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

Lent Lunches 2016

COME IN OUT OF THE COLD…

We will be asking for volunteers again this year please to sign up to provide a simple Lent Lunch in St Oswald’s on Thursdays between 12.30pm and 1.30pm. It is hoped to raise money for the Refugees Project we supported last autumn with our clothing collection. Refugees Aid in the North West of England is still sending out container loads of equipment, clothing and provisions to needy refugees, and the cost of transporting these goods needs to be covered too. There will be a list to sign up as a “customer” for these Lunches, as well as a request for volunteer cooks/providers! The Lunches will happen on 11/18/25 February and then on 10/17 March (i.e. not on 3 March). Please support this very worthy cause and also come along and enjoy good simple food and excellent company! Thank you.

Veronica

Open Evening hosted by Macclesfield Deanery Synod

You are warmly invited to come to an Open Evening hosted by Macclesfield Deanery Synod (a group of representatives from local Anglican churches) on Tuesday 02 February 2016 held at the Parish Church of St. Oswald in Bollington (Bollington Road, SK10 5EG) starting at 7.30pm for 7.45pm.

We live in a world where innocent people are routinely tortured and imprisoned without trial in many countries…

Some manage to escape, traumatised and destitute. Some make their way to the UK and apply for asylum. Unfortunately they then face a new set of challenges. Making their case in a foreign language, wrestling with a bureaucracy that seems like a terrifying reminder of the state they have escaped. Living on the breadline, often surrounded by hostility and contempt. With the terror of being repatriated to certain abuse and likely execution.

Freedom From Torture is the charitable organisation that used to be known as the Medical Foundation For The Care Of Victims Of Torture. Their nearest centre – and one of their busiest – is in Manchester, and their staff include lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, and concerned citizens with many professional backgrounds who reassure, nurture, heal and legally represent thousands of desperate people who previously believed that no-one in the world cared about them. Their work is astonishing, their commitment and humanity is humbling. And the necessity of what they do is sadly growing by the day. Freedom From Torture is a totally professional and accountable organization. They run treatment centres and provide professional therapy to children, young people, adults and families who have been devastated by torture in their own country. Offering also training, supervision and consultancy to local doctors, NHS Trusts, and other non-statutory services that work with refugees or in mental health, they provide medico-legal reports to asylum seekers whose applications are otherwise likely to be or have been rejected, to support their asylum claims.

We hope that you and your friends will join us for this free event, which will undoubtedly be both challenging and inspirational, as members of the charity Freedom From Torture join us to demonstrate their work, their successes, the principles that drive them and their need for moral and financial support. Our objective is to offer information to local people and to reach out to this organisation which itself reaches out to so many people. The work of Freedom From Torture is increasingly vital and daunting in its complexity. What they do reminds us what it means to be both human and humane.

As Christian churches we need look no further than what Jesus gave us as our mission of reaching out: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

For more information: Keith Ravenscroft 01625 820041: email keith.ravenscroft@zen.co.uk

Concert at St Peter’s Prestbury – Sat 23 Jan 2016

Helen Howe (Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid writes:

Dear All,

I wondered if you would highlight this upcoming event with your congregation (poster attached)?  Gareth Davies-Jones is an amazing musician who is on the brink of launching a fulltime professional career – he appeared on Songs of Praise in the autumn and has just recorded another piece for them for later this year.  The concert is a week on Saturday (January 23) at St Peter’s.

This is the link to the facebook event and you can see some examples of his music on here too – beautiful acoustic set.

You don’t need to buy tickets in advance but if people could confirm numbers that would help us organise the logistics!  Confirm attendance either by emailing me or by signing up on facebook.  Feel free to forward if you can think of anyone else who might be interested.

Thanks again for all your support,

Helen

Our Lent Groups this year

Don’t let yourself be miserable this Lent! Join a new Lent Group instead!

On Shrove Tuesday 9 February at 7.00pm, those who have decided to join in the series of Lent Groups this year (jointly with Rainow parishioners) will have the chance to watch the epic film “Les Miserables” together at Holy Trinity Church, Rainow (even to sing along perhaps?!) and to enjoy one another’s company over light refreshments. 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.

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 week 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, as mentioned in the Winter edition of Church News, 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 mostly 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 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 in Rainow 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! If you haven’t already done so, please sign up on the sheets at the back of the church to say you’d like to join in with this Lenten journey. Thank you!

Veronica

Thank You… for supporting Hampers of Hope

A message from Cristel Berridge, Founder and CEO of Hampers of Hope…

Thank you for your support!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at St Oswald’s for all the support we have received, throughout 2015. With your help we were able to deliver 350 Christmas hampers to those who find this time of year a particular struggle.

In the last year we have made a huge impact in our communities.

We have now fed over 5000 people, helped +25 people back into work, reduced social isolation, opened two more Hope Centres, reduced crime, helped people keep their homes and families together, kept people warm; healthy and alive.

I have enclosed a Certificate for you to display in church as a token of our appreciation to everyone at St Oswald’s.

Every blessing.

New Year’s Day 2016

About 50 people turned up at Bollington Vicarage for the traditional New Year’s Day “Drinks and Nibbles” hosted by Veronica and Dave.

This was to be the last of these occasions, as Veronica and Dave will be moving out of the Vicarage in the next few weeks and moving to their own house. Maybe that’s why there are a few sad faces in the photos?

The children enjoyed themselves on the electronic piano, though!

1st Sunday of Christmas 2015

Canon Roy Arnold

Well that was quick wasn’t it? He was only born on Friday and now he’s 12 years old already. Jesus I am talking about. Actually – although slightly accelerated in the case of Jesus in the Gospel – it is only what most parents experience with their children. It seems no sooner are they born they are starting primary school and then sitting their GCSEs. And then wanting a car and then getting married (or at least a partner) and leaving to live in Exeter or Hong Kong or even Rainow.

With Jesus we see him – so soon after Christmas – as a 12 year-old visiting Jerusalem for the Passover with his parents after a normal Jewish childhood. Now at 12, coming of age according to Jewish Law and at (at that age I believe) realising for the first time about his special relationship with God; that it God who was his Father and not Joseph. To be fair, we are all God’s children but Jesus was especially God’s son and he came to live with us on earth to teach us about God and heaven.

As our Collect for today reminded us, he came to share in our humanity so that we might share the life of his divinity. In the meantime, in our Gospel story we hear of his not being on the coach back to Nazareth, about his earthly parents’ anxiety; about him being in the temple – like a student – with the wise men of the faith. And eventually having a good telling off by his Mum and going back home with his parents to Nazareth, but with Mary treasuring all these things in her heart.

And then Jesus himself (back in small town Nazareth) getting on with everyone and especially getting to know his father God, and generally getting on with experiencing the up and downs of human life, and so (as our Post Communion Prayer reminds us) sharing the life of an earthly home and bringing us all at last to our home in heaven.

All this was to the be the task of this baby born so long ago but in our memory and the memory of the Christian Church born just last Friday. And then, when he was about 30, starting his ministry of teaching and healing and so infuriated by his popularity, the self-righteous and those who thought they knew all about God (and loving the power and social standing that went with that knowledge) they had him tried and crucified. But then he rose again on the third day and continued his teaching and healing by living on in his disciples and in me and you.

One of those early followers, whom he called on the road to Damascus – in Syria no less – was St Paul who (in his letter to the Colossians and to me and you) left us an excellent summary of what was and is expected of us if we are to follow Jesus and to get to that home in Heaven. St Paul says we must clothe ourselves with compassion and kindness and humility, with meekness and patience; and if anyone has a complaint against anyone we must forgive them because we (by God) nave been forgiven so much. For that forgiveness and for so much else as well we must always be thanking God. Perhaps practising singing for when we join the united choirs of heaven… And whatever we do, doing it the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God who is his Father and ours through Jesus. And yes we must love him as the baby born as of last Friday (we cannot help but love a newborn infant) but especially we must follow the adult Jesus up hill and down dale, until we come within sight of the New Jerusalem. And in the words of an ancient prayer “….with Christ as our morning star, when the night of this world is past he will bring us to the light of life and to the opening of a new and everlasting day.” And so – if we deserve it – we shall find ourselves with Jesus and home at last. Our earthly journey done.

Through the New Year of 2016, almost upon us, let us – me and you – try to follow the Jesus way.

Christmas 2015

Canon Roy Arnold

I don’t often quote the Pope in sermons but the present Pope said recently:

“Christmas again. There will be lights and there will be parties and bright trees and even nativity scenes all decked out, while the world continues to make war. It is all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war and Jesus weeps.”

Of course we may put it all down to Muslim extremists, but there we would be wrong. For this Christmas sees the 75th anniversary of the so called Christmas Blitz and not so far away either – certainly visible from White Nancy and the hills beyond Pott Shrigley – as after several nights bombing by the Luftwaffe, Manchester burned. Manchester Cathedral was hit, the Free Trade Hall, Manchester Eye Hospital and many homes. 600 people died and over 2000 were injured and perhaps Jesus wept even more to see two great Christian Countries such as Germany and Britain at war; and more if you count in Russia and France and all the rest. Fighting not one, but two Great World Wars, the Second as a consequence of the First.

What hope might there be when Christians fight with Christians. As the Pope has said; we just haven’t got the message. One Christmas Carol says it all:

“Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long; beneath the angel strains have rolled two thousand years of wrong; and man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring. O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing.”

and yet another popular hymn asks:

“When comes the promised time that war shall be no more and lust, oppression, crime shall flee thy face before?”.

Sadly, on the Eve of Christmas 2015 we are still waiting for the answer to that question even though we can in fact rejoice that now there is peace over the battlefields and once ruined cities of yesteryear. Yet now there are new battles going on, perhaps right now, and bewildered people flee from the wreckage of their homes and livelihoods. All the more reason why we should truly welcome the Prince of Peace – even now waiting in the wings to come again as on this very night.

Waiting, waiting, waiting for us to get the message that He brings.

 

The Rural Dean’s Christmas Message: Midnight Mass 2015

“The flowers and candles are here to protect us…” This was a dawning realisation expressed by a young Parisian immigrant child in conversation with his father, an exchange captured in a short You-Tube interview taking place amid the crowds in the Place de la Republique on the day after the terrorist attack a few weeks ago in November. (The film clip is available to view on St Oswald’s Facebook page, and I recommend you have a look at it when and if you have a quiet moment in the post-Christmas lull). As the interviewer gently asks the child whether he understands what has happened, the four year old boy, held in the arms of his father, is acutely anxious about the “very, very bad people with guns” who were threatening to kill everyone, and about his family possibly having to leave their home in order to escape the violence. His father tenderly but hastily reassures him that they don’t need to move house, because “France is our home”. When the child then whispers, “But what about the bad men with guns, papa?”, his father does not sugar-coat the pill, simply repeating softly in sadness, “There are bad people everywhere…”

Then, in an inspired moment, the father points out to the child, still very worried about the bad men with guns, “They might have guns, but we have flowers! ” The child looks back over his shoulder, but clearly needs some convincing about the validity of this statement. Frowning, he stammers out, “But, but, flowers don’t do anything!?” He’s lost for words. His father immediately replies, “Of course they do! Look, everyone is putting flowers over there. It’s to fight against guns.” “To protect..?” asks the child. He is silent for a moment, then asks, “And the candles?” “The candles are to remember the people who are gone,” says his father. Another moment of thoughtful contemplation follows, and then the child turns directly to the interviewer and unexpectedly says, quietly and confidently, “The flowers and candles are here to protect us.” His father quickly whispers, “Yes!” And there is a beautiful exchange of a slow, shy smile between the two of them. The interviewer asks the child, “Do you feel better now?” And the little boy says, “Yes, I feel better.” He turns his small trusting face back to gaze on the candles and the flowers, which suddenly have kindled a fragile but blossoming hope within his fearful young heart.

That small boy, I think, speaks for many of us, adults, teenagers and children alike, when faced with dreadful situations shown daily on our television screens from across the world. Or when we encounter in our everyday lives difficult or distressing things much closer to home, in our families, workplaces, schools or local communities. We often have to be helped by others to find any glimmer of light in those dark places, whether in our inner being or in the complex world around us, or else we might otherwise stumble and fall. We all, at some time or other, need the encouragement of other people who care about us, to get us through and to help us see more clearly the bigger picture. This Christmas, many of us venture in through the open doors of our local churches, to find inside a light to help guide us in our common human search for making sense of things and for “feeling better” about it all… Lit by the candles of hopefulness and surrounded by the flowers of faith, even those held in tentative fingers by our companions gathered here tonight, I pray you will discover here your feet returning afresh to a well-trodden path which leads you into the light and tries to make some better sense of the confusions and sadnesses of our world.

Another short film-clip on our Facebook page features the simple yet profoundly wondering lyrics of the song “Mary, did you know?” sung by an A Cappella group called Pentatonix. This too is well worth listening to. The words echo those of the prophets as found in the Book of Isaiah from ancient days, and the song also picks up on Jesus’ own sense of his calling and purpose in life as we can hear later on in Luke’s Gospel, when as an adult Jesus stands up to read from the sacred scroll in the synagogue. The words of the song go like this:

Mary, did you know That your Baby Boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know That your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

 

Did you know That your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered, will soon deliver you.

 

Mary, did you know That your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary, did you know That your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand? Did you know That your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kissed your little Baby, you kissed the face of God?

 

The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The dead will live again. The lame will leap. The dumb will speak the praises of The Lamb.

 

Mary, did you know That your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know That your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations? Did you know That your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? The sleeping child you’re holding, is the great I AM!

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

 

(Some of the imagery here, strange to us but familiar to the ancient Hebrew people, is of a sacrificial lamb given up to enable restoration and reconciliation with one another and with the mysterious God whose name was almost too sacred to speak aloud…)

That same God, the one who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, may be glimpsed here tonight amidst the busyness and crowdedness of our everyday existence. That same God waits for us to enter into honest conversation with him, as (like the best of parents) he holds us tenderly, and desires to protect us from all that otherwise would harm us.

Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God, was born as a vulnerable questioning child into our dangerous and violent but also beautiful world, to show us the better way of truth, kindness, compassion, co-operation, courage and peace, and somehow, mysteriously, revealed to be in himself the Light and Hope that will ultimately lead all human beings safely home to God in heaven.

May we once again find ourselves just as awestruck as no doubt Mary was that first Christmas night, daring to recognise here God in Christ placed into our own hands, in the ordinariness of bread, broken for us, fragmented and shared out. May we glimpse God’s renewed purposes for our lives as, mysteriously through this Holy Communion, we find integrity and wholeness, both within and between us.

May the holy angels and all God’s saints, living and departed, remain our joyful companions as we go out from here, restored and refreshed for our different journeys through this often troublous life, and may God bless each one of us, friend and stranger alike, with true peace and heart-felt hope, this Christmas and always.                        Amen.