Once or twice a year I venture up the steep hill to look at the view from White Nancy! From there on a clear day I can take in the whole panorama of my parish, picking out the hidden chimney tops of the Vicarage at one end and the distinctive red roof of St Oswald’s Church at the other end, with Kerridge nestling just out of sight in the valley between. Whilst I recover my breath after the slow climb (yes, I know I’d get fitter if I tried going up there more regularly!), I always take the opportunity to pray for the people and places I am called to serve here in this beautiful part of Cheshire. I also give thanks for my many predecessors who have ministered as Vicars and Assistant Curates in the Parish of Bollington, especially mentioning some of my favourites: George Palmer the first Vicar, who opened St John’s School and built Bollington Cross School, but after thirteen years sadly died from overwork and anxiety about the financial burdens of the church, and Charles Brooke-Gwynne, who in his thirteen years as incumbent had the vision to oversee the building of our Vicarage, Holy Trinity Kerridge and St Oswald’s Bollington Cross, whilst simultaneously moving a lot of the furniture around in St John’s Parish Church, including making it a more flexible worship space by replacing the original pews with chairs! As someone who so far has only served eight years in the parish, I hope (God willing) to survive well enough until my retirement within the next five years, if possible unscathed by too many financial worries and having helped in my time to encourage similarly constructive developments in the ever-changing life and work of our local church community.
The appeal raised £151.50. Thank you all for your support!
Canon Roy Arnold
I think that I can take it for granted that most of us now have had enough of Elections! It’s sad that something so important can seem so tedious, but I want you to spare a thought today for those who have been unsuccessful in their attempts to get elected in Local Government Elections, but especially in Elections to get into (or back into) Parliament. When I was at General Synod a few years ago I had a long conversation with someone who had just lost his seat in Parliament. He was – to put it mildly – absolutely devastated by the experience of going from someone being in power to being just one of yesterday’s men; from being one of the chosen (elected ones) to being unemployed (give or take a few directorships), not to speak of the loss of self-esteem.
But actually I want to contrast this man’s experience to our Bible readings for today, where we were reminded by God and God’s Son Jesus who said YOU DID NOT CHOSE ME; BUT I CHOSE YOU. Do you see what this means? That God chooses, and we all of us (as it were) GET IN; we are all of us elected, not because we deserve to, but simply because GOD loves us. And this is God’s gracious experiment with humanity, which he began long ago it with his first Chosen People the Jews, whose story is told in the Old Testament. Of how they were by and large disobedient, so much so that God had to send his only begotten Son – Jesus – to redeem (that is to rescue) Mankind and (in the process) to make us into a new and enlarged Chosen Race. Jews and Non-Jews and the whole human race, and all this bearing in mind that God in his great love for us does not force our obedience.
He actually wants us to be his friends – and certainly not his slaves – hence his gift to us all of Free Will. In other words, although he has chosen us, he gives us the choice NOT to be his friends, which most of us do from time to time – in choosing not to be friends with God – in things petty like sheer meanness and peevishness, or by totally fundamental mistakes like the Holocaust or World Wars, ignoring the command of Jesus THAT WE MUST, WE MUST, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. First loving and serving God and then our neighbours.
Psalm 146 reminds us of this when it tells us: As long as we have any being we must sing praise (and worship) our God… not putting our trust in princes nor in any human power (Conservative, Labour, not even UKIP) for there is no help in them. And the psalm goes on to remind us that what counts is providing justice for those who suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger (as we aim to do through Christian Aid Week which begins today) lifting up those who are bowed down… with the strangers in our land and the orphan and the widow.
Because our God (out of his great love) chose us to be his friends, and friends and followers of Jesus his Son, and to go out into our everyday lives to tell other people about Jesus; not by door-stepping them or delivering pamphlets, or arguing with them or threatening them, but instead by helping them when they need help and maybe (secretly of course) praying for them, or by lots of ways trying our very best to follow Jesus ourselves. But (surprisingly) not by trying and trying to love God and Jesus but by LETTING GOD AND JESUS LOVE US.
That is our task – to let God love us. To let God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit love us, being open to the love of God. For it is only when we know ourselves to be loved that we can (as God’s chosen and elected people) be loving ourselves. And knowing that we are precious in the sight of God.
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
1 John 5.1-6
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Three members of Saint Oswald’s family were confirmed by our new Bishop of Stockport at St Michael & All Angels, Macclesfield on 28 April 2015, along with other candidates from the Macclesfield area. It was a joyful occasion. Bishop Libby preached on how each of us is known by name, and one of the names that we may be known by is ‘Christian’. At the end of the service, all the newly confirmed and received candidates processed down the nave, each bearing their own lighted candle, and were photographed in the foyer where they were greeted warmly by friends and family including two small sleepy children very proud of their mums!
Each of the candidates was given a book and a certificate, signed after the service by Bishop Libby, while certain other clergy practised holding a bishop’s staff…
Acts 11, 19-26
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’.
Our Lent appeal for parish funds raised £1,583.
Collections at our Lent Lunches raised £237 for the Hope Centre.
Thank you for your support!
Revd Libby Lane – the Church of England’s first woman bishop
It had been announced that Libby Lane was to become the Suffragan Bishop of Stockport on 17 December 2014. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, called her appointment “historic” and “an important step forward for the Church towards greater equality in its senior positions.”
Consecration at York Minster
Bishop Libby was consecrated at York Minster on 26 January 2015 by John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. When the archbishop asked the congregation if Lane should be consecrated as a bishop the service was briefly interrupted by a priest, Paul Williamson, who exclaimed “It’s not in the Bible” and called Lane’s being a woman an “absolute impediment”. There was no opposition when Sentamu – having carefully explained the legality of the act – asked a second time.
Click here for a link to the BBC News article about the Consecration Service.
Installation at Chester Cathedral
Bishop Libby was installed at a packed Chester Cathedral on Sunday 8 March 2015 (International Women’s Day). A number of our congregation were able to attend the ceremony.
Describing the service of installation like a “homecoming”, she said: “I continue to feel deeply grateful for the honour of this calling and the privilege of exercising it in this place. Expectations are high, and I too am excited by the possibilities and challenges ahead.”
Veronica congratulates Libby on her new appointment on the day it was announced at Stockport Town Hall (Picture by Kippa Matthews)
Before the service at St Paul’s Cathedral in May 2014 to celebrate 20 years of ordained women’s ministry, Veronica invited Archbishop Justin to “come and meet Libby Lane”, which he duly did. Libby is on the right of the picture below, with Jane Maycock on the left together with the only man in the group picture. Jane and Libby and were at Cranmer Hall Theological College, Durham together.
Veronica was photographed just afterwards along with Katy Hacker-Hughes, who trained with Veronica at Westcott House Theological College, Cambridge – the “Westcott Women” all wore matching stoles for the occasion.
Thanks to the generous support of Bollington Town Council, the much needed drainage works have now begun at the west end of St John’s Churchyard, to alleviate the flooded areas that build up after heavy rainfall and which have caused difficulties of access periodically over many years to those who seek to pay their respects to the memory of loved ones buried here.
The works are being carried out by our sexton Allen Stringer, strictly in accordance with our professional surveyor’s drawings, with the advice and approval of our church architect and of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, and with the kind permission of the Archdeacon of Macclesfield.
Bollington Town Council has agreed to fund two-thirds of the cost of these works, which leaves us with the difficult task of raising the remaining £1,500 ourselves.
Any contributions from interested parishioners will therefore be gratefully received, on the understanding that any surplus money thus raised will be paid into the general account of our Parochial Church Council and that it will be available for use in meeting some of the many other bills we regularly face, including those for maintenance and repair of our church fabric.
(Please see the link to our Giving page.)
Thank you for your support!
Revd. Canon Veronica Hydon (Vicar of Bollington)
Canon Roy Arnold
The other night when I couldn’t get off to sleep, I went downstairs to make myself a hot drink. I sat to sip it (without the light on) by the window when I noticed – to my surprise – a sinister black plant on the window ledge. I recognised it after a moment or two, as the crimson Poinsettia we had at Christmas. In the dark its bright red petal-leaves had taken on the blackness of the night.
Well last week was a pretty dark one I think – despite the brightness of the weather – with the terrible news of the young Jordanian pilot put to death, and the ongoing story of apathy in the face of the abuse of children and young women at Rotherham in South Yorkshire. Obviously sometimes we seem to take too much notice of breaking news from far away, while failing to recognise good news from around the corner, but there are occasions when the darkness can enter our own lives and homes when death or serious illness comes calling.
But our Gospel for today (from John ch 1) reminds us of the light which shines in all our darknesses, which light is Jesus, and which the darkness failed to overcome. In that reading from St John’s Gospel (which we normally hear at Christmas), the light from the infant Jesus seems like a little lantern in the dark corner of the stable at Bethlehem. But a light which grew as Jesus became a man, and shone out in his teaching and his gifts of healing, and finally in the expression of his love on the Cross, and three days later his gift of New Life for us all in his Resurrection.
In the Season of Lent – now almost upon us – we shall hope to prepare ourselves for Passiontide and Easter and maybe learn that the darkness of our world is down – not to a cruel and capricious God – but to the darkness which is within ourselves when we fail to see and follow the Wisdom and the Love of God. The Wisdom which is calling out to all of us as we heard in our first reading from Proverbs. But our Gospel for today told us that when Jesus came to live among us, his own people – the Jews – failed to recognise him because their minds preferred the darkness to the light. Like the fanatic Muslims and the young pilot they so brutally killed and like the Nazis whom we remembered last week who killed six million Jewish people – their minds darkened by thoughts of revenge or totally misguided ideologies and motives.
We are told in the New Testament of how Jesus came to Jerusalem for the last time, when he looked out over the city (knowing the terrible fate of the city and most of its people). We are told in just two poignant words: “Jesus wept”. He often must weep still at the thought of how the heart of humanity (which of course includes me and you) can so easily let the darkness overcome us, either by apathy, despair or downright evil.
All the more reason that we must try and try to follow this man called Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God and who came to be that light for all people. And who (even when his own people and we all rejected him) faced up to his death on the cross and said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”; then went on to bring us out into the light of Everlasting Life.
I was long asleep (I guess) when the dawn broke and the Crimson returned to the Poinsettia flowers and Christ’s glory filled the skies. Christ the true, the only light. And the Sun of righteousness triumphed o’er the shades of night.
Proverbs 8: 1, 22-31
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth – when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
John 1: 1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Canon Roy Arnold
We are all familiar with the Three Wise Men and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but let me tell yon this morning about one of the other main characters in this story.
King Herod, better known as Herod the Great, had quite a good reputation as the restorer of a ruined Jerusalem, rebuilder of a new temple and other grand schemes. He was generous to the poor after he once had some of his gold plates melted down and the proceeds given to feed the hungry, and he was bringer of 21 years of peace to his kingdom. Not bad.
But he had a flaw in his character. He was deeply suspicious of anyone who challenged his power and he actually murdered his wife and her mother because of this. And many another who threatened him which is why he gained the reputation of being a murderous old man, getting worse in his old age.
Imagine then how he felt when our Wise Men turned up asking about a new king just born. We know his response “Go and find this child” he said, “that I too may come and worship him”. But for “worship” he actually meant to MURDER him.
But the Wise Men were not called “wise” for nothing and when they had found Jesus and presented their gifts, we are told they went back home “by another road”, disappearing from the pages of the Bible and history leaving Herod the Great thwarted in his evil intent.
What lessons might we learn from this familiar story, I wonder? Perhaps we might ponder about the flaws we might have like Herod beneath our own good reputations and respectability, and wonder (or maybe know) that there might lurk another side to our characters; some shady or darker side. Psychologists tell us that we all have a shadow self, a dark side, such as Herod had in abundance. With us it can be envy of others, or jealousy, or greed. It might be an everyday fault like a wicked temper or irritability, or the need to control others at work or at home.
The plain fact is that these flaws spoil our lives, and when we add all the faults of humanity together they most certainly spoil our world. Just watch the News tonight to confirm that this is so.
And yet, there is an answer to all of this. There is always “another road” for us to take – as the Wise Men did – which I believe is the other road of love and forgiveness. In our own everyday lives and in the wider life of humanity, as taught by Jesus; the alternative route which He wants us to travel. The other road with Jesus by our side; and what better time to decide to travel this other road than at the start of this New Year.
I came across a quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta the other day. She said: “Every work of love brings a person face to face with God, and simple acts of love and care keep the light of Christ burning”. Let us – me and you – keep this light of Christ burning through this New Year.
Going the other road with Him – His way. But always remembering that this road – this way – is not an easy route.
By no means easy.