4th Sunday of Easter 2019

Anne Coomes

“My sheep listen to my voice, they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” 
John 10 27

No one will snatch them out of my hand. 

Yet today, there are many countries where the authorities are trying to do just that. To snatch Christians away from Jesus Christ, by persecuting them or even killing them. Just how bad is this persecution? Well, as you know, following the outcry over Asia Bibi, the Christian woman cleared of blasphemy in Pakistan late last year, the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt commissioned the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, to carry out an independent review on the persecution of Christians worldwide.

Bishop Mounstephen was a good choice, because he used to head up the Church Mission Society, and in that role has worked with persecuted Christians in many countries.

Well, you’ll remember that on 3rd May, only about 10 days ago, the bishop published his interim report, and the findings made our national headlines. The report found that ‘religious persecution is a global phenomenon that is growing in scale and intensity’ and that there is ‘widespread evidence showing that Christians are by far the most widely persecuted religion’. Acts of violence ‘are on the rise, with an increase in the severity of anti-Christian persecution.’

As of 2019, 245 million Christians worldwide suffer high levels of persecution or worse. This is up 30 million up on 2018. That’s one in ten Christians globally. In Asia the statistics are even more shocking, with one in three Christians at risk of severe persecution. As for the persecution in the Middle East and Africa, it has reached such a ‘vast scale’ that it is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN. Christians in Palestine now represent less than 1.5% of the population, while in Iraq they have fallen from 1.5 million to less than 120,000 in just 16 years.

The main impact of such genocidal acts is exodus. Christianity now faces being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East. In fact, ‘The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of the sword or other violent means is… the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, North-East Nigeria and the Philippines.’ These groups want to stamp out all evidence of Christianity. They remove crosses, tear down or bomb churches (think of the attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday), abduct and kill the clergy.

But it is not just extremist groups. It is governments. In many countries to be a Christian is to risk arrest, imprisonment, and torture – for no other reason than that you believe in Jesus. For the report warns of an increasing threat from ‘aggressive nationalism in countries such as China, as well as from Islamist militia groups.’ For example, in India, ‘there is a growing narrative that to be Indian is to be Hindu.’

The report then analysed persecution around the world.

Christians in the Middle East and Africa use to be 20 per cent of the population – 100 years ago. Today, they are less than 4 per cent. In South East Asia, such as India and Nepal, militant nationalists are demanding anti-conversion laws. In other words, to make it illegal to even become a Christian. In sub-Saharan Africa, such as Nigeria there are the militant Islamists Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen.  Their specific aim is to eliminate all Christianity and thus pave the way for the total Islamisation of the country.

And so in Nigeria alone, hundreds of Christians are being killed every single month. During 2018, far more Christians in Nigeria were killed in violence than anywhere else in the world. What about East Asia?  Well, North Korea has been the most dangerous country in the world for Christians for the past 18 years. Here Christians face arrest, interrogation, severe torture, imprisonment and often execution. Over in China, the Government is currently demolishing church buildings and tearing down crosses. In Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma), again the growing influence of Islamic militancy… is driving persecution of Christians in the region. In Central Asia? The report says that ‘the situation for Christians is bleak, as authorities have further enforced a widespread crackdown on churches.  

All in all, Bishop Mounstephen has said: “Through my previous experience… I was aware of the terrible reality of persecution. But to be honest in preparing this report, I’ve been truly shocked by the severity, scale and scope of the problem.”

For of course the New Testament was always clear that to be a Christian is to face persecution. 

Matthew 5 11: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,

Mark 8 35: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Luke 21 12-15: But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. 

John 15 18: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. 

Romans 8 35: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

2 Corinthians 4 8-10:  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

2 Timothy 3 12: In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

1 Peter 3 14: But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.

1 Peter 4 12: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

So going back to our Bible readings this morning, it is not often that you can pick up a national news story and link it directly with the Bible, but when you compare the Mounstephen interim report with our reading this morning from Revelation, the similarities are striking: 

Revelation reads:  ‘there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from? I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ 

St John’s Church Choir – 1965(ish)

The picture includes the curate Revd John Richard Haynes, who was at St John’s from 1963 to 1967, so the picture must be from that period.

Back Row from left: Christopher Patrick, Guy Gorham, ?, Frank Pegg, Fred Hutchinson, Frank Green, ? , John Brogden, Gwilym Humphreys, ?

Middle row from left: Pat Kershaw, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Harry Holland, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Jaqueline Clayton (Pengelly)

Front row from left: ?, ?, Edward Heaps?, ?, ?, Geoff Newcombe, Revd J St H Mullett, Albert Clayton, Revd J R Haynes, Barry Patrick?, Hedley Patrick.

More detail: Guy Gorham was the great-grandson of Revd George Cornelius Gorham, who caused a great controversy in the Church of England in 1847 when he was accused of holding Calvanistic views on Baptism (“The Gorham Case“). Fred Hutchinson was a Police Constable. Gwilym Humphreys was headmaster of St John’s School. Harry Holland was the verger. Edward Heaps was the organist (and is presumably third from left in the front row, wearing an organist’s sleeveless surplice). Geoff Newcombe and Albert Clayton were the wardens. Revd John Haynes went to Rhodesia/Zimbabwe for 20 years from 1970 before returning to the UK as vicar of Bishop’s Stortford. He retired to Scarborough where he died in 2016. You can read more about Revd John St Hilary MULLETT and other former vicars here.

If YOU can supply any more details about the photo, please let us know.

2nd Sunday of Easter 2019

Brian Reader

Acts 5:27-32 / Ps: 150/ Rev 1:4-8 / John 20:19-31 /

Today is sometimes known as Low Sunday, after all the excitement of Easter Sunday. It is also a time when Cathedral choirs are away on holiday. This is good, because it allows good parish choirs to fulfil the role of relief choir in a cathedral setting, and I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to sing with relief choirs at Bury St. Edmund’s, Gloucester Cathedral, and twice at St. David’s.

So what impact did this Easter have on you? For me it surprised me in a number of different ways; ways I did not expect and ways I did not choose.

Firstly there was the Lent group, movingly centred on the book ‘The Nail’, some portions of which Veronica used in the services leading up to Easter. It was a good Lent course as it made us realise that through our sins, we all had a responsibility for nailing Jesus to the cross. But it wasn’t nails that held him to the cross – it was His love for us. And then last Sunday we had our Easter services to celebrate Christ’s glorious resurrection, and we met the risen Lord at the communion table. In the past I can remember waking up on Easter morning to find snow covering the daffodils. But not this year; Easter was late and we had fine weather! The daffodils may have faded, but the bluebells were out and the trees had a good covering of new leaves. For those of you who made the early Easter service it was magical. The sky was clear with an almost full moon and a couple of pink contrails crossing the dark blue sky; with the dawn chorus in almost full throat. Even the weather was warm and we didn’t really need the blazing fire, as we filed into a dark church with our candles burning. If you have never been to one of Veronica’s early Easter services, I certainly recommend it, as it is an experience never to be forgotten. And the 10.30 service was also memorable. We had a double Christening, and multiple Christenings at Easter used to be a feature of the early Church.

Today’s reading, taken from St. John’s Gospel, is part of the continuing resurrection story. Jesus appears in a locked room to some, but not to all the disciples, and he commissions them. “Just as my Father sent me, I send you.” But Thomas, the twin, was not there, and when they told him that they had seen the Master, he said that he would not believe unless he too could see the marks of the crucifixion on His Lord. Poor Thomas, nicknamed ‘doubting’ for the rest of time.

Why did he doubt; why is this story recorded? Just imagine if this had been a communist story, or even the report of an event or a meeting by a modern political party, would they have written anything about anyone possibly having doubts? Most unlikely. This part of the story would receive spin, it would be glossed over, or edited out. But some doubting is normal, it is not improper, unless it is hidden and not faced and overcome. So why was this bit about doubting Thomas recorded, and why did Matthew also record that some doubted? Well the Gospel writers would not have made it up, so it can be regarded as true. And if the doubting is true, then all the other resurrection eye witness reports can also be taken as true.

Back in 2004 there was a lot of hoo-ha about the film – ‘The passion of the Christ’. I saw the film, with all the gore and violence, and I think it gave me a better understanding of Christ’s love and the suffering He endured for me, for you, and for the whole world. We know that Pilate was pressurised by the Jewish priests but as the Roman governor, he was very happy to use their false accusations to rid himself of a possible trouble maker. Christ who came teaching love and justice for all, was put to death unjustly because of the fear and hatred of a powerful few. One thing that the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ forcibly recalled to mind, was the great trauma that the two Marys and all the disciples felt as events unfolded leading up to the flogging and terrible death of their beloved Master.

Would I have denied Christ like Peter? Probably. Why stick out and be another victim when all you have worked for and believed in is being swept aside, rejected, and nullified before your very eyes? They did not know that he was to return, to make all things new, to gladden the heart and stiffen the sinew. He tried to tell them, but they just didn’t understand. Yet return to life He did. Risen in a new body which they failed to recognised till he spoke their name, broke bread in thanksgiving, or said “Peace be with you.” He also taught them afresh about himself – as the Son of God, and of God His Father, and He spoke of the Holy Spirit, who would come to fire them up for their work in the days to come.

Tom Wright, who was the Bishop of Durham, has said that “there is little justification for being a Christian unless one accepts that the Resurrection is a matter of historical fact.” In his TV programme ‘Resurrection’, he took an historical journey to the places where Jesus lived and died, in an attempt to build up a picture of what really happened in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. He showed that the cross was not the end – NO, that was just the beginning.

The Resurrection that followed was an event of cataclysmic proportions which changed the way mankind viewed life and death for ever. The resurrection rejuvenated the grieving disciples. It galvanised the young Church which spread the Gospel through the eastern world like wildfire. It gave a faith in Jesus Christ by which, men and women were prepared to live their lives, and if – as was sometimes necessary – a faith to die for.

This is our faith, and yet we too sometimes doubt just like Thomas. He was able to see and feel the wounds inflicted on Jesus, and we can’t. We can’t prove there is a God in any scientific way, yet we can prove that Christ did live, that he was crucified unjustly for our sins, and that he did rise again. And Jesus tells us through his disciples and scriptures, that if we have seen Him, (or know Him as our personal saviour) then we have seen and know God the Father. And so we can believe with our minds and have faith, but we also need to trust with our hearts and reach out for His ever forgiving love.

He said, “Peace be with you.” So cast your doubts away, Jesus lives, Hallelujah!

Bishop of Chester to retire.

Bishop Peter has announced that he will be retiring on 30 September this year. He has served as the 40th Bishop of Chester since 1996.

Official portrait of The Lord Bishop of Chester – by Chris McAndrew

Bishop Keith (Birkenhead) will become acting Bishop of Chester from 1 October until Bishop Peter’s successor is in post. No Suffragan Bishop of Stockport will be appointed before we have a new Bishop of Chester.

Putting the final piece into our mosaic – May 2014

Veronica made Honorary Canon of Chester Cathedral – March 2014

Holy Week and Easter 2019

Maundy Thursday

The church was arranged in “café style” for our Agape meal of roast lamb with unleavened bread followed by baklava and fresh fruit.

The food was then cleared away in preparation for the more solemn meal of the Eucharist.

Ready for the Eucharist

After the meal there was a watch of prayer until midnight

Watch of prayer

Good Friday

In the morning there was a Children’s Workshop, following the story of Holy Week…

In the afternoon, members of our Lent Group shared reflections from the book “The Nail” by Bishop Stephen Cottrell. These were followed by the Liturgy of the Day.

Holy Saturday

Time for the flower arrangers to “spring” into action!

We listened to the final chapters from “The Nail” before saying Compline together.

Easter Day

We gathered outside the church before dawn. A fire was lit and blessed. The Paschal Candle was blessed and the “cruel nails” inserted. It was lit from the fire and carried into the church in a cloud of incense- “The Light of Christ”. The congregation followed, each carrying a votive candle. Canon Veronica sang the “Exsultet”, and then we listened to the biblical stories from creation through to the events of Holy Week, all read by candle light. Then following the Gospel reading, “Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed!”. The lights were switched on and everyone made “a joyful noise” on various instruments.

Following the First Eucharist of Easter, we enjoyed a shower of mini Easter Eggs and a glass of “Buck’s Fizz.”

At the 10.30am Family Communion Service we welcomed Megan and Maisie for their Christening and shared a special cake afterwards to celebrate the Vicar’s 25th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bollington Festival 2019

Come and celebrate Bollington Festival with us here at St Oswald’s!
We are hosting a whole variety of events and services here during the Railway/Journeying themed Festival Fortnight – do come along and take part in what’s going on! Refreshments provided during exhibitions and after concerts!

Saturday 11 May: Festival Parade through Bollington
starting at 11am at the Poachers Inn:

Be wise and join in our Camel Train (costumes optional!)

Saturday 11 May: 12noon till 5.00pm and Sunday 12 May: 11.00am till 4.00pm: Model Railway Enthusiasts Exhibition in St Oswald’s ChurchSuggested donation: Adults £3.00  – but free entry for children!

Sunday 12 May: 11.00am Worship Service in Festival Marquee on the Rec

Guest Speaker: David Maidment, founder of the Railway Children charity

Plus Puppet Show (& the chance to try out these puppets after the service)

Please note: No 10.30am service at St Oswald’s this Sunday!

Saturday 11 May till Monday 27 May: St Oswald’s Arts & Crafts Group Exhibits on show –

some items to be sold at Grand Auction on Sunday 2 June during our next Afternoon Tea & Cake event 3.00pm till 5.00pm

Monday 13 May: 5.00pm till 7.00pm Launch Event in St Oswald’s for Bollington Embroiderers Group exhibition (thereafter this will be open to view between 4.00pm and 7.00pm Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15, Friday 17 and Saturday 18 May)

Wednesday 15 May: 10.00am till 8.00pm: Make Your Mark: Printmaking Techniques for the reluctant artist! Come along and be led by Debbie Tracey – our special guest artist now based in the Isle of Man – no prior skills needed! Stay for as long as you like – contributions towards cost of materials welcome!

Friday 17 May: 8.00am till 11.00am: Big Brekkie fundraiser for Christian Aid:

Come and share breakfast in St Oswald’s and raise money for those who are hungry across the world

Saturday 18 May: 10.00am till 12noon: Donald Judge presents a Music Workshop for all ages, tracing the history of the railway coming and going in Bollington! All welcome: Tickets £5.00 from Festival Box Office or on the door


Sunday 19 May:
10.30am at St Oswald’s
Family Communion Service

All Welcome to our mid-monthly family-friendly service of Holy Communion

Sunday 19 May: 7.30pm: William Byrd Choir Concert: “The Singing Will Never Be Done” A varied programme of delightful music: Tickets £12.50 from Festival Box Office or on the door

Tuesday 21 May: 7.00pm till 8.00pm Launch Event of Travelling Exhibition “Journey into Light”: Art created by prisoners from HMP Styall and HMP Thorn expressing their experiences and background stories: Open for viewing thereafter at the following times:
Wed 22 May: 10am till 12noon, 4pm till 7pm; Fri 24 May: 10am till 12noon, 2pm till 5pm; Sat 25 May: 10am till 12noon, 4pm till 7pm; Sun 26 May: 1pm till 3pm; Mon 27 May: 10am till 12noon, 2pm till 5pm.

Wednesday 22 May: 2.00pm: Gospel Train! An interactive Praise Event, with local amateur singers and musicians, including children from Bollington St John’s School. Come along and join in!

Friday 24 May: 7.30pm: “Stations of the Cross” led by Revd Canon Veronica Hydon: offering a simple meditation on our own journeys through life, reflected in the Christian story of Holy Week and Easter. All welcome. Refreshments afterwards.

Saturday 25 May: 2.00pm: Joe Riley and Friends: a musical event showcasing the talent of Joe Riley, a Year 7 composer, songwriter and performer. Come along and support this emerging young Bollington musician!

Sunday 26 May: 4.00pm: Taize Worship Service: prayer, song, readings, silence, thanksgiving. Followed by simple refreshments

Every blessing as we celebrate so many different facets of our life together within this community!

Veronica

Schools’ Experience Week 2019

Jesus’ Family Tree

[an extract from the latest Bollington Cross School Newsletter…]

“Last week, every class had the opportunity to visit St Oswald’s Church and learn about Jesus’ family. It was an interactive and enjoyable workshop and the children (and adults) loved a chance to dress up and immerse themselves in the story. Even Year 6 were thrilled to travel back 4000 years in a Time Tunnel.
It was clear to see that the children learned a lot from it and, once again, the team at St Oswald’s had shown their creativity in ensuring that the workshop was relevant, fun and engaging for children of all ages.”

And some more pictures…