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As part of a triennially scheduled Visitation to Macclesfield Deanery clergy over three days in early November, Bishop Libby Lane (the Bishop of Stockport since January 2015) presided on Wednesday 4 November at an evening Holy Communion Service at St Oswald’s here in Bollington. She offered challenging words in her sermon to the mixed congregation of Deanery Synod members representing the nineteen parishes in the deanery, plus several more Bollington parishioners. She encouraged us to let go of those familiar things we perhaps fearfully cling onto too tightly (even those things or people we think we need primarily to preserve or protect) and instead to leave them in God’s much safer keeping and, by relaxing our grip, to open our hands now freed up to receive graciously whatever good things God has had in store to give us all the time. The service was followed by an opportunity for people to meet the Bishop informally over posh cakes and wine!
The next day, an otherwise dull and drizzly Thursday was transformed by Bishop Libby Lane visiting various groups of young people connected with Bollington Church, firstly meeting parents and their bright sparks, who were busy practising being fireworks at our Praise & Play Toddler Group! The Bishop then had lunch with a group of children from St John’s School, and, duly fortified, she subsequently spent the afternoon sharing faith and life stories with staff and children at each of our Anglican primary schools. The children were delighted and enthralled by meeting with the first woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Church of England. She particularly enjoyed meeting the Ethos Group of mixed ages in the Federation of Pott Shrigley and St John’s, exploring amongst other things how hard it is to overcome your fears, to fulfill your God-given potential and to be true peace-makers.
Later Bishop Libby answered some equally excellent questions thought up by Key Stage Two children at Bollington Cross School and visited all the classrooms in turn, showing one particular class her cross, ring, crook, cope and mitre, and explaining what was the significance of each item. Another moment I particularly liked was when sharing in the delightful story of “The Little Red Hen” with the Reception class, one pupil animatedly expressed to the Bishop how important it is to help other people – “Otherwise you’ll have NO FRIENDS!” – and, by way of illustration of that lonely place of friendlessness, he held up his two clenched fists (as opposed to opening his fingers out to be ready to count the number of people you could be friends with, if you chose to be helpful!). After a cup of tea with the Headteacher, finally Bishop Libby called in again at St Oswald’s for our pre-teen After School Group, RiCH, where volunteer Alex (of Bollington Balloons fame) presented the Bishop with a rare balloon chess-piece! She then headed home to Dunham Massey for a quick break before fulfilling her evening commitments elsewhere in the diocese.
We greatly appreciated the time, personal interest and attention which Bishop Libby gave to the whole variety of groups and individuals she encountered. She was a shining and genuinely saintly presence, and we felt truly blessed here in Macclesfield Deanery over those three days!
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.
We will celebrate “The Light of Christ” and “The Saints in Light”.
No Tricks, Just Treats!
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!
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]
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.’