All Souls’ Day 2015

Canon Roy Arnold

Filmgoers among you may have seen “The secret life of Walter Mitty” re-made in 2013 starring Ben Stiller but (showing my age) I remember Danny Kaye in the 1947 version seen at the Empire Cinema here in Bollington. It is about a man with a very vivid imagination who sees himself as a wartime hero, an eminent surgeon and a gangster. The original story was by James Thurber who was a cartoonist, author and humourist. In 1927, Thurber writing to his brother said this:

“It seems to me that life goes by like a flash of rain and that’s all we amount to in this world. But I think there ought to be more point to it all, so I live in the hope that the adventure of death is somehow equivalent to the adventure of life. It would seem strange to me if God made such a complicated world and such complicated people in it and then had no more to offer than a total blankness at the end of it all. So I live in the curiosity and the hope and the excitement of what there may be afterwards, and thus I have got myself to believe that those who pass on perhaps pass on to something as interesting but lovelier and more happy than this life”.

A very funny man – James Thurber – being very serious, as we are here tonight. Remembering and praying for our departed loved ones. But not only praying for them, but praying with them; which is a major theme of All Souls Day, that those on earth and those in heaven are joined together when we pray to God, with our departed loved ones on one side of God and we – for the time being – on this side.

Which is a very comforting thought – that our departed loved ones are joined with us when we pray and especially when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, to the God who is our Father in heaven, but accessible (through Jesus Christ) to you and me on this earth. Which will be the case until we also get to heaven (if we do) and join with our loved ones in God’s glorious new world. And if we travel on with hope and faith and love in our hearts I believe we will get there in the end.

We will get there in the end.

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

The Eve of All Hallows 2015

In the Christian calendar, 1 November is the feast of All Saints. An old name for the festival is All Hallows. Just as the day before Christmas Day is called Christmas Eve, so the day before All Saints Day used to be known as Hallows Eve, or Halloween.
Although All Saints’ Day is a particularly Christian Festival, Halloween has become associated with particularly non-Christian celebrations of witches and the like.
This year we have organised activities to teach our young people the reasons to celebrate the Saints. We will be holding a “Light Parties” for children up to age 11.
We will celebrate “The Light of Christ” and “The Saints in Light”.
No Tricks, Just Treats!
Entry will be by Ticket Only – obtainable in advance at Praise & Play or RICH group meetings.

Refugee Crisis Appeal – Update

An Amazing Response to the Bollington Refugee Crisis Appeal!

Our vicar writes…
Might I add my own huge thanks to that of Nora Carlin, the organiser of the Warrington based charity Refugees-Aid from the Northwest of England, for all those in Bollington (and from all around the Macclesfield area) who responded so generously when we opened St Oswald’s Church during September and October to receive gifts of warm clothing, waterproofs, coats, hats, socks, gloves, walking shoes, blankets, sleeping bags, holdalls, toiletries and much more, for onward distribution to desperate refugees from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa! Do please visit this Warrington charity’s Facebook page for any updates and for further suggestions of ways you can continue to help many more individuals and families displaced by economic hardship and fleeing from terrible conflicts over the coming winter months.

Thanks are due here to all our Bollington church members who made this community venture possible. We are grateful to those who gave their time and energy in so many ways, such as opening and closing the church each day, meeting the costs of publicity, emptying cupboards and drawers, washing and ironing items to bring along, praying for all concerned, sorting clothes, packing and labelling bags, and transporting everything to the collection points in Stockport and Warrington. Special thanks must go to Hannah, Dave, Ken & Sue, Christine, Sue W, Joan K, Maggie, Jennifer R, Sue B, Anthea, Bev, Luise, Jenny R, Chris, Jean & Brian, Hilary, Margaret, Michael F, Ken E, Mrs Downing & Bollington Cross PTA, the young people of RiCH, Claire and other Praise & Play parents, and to everyone else in the wider congregation (you know who you are!) who contributed in whatever way to helping those in desperate need at this critical time.

I reckon the activity in Santa’s grotto even in the long run-up to Christmas was nothing compared with that to be seen in St Oswald’s Church, piled high as it was with gifts brought in from across our local community over those five busy weeks! Thank you so much to all our volunteer Bollington elves! As you have blessed the lives of so many strangers with sack-loads of much needed goods, may God likewise bless you in generous measure this Christmas and always!

Veronica

Please note that the main appeal is now closed and the church will revert to normal opening hours. Thank you for your support. If you have additional items to donate please contact the Warrington depot.

[Link to Refugees – Aid from the North West Facebook page]

New War Memorial Extension

The original Bollington War Memorial was dedicated in November 1920. It is a simple sandstone cross with names inscribed around the base. At that time it was not envisaged that space for additional names would be needed only a couple of decades later, so the WW2 names had to be added wherever they would fit. The memorial is beginning to suffer from weathering of the relatively soft sandstone.
As part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, it was decided to raise funds to renovate or upgrade our Bollington War Memorial. Experts advised that attempting to re-inscribe names on the existing sandstone was not a viable option. It was therefore decided to create an extension to the original memorial in the form of two panels positioned so as to “guard” the old memorial, which will remain in position.
Extensive research was carried out to find the names of World War casualties from Bollington who had not been included on the original memorial, as well as making a couple of corrections to names that had been wrongly inscribed previously. A committee was formed to decide upon the final list of names. The new panels show the missing names as well as those of all the casualties commemorated on the original memorial. Space has been left in case any additional casualties’ names need to be added in future.
A substantial grant was provided by Cheshire East Council. Bollington Town Council also provided a grant and the Mayor’s Fund (Councillor Amanda Stott) was dedicated to the project. Other funds were provided by members of the public. The stone came from Sycamore Quarries, the engraving was carried out by William Warburton and construction of the extension was by John Drabble & Son.
A new War Memorial extension at Bollington has been installed in the War Memorial Gardens. This includes all the names on the existing War Memorial (including a few corrections), as well as names of local WW1 casualties whose names were not previously listed. The two lists of names stand like two companies of soldiers guarding the old memorial.
The memorial extension was officially inaugurated at a short ceremony on Sunday 11 October 2015.
In the late summer sunshine, the old memorial casts its shadow across one of the new guardians. No breeze disturbs the Union Flag in the Memorial Gardens.
The War Memorial in 1920
The War Memorial in 1920

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

On the Anniversary of Roy’s Ordination

Canon Roy Arnold

We had a good Easter in Bollington and Kerridge in 1962 at the three Anglican churches (St John’s, St Oswald’s and Holy Trinity) with a total of just short of 400 communicants. 400! They even ran out of service books at St Oswald’s. This year – 2015 – we had a total of 125 communicants.

Two years later than 1962, on this actual day 27 September 1964 in Bristol Cathedral, I was ordained as a priest in the Church of England. Sad to say, these past 50 years and more have seen a dramatic fall in the number of those attending Church everywhere. This hasn’t been all my fault and I can say that the Churches where I have served increased slightly in size, but the fact is many fewer people go to Church nowadays. Not only in the Anglican Church but in the Methodist Church and even the Roman Catholic Church and generally throughout Europe. Apart from the fact that people die or move away, I would say that this has come about by a massive change in the way most people live their lives, and shopping, entertainment and sport, car trips (or even car cleaning) take up a major part of people’s weekend lives and the thought of a Day of Rest and Worship have gone by the board. “For the world is too much with us… getting and spending” as the poet Wordsworth says.

Getting and spending… and yet, and yet… There does remain some hint of thought for others. I am thinking here of the generosity of people (church folk and others) when there are appeals for money in times of national and international disaster and in this we may call to mind Christ’s words from our Gospel this morning. Those words about giving a cup of water to anyone who is thirsty. People’s donations represent (albeit at arms-length) that kindness and care. I have a strong personal remembrance that when I was in hospital once and my blood sugar was down, the Night Sister said “Get Roy a warm milky drink and a biscuit.” You know, I have never forgotten this simple act of kindness, that someone had thought to give ME a drink…. as Jesus instructed people to do. I wouldn’t know whether that kind nurse was a church person or not but (as we heard Jesus say in our Gospel) any act of kindness and gentleness and caring counts, whoever does it, whether they be Christians or Muslims or persons of little or no faith.

That, I believe, is why we must not entirely despair at the thought of dwindling congregations, sad as the thought may be, and in any case – as I once read – trends in society may empty churches but may also fill them. What we must be aware of – whether we are ordained or lay people – is the danger of becoming stumbling blocks – as Jesus put it. We must do our very best to be reasons why people would want to come to Church, and not to trip them up on their way here. And, of course, we must try our very best to get more people to Church; simply this is what Jesus wants us to do – to hear the good news that He brings about the love of God and His call to share that love in our own lives, through simple acts of personal kindness and thought for others like that cup of cold water (or milk and a biscuit). Acts of kindness and gentleness and love to people of all ages; children, yes, and those with the care of children – but we must not concentrate on one group and forget about the others.

Looking back over these past 50 years, (I think,) in an effort to get more people to church, we have spent too much time on re-ordering our worship, and on new translations of the Bible and other General Synod preoccupations. But I believe that one thing from General Synod has been truly worthwhile, and that is the Ordination of Women and the hope thereby of a kinder and more gentle approach to Ministry and a more inclusive Church. But whether we are women or men-folk of the Church (lay-folk or ordained), let us remember this: we shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore we can do or any kindness that we can show to any human being, let us do it now. Let us not defer or neglect it for we shall not pass this way again.

That is for sure. We shall not pass this way again.


Mark chapter 9:38-end

John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’

Bollington Refugee Appeal

We launched our refugee appeal at the Civic Service on Sunday 20th September, 12.00 noon. We appealed for donations of waterproofs, men’s clothing, socks, hats, gloves, walking shoes, blankets and sleeping bags, folding chairs, tea, coffee, sugar and toiletries, as well as donations of cash.

The church was open 8.30 am – 5.30 pm from Monday 21st September – Friday 23rd October to receive donations. We liaised directly with agencies taking supplies to refugees in Calais, Greece and Eastern Europe.

refugeeAppeal

 

RIP Stella Gascoigne

Sadly we must now say farewell to two more faithful members of our congregation, Joan Barton and Stella Gascoigne, who have died during these last weeks of August and who have both been very much part of the life and witness of St Oswald’s Church over many years.

Stella is pictured (standing, second from right) alongside her devoted husband Derek, joining in one of our regular services held at St John’s Columbarium over the past few years. Her bright smiling face, her kind and gentle character and her admirable steadfastness in the face of recent ill-health will be long remembered by her many friends across our whole community.

Our prayers continue to be with the families of both Stella and Joan at this sad time.

Stella’s funeral service tookplace at 10.45am on Friday 11 September in St Oswald’s Church, where she and Derek were married nearly 58 years ago. It was followed by cremation at Macclesfield at 12.00noon.

Words from Roy Arnold at Stella’s funeral:

I grew up at the other end of Bollington and went to Water Street School, whereas Stella was a pupil at Bollington Cross, so I never knew Stella as a child and as a young woman… and we never had our bread actually delivered, so I never knew Derek. But latterly, through the family of the Church, it has been a real privilege to know them both, and in these latter times to feel for them in their struggles with ill-health, and particularly to admire both Derek’s care for Stella (with the help of family, friends and very good neighbours) and Stella’s quiet courage in adversity.

Of such adversity people often say, “There is a purpose in all this!” implying that God intended this awful situation and that this disaster was his idea in the first place. But I believe all that we can say is that the experience is deeply significant… but strangely with a significance we can’t understand. To the believer and the non-believer alike, it is a mystery why God, who we believe is a God of Love, allows such things to happen to our loved ones and friends. The Book of Job in the Bible is an attempt to answer the mystery, but when Jesus was on the cross, even he (as the Son of God) seems baffled by it all and cries out, “My God, why have you deserted me?”

So it all remains a mystery… but even more mysterious when we think of all the good things which God has given us throughout our lives and which far outweigh the bad. Maybe that thought can console us when “the strife is o’er” (as it is for Stella) but still leaves us clinging, by the skin of our teeth, believing that maybe we shall get all our questions answered one day, as we hold on to the hope that the book is not ended and another chapter awaits us. I’m sure Stella, as an avid reader like me, would appreciate that thought. I believe if we trust Jesus, it will be all right in the end… eventually… and we can be grateful for love whether human or divine, and grateful (as the saying goes) for peace at the last. May Stella rest in that peace and rise with us in glory.

AMEN

stella_gascoigne