During August our Children’s Work Co-ordinator kindly organised an outing for a group of younger congregation members, with parents and a grandparent (plus the Vicar!) to Buxton Opera House to see a delightful performance of Julia Donaldson’s story “Room on the Broom”. Essentially the story is about an unconventional witch and her faithful cat setting out on a risky adventure and learning along the way the importance of making space for anyone who wishes or needs to share their companionship. After brief consideration of each new encounter, the witch’s default response to all enquirers is “Yes!”, being willing to embrace the new and unknown, whereas the cat is habitually more cautious, fears change and (before the opposite is joyfully proven towards the end of the adventure) cannot really see the benefit of letting anyone else find room on the broom. We all enjoyed an imaginative and interactive theatre production, lasting not much more than an hour (only just a fraction longer than our new Third Sunday Family Communions!), including a brilliantly improvised “frog in the throat” moment particularly appreciated by the adults (…you had to be there!).
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.
Joan is pictured here on our Parish Trip in November 2010 to visit the Delhi Brotherhood, and also taking part in our Schools Epiphany Experience Week in January 2011. We will miss her adventurous spirit and her dedicated service to others, shown in so many ways over the past twenty years since settling down in our parish with her late husband Cyril after his retirement in 1995.
Joan’s funeral took place here at St Oswald’s at 1.30pm on Tuesday 1 September, followed by burial in the family grave at Norbury Parish Church.
At Joan’s funeral, Roy added these words to the Eulogy:
(I normally wear a black shirt but following Joan’s instructions this one is bit brighter.)
I know from 52 years in the ministry that clergy wives must be obeyed and although the one who originally has the calling to serve God is the Vicar (male or female), being married to a clergyperson you find yourself going along for the ride with them. And, for instance, enjoying the adventure of having a fifteen bedroom Vicarage (lovely in the summer but coolish in the winter), bringing up a family, and making cheese sandwiches for the occasional tramp at the door, or entertaining a passing bishop or archdeacon or missionary just dropping in from Africa or India. Or being there when the Vicar comes home after a particularly grumpy PCC meeting or sharing the joy of a service and a sermon well received and understood.
Well I know that Joan [and you her family] would recognise some of this – the highs and lows of Vicarage life; as I believe that Joan – as she faced the prospect of her own death with cheerfulness – had picked up the pieces after Cyril died. And as before, continued to make her home a second Vicarage with a welcome for all who came to it from the Mothers Union to Parish Magazine Committee, and in Church reading lessons and prayer with the unmistakeable voice of a former teacher.
We do sometimes forget what a great blessing it is that we belong to a Church which has recognised the value of having a Married Clergy – as a truly shared ministry. I remember a Bishop telling me that he thought most clergy and their spouses have in their memories the parish where they were most happy and had the most fruitful ministry. And although I believe that they have enjoyed their time in Bollington, I guess that for Cyril and Joan the parish of Norbury (Hazel Grove) would be their star parish; and it is most fitting that Joan’s mortal remains will return there to be beside Cyril’s (and their son who went before them), although we hope and pray that by now their souls may all be happily reunited in the glorious resurrection experience which is the hope we hold onto and which is why we can say for Joan and Cyril in words from the Book of Common Prayer: “may their portion this day be in peace and their dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem.”
May we all say AMEN to that.
Canon Roy Arnold
I served my first curacy in Bristol where I discovered that in Bristol gym pumps became dabs, plain tea cakes became baps and unsmoked bacon was known as green bacon, and that natives of that city have a habit of adding an L to words which end with A. So (for instance) when they say the word AREA they pronounce it as AERIAL. I remember an old lady once telling me that her son in the army served in Indial, Burmal and Malayal and suffered from Malarial as a consequence.
My first Vicar knowing all about this was once taking a Baptism and the baby’s name was Monica and when he asked the question: “Name this child”, the parents solemnly answered MONICAL to which my Vicar replied “I don’t mind calling her MONACLE so long as she doesn’t make a SPECTACLE of herself during the service!”
Well today we remember another Monica; Saint Monica who was born in North Africa in the year 332 and went on to be the Mother of St Augustine of Hippo (not to be confused with Augustine of Canterbury). Augustine of Hippo – one of the most famous teachers of the early Church – always attributed his conversion to Christianity to the prayers of his mother Monica, not least when he started to stray from the straight and narrow, which is why she has always been held up as a real example of a mother’s love and prayers.
And when you think of it our prayers for family and friends are truly expressions of our love for them; and I believe there may be few things more important that we can do than to pray for our loved ones and anyone else that they may come to know – as we have – the love of Jesus and the true value of his Church. Maybe we don’t do this enough, and I must admit that I have totally failed in this. We pray in a general way for their wellbeing and health and safekeeping… but as to praying for their spiritual wellbeing and perhaps conversion we maybe fail in this important aspect of their lives.
Monica didn’t fail in this for her son Augustine, and without a doubt we must try to follow her example, even though Augustine was not without his faults. He certainly would have opposed the Ordination of Women and it was said that he would never sit on a seat when a woman had sat on it, which goes to show that even saints are not without their faults even when his mother (a woman) had done so much for him – and as Veronica does for us all.
Revd Michael Fox
There is a song from 1980 by the punk band The Clash – I expect you all still remember it – called Should I Stay or Should I Go? It was very high energy and I’m not going to sing it to you, but the lyrics went:
Darlin’ you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
Joe Strummer seems to be putting his fate into the hands of (I presume) a young woman, but he sums up an anxiety that affects all of us in some way – where do I belong? Is it with this person, this community, this group or with that one? Am I wanted here, or would I be better off somewhere else?
Indeed staying anywhere, or with anyone, for any length of time is increasingly difficult for us in a commitment-phobic world. There is a restlessness that afflicts humans sooner or later and sends them wandering off looking for better pasture. Perhaps it stems from the genes inherited from the period when humans were hunter-gatherers, roaming the prairies looking for woolly mammoths.
The word abide is old-fashioned now, but it has lots of meanings – to dwell, to rest, to continue, to be true to, to remain, to wait, to await… We say “I will abide by that decision,” or “I can’t abide punk rock music” and I suppose in both cases we mean ‘live with.’ And of course we use the word ‘abode’ – jokingly nowadays – to mean home: “Welcome to my humble abode.”
And at the moment there is a so-called ‘migrant crisis’ where people are fleeing war, oppression, hunger, poverty – they are leaving home and all that word implies of roots, shelter, identity, security, and casting themselves upon the waters, in small fragile boats. They face an unknown future, unknown dangers including drowning, tear gas and stun grenades, hunger, thirst, hostility, rejection.
If you saw the BBC’s Songs of Praise programme with its report on the migrant camp in Calais – the link is on our St. Oswald’s facebook page – you’ll have seen that in the midst of an area known as ‘the jungle’, in Calais, a muddy, rubbish-strewn encampment of tents, some made from corrugated plastic or old iron, there is a church – a makeshift, wood and plastic building that stands shakily in the midst of the camp. One of the French Christian volunteers who helped the Christian migrants build the church says on camera “These people wanted a church before they wanted a home.”
Inside this little church Christians from Ethiopia and Eritrea, Syria and many other countries meet to pray and worship. There are beautiful pictures – one of St. Michael after whom the church is named. They worship and pray together with the many French and English Christians who come to bring aid and fellowship and hope.
One young man, a theology student from Ethiopia, is one of leaders of the church there. He says he has fled from persecution but he will not make any attempt to enter the UK illegally. Another young Christian man also fleeing persecution in Eritrea has tried several times to board a train illegally. When challenged he says he is seeking a better home, a safer home. He prays every day and then he says, “I have another house – it’s heaven.”
It seems to me that little church – St. Michael’s – is the embodiment of what John, in his gospel this morning, is telling us about abiding. Those who meet together in the fellowship of the Eucharist know what it is to dwell with Christ. However tough life is, however lacking in security, their commitment to follow him and to worship him and to receive him is a sign that they are in the dwelling place of God himself.
The Eucharist, the practice of eating bread and drinking wine in memory of the crucified Christ and in fellowship with the risen Christ, is clearly what John, writing in the hungry times of the first century AD – is referring to. Some people think John was writing in Syria, the very place from which many modern-day migrants come.
At the back of John’s image of finding fellowship with Christ in the Eucharist – of living, staying with, awaiting, staying true to Christ – is the experience of the Jews wandering in the wilderness, being fed with the manna from heaven. God provides for them and sustains them in their desperate need. They were in a strange land, and they were migrants, aiming to live in someone else’s country.
For John, Jesus is the manna that God gives to all humanity, regardless of who they are, of where they are living. He is the spiritual food that gives us life. And it’s significant that the word John uses for abide in this section is used 40 times throughout the gospel – his Gospel is all about what it means to live with Jesus, and for Jesus to live with you. Of course the breaking of bread, the sharing of a meal, is one of the most basic things we do in our homes.
Those of us here this morning, we have homes. Some of us may have just moved in, with all the excitement of a new space, new neighbours, and the adventure of a new life in a place we have chosen. Or we have been in our home for many years, seen our families grow up, experienced joy, and also sadness and loss. It has been a refuge and a shelter, a place for us to be ourselves. It answers our most basic need. Perhaps, even, we are facing a move from our familiar home and facing the loss of familiar surroundings and friends’ faces.
I wonder how many of us would say, with the migrants of Calais, that we wanted a church before we wanted a home? But when we meet to celebrate the Eucharist, as we will do in a few moments, we enact the meeting of our earthly home and our heavenly one, as that young man in Calais reminds us.
Perhaps that will help us to remember to keep our earthly home always open to the stranger, the migrant, to the needs of others for shelter and food. But most importantly to remember that whether we stay or go, it is Christ who sustains us, shelters us, and who is the true meaning of ‘home’.
Visit by some parishioners
Thanks to the kind hospitality of the present owner, a group of parishioners visited the former Holy Trinity Church in Kerridge this afternoon! The building has been imaginatively transformed into a delightful home which has kept all the beauty of the church whilst offering an incredibly versatile, warm and welcoming living space. May God bless all who dwell there, now and in the future!
PO Box 645
Canon Roy Arnold
Well we are few and far between today. We have two of our flock cruising the river Thames at Henley while some are in Guernsey. One has gone to see the Duke of Westminster (well, his garden to be exact). Two are looking after their respective grandchildren and we thought we should have been looking after our youngest daughter’s cat, but seemingly that is next week.
Others are on holidays and sadly some of our very faithful members are not at all well but thankfully we have our Vicar and Dave back from Belgium and Margaret Booth has come rushing back from Malta, and, as it happens, Holidays come into my sermon as they did with Michael last week – for I want to talk about MEMORIES.
One of God’s gifts to us is the gift of MEMORY. Without our memories we would be lost and have to learn again every morning how to do the most basic of human tasks such as how to dress ourselves or use the toaster; let alone how to drive a car or to read and write.
And then there is the wider scope of memory, whereby we remember things that have happened to us in the past – of things happy or sad. Even on this very day – July 26 – I have memories buzzing round in MY head of holiday times and of Bollington Wakes Week (which always was in this last week of July), when all the mills shut – and the shops – as Bollington folk went off to the seaside; and with Palmerston Street lined with Coaches to take them there “to be beside the seaside”; where a happy time was had by all.
But my next memory of this very day is definitely not a happy one: this day 19 years ago was when we buried our daughter’s ashes in the Columbarium here in Bollington. Rachel our second daughter had died in a cycle accident.
All of us (I guess) have sad memories mixed in with our happy ones. And perhaps it is our memories, happy or sad (of people or events), which make us who we are and how we see the world. It is worth noting, that I am saying all this in a church, because, when you think of it, churches are stacked high with so many memories (happy or sad); memories of Births, Marriages and Deaths – Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals.
And as well as churches holding our own personal memories it is, of course, here it in church that we keep alive the memory of God and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord, which is our aim in this very service of Holy Communion. “Do this in remembrance of Me” is what He said, and what we say and do in this service.
But harking back to the memories of seaside holidays, do you remember how the sun shone and the sea sparkled? Although it was so far out at Southport (where I spent several holidays as a child) you could hardly see the sea. But then in contrast, I remember a holiday in Scarborough with the sea in all its fury; with the waves smashing against the promenade and sending its spray high into the air – like that storm on the Sea of Galilee of which we heard in our Gospel this morning and the disciples fearful for their lives. But then came Jesus surprisingly walking on the waves, as somehow – equally surprisingly – He has walked into our lives (yours and mine). Impossible but true; and in part He has entered our lives because the stories of Jesus became embedded in the memory of the Church. Stories passed on through the long ages to me and you; the memories of what He taught people, and about His miracles, and of how He told His first disciples and us to “Have faith and be not be afraid”
As in another seaside story when Jesus was in the same boat as the apostles and when they were very frightened until He stilled the storm. Reminding us that Jesus is ALWAYS, ALWAYS in the same boat as us. In dark and stormy times and in those golden and special times, for God – through His Son Jesus and His Holy Spirit – has somehow ALWAYS been with us; as one of my favourite quotes from the bible reminds us that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever”. Experience tells us that He has been with us in the past (as we remember) and hope whispers that He will be with us in the future.
But then the past is yesterday and the future is tomorrow and the reality is we are left with is the Jesus who is with us today. So while today is still today let us remember His presence with us now.
I heard the voice of Jesus say: “I am this dark world’s light.
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus and I found in Him my star, my sun.
And in that light of life I’ll walk till travelling days are done.
John chapter 6 vv 1-21
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
Peggy died peacefully at the East Cheshire Hospice on 13 June 2015.
Funeral at St Oswald’s 10.30am Friday 26 June
She will be much missed at St Oswald’s
The slide show shows images of her in happy times, organising the Posh Tea, arranging flowers, creating our mosaic, participating in Faith Hour, being a “wise woman” at our “Epiphany Experience”, generally socialising, and with her beloved triplets (her grandchildren) on Easter Day. There are also a couple of archive photos taken at the Centenary Edwardian Supper, held in church in 2008.