No Mothering Sunday service at St Oswald’s this year. But the Lord of All Hopefulness is still with us.
This Lent we will be encouraging one another to go deeper into the Christian Faith by walking together the Way of the Cross.
Those of you who have visited Jerusalem will know that the “Via Dolorosa” – that winding way through the narrow bustling streets of the city which (it is imagined) was the route the condemned prisoner Jesus took on that first Good Friday to the place of his execution – is a distressing, uncomfortable and far from peaceful path for anyone to embark on.
Here in St Oswald’s many of us in our own ordinary paths through life have had to experience grief and sadness, to encounter betrayal, misunderstanding or injustice, or the physical or mental pain of feeling our bodies or minds are at breaking point, just as Jesus did over 2000 years ago. As we approach the season of Easter once again, ordinary Christians like ourselves through some kind of Lenten exercise seek to explore, together with good companions, honestly and humbly something of the meaning and purpose of our lives. We do this, not to gloss over the hardships and griefs of the world, but rather to let in the light of the Risen Christ, who we believe will lead us safely out of the darkness and out of a natural human tendency to despair into a more hopeful and positive place, amazingly often hidden “just around the corner” at intervals on our life’s journey. It is from those newly discovered places of refuge and refreshment that we can begin to reach out to others along the way. Whether we find ourselves stepping out hesitantly or are more sure of ourselves, it is only by “walking the walk” that we are able to offer true empathy and compassion to those who might otherwise feel as if there is nowhere to turn or no-one in the world who understands what they’re going through.
Starting on 4 March, for five Wednesday evenings from 7.30pm till 9.00pm, we hope you will join us as we make space for informal discussion, prayer and reflection, using the book “Walking the Way of the Cross” as a guide. The book features a series short “signposts” written by three notable contemporary Christian thinkers: Paula Gooder, Philip North and Stephen Cottrell (who of course has recently been appointed as the next Archbishop of York). Each presents us with a different perspective on the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ suffering and death. As it says on the book cover:
“Philip North considers where good news is to be found amid such inhumanity and how we can tell the passion story so that it resonates in our contemporary world. Paula Gooder offers short homilies, enabling readers to enter into the biblical texts, so that deeper understanding might lead to greater devotion. Stephen Cottrell draws us into the story on a very personal level, encouraging us to imagine ourselves in the thick of things, watching and reflecting as the tumultuous events unfold.”
Everyone is very welcome to join our Reader Anne Coomes and myself on this journey through Lent. Neither of us has all the answers, but we will endeavour to hold open the map and simply hope to learn and discover alongside all of you as equal companions on the Road of Faith. Copies of the book will be available either to borrow or to purchase, so a list will be put at the back of church for you to sign up for a copy and/or to take part in any or all of the Wednesday evening sessions, or else do simply email me to register that you’d like a copy of the book to use quietly at home at your own pace (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will aim to look at just three of the fifteen “Stations of the Cross” each week in sequence, so if you need to miss out on coming along to one or more of the group sessions, you will at least know where we are up to, be able to get your bearings and can catch up with us later on! As the hymn goes: “We are pilgrims on a journey and companions on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” By the time we reach Maundy Thursday on 9 April, we will probably be saying “Are we nearly there yet?”! So I’m sure we will be ready to share our customary Last Supper together at 7.30pm that evening (thanks especially to our faithful chefs Dave Williams and Sue Berry). We hope you will sign up in due course to join us for that informal Family Meal, enjoying the now legendary hospitality of St Oswald’s Church, our very own wayside Inn! The following day at 10.30am on Good Friday, our children and families will as usual be encouraged to follow the Story of Holy Week and the Way of the Cross in another informal and creative way (thanks to the hard work and irrepressible imagination of Bev Nixon!). Then at 1.15pm on Good Friday afternoon, you will have an opportunity to walk and pray through the complete set of stopping places on Jesus’s journey to the Cross, landmarks by then familiar to many of us from sharing our Lenten exercise, using the set of poster illustrations which accompany this year’s Lent Book.
May God be beside you to comfort your hearts and enliven your minds this Lent. May God guide you into all truth and fill you with all joy and peace, in believing the good news of the kingdom. May you discover you are never alone on your journey, whatever valleys you enter and whatever hills you have to climb, and may the blessing of God’s eternal Easter hope and love ultimately lead you safely home to heaven.
Those who write catchy slogans or create successful marketing ploys will no doubt already have declared this to be the year for aspiring to 2020 Vision, once thought to be the norm for optimum clarity and focus in human eyesight!
Realistically, most of us live with less perfect levels of perception of the world around us, often needing help to see the bigger picture or the finer details of life. As Christians, none of claim to be perfect and most of us fail to see the wood for the trees at some time or other. However, there is this strange verse in our Gospels which is attributed as one of the sayings of Jesus: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!” This verse was literally carved in stone below the east window of Emmanuel Church, Forest Gate, the parish where I served as Vicar between 2000 and 2003, and the church where Dave and I were married at Epiphany nineteen years ago.
The stained-glass window above the inscription showed a humble but colourful nativity scene, with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus all being welcomed by the shepherds who had rushed down from the fields to greet the promised Christ child. It always seemed to me a bit incongruous that the call to “Be perfect…” was directly aligned in Emmanuel Church with what must have been the chaotic, obscure, messy, unwelcome and even dangerous circumstances of Jesus’ birth.
But in actual fact, it does make perfect sense! If we believe God in Christ was humble enough to step down from the exalted heavenly realm into the far from perfect world epitomised by that first century unequal, cruel and oppressive society, then quite simply the perfection God calls us as Christians to emulate is that same divinely inspired desire not to stand aloof from messiness and pain, but to get involved right at the heart of things, and somehow to try to see our way clear to make an amazing difference for good in the midst of a whole variety of otherwise hopeless, unglamorous or unpromising situations. In the second century, St Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive!” The angels must surely sing with joy once more “Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth!” whenever we display even the smallest acts of kindness and compassion in response to catching sight of both the obvious or more hidden needs of those around us, whether in our own community or glimpsed fleetingly in transitory heart-wrenching stories flashed up on our TV screens or on social media.
Whether we consider ourselves as ordinary and a bit on the edge of things, like the shepherds, just about making ends meet, or whether we count ourselves amongst the more privileged and comfortably off, like the three wise travellers, who can afford to risk going on adventures in life – whichever may be the circumstance into which we were born, consider that God may be calling each of us to come a bit closer to Christ as we enter this New Year. Think of how a young baby at just six months of age gazes so seriously and intently into your face, before breaking into a smile of recognition and delight! At this coming Epiphany season, may we increasingly see ourselves as God in Christ sees us, considered no less his beloved child than was Jesus himself, revealed at his Baptism in the turbulent waters of the River Jordan. And responding to the forgiving and gracious gaze that God eternally bestows on us, however insignificant or undeserving we may feel, may we have the insight to view others around us equally as our neighbours and companions along life’s way, however difficult the journey may be.
The first miracle that Jesus did according to the Gospel of John is the one often recalled at weddings in church – Jesus turning the water into wine! This story is one of the Epiphany season readings and reminds us powerfully that God desires all human society to be celebratory and rich in meaning and purpose. Too often we find ourselves more conveniently ignoring the hints and nudges of those who have noticed a real need or an impending crisis, like Jesus’ mother Mary did when the scandal of inadequate provision of hospitality threatened to embarrass the bridegroom’s family on that memorable occasion in Cana of Galilee. At our own wedding, sadly no-one noticed (not even the new bride) that all Dave managed to find left to eat at our splendid wedding buffet (provided by our lovely friend Eileen Williams) was just one vol-au-vent!?!
The Epiphany season, which lasts through to the Feast of Candlemas on 2 February, reminds us, as we approach Ash Wednesday at the end of the month, that we are called to delight in God’s world and sacrificially to enable others to do the same. If Christmas is for children, then Epiphany is for grown-ups! May our vision as the Anglican Church of God here in this community ever remain unclouded by selfishness and insularity, and may we ever be alert to responding in love to the needs of the world, starting with our nearest and dearest and then looking beyond them to help relieve the plight of the poor. May God grant us clarity of vision this New Year and always!
At our recent Autumn Fair we were truly blessed by the generosity of our local community which helped us raise an amazing sum of £1,800 towards the upkeep and continuing work of your Parish Church!
Included in that total was an incredible £200 as a result of the enterprise and talents of those members of our RiCH After School Group who took up Bev’s innovative challenge of “RiCH does The Apprentice!” We must also give thanks for the long list of supporters from local businesses and individuals who willingly gave us raffle prizes or items to sell or who offered their services free-of-charge on the day (see the full list here)
We are so grateful for all your support in helping us to meet the everyday expenses of keeping your Parish Church open, flourishing and able to offer a high standard of care to all those, young and old, who call upon our resources from within the local community and beyond.
As we now move from Autumn to Winter, at our Light Party on All Hallows’ Eve, 31 October, we will celebrate once more all those Saints of God, well-known or obscure, in whose lives we have glimpsed the compassion and challenge of Christ. It may not be exactly time for Spring-cleaning but if you are of an active and energetic disposition, please come and help us clean and polish up the church building on Saturday 2 November between 10.00am and 12noon! On the evening of that same day, All Souls’ Day, we will gather at 7.00pm for our Annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, bringing to mind those closest of our friends and family whose passing we mourn, entrusting their souls once again to God’s infinite care as we light a candle in their memory. A few days later, we may hear fireworks in our neighbourhood, celebrating the joyful life we can share with friends around us. Perhaps we will write our own names with sparklers in the light of a bonfire, as we focus our attention on our own roles and identities within the complexities of world politics, historically and in the present day. On Remembrance Day, 10 November, we will parade solemnly with poignantly resilient poppies on our lapels and hold respectfully before God, in the two minutes’ silence, the lives of those who died or who returned maimed in body, mind or spirit, praying that we do not squander their hard-won peace. As we continue to teach all our children St Oswald’s motto, urging them to “be strong and of good courage” and to follow paths of gentleness and peace, so let us pray for strength and resourcefulness for ourselves and our community as we look for ways to enhance the well-being of all those around us and across the wider world, mindful of so many people still living in poverty or in dire need as a result of violence, relationship breakdown, cruelty, greed or selfishness.
There is the opportunity to lighten this solemn November mood by joining in either one of the two Christingle Services we now offer on Advent Sunday afternoon, 1 December, at 2.00pm or 4.00pm.
At these services we are invited to take carefully into our hands those familiar bright orange candle-holders, studded with delicious symbols of the fruits of the earth, anticipating Christ’s light dawning into the world and blessed by the music and song of so many children and families from our local schools. During the following four weeks leading up to Christmas, we may begin to look inwards at our own lives and perhaps examine our consciences in response to new awareness of world-wide climate change (highlighted by the Transition Bollington group), challenged as we must be by the younger generation’s persistent awkward questions about our collective choice of lifestyle. We might decide to volunteer again with HOPE in NE Cheshire as a Street Angel or at our Winter Night Shelter project for the homeless, staffed by members of the churches and other people of goodwill in and around Macclesfield. We may be encouraged over the next few months to consider what part we could take in a new local initiative of helping Bollington to become a Dementia Friendly Community. All these and other good causes provide us with opportunities to serve others, but we should also be careful not to neglect our personal need for spiritual nurture and reflective space: so please do also join us here on Saturday 14 December between 10.00am and 4.00pm, when we are offering the hospitality of an Advent Quiet Day, open to all, to prepare our inner selves spiritually for Christmas. In these various ways we aim to clear the clutter, to make enough room to greet the birth of the Christ Child and to discover afresh some practical ways of welcoming God’s Spirit of kindness and justice into our hearts and homes.
Every blessing this Advent and Christmas and always,
On 22 October this year we will happily celebrate 111 years of worship and witness here at St Oswald’s.
How time flies! Last Spring, the exciting though modest internal building plans for improving our collective hospitality and welcome were granted faculty permission by the Diocesan Chancellor. Hopefully now this Autumn the work will actually start, the first phase being the creation of a new glazed fire exit door in place of one of the windows along the south west wall of the church (opposite the old school buildings), in accordance with plans earlier approved by Cheshire East Planning Department. Our thanks go to Richard Raymond, our volunteer Project Manager, for successfully liaising with our Architect and the supervising contractors so that works can begin, utilising part of the funds we have already earmarked for this project. We are continuing to apply for additional funding in order to subsequently proceed with the next phase, that of fitting a new kitchen into the former main entrance porch area, and then finally moving on to the creation of wall cupboards on either side of the west end of the nave, to house our folding tables and chairs and other equipment when not in use. Apart from applying for grants, we are always on the look-out for good fundraising ideas, so please do come along to our next Growth Action Planning meeting at 10.00am on Saturday 21 September if you have any inspired suggestions! (Of course, there are also special Gift Aid envelopes available at the back of church for contributions towards our Kitchen Development Project.) Thank you for your continuing prayers and financial support.
People may not be aware that (thanks to a small group of dedicated key-holders) since September 2016 we have been unlocking the church during daylight hours (normally between 8.30am and 4.30pm) on a Wednesday each week?
This is to offer anyone free space to come into St Oswald’s for a moment or two of peace and reflection, to make themselves a cup of coffee or tea from the servery hatch, to find time to think and pray quietly, to light a votive candle either for themselves or for someone else, and hopefully to sense the powerful yet gentle and familiar presence of God which has imbued this building for almost 111 years now. You may encounter others popping in during the course of any ordinary Wednesday, whether they are young pupils from Bollington Cross School’s Focus Group, facilitated by school governor Maggie O’Donnell and a member of staff, or perhaps if you venture into church between 2.00pm and 3.00pm you may be conscious of a small group from our regular congregation gathered in the Vestry Room at the east end of the church for their weekly Faith Hour (and if you chose to do so, you’d be most welcome to join Jean Reader and her friends for this informal hour of refreshments, prayer and companionship). Whether you find the church empty of people or you are aware of others who are also respectfully making use of the space, we pray that you will find it to be a place of solace, comfort and even challenge – a calming place without too many distractions, where you can focus your attention on what is really important to you, and where hopefully you may discover some much-needed fresh perspective in the midst of an otherwise busy or stressful working week…
The National Churches Trust published a document in August 2016 entitled “50 Things to do in a Church”. One contributor was their Vice-President, the former Monty Python performer, intrepid traveller and entertaining writer, Michael Palin, who said this:
“Once asked to declare my religious beliefs I described myself as ‘an agnostic with doubts’. However, my interest in and fondness for churches is undiminished…
Churches and chapels are important for all sorts of reasons. Where some are notable for inspirational architecture, others are commended for their community role and the work they do in bringing local people together. Two years ago, I was being cross-questioned in a court case in London and during a lunch break, in which I was not permitted to talk to anyone, I desperately wanted somewhere to sit quietly and get myself together. And yet there was nowhere where the price of a seat didn’t involve eating, drinking or some commercial transaction. Then, out of the blue, at the very heart of Fleet Street, I discovered the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West. I was never so grateful for a place of repose, an oasis of peace and quiet in the midst of the mayhem.”
Michael goes on: “There are of course many other uses for churches and chapels, and the National Churches Trust’s ’50 Things to do in a Church’ – which includes everything from finding the Green Man to helping out at a Night Shelter – shows clearly why churches are such important local buildings. Our churches speak to all of us, even just as a tower on the horizon, a spire amongst the trees. We must do all we can to pass them on to future generations. They are part of our landscape and part of our national heritage. We have to do all we can to make them part of our lives as well.”
Please do now and then weave a visit to St Oswald’s into the fabric of your everyday life, whether that means coming along to one of our many different worship services, our welcoming social occasions, a music concert or art exhibition, a particular charity fundraising event, or simply to spend a while here on a Wednesday to place yourself and your concerns consciously within God’s presence and, by taking that time out, to know yourself to be blessed. This is your Parish Church and thankfully its witness spans multiple generations and is constantly evolving to encourage and inspire us all, both young and old, to make the most of our lives. Thank you to the steadily increasing number of people from our local and wider community who have joined our new “Friends of St Oswald’s” Scheme, whose generous commitment to regular financial support (whether large or small) will enable us to continue opening our doors, welcoming people in and empowering them to persevere, overcoming all obstacles through God’s good grace, for many more years to come.
Bollington Festival [more here]
…was a really busy but enjoyable fortnight for St Oswald’s, starting off with our Camel Train in the Parade then hosting the mesmerising Model Railway Exhibition, both made possible by the creative talents of Bev and Steve. This was followed a few days later by a whole variety of our brilliant and dedicated Arts & Crafts Group’s train-themed handicrafts which were out on display for the remainder of the Festival, alongside some colourful contributions from Praise & Play and RiCH children, plus the beautiful winged creatures captured in our local embroiderers’ butterfly nets. Then there was a fabulous Print-making Day Workshop run by the lovely and very talented Debbie Tracey-Carney, a former member of our congregation now based in the Isle of Man. Later that first week, thanks to Lorraine and Dave and their willing kitchen staff, we hosted another hugely successful Big Brekkie fundraiser for Christian Aid Week, with bacon butties enjoyed by several groups of children from Bollington Cross School. We welcomed baby Elsa at her Christening on Saturday 18th before the William Byrd Singers presented an excellent acapella concert to round off our first week of Festival events.
In the second week we were pleased to host the Diocese of Chester’s roving exhibition “Journey into Light” which included many very moving canvases of original therapeutic artwork created by prisoners from HMP Styal and Thorn Cross. During this week, our RiCH Group children also met as usual on the Thursday afternoon and many of them were inspired to create their own personal art canvases depicting what belonging to this Group means to them. Our three exhibitions attracted a good cross-section of visitors over a broad age range from our local community (plus people travelling from further afield). The “Journey into Light” provided a stunning backdrop for a vibrant Gospel Train led by Maggie and our church choir and musicians, augmented by an enthusiastic choir of children from Bollington St John’s School and applauded by appreciative visitors from Mount Hall Nursing Home. It was fitting that on the Thursday we could offer space, even amidst the artwork on display in church, for the late Jean Ransley’s funeral, safe in the knowledge that she had over many years been a stalwart supporter of Bollington Festival and an encourager throughout her life of art and music appreciation. The next day there was an opportunity to share in a meditative Stations of the Cross based on the emotive canvases around us, and on Saturday we enjoyed an incredible variety of music performed by the amazing young composer and musician, Joe Riley. That second week ended with a calming evening of Taize worship, led by Elaine and Chris and members of our choir and Music Group (including Peter Spooner who kindly stepped in at the last minute for us). This closing service was in contrast to the rather louder Big Top Worship Service which had been held on the first Sunday of the Festival, but proved equally ecumenical!
Throughout the Festival fortnight, a stalwart and faithful few from our congregation maintained a cheerful and friendly presence within St Oswald’s, opening our doors and welcoming visitors from far and wide, supplying them with copious amounts of coffee and tea, delicious home-made cake and the occasional glass of Prosecco! Thanks to those people who were so generous with their time and skills (including especially our two dedicated Churchwardens and Julie our PCC Secretary), we were able to offer warm hospitality to all who ventured in, many for the first time even though perhaps they had lived in the village for years!
And finally, a huge thank you to our friend Audrey Downes, who not only skilfully created, but also daily maintained, the beautiful floral garland which greeted everyone who stepped into our entrance porch, providing a glorious reminder to one particular couple who were recalling their wedding service held here during the very first Bollington Festival!
It was hard work but a pleasure to take part in such a fantastic community event over those hectic two weeks in May! We must thank the Festival events Co-ordinator, Jose Spinks, for all her organisational skills, and her unbounded encouragement and enthusiasm! We look forward to the next Bollington Festival (in four or five years’ time perhaps?) when once again (thankfully bolstered by our growing group of “Friends”) St Oswald’s may offer a truly welcoming performance and worship space, opportunities to build friendships and share refreshments, the encouragement of local creative talent and the gift of time for deep reflection on the meaning of life – but also a chance to enjoy ourselves and have fun together here in our unique place at the heart of our parish community!
Stop Press! We are very pleased to announce that the Chancellor of the Diocese has now granted us necessary faculty permission, authorising the go-ahead for our proposed Kitchen Development, installing an enhanced refreshment facility within the former main entrance porch, according to our Church Architect’s published scheme.
The plans also incorporate the building of some storage cupboards along the side walls at the west end of the church, the creation of a new fire exit door, and the opening up of increased useable floor space around the area of the baptistry. If you’re interested, the sketch plans are still available to view at the back of the church.
Our Kitchen Appeal Fund has already benefited from several generous individual donations, plus a designated gift of £20,000 from the Diocese, being part of the proceeds of the sale of the former Vicarage. The fund has now had another great boost, thanks to the generosity of parents, grandparents and friends of pupils at Bollington Cross School. They recently presented us with a cheque for an amazing £450.00, kindly collected after their School Christmas Plays, in appreciation of the care and support offered by St Oswald’s especially in response to the sudden loss of Mrs Royle, a much-loved Teaching Assistant, at the end of last year.
We will now proceed with seeking national grant funding to raise the total amount required to carry out the development works to the best possible standard. We also hope to involve local contractors in completing the works. Meanwhile we are grateful for all the promises of support from our local community in helping us meet our regular outgoing expenses, especially inviting people to join our newly launched Friends of St Oswald’s Scheme. Our aim is to sustain and adapt our building in the best way possible so as to continue to serve people locally, as well as in the wider world, for the forseeable future and to the best of our ability. As one kind donor has written: “The last couple of weeks have been such a sad, shocking and unsettling time…You opened the doors and welcomed us all in with warmth, compassion and understanding… and brought comfort to so many… We are very blessed to be able to build our community around St Oswald’s.”
Any donations large or small will be gratefully received and may be made to the “Anglican Parish of Bollington PCC”. (If you wish to indicate on the reverse of your cheque that this is intended for the Kitchen Appeal, please do so.) Thank you for all your support! Watch this space!
Every blessing, Veronica
As the clocks change and the nights are drawing in, we can be forgiven for turning inwards on ourselves. We think of building up provisions in the freezer or store-cupboard in anticipation of winter snows, or shopping early to beat the Christmas rush. We delve into the wardrobe for a familiar warm coat to wrap up in again, or maybe go off to the splendid Bridgend Centre to find a replacement! We dig out that well-worn Christmas card list which brings to mind good times we’ve shared with old friends and acquaintances.
The Church’s own calendar of festivals marks the passing of another year. With bright-eyed children at our Light Party on All Hallows’ Eve, 31 October, we celebrate all the Saints of God, well-known or obscure, in whose lives we have glimpsed the compassion and challenge of Christ. On the evening of All Souls’ Day, 2 November, we bring to mind those closest of our friends and family whose passing we mourn, entrusting their souls once again to God’s infinite care as we light a candle in their memory. A few days later, we hear fireworks in our neighbourhood, celebrating the joyful life we can share with friends around us. Perhaps we write our own names with sparklers in the light of a bonfire, as we focus our attention on the complexities of world politics, historically and in the present day. On Armistice Day, 11 November, we will parade solemnly with those poignantly resilient poppies on our lapels, and hold respectfully before God, in the three minutes’ silence, the lives of those who died or who returned maimed in body, mind or spirit, praying that we do not squander their hard-won peace. As we continue to teach our children St Oswald’s motto urging them to be strong and of good courage and to follow paths of gentleness and peace, so let us pray for strength and resourcefulness for ourselves and our community as we look for ways to enhance the well-being of all those around us and across the wider world, who are still living in poverty or dire need as a result of violent conflict or war, human cruelty, greed or selfishness.
Our solemn mood will be lightened by joining in one of the two Christingle services now offered on Advent Sunday afternoon, 2 December, taking carefully into our hands those familiar bright orange candle-holders, studded with delicious symbols of the fruits of the earth, anticipating Christ’s light dawning into the world and blessed by the music and song of so many children and families from our local schools. During the next four weeks leading up to Christmas, we may begin to look inwards at our own lives and perhaps examine our consciences in response to new awareness of climate change (highlighted by the Transition Bollington group), challenged as we must be by our children’s persistent awkward questions about our collective choice of lifestyle. We might decide to volunteer as a Street Angel or at our Winter Night Shelter project for homeless men run by members of the churches in and around Macclesfield. Before we are tempted to close the door to keep out any more chilling thoughts about the imbalance and inequality of our world, we may yet dare to hold it ajar a little longer, by venturing into one of our local churches once in a while to sit quietly and pray (remembering that St Oswald’s is open for just that purpose during the day on most Wednesdays). We may be pleasantly surprised to come across others alongside us there, each one trying to make enough room in our busy lives, to be more ready to greet the birth of the Christ Child and to find practical ways of welcoming God’s Spirit of kindness and justice into our hearts and homes again this year.
For 110 years now, St Oswald’s Church, built to the glory of God, has stood beside the main road into and out of Bollington, as a place of witness and welcome, especially for members of the local community wishing to embark on a marriage covenant relationship, or to celebrate the birth of a new baby, or to give thanks for a life now ended that has been well-lived. We share the joy of adults and children finding faith and recognising their essential worth before God. Equally we are here to support and care for those who feel wounded and bruised by their life’s experience. We offer prayers reflecting real anguish as well as hope, and we continue to reach out in all humility with empathy, comfort, friendliness and a listening ear to young and old alike. May God prosper our visionary plans to continue to improve the welcome we can offer within our church building, and may we always be mindful to look up and keep good company with one another as we follow the star which leads us to Christ, who is the same source of love, light and truth, yesterday, today and forever.
Can you spot what’s missing from the picture above? One immediate response might be “The 1990’s Loo & Kitchen Pod” of course, but the less obvious answer is the inscription carved high up on the stone sill beneath the West Window. If you purchase a copy of Chris Ward’s splendid book “St Oswald’s Church , Bollington: The First 100 Years”, you’ll find the details of this inscription on Page One. Otherwise it can be very hard to read in situ (the inscription, not the book!) but as we now approach St Oswald’s 110th Birthday we are planning to restore the West End of the church to something like its original spaciousness and also incidentally to clean the stone of the window sill to make that historic inscription more legible again.
We are very conscious of the privilege of being the inheritors, or rather the caretakers, of St Oswald’s Church here in Bollington. As the inscription says, it was consecrated to the glory of God on the 22nd October 1908. The second century saint and theologian Irenaeus declared that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive” – echoing Jesus’ own words, “I have come that you may have life, in all its fullness!” We urge all our school children to “do your best – be the best that you can be!” The idea of building St Oswald’s Church emerged in the early 1900s as the then County Council were considering expanding Bollington Cross School to provide education for the increasing numbers of children within the local community. “In the earnest hope of divine assistance”, Bollington’s first Vicar, a young man called Revd George Palmer, had been the instigator of the original school building, which was opened in October 1845, incorporating a purpose-built Sunday Worship space. Local businessman and mill-owner, Samuel Greg, had gifted the land for that original vision. In 1907 another member of the Greg family, Herbert, generously donated the land for the separate building of a Church in response to an appeal from the parish finance committee (no doubt chaired by the then Vicar, Revd Charles Brooke Gwynne).
It is not known how the dedication was chosen, but the Celtic saint Oswald was reputed to have been a man of prayer, humility and open-handed generosity, so perhaps naming this church after such a saint was a subtle tribute to all those who freely gave land, financial grants and voluntary subscriptions to enable its construction. According to Chris Ward’s research, it cost £1,000 in 1845 to build the original School and Church, and then over sixty years later in 1908 it cost £3,700 to erect St Oswald’s Church. These sums appear on paper to be tiny when laid alongside the modern costs of adding basic sanitation and catering facilities (£15,000) in 1999, or our new sound system (around £8,000) in 2014, or our 2012 building extension, providing new loos and storage and creating a level access main entrance. The major expenditure for this of around £180,000 was met out of the total raised from the sale of Holy Trinity Church, Kerridge. Of course, it is hard to make accurate comparisons, but when you look back at the rise in house prices over the past 110 years, our present-day economy is clearly very different from that experienced by our Edwardian predecessors!
One factor however that has remained constant over the years is the continued vision and generosity of the members of our congregation and local community. We have kept firmly focussed on that original Christian vision and calling to serve our neighbours, in ways which are continually evolving to meet the changing needs of our society. Whereas six years ago we were fortunate in being able to afford an extension in order to improve our main entrance and provide more toilets, now we are applying for further faculty permission to enhance our catering and storage facilities, but this will be at far less cost since we will be working solely within the existing footprint of the church. By utilising the former main entrance porch, we will be able to install a more spacious kitchen (and simply add a new fire exit along the north side aisle). This will mean we will be able to offer greater support to our existing outreach groups (such as Praise & Play and RiCH) as well as broadening our appeal to other service-users and community groups in future. The original architect’s vision will be reinstated, allowing much more flexible space in front of the baptistery under the West Window, together with more discreet wall-mounted storage for our folding chairs and tables and other household equipment.
The featured picture gives you an impression of the restored balance and symmetry which will result on completion of this next project! We already have planning permission from Cheshire East to create the fire exit and our architect has drawn up detailed plans for the whole scheme for our Diocesan faculty application. These plans will be put on display in due course as part of the process. We are very fortunate to have been granted £20,000 from the Diocese out of the proceeds of the sale of the former Vicarage, but we are now also seeking other grant funding and private donations in order to be able to totally fund the building works, estimated to be in the region of £60,000. We have already received several other generous donations totalling about £7,000. So we are currently looking to find the balance of £33,000 to successfully complete the project. Your present Vicar, like her predecessors, has faith that God will honour all our endeavours to make the best provision we can to serve the people around us – always “to be the best we can be” and to strive to bring about change for good in our neighbourhood and wider world through works of compassion, creativity, prayer and practical service.
Please consider how you might join us in carrying out this mission project, encouraging us in whatever way you feel able to do. Perhaps you might think of giving a Birthday present to St Oswald’s on the occasion of our 110th Birthday this October? It would certainly be amazing to be able to complete this kitchen project in time for the Bollington Festival next May, now just nine months away! Any donations, however small, will make a huge difference – and there are Gift Aid forms and Standing Order forms available to download here . Thank you! May God continue to bless us all as we strive to build one another up in faith, hope and love, over the months and years to come.
A recent BBC TV Antiques Road Show episode marked the centenary this year of (certain) women in the UK having been granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections. We watched with interest from the comfort of our sofa as the many and varied pioneering women and/or their friends and descendants were interviewed: there was a wide range of contributions, each celebrating particular women whose lives and careers had served to promote greater gender equality across our society over the past 100 years, sometimes at significant risk to their own well-being. There were inspiring stories of political campaigners from the suffragist and suffragette movements, an early 20th Century soft toy designer, women’s dance band members, recorded broadcasts from a pioneering opera and jazz singer, the 1928 first women’s Olympic Gymnast Team, the first female press photographer from before WW1 (whose great-great niece is a priest), wartime pilots, spies and land army recruits, post-war cross-channel swimmers, glimpses of fashion models, multi-tasking home-makers and career women, 1960’s striking factory workers, women jockeys and trainers, Greenham Common protesters, polar adventurers, particularly ground-breaking MPs like Margaret Thatcher, Diane Abbott and Betty Boothroyd, and finally our very own Bishop, Libby Lane.
At the end of the programme, Dave expressed mild surprise that one of the first women Marine Cargo Insurance Brokers at Lloyd’s, who went on to become one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Church of England, had not been featured in the programme – but clearly I’m not yet an Antique, so didn’t really qualify!?!
Annually at this time of year, we rejoice in celebrating the many and varied achievements of all of our young people here in Bollington and Macclesfield. Whether it is in leisure centres or at Sports Days, or within our uniformed organisations, or in creative activities at RiCH our church after-school group , or in a whole range of academic, artistic and practical subjects in our local schools and colleges, we applaud the efforts and developing skills and expertise demonstrated by this future generation of pioneers and innovators, of public servants and others dedicated to make the world a better place.
I personally had the privilege recently of witnessing the graduation ceremony of a young woman, Dawn Biza, who has gained a BA in Theatre Studies at Millikin University, near Chicago in Illinois. As part of her four year University course, Dawn recently made her debut at the Globe Theatre in London! She is definitely a star in the making! I first met Dawn in 2001 when as a young child she encouraged her Mum to bring her to church and they became members of the congregation of Emmanuel Church, Forest Gate in East London where I was Vicar at the time. Although still only at primary school, Dawn was one of those who confidently chose a few years later to be confirmed by the Bishop of Barking at a special service to mark the 150th Anniversary of that church, when the then Borough Mayor (who happened to be a Sikh) was also present! I was honoured to be at her graduation ceremony in May this year, to celebrate her academic achievements and also her work as a socially aware global citizen who is a strong yet humble woman of faith. I am proud to count Dawn as one of my friends as she now steps up resolutely to take her place upon the world’s stage.
Whatever their aspirations and ambitions, may we continue to nurture all our young people in faith and love, praying that they may each be enabled to fulfil their true God-given potential and to discover and develop their talents, for their own continued well-being and for the greater common good. As the late MP Jo Cox declared: “We have more in common than that which divides us.” May we recognise the unique part we have to play in our society today and may we encourage one another to always be the best we can be, to the glory of God and for the betterment of the world we have inherited from all those who’ve dared to mark out new paths and sing new songs across the centuries.