Vicar’s Letter May 2015

vicars letter003The first Sunday after Easter is what people call “Low Sunday”. The flamboyant earrings are put away for another year…the chocolate eggs are all eaten…(particular thanks, by the way, for the delicious little box of eggs left for me in the vestry, coming from that most heavenly of all holiday resorts: “Hotel Chocolat”!) …and now after all the drama of Easter, it’s back to work as usual. So I guess we can readily identify with those Gospel stories of Jesus’ disciples gathered again in the Upper Room, after the trauma of Good Friday, coping with what they felt were unlikely and unsubstantiated rumours of the Resurrection, put about by “some of the women”, and as a group generally not feeling very optimistic at all about the future.
Sometimes I think your average Parochial Church Council is the natural successor of that small group – huddled together in a small room somewhere set apart, behind closed doors, discussing a little gloomily the state of the church finances and whether or not we have a future at all. Maybe we are not always aware of Christ stepping into our midst and calling for “Peace!” Occasionally as a group we are tempted to give up and follow our ancestor St Peter out through the door, saying in effect “Blow this for a lark! I’m going fishing!”, and then being surprised and delighted to encounter Jesus already out there in ordinary everyday life, cooking a simple breakfast on the lakeside. (Perhaps our equivalent is finding bacon butties on offer for our new Dads’ and Grandads’ group on the fourth Saturday of each month!) Daring to go beyond our walls, to keep asking questions about what’s important and to push our boundaries of expectation, reminds me of how amazed and delighted we were, just two years ago, to hear Christ speaking words of encouragement through people “out there” who told us they were so pleased to be asked their opinion about what kind of artwork should adorn the redundant doorway of our church extension, the splendid new addition to an old and well-loved building which in essence is both “ours” and “theirs”: clearly the Parish Church of Bollington, open for all.
Each year around this time at our Annual Parochial Church Meeting, I believe Christ breathes his Spirit afresh on those we have chosen as our representatives to serve as Churchwardens and on the PCC, empowering them to pray, study and act in his name, so that the good news of forgiveness and love can be spread and increasing numbers of people are enriched and transformed and enlivened for the good of the whole community and thus we become some of the “many other signs” St John refers to towards the end of his Gospel, and as St Paul puts it, we become “living stones”, building God’s kingdom on earth.
Amongst the Bible readings set for Low Sunday, we heard of that very down-to-earth disciple, St Thomas, “known as the Twin”. Let’s just focus for a moment on that almost throwaway description, “the Twin”. The Bible tells us nothing about Thomas’s twin brother or sister; we can only imagine that somewhere out there, outside the Upper Room, Thomas treasured a deep intimacy of shared life experience with another human being; in other words, he had a natural affinity and connectedness with at least one other person beyond the group of disciples and his close friend Jesus. Sometimes people who come regularly to church find that those closest to them, their families and friends, just “don’t get it”, and don’t understand the attraction of this church-going thing at all. Maybe your wife or husband or children say they’ve tried it and it’s just not for them – “After all you can be a perfectly good person without going to church, can’t you?” Maybe Thomas felt a similar disappointment in those circumstances, when his twin sister or brother declined to come with him to see what it was all about. And it’s so hard to explain your faith, isn’t it, even to those nearest and dearest to you?
In the penultimate chapter of John’s Gospel, we hear of Thomas the Twin coming back into the group on the evening of the very first Easter Day, but finding he’d just missed out on an unbelievably powerful encounter with the risen Christ! After all that! Having followed Jesus faithfully for the past three years and never having been afraid to get to grips with the painful and difficult questions, he missed hearing the definitive answer with his own ears! Remember Thomas had been the one at the Last Supper to interrupt when Jesus was mysteriously trying to explain that “his hour had come”. “But, hang on a minute, Lord,” says Thomas, “We do not know where you are going! How can we know the way?!” And this elicits the clear and resoundingly memorable words we often hear at that common deeply traumatic time of transition when someone we love has died: Jesus says to Thomas, and to each of us who seek authentic answers to life’s agonising mysteries: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life… Peace I give you, not as the world gives… Do not let your hearts be troubled… neither let them be afraid!” (a response finding an echo of course for us in St Oswald’s excellent motto 600 years later!)
All human endeavour and discovery comes from often a small group of people not just taking things at face value, but painstakingly and sometimes at great personal cost, probing deeper into the mysteries and complexities of the created order. Jesus said equally memorably elsewhere in the Gospels: “Ask, and you will receive; Seek, and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened to you.”…. in other words (especially resonant with those who have been on a Cursillo Weekend): PRAY, STUDY, ACT! (Incidentally, please do ask the Vicar about joining her on the next Cursillo Weekend taking place in Crewe from 21 to 24 May! I wonder whether God may be courteously holding open that door for you this month, inviting you to take advantage of being treated to three whole days away – absolutely free of charge! – in the company of friends, with plenty of cake, but more importantly, the luxury of time to pay attention to yourself as God’s precious child on your unique journey of faith. Worth asking, don’t you think?!)
Once again as the Easter season unfolds into Pentecost, we celebrate St Thomas, affirmed in his continuing quest for Truth and Life by the risen Jesus. Tradition has it that Thomas went on with great courage to preach the message of new life and hope through Christ to the people of India who, like our friends in the Delhi Brotherhood, remain today acutely conscious of a need to respond creatively in the face of human vulnerability and mortality. May we learn to recognise in Thomas the face of our own Twin Self, asking deep questions, reaching out to be in touch with God through prayer, social action and the sacraments of bread and wine, and seeking new meaning in all the complexities and woundedness of our own relationships, choosing to renew our baptismal promises to go on being followers of “The Way”.
Every blessing this Easter and always,
Veronica
Doubting Thomas (Bernardo Strozzi)
Doubting Thomas (Bernardo Strozzi)

“God has called you by name and made you His own”

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’.

New Bishop of Stockport

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

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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.

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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.”


Earlier…

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Veronica congratulates Libby on her new appointment on the day it was announced at Stockport Town Hall (Picture by Kippa Matthews)

Libby-Lane-with-Archbishop

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.

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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.

Holiday in Venice 2014

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A few holiday snaps from Veronica and Dave’s recent trip to Venice…

 


 

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Torcello…
…is a sparsely populated island at the northern end of the Venetian lagoon. It was probably the first of the islands to be populated following the fall of the Roman Empire. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta contains a 12th Century mosaic of the Last Judgement. The 11th century bell tower has been under repair for the last couple of years.

The Devil’s Bridge at Torcello, and some more godly symbols on houses nearby.


Burano
According to legend, the houses at Burano were brightly coloured so that the fishermen could more easily find their own homes after celebrating a successful day’s work.

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St Mark’s Basilica
Some of the gold mosaic ceilings date from about 1070, but about two thirds were “restored” in the 18th and 19th century.

20 years of Women Priests!

1994-2014: 20 years of women’s ordained ministry as Priests in the Church of England

There was a very good turnout on Saturday 3 May 2014 for the Procession of Witness that started at Church House (next to Westminster Abbey) and walked past the Houses of Parliament, alongside the Thames and then up to St Paul’s Cathedral.

At the start of the special service in the Cathedral, there was a procession of over 700 from amongst the 1000 or so women who had all been ordained across the C of E in the year 1994. Amongst the congregation who stood and applauded as the procession made its way up the aisle were large numbers of women (young and old) who have also been ordained priest since that first historic year. Also present among the many supporters both male and female, were several women from the Roman Catholic Church who still wait in hope for recognition of women’s priestly calling within the wider Church.

Revd Canon Philippa Boardman, Canon Treasurer of St Paul’s, presided at the service and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby acted as deacon. For a bishop (let alone an archbishop) to take this role at a Eucharist was a very significant break with tradition. One other striking aspect of the service was the delightful effect of hearing an overwhelming majority of female voices resounding joyfully around the Cathedral as soon as the first hymn began!

Veronica, our Vicar, was one of the 1994 ordinands invited to take part in the ceremony. For many, it was a joyful reunion. But also a time to remember those women priests who had died since 1994, having waited so long for the ordination of women to be possible.

The slide show starts with pictures from 17 April 1994 and continues with photos from 3 May 2014.

Veronica is made an Honorary Canon of Chester Cathedral

There was a good turnout of about ninety supporters for Veronica at Chester Cathedral on Tuesday 18 March. We enjoyed the singing of Choral Evensong, during which our Vicar was installed as an Honorary Canon of Chester Cathedral by Bishop Peter. It was appropriate that the Girls’ Choir was on duty for this service.

In his introduction, Bishop Peter alluded to Veronica’s previous career as one of the first women to be admitted as a marine cargo insurance broker at Lloyd’s of London in 1975 and also to the fact that she also was one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Church of England in 1994 at St Paul’s Cathedral.

In the pictures Veronica is wearing a preaching scarf which belonged to the late Revd. Martin Leigh, a staunch supporter of the ordination of women who helped to push the legislation through the Synod. (You may notice that she is also wearing a cross with a rainbow cord as she was (then) the Spiritual Director of Chester Cursillo.)

Ask me about Christmas

Canon Veronica Hydon

Dave and I called in at the Cock & Pheasant last weekend after our Parish Winter Fair and I noticed that the bar staff were all wearing new black T-Shirts with a small snowflake motif on the front and a bold message in striking white lettering on the reverse. I asked the landlady if I could buy one: she said, “Not at all, don’t be silly, please have this one as a gift!” The bold message on the T-Shirt says: “ASK ME ABOUT CHRISTMAS”. Perfect for when I’m doing my school assemblies I thought (and remarkably, although it was a size smaller than I’d normally have picked out for myself, the T-Shirt fits!)…

On this day, when we look forward to the start of the Advent season beginning next Sunday 2 December, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, Lord of all creation and Prince of peace. But today also is traditionally known as “Stir Up Sunday” because of words of the old Collect set for this day in the Book of Common Prayer, the same prayer we have now in modern form as our Post-Communion Prayer: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Interestingly, even this week’s Weight Watchers’ leaflet of encouragement recognises we reached “Stir Up Sunday” in the calendar!) Today was supposed to be the day you stirred up all the good things into your Christmas pudding and everyone in the family took turns to wield the wooden spoon in the mixing bowl and make a wish. Then you’d let the well-mixed ingredients rest quietly in the larder for several weeks to mature, before cooking it on Christmas Day as the crowning glory to the Christmas feast, with its halo of holly and flaming brandy.

This week we’ve had the misfortune to witness the family of the Church of England wearily mixing together long rehearsed and stale arguments as diverse ingredients into a stodgy clerical pudding, and at the end of the day, rather than bringing out a rich and tasty pudding to be proud of (notwithstanding the variety of wishes fervently stirred into the General Synod Mixing bowl), we witnessed the wooden spoon becoming the only prize and are faced with the gloomy prospect of an irrelevant and bitterly disappointing pudding that fails to satisfy anyone’s hunger for justice, equality, grace and new life. Certainly no amount of brandy can now make it light up to produce even the faintest “wow” factor in the world outside the church, which looks on astounded and dismayed.

The current advertising campaign launched by a well-known supermarket starts off in a very promising way: “At Sainsbury’s we know that Christmas is about more than just one day. It’s about a whole season of days. So far so good.. and it goes on: There are so many special days in the run up to Christmas and this year we’d like to celebrate every single one of them.” Oh good, you are tempted to think: at last the commercial world is picking up the real message of Advent! At last, we can celebrate the powerful witness of the prophets and saints who through their feast-days over the next few weeks point us to see afresh the miracle of the Christ-Child. There’s a whole rich variety of them – St Catherine with her fiery wheel, Isaac Watts the great hymn-writer who gave us “When I survey the wondrous cross”, St Andrew the go-between brother of Simon Peter who took seriously the offer of five loaves and two fish from a little child, Charles de Foucauld a 20th Century hermit, missionary and martyr, Francis Xavier a Jesuit missionary to the Far East at the time of the great explorers in the 16th Century, Nicholas Ferrar, founder of the Little Gidding Community (which has influenced my own spiritual journey) and who was neighbour and friend of the Anglican priest George Herbert (who wrote “Let all the world in every corner sing” – the hymn we sang before the gospel today), then of course there’s the great bishop of the 4th Century, St Nicholas, generous and unassuming friend of the poor and patron saint of seafarers and pawnbrokers (and of anyone who takes a punt at something and takes risks in life I guess!)… The list of saints celebrated in the run up from now until Christmas goes on, and I’ve only reached 6th December! But, of course, Sainsbury’s did not intend to point us to any of these hallowed feast days: they have instead produced a list of their own: there is “Putting up the decorations Day”, “Buying the Christmas tree Day”, Ordering the turkey Day”, “We’re going to need a bigger fridge Day”, “Being good for Santa Day”, “Impressing the neighbours Day” (I don’t quite get that one, though the next one I do: “Opening the chocolates early Day”) and one they didn’t think of “Switching on the Bollington Christmas Lights today Day”!!!!

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To most of the world, as the Bishop of Leicester said towards the end of the General Synod debate last Tuesday, all our churchy internal discussions seem irrelevant to those being bombed in Gaza and Syria, or those millions suffering from persecution, famine, drought, flood and war. The Archbishop of Canterbury designate also spoke of the real role of the Church being that as Christians we hold as a treasure God’s Peace and Grace for the world. This week we seem to have opened our fingers and dropped that treasure, shattering it like a precious glass Christmas ornament, and the ordinary churchgoer and the secular world can only look on in despair. When we celebrate St Andrew’s Day this coming Friday, we will still dare to say as Andrew did to his own brother and to those Gentile strangers wanting to meet Jesus, “Come and see!” But our invitation may sound hollow, unless we in our turn, even within the flawed institution of the Church, can demonstrably live lives of true inclusiveness, saintliness and graciousness and keep the flame of Advent hope burning in our hearts.

RIP Eileen Williams at Canterbury

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of our good friend Eileen Williams on 10 November 2012 peacefully in a nursing home in Canterbury at the age of 92. Eileen will be remembered by many readers of Bollington Church News for the entertaining episodes published exclusively here from her colourful autobiography. Her funeral will take place towards the end of November/early December at All Saints’ Church, Poplar, the parish where she was born. The charity closest to her heart was the Delhi Brotherhood Society, so donations in Eileen’s memory may be given for this worthy cause (please make cheques payable to Revd V.W. Hydon with a note on the reverse to indicate that this is for the work of the DBS). Veronica will arrange for the total sum to be forwarded to the Brotherhood in the most economical way possible, as Eileen would have wished. Meanwhile, please raise a glass in her memory! May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
Veronica

in the days of black and white
in the days of black and white

Veronica’s 60th Birthday Surprise

On Monday evening 29 October 2012 the congregation gathered together in church for the Surprise Party. Most of the lights were switched off and we awaited Veronica’s arrival, contrived by Dave who was in on the secret. As she entered church, she was truly shocked, which was wonderful! And to think that we managed to arrange the party without her knowledge! Well done to everyone!

The evening went very well with good conversation, food and, of course, the fantastic birthday cake kindly made by Ann Stringer, iced and decorated with a sculpture of St Paul’s Cathedral, a cargo ship and a gondola!

After a song by the choir and a poem read by Dave, we had a toast to Veronica. A cheque was then presented to her from the congregation.

The candles were lit on the cake, Happy Birthday was sung and everybody had a piece of the cake.
Thanks to everyone who helped to make this a truly special evening.

Jackie Pengelly


Birthday Song

Baptising babies, weekends on Cursillo,
Smooth gin and tonics and sermons with brio,
Moving church furniture round on your whims:
These are a few of your favourite things

Dang-ly earrings and chocolate coin treasure,
Giving out presents because they give pleasure,
Weeks spent in Venice that make your heart sing:
These are a few of your favourite things

When it’s freezing, there’s no heating,
When you’re feeling sad,
Then simply remember your favourite things
And then you won’t feel so bad.

Whole school assemblies and singing at birthdays,
Conducting weddings, remembering Feast days,
Travelling to India with lots of friends:
Now that we’ve started the list never ends.

When life’s dismal, at a funeral,
When you’re feeling sad,
Then simply remember your favourite things
And then you won’t feel so bad.

Friends and relations and great hymns for singing,
Shopping in bookshops and incense for swinging,
Blessings on couples who smile with relief,
Comforting everyone at times of grief.

When life’s whining, sun not shining,
When you’re feeling sad,
Then simply remember your favourite things
And then you won’t feel so bad.

written by Maggie O’Donnell


Birthday Poem

In nineteen hundred fifty two
th’Elizabethan age began
but on this day I hope that you
will call this age “Veronican”.

Alumni from her former school
are designated the “Old Blues”!
You might have thought that old and blue
lie not among the words to use
about our Vicar, youngish still,
(at heart, that is) and rarely glum.
But moving on, Insurance will
be what brings life its premium.

At Lloyds of London, risks marine
were calculated and proposed.
We’ll never know what might have been
had not Th’Almighty interposed
a calling. But, of course, back then
though Westcott House would welcome all
the priesthood only was for men.
And later on, it was St Paul
(no less!) whose church on Ludgate Hill
allowed some women deacons through.
And there again (though later still)
Veronica was priested too.

At All Saints’ Poplar she did dwell
for training in the curacy,
then Roxwell, then Emmanuel
–her first full-time incumbency
(in Chelmsford diocese, you know),
then north to Deva and to Dave.
In Timperley she first did go,
then Bollington had souls to save.

In twenty-twelve the chronicle
reminds all to raise a cheer
and that our own Veronica’ll
be sixty through the coming year!

Written by Dave