of Jesus, if you want the Latin.
So it is little wonder, then, that Advent is the season of Christian anticipation and hope.
For as we look back to that First Coming of Jesus, born so humbly in a manger in Bethlehem, so we look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus, when He will come in power and authority.
Our readings this morning look forward to that Second Coming of Jesus, at the end of time. Together, the readings spell out several things the Bible urges us to remember.
Firstly, we are reminded that as Christians, we are citizens of two countries. We belong both to this present age on earth, with its pain and evil, and also to the age that is to come, when Christ shall reign in power. We live our lives at the intersection of these two ages. Hence the ambiguity of Christian experience. We are not what we were, but equally, we are not yet what we shall become.
So, if you like, the two ‘ages’ of history overlap. With the birth of Jesus, the kingdom of God has come, but not in completeness. Paul likens a Christian to a child who one day will come into a great inheritance. We Christians are waiting for that – for the Second Coming of Jesus, when the present age will finally disappear, and the new age of God’s kingdom will be consummated.
So Advent is a time to remember that world history is not just a tale of on-going gloom and doom. It has a story line. In a sense, world history is His story. God’s story. He made this world. He came and lived in it. He calls us to follow him. At the end – the second Advent – He will return and wind up history. That is the great Christian hope which we remember this morning. That history is moving steadily towards that amazing day of Jesus’ return.
And this time it won’t be in an obscure manger in Bethlehem. When Jesus comes back, this Second Coming will be the most public event in all history. It will come like a bolt from the blue, and be like sheet lightning, from one side of the sky to the other.
The return of Christ will be the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
It will be a time of judgement, a time of restoration
As our reading in Isaiah put it:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
It will be a time of new creation, a new heaven and a new earth, where God will once more live among his people.
Of course, just as in the time of Noah, most people do not believe that anything big is coming. They think that the present age will go on forever. Many people say that Paul got it wrong, because he tells his readers that they are living in the last days, and of course 2000 years has gone by, and Jesus has still not returned.
But when Paul uses the term ‘last days’, he is not referring to the length of time between when he was writing and when he expected Jesus to return. Rather, he was saying that there is now nothing more on God’s calendar when it comes to his dealings with mankind. The Messiah has come, has died for his people, he has risen again, and now reigns in heaven with a name that is above every name. There only remains now for his return – when every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is indeed Lord.
In that regard, these last two thousand years are indeed the ‘last days’. There is no other age of human history after this age. Everything between God and man has been accomplished, the stage is set. And at just the right moment, known only to God the Father, Jesus Christ will return.
Meanwhile, our Christian calling is to behave in the continuing night as if the day had dawned. We are to live lives of self-control and goodness, showing that we are citizens of a different kingdom. In that regard, we are the light of the world.
This Advent can for each one of us become a spiritual journey. We begin by remembering birth of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem. We look then to the Scriptures that reaffirm that He is present, through his spirit, in the world today. We then remember the scriptures which tell us that he will come again in glory. Finally, we look forward to our final destination, which is to be in his presence forever!
Which, of course, brings me right back to the Royal Northern College of Music last night, and that magnificent line which runs:
‘You now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice.
As it says in Revelation, even so, Come Lord Jesus.
Another brilliant Christingle Service yesterday – thanks to Dean Valley School Orchestra and Bollington Cross School Carol Singers – and to Beverley Nixon and the team for preparing the Christingles beforehand and launching the Messy Nativity Sheep Trail around Bollington!
Looking forward to the flock being gathered in again on Christmas Eve at our Crib Service at 4.00pm!