Vicar’s Letter – September 2016

vicars letter003Thank you all for the warm welcome that you offered me when I came back from my sabbatical leave towards the end of the school summer term! I’m very grateful to (our sadly now erstwhile Assistant Curate) Michael Fox, and to (the erstwhile Rural Dean of Macclesfield!) Canon Taffy Davies, for standing in for me here in caring for our parish and our deanery respectively, and to Revd Dr Gary Bowness for covering several funerals for Bollington parishioners over recent months. My warm thanks also go to Canon Roy, Beverley, Brian and Anne who continued to offer their well-honed skills in pastoral care, preaching and leading worship both at St Oswald’s and at Mount Hall Nursing Home during my leave of absence.

The first six weeks of my time away was spent in the beautiful setting of Venice. I was very pleased to be joined there by a whole series of friends and family who came over for several days at a time to share the “rooms with a view” which I had rented on the Venetian island of Guidecca. Welcoming all my guests during this time gave me a brilliant excuse to return again and again to a whole variety of my favourite places of artistic excellence, uplifting worship and delicious food and drink! Several local restaurant owners I think were particularly sad to see me return home at the end of my stay! It was good to be in Venice for St Mark’s Day as well as Ascension Day, festivals which are celebrated annually in colourful manner by the Venetian people.

One of the daily disciplines I tried to follow during my sabbatical was to spend some time each morning reflecting on “The Joy of Being” (a little book of daily spiritual readings given to me by Roy) and reading one poem a day from the modern anthology “Lifesaving Poems” (presented to me by Michael just before I set off on my travels to the Venetian lagoon). One particular poem struck me as being very apt during my time away: it is called “A Poem for Someone Who Is Juggling Her Life” by Rose Cook. I thought you might like to read it, and perhaps usefully apply it to yourself too, especially as things begin to pick up again after the summer holidays and we all become busy with both necessary and more trivial tasks once again:

This is a poem for someone
who is juggling her life.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.

 It needs repeating
over and over
to catch her attention
over and over,
because someone juggling her life
finds it difficult to hear.

 Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
Let it all fall sometimes.

One thing that happened here during my time away was that, for two separate short periods (thanks to a rota signed up to by willing volunteer keyholders) the doors of our church were left open during the day for people to come into St Oswald’s at times other than for our usual services or events. One week was dedicated to offering some different focus areas within the church to enable people to reflect on aspects of The Lord’s Prayer, as recommended by our Archbishops during the time leading up to the feast of Pentecost. The other Open Church week was when we offered a place of sanctuary following a tragic death of one of our parishioners, where people, young and old, could freely come in to mourn, privately or collectively, and to write in the book of condolence provided. These opportunities given to the wider community to come in to use their Parish Church for times of focussed reflection, including searching for peace or trying to make sense of things, were readily taken up by adults, by children of our various schools and by our RiCH Group. At our recent PCC meeting we agreed that making the church building more available for people to call by sometimes in the midst of otherwise busy daily routines, was an excellent thing for us to pursue, remembering also our experience of opening the church during last autumn’s Refugee Crisis Appeal, which again was welcomed by members of the local and wider community.

So starting this September, we have decided to open the doors of St Oswald’s during the day every Wednesday (except of course if the church happens to be needed for part of that time for a funeral service, for example). We are calling this new venture #quietplace and we do hope that everyone in our local community (and other visitors from further afield) will be able to benefit from the chance to simply come inside our lovely Parish Church, to rest here for a while, to spend time with your own thoughts and with God, and by doing so to find inner guidance, renewed strength and courage for any trials or adventures you may face. Why not come in and enjoy a moment’s peace and quiet within the walls of a building that has served local people in so many different ways over the course of its 108 year long history!

We’d be grateful if you could let all your friends and neighbours know about this new plan to open up St Oswald’s between the hours of 8.30am and dusk every Wednesday, beginning on Wednesday 07 September 2016. Please feel free to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee whilst you are here, if you wish, and there will be a small library of books to dip into and some other occasional resources available to help you relax and focus your mind. We have a permanently well-stocked Children’s Corner too, so please don’t hesitate to bring along any small children you happen to have in your care that day: they will of course be welcome to come and play alongside you, as long as you remember to keep at least one eye open as you pray, to make sure your baby or toddler remains safe! And of course as you know there are baby-changing facilities and loos alongside our main entrance. Before you leave, please do also write a comment (signed or not, as you like) in our new Visitors’ Book, so that we can pick up on anything you have found helpful, or any new suggestions you may have for us to consider, or perhaps simply mentioning anyone or anything you would like us to include in our prayers on the following day at our regular Thursday morning 9.30am Communion service. Thank you.

May the God of care and compassion, who seeks to offer each of us a whole range of opportunities for relaxation, refreshment and renewal of purpose, bless our church and community this autumn and always.

Veronica

Farewells

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).

Waiting, Waving, Praying

A letter for June 2016 from our Curate Michael Fox

In early May the Christian church celebrates two festivals which never quite hold the limelight in the manner of Christmas or Easter or even Harvest. The first, Ascension, marks the endpoint of Christ’s bodily presence on earth. The second, Pentecost, celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit – the outpouring of the Spirit’s blessing upon those few early believers assembled in Jerusalem.

Ascension and Pentecost are best experienced in relation to one another. Ascension asks us to think about the first disciples as they undergo yet another parting from Jesus. “Are you finally going to restore the Kingdom of Israel to its rightful place?” they ask Jesus on the way up Mount Olivet. “No,” says Jesus, “it’s down to you to build the Kingdom of my Father. But you will not be alone. Didn’t I promise that the Holy Spirit would come to you and be with you, giving you guidance and authority? Go back to Jerusalem to wait and to pray.”

At Pentecost a few days later the Holy Spirit was indeed poured out upon the believers gathered in a house in Jerusalem, and so the church was born, ‘baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire,’ as John the Baptist had foretold.

thykingdomcomeThis year the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued an invitation to all Christians across the UK to take part in a ‘wave of prayer’ during the period between Ascension and Pentecost. The Archbishops invited us all to spend a week in prayer for a renewed confidence in sharing the Gospel. Since our Patron Saint, Oswald, was much concerned with confidence and courage, it seemed like a good invitation to accept. Twenty members of the church signed up to pray the Lord’s Prayer each day and for five friends or family members to know Jesus more deeply. Some members signed up to help create prayer stations in church based on the Lord’s Prayer. Some brave souls also signed up for a prayer walk around part of Bollington.

The prayer stations were created all around the church and were woven into the fabric of the Thursday morning Eucharist and the Family Communion on the Sunday of Pentecost itself. Each station took a line or couplet of the Lord’s Prayer and created an immersive environment in which to sit and allow God to speak ‘between the lines’. The stations ranged in concept from a table set for a meal, with representations of our basic daily needs, to a tent with a ‘heavenly ceiling’ and a rug to lie on. There was an opportunity to ‘wipe the slate clean’ at the Forgiveness table and an opportunity to think about how Thy will’ is done throughout the cycle of life. A pillar became a tree dressed with tempting apples while in the chancel there was a declaration of ‘Holy ground’ and the opportunity to kneel in response to the holiness of God’s name.

Part of the intention was to investigate different ways of praying, involving the whole of one’s body, mind and spirit, and to explore the heights, depths and breadths of the prayer we often pray without pausing to let its wisdom shape us and enfold us.

Of course the intention of the Wave of Prayer is to equip us for mission, to give us the confidence that the Holy Spirit brings. This mission started during the week with visits from 3 different classes from Bollington Cross School, continued with prayer stations set up by invitation at St. John’s and Dean Valley schools (during the stressful period of the SATS tests) and developed as we took our first faltering steps in the art of prayer-walking around the streets of Bollington. This is a simple way of blessing the community we live in, walking and pausing to pray for residents, businesses, shoppers, walkers as well as all those who help to make Bollington a safe and secure community in which all can thrive.

I hope and pray that some of these new ways of praying and blessing will stay with us as we venture on into summer. If you are out for a walk in the town, why not stop and say a prayer for someone nearby? And don’t forget to (prayer) wave as you pass by St Oswald’s!

Michael

Vicar’s Letter – May 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Veronica

Vicar’s Letter March 2016

vicars letter003As we enter into the month of March, Spring will no doubt have blessed the bare tree branches around Bollington with welcome signs of new green leafy shoots, and probably all the daffodils in the Vicarage garden will be out in full bloom by now. The March winds in their due season will also herald a few temporary as well as longer term changes in the make-up of our Ministry Team here at St Oswald’s!

The Vicar is pleased to be taking sabbatical leave for three months from 1 April until 1 July (partly in the delightful surroundings of Venice), thanks to the fact that our Assistant Curate is willing to provide cover for our services here whilst I’m away and that Canon Taffy Davies is providing any emergency care for parishes and clergy across Macclesfield by acting temporarily as Rural Dean in my place! However, you will also by now have heard the news that Michael Fox will be preparing to move on from our parish at the end of August, when he will be licensed as part-time stipendiary Priest-in-Charge of St Paul’s, Macclesfield. Every Curacy has a shorter term than is often to be desired, but we do wish Michael every blessing in taking up his new role from the autumn, fortunately remaining in our splendid Deanery of Macclesfield and within the ecumenical group of 39 churches which make up local Christian lay and ordained ministry under the label HOPE in North East Cheshire.

St Paul's, Macclesfield
St Paul’s, Macclesfield

The other changes to our Ministry Team will occur in the natural scheme of things as on the evening of Monday 21 March we come to our Annual Vestry Meeting (for the election of Churchwardens, an ancient office which is open to anyone from amongst the wider parish community and is voted for by anyone who lives within the Parish or who is on our church Electoral roll), followed by our Annual Parochial Church Meeting (which includes the election of new members onto the Parochial Church Council, who may be chosen from amongst those people within our worshipping congregation and voted for only by those on the church Electoral roll). We are blessed with many “good and faithful servants” within this Parish, who give uncomplainingly of their time, talents and energy to benefit the life of St Oswald’s Church and community.

This year, we will give particular thanks for the ministry exercised over the past six years by Jackie Pengelly as Churchwarden and we will certainly be looking for a new Churchwarden to take up the space she must leave as she will have reached the limit of the time eligible at one stretch to stand for election in this role. We trust that her recent adventures visiting New Zealand and Australia will have given her a foretaste of how blessed it will be for her to be free from Churchwardenly cares and responsibilities now for a time, as a new Churchwarden will taking up the role for us as from the yearly “Archdeacon’s Visitation” on Monday 16 May! Please do not be shy about considering whether God may now be calling you to step into this role for the forthcoming year!? “Be strong and of good courage!” There is a wealth of experience for you to tap into from a whole swathe of former Churchwardens still worshipping with us and who will no doubt be happy to offer you assistance or advice when asked. There will of course also be natural opportunities presented too for other new people to serve as members of our Parochial Church Council this year, and thus to pool and share new ideas and perspectives and to offer an increasingly wider set of skills and experience within the representative decision-making body of our Parish Church.

May God bless all of us as we approach the Easter season, not only made humbly conscious of our own limitations and shortcomings as we journey through Lent, but also – in the light of the Risen Christ – once again able to celebrate and exercise of a whole variety of personal gifts, talents and strengths found within the growing worshipping and witnessing Servant Community we call St Oswald’s Church, Bollington!

Have a holy, blessed and happy Easter!

Veronica

Vicar’s Letter February 2016

vicars letter003This year, Spring Cleaning takes on a whole new meaning at Bollington Vicarage! Not only do we have nearly nine years’ accumulated stuff from our time so far in Bollington, there are all those boxes of unsorted papers and belongings that I simply left unpacked when moving on from at least two or three parishes ago! Not to mention extra furniture that was given to us when we left the last parish, to help fill our new home. And when you have the privilege and joy (and of course considerable expense) of living in a seven bed-roomed mansion, there seems little urgency to de-clutter your life!? I was certain at the time that all these things I had carefully (or maybe sometimes lazily) transported from one vicarage to another, were items I surely would be needing at some future date…”It’ll come in useful sometime!” was the unspoken justification! Well, some things have certainly found a purpose in my ministry here, but there is now a good deal of recycling to be done, as we down-size to move into our own property newly acquired in Tytherington (just outside the parish boundary, but perversely about a mile closer to St Oswald’s Church!).

Our spiritual lives often benefit from a bit of serious attention, looking into those dusty old boxes we’ve been carting around with us over many years, and discovering that they’ve become irrelevant or burdensome to our hoped-for way of living. What habit or “comfort blanket” is it that you have clung onto, that you realise you’ve now outgrown? What enduring hurts or regrets have you boxed away which, if you allowed the healing light of God’s forgiveness to shine upon them, might actually be shown up as simply a waste of space in your life? What are those gifts and talents which you’ve stored away but never got round to using, waiting instead for a rainy day or the right person to come along who might appreciate them? What of all those good intentions you have, to change your attitudes, to open the windows of your heart and mind, which remain unfulfilled and just for show, like a library of worthy books unread?

ballet shoesLent (which in Old English means “Spring”) is the opportunity we are given by the Church, each year, to do a bit of serious Spring Cleaning. Don’t wait until you physically need to move house! Now is the chance to look again into those hidden corners of our lives which we’d rather not acknowledge most of the time. We might well discover forgotten treasures and happy memories in amongst the accumulated debris, like my old discarded ballet shoes, reminding me of carefree childhood days, though in my case tinged with regret that I never kept up that level of fitness as I moved into my teenage years! Whatever joys or sorrows we unearth from amongst all the baggage we carry with us, God will indeed honour our searching for the truth that will set us free and our striving for the coming of God’s kingdom here and now. As we enter into the season of Lent once again, may we be shown the true path to life and ultimately to our longed-for home with God.

Every blessing,

Veronica

Vicar’s Letter December 2015

vicars letter003In the Vicarage we usually wait until 2 February each year before we take down our festive Christmas decorations, reluctantly removing the last bits of tinsel only at the Feast of Candlemas, celebrating the time when Jesus was first taken to the Temple by his parents and when he as a young child was recognised by two older holy people, Simeon and Anna, as specially consecrated to the service of God and as a light for all humanity. This coming year as soon the festive sparkle has gone (as if the dark January days have not been bad enough), the serious penitential season of Lent will be upon us almost straightaway! Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday fall in the very next week after the Feast of Candlemas – on 9 and 10 February 2016 – all of which in turn has the knock-on effect that Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter will be here before we know it, towards the end of March! Probably nothing to do with it being a Leap Year, but it seems the Easter Bunny will be out and about in 2016 earlier than usual!
In 2015, Bollington commemorated 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo, and White Nancy was painted with shadowy figures from both Wellington and Napoleon’s armies. Seeing that the two neighbouring parishes of Bollington and Rainow have each long since made claim to owning the same territory on which White Nancy sits, we have decided to call a truce this year and to join forces in our practical keeping of Lent in 2016! The Revd Steve Rathbone, Vicar of Rainow, has kindly offered to host a Shrove Tuesday Party and Film Show on 9 February at 7.00pm in Holy Trinity Church, Rainow, open for any members of our congregations who wish to take part in a planned series of Lent Groups, which will be happening at various venues across the two parishes, for five weeks beginning on 15 February.
At the Shrove Tuesday gathering we will have the chance to watch the epic film “Les Miserables” together (even to sing along perhaps?!) and to enjoy one another’s company over light refreshments. (At least one of Bollington’s Churchwardens will be pleased, as I think this is amongst her favourite films!) Don’t forget to bring your hankies! The Lent Course we’ve chosen to follow explores some of the themes and characters from this moving and well-known story, and has been put together in a little book entitled “Another Story Must Begin” written by Jonathan Meyer, a parish priest in Oxfordshire, where apparently some of the scenes in the 2012 version were filmed.
LentBook-2016
Following on from us all watching the film together on Shrove Tuesday, Steve Rathbone, Michael Fox and I will between us lead one session each over the next five weeks, and anyone from either congregation will be most welcome to sign up to take part. Over the course of five weeks, we will each be offering the same content for that week’s session but on different days and at different venues and times, to offer flexibility for those taking part alongside your other commitments. You’ll be able to mix and match if you like! So the pattern will be as follows:
  • Mondays 1.30pm till 3.00pm, at Holy Trinity, Rainow: led by Revd Steve Rathbone (from 15 February to 14 March incl.)
  • Tuesdays 7.30pm till 9.00pm, at a variety of homes across the two parishes: led by Revd Michael Fox (from 16 February to 15 March incl.)
  • Wednesdays 7.30pm till 9.00pm, at St Oswald’s, Bollington: led by Canon Veronica Hydon (from 17 February to 16 March incl.)
It may seem a long way off, especially if you’re still out and about doing your Christmas shopping, but please do put these dates in your new diaries now! It promises to be an engaging course, reflecting on God’s grace worked out in our own lives and in the lives of Victor Hugo’s characters as portrayed in the film. You’ll be singing all the songs by heart before we’ve finished! It will also be good to meet with our Christian companions from across the parish boundary and so be able to look up at White Nancy in future from a different perspective when we greet the Easter dawn and celebrate the time when Jesus brings us all home!
There will be sheets at the back of both churches nearer the time, so that you can sign up to say you’d like to join in with this Lenten journey. Thank you!
Meanwhile, every blessing for a thoughtful Advent and a joyful Christmas!
Veronica

Vicar’s Letter November 2015

vicars letter003As the clocks change and the nights are drawing in, as human beings we can be forgiven for turning inwards on ourselves. We think of building up provisions in the store-cupboard ready to survive the winter, or shopping early to beat the Christmas rush. We delve into the wardrobe for a familiar warm coat to wrap up in again. We dig out that well-worn Christmas card list and bring to mind good times we shared with old friends. We gather firewood to dispel the November fog and to keep out the chill. We light candles and wear red poppies to remember loved ones who have died, and we set off fireworks to celebrate the life and peace we can share with friends around us. We put on cosy gloves and fur-lined boots, and bright scarves veil our faces against the dull wintry weather.
The Church calendar draws to its close and we look forward to Advent Sunday, which falls this year on what would be the feast of St Andrew, 29 November. This month we celebrate all the saints of God, well-known or obscure, in whose faces we have glimpsed the compassion and challenge of Christ. We give thanks for the lives of those who have enabled us to be free. We look inwards at our own lives and examine our consciences in response to our children’s persistent awkward questions about our choice of lifestyle or the meaning of it all. Before we are tempted to close the door to keep out the more chilling factors about the imbalance and inequality of our world, we dare to hold it ajar a little longer by venturing into a church building once in a while to pray (or perhaps preferring sometimes to brave getting a different perspective from the breezier vantage point of White Nancy).
We may be pleasantly surprised to find others around us within and around our chosen places of contemplation, all trying to re-connect with that divine spark of hope and love offered to us first perhaps in difficult times. We are pleased to find that our companions in specifically Christian worship, gathered either here at St Oswald’s or in our local nursing homes, are likely to be people from every age-group, from tiny tots to centenarians. And we rejoice together that we can encourage one another to look beyond our immediate circumstances and to respond positively in dark times to those in greater need of comfort and support than we ourselves may be.
During the five weeks leading up to the October Half-Term Holiday, St Oswald’s Church has been overwhelmed by the generosity of those who have responded to our Bollington Refugee Crisis Appeal. As we have opened our doors each weekday, so multiple gifts of clothing, toiletries, shoes, tinned foods, coffee, tea, sugar, waterproofs, gloves, hats, scarves and camping equipment have been brought in, ready to be sorted, bagged up and forwarded on urgently to refugees now held up at various borders, especially those nearest to us in Calais. Someone from our local community recently said a profound “thank you” to us for enabling her to respond to this crisis, and many others have been grateful to have had a practical outlet for their concern, especially as the European winter sets in and refugees from war-torn countries are left exposed to our inclement weather. So may I pass on sincere thanks to all within our worshipping community who have both initiated and made this Appeal workable. At this St Andrews-tide, we might remember how the disciple Andrew once responded to Jesus’ call to “give the crowds something to eat” by noticing a small child bringing forward his lunch of “five loaves and two fish”. Although Andrew thought to himself, “What is that among so many?”, yet Jesus showed him that miracles can happen, if we are each simply willing give of what resources we have. In that instance the followers of Christ ended up helping to “feed over 5,000 men, let alone all the women and children in the crowd with them”, not to mention the twelve basketfuls of food left over! Elsewhere in the gospels we hear Jesus say that, in co-operation “with God, all things are possible”.
May we all have a renewed sense of God’s love and purposes for all his children, of whatever race, creed, sexuality or gender, and may we continue to open the doors, not only those of our church building but also those of our hearts, to be beacons of light and hope within our local community and in the wider world, this Advent and always.
Every blessing,
Veronica

Vicar’s Letter October 2015

vicars letter003During September our Sunday sermons had a common theme: they were all about valuing, respecting and encouraging children’s spirituality. I wonder whether your own sense of God and of following the Way of Christ developed first when you were a child or whether it was something you only experienced on becoming an adult? Psalm 116 reminds us that God is gracious and listens to us and watches over each one of us: the ideal parenting model. Whether sudden or gradual, the transformation of our everyday lives is part of the deal as we grow up into spiritual maturity: we learn to accept our need of God, we accept we don’t know all the answers, and we accept that we need to rely not so much on what we consider to be our own resources, to get through life as best we can, but instead to trust in God’s providence, to lean on God’s grace and mercy and to embrace the transformative power of God’s love for each of us as his beloved children.
It’s worth considering what early influences there might have been that brought us to be part of a church congregation today. As children or as adults, hopefully we were encouraged to join in worship at a church somewhere along the line, by a parent, godparent, sibling, neighbour or friend. Equally well, sadly, on becoming parents ourselves, we may have been discouraged from joining a particular congregation because we received not smiles of understanding, but frowns of disapproval when our children dared to clatter around a bit or to speak in more than a whisper when an inconvenient question occurred to them during the service!? I have heard that this does still happen, even in a church like ours that prides itself on being welcoming!
It may seem strange to us adults who are familiar with coming into church buildings, that other people outside these walls may be a bit fearful of coming inside, not knowing what to expect, or what might be expected of them, if they do get beyond the threshold.
Over the years here at St Oswald’s we have offered a welcome for children and young people, especially in more recent years through our Schools’ Experience Weeks, and by developing our term-time Praise & Play and RiCH Groups, our monthly “Who Let The Dads Out” Saturday mornings or the Family Fun Days in holiday time. Through these encounters, some of our young parents, such as Nick, Rachel, Alison and Nicola, have come to Confirmation and their children have come to regard this place as somewhere to feel at home, hearing Bible stories retold in a way that makes sense to them and being encouraged at times to stop and listen alongside their friends to God’s voice. Amongst all the usual junk mail or stuff from the Diocese, I received an envelope in the post this week which held a lovely note from one family enclosing a tiny drawing. The note said: “Dear Veronica, Chloe made this for you after the Family Service today, so we thought we’d post it! Lots of love xxxx”.
chloe_arthurThe enclosed colourful picture shows what appears to be a family home with classic four windows and a door, but then surprisingly with a large cross attached to the side wall of the building, and the names of the four-year-old artist and her little brother written in the sky above the house, all under the umbrella of a large heart shape. I suppose you could interpret the drawing in many ways – it could of course simply be St Oswald’s Church with its stunning mosaic cross beside our entrance porch, but I like to think that Chloe’s picture intends to show the loving security and safety of her family’s own home, being very closely connected to their life of faith experienced here in church as well. Children who are nurtured and welcomed and cared for by the church (as I was myself many years ago) hopefully grow up to see Church as a significant and vital part of their life and well-being, leading on into adulthood too.
One of the enduring memories I have from my 1950’s childhood is of reading the Ladybird book, called “The Child of the Temple (The Story of Samuel)”. Though I no longer had a copy at home [Now I do, thanks to Roy and Hylda!], in my mind’s eye I can still see the picture on the front cover with the boy Samuel sitting up in his little bed under the temple sanctuary lamp, listening to God’s voice calling him by name. As the story unfolds, the child Samuel was encouraged by Eli (an old priest like me!) to respond to God’s call and to listen to the prophetic message that God wanted to speak through this young child, not necessarily a comfortable message, but one that had deep resonance in the history of the Hebrew people. It led to the adult Samuel anointing first Saul, then David, as King over Israel, David of course being the ancestor of Jesus himself. This ancient story points us to the fact that, amazingly, parents often dare to entrust us here with the care and nurture of their precious children (as Hannah, Samuel’s mother did, incredibly when the child was only just weaned – Hannah again being a spiritual ancestor of Jesus’ mother Mary, both singing to God the revolutionary and prophetic words we find in the first book of Samuel Chapter 2 and in Luke’s Gospel Chapter 1, which we know as the Magnificat).
Ladybird_Samuel
The whole story of Samuel’s life is worth looking at again (a bit of bed-time reading as the nights draw in perhaps?!). But our focus today is on recognising that children often have a sharper sense of hearing than we adults do, an ability to hear the voice of God that perhaps we have become deaf to over the years, through thinking we know what God wants already and not listening out keenly enough for the fresh challenges God might be calling us to.
One of our Year One children, Teddy, was recently asking his parents what it meant to be a refugee, picking up on all the coverage on the news lately. On having their desperate plight explained to him, Teddy’s immediate and straightforward reaction was that “We should help them!” At our regular Growth Action Planning Meeting later that week, we listened to the childlike simplicity in this appeal for practical kindness and have organised for St Oswald’s to become an emergency drop-off point for much-needed supplies, particularly of men’s waterproofs, coats, socks, hats and gloves, walking shoes, blankets and sleeping bags, folding chairs, tea, coffee, sugar and toiletries. We hope that the whole of Bollington will readily respond to the desperate needs of those displaced from their homes within and beyond our borders. Our church building will be open between 8.30am and 5.30pm, each weekday from Monday 21 September until Friday 23 October, allowing people to bring along these life-saving items for onward distribution. There will also be an opportunity to leave monetary donations towards the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, as well as the chance to spend a moment or two in church praying for those in need and for a peaceful solution to be found to the terrible conflicts and wars that cause people to flee their homes in the first place. We aim also to have a petition available for people to sign, asking Cheshire East Council urgently to respond to the need for accommodation for those asylum seekers who do succeed in getting admission across our borders. Somebody has suggested that our Bollington Refugee Crisis Appeal should properly be named “Teddy’s Trumpet Call to Action”!
I love the way that Teddy’s little brother Roo invariably waves as he leaves St Oswald’s after a service or event, and that having recently found his voice, he also now says, “Goodbye, Church!” – which as you know is a conflated way of saying, “God be with you, Church!” May we both encourage our children to listen to God’s unique call to each of them and be willing to hear the messages our children relay to us. May we all grow into spiritual maturity in a way that makes us not fearful of becoming compassionate, prophetic and trustworthy witnesses of Christ, himself a refugee as a tiny child and the One who ultimately calls us all home.
Veronica