The Rector Writes – October 2015

Sally’s Scribbles

It is great to be back with you after a summer break; I have missed you. Abbie had a wonderful summer, full of smiles and laughter as well as lots of hard work and new achievements. It was good to get away, but restful would be an exaggeration. It has been a long summer in various ways and perhaps not the recuperation I had hoped for.

I’m aware it has also been a very long summer in the life of St. Nick’s resulting in the amazing production of The Tree of War. It would be difficult to add to all that has been said of it, but it would be wrong to say nothing. It was a great pleasure to have some colleagues from college come and see the production. It’s always nice to bask in the reflected glory of an incredible achievement I had very little to do with, though greatly admire.

It takes an enormous amount of grace, patience and commitment to attempt something as ambitious as The Tree of War. I am incredibly proud to be part of a community which comes together to enable and allow these things to happen. It is a great credit to you all.

It is easy to think that with the enormity of The Tree of War that nothing else could possibly be happening but, as you know, this is far from true. It is wonderful to see the variety of things that are flourishing in the life of St Nick’s at the moment. Rainbows are back, Exploring Theology is continuing to meet with much enthusiasm and excitement, the afternoon group following the Pilgrim Course continues to be a joy and appropriately challenging, Burnage Food Bank is now distributing through St Nick’s, we have a number of people preparing for confirmation and there is of course much more besides in terms of worship and fellowship. It is an incredible privilege to be part of this place and to see the ways in which God is working in and through this community.

There is, of course, a risk of losing ourselves in the busyness. I am conscious that a lot of effort and energy has been committed in various ways over the past few months and as a community we are tired. I hope that the coming weeks will provide rest and peace and an opportunity to reflect and give thanks for all that has been achieved and to look forward with hope and expectation of all that is to come.

I am back at college, back to lectures and essays, and soon back to residentials as well. I am sure in no time at all it will feel like I have never been away. This term brings Christian Doctrine and no doubt many a headache as we start to grapple with concepts such as understanding God as Trinity. The term will fly by and advent will soon be upon us. My hope and prayer for you, and for myself, in a world which is racing by is that there will be rest and cherished moments of peace, stillness and encounter in the presence of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Sally

Download the October 2015 edition of the church magazine

55 Years since the foundation of the The Women’s Fellowship

A good time was had by all

On Wednesday 23rd September, 13 members of the Women’s Fellowship went to The Wilmslow Garden Centre for afternoon tea (sandwiches, cream cakes and scones) to celebrate 55 years since the foundation of the organization.

I would like to thank our committee on behalf of all our members for arranging this happy occasion and also thank the members with cars who chauffeured us so expertly to and from the venue. It was such a lovely afternoon, and everyone enjoyed the fellowship.

Can I also take the opportunity to thank the committee for all of the work they have done and continue to do in arranging meetings and outings over the years. For myself, I always enjoy the meetings with many interesting speakers on a variety of subjects, and even if we have no speaker, I always go home feeling much better for the company!

Many thanks to you all again. Here’s to the next 55 years!
With love

Muriel Nicol

Heritage Open Weekend

The Heritage Open Weekend (12 Sep 2015 – 13 Sep 2015) was a busy time

The Heritage Open Weekend (12 Sep 2015 – 13 Sep 2015) was a busy time especially as the final rehearsals for the Tree of War were on at the same time! We welcomed 61 visitors who were guided around as much of the church as was accessible. Many were stunned by the colourful interior compared to the austere exterior.

HOW-3We are grateful to Chorlton Art group and Irene Smith who provided works of art for an exhibition and Jason Smith who provided photographs.

Many people helped to staff the weekend but special thanks go to Mr Bevan Taylor who offered a comprehensive history of the church to visitors.

The weekend was a valuable opportunity to open the doors to so many people who have passed the church on many occasions and have wondered what it was like inside. It also demonstrated the community support St Nick’s gives to the musical, performing and visual arts. While at the same time it showed that this unique Grade 2* listed building requires ongoing maintenance. Thank you to everyone who supported this event and who helped once again to raise the profile of St Nicholas Church.

Jill Lomas

The Rector Writes – September 2015

Rachel’s Letter

Well, it’s going to be a busy autumn. The long over-due work to make our building watertight will begin, we have a world premiere of a new musical The Tree of War, there are Heritage Open Days and – before we know it – Advent and Christmas will be upon us.

My article on the roof repair work is elsewhere in the magazine, but I want to acknowledge here that it’s been a long hard slog to get to the point where we can repair the roof. I thank everyone who’s made a contribution – in whatever way – so far. I hope there will be minimal disruption to the life of the church, but I guess we might have to get used to people in hard-hats making a lot of noise from time to time.

Speaking of people making noise, I’m not alone in being very excited about the forthcoming production of The Tree of War, between 15th and 19th September. One of the interesting developments at St Nick’s in recent years is our work with musical theatre. The Tree of War is a new version of the commemorative show we put on last autumn. It tells the story of a pair of Burnage lads who end up on the frontline in World War One and face all of the emotional and physical impact of that experience. The new version is a full two-act, two-hour show that has an extended cast of characters
and many new songs, whilst retaining the strengths of the original version.

I know it’s easy for me – as one of the co-writers, along with Oliver Mills – to be positive about this show, but it is an extraordinary venture. The cast and crew are fabulous and the level they’ve achieved is quite startling. I cannot commend the show to you enough. There will be laughter and tears, hope and sadness. The cast ranges in ages from nine to eighty and reflects how much talent there is in Manchester. Even if you saw the show last September and think, ‘Oh it’ll just be the same’ come along – the show has developed so much that you’re in for a real surprise!

In the past few years St Nick’s has become part of the Didsbury Heritage Trail over Heritage Weekend of 12th and 13th September. Once again we anticipate opening the church for visitors. It will – of course – coincide with preparations for The Tree of War, but we hope that this introduction to our grade 2* building will act as a reminder of how much St Nick’s is a living, breathing faith community and not just part of the heritage industry. During the weekend we anticipate having an art exhibition from local artists, themed around war and remembrance.

Sometimes it can feel very challenging to be part of a faith community in the 21st Century. We are all aware that these are challenging times for the Church. Yet, there is so much life and possibility here at St Nick’s. It’s going to be a tiring and exhilarating few months. I know that when St Nick’s becomes a building site it will be difficult. But it is part of ensuring that we can be a sustainable community resource and platform for our attempt to lovingly serve Burnage for many years to come.

Rachel x

Download the September 2015 edition of the church magazine

The Rector Writes – August 2015

Sally’s Scribbles

With much help and support, I seem to have made it to the end of my first academic year at St Mellitus and we are rapidly approaching the end of my first year as an ordinand. Though it must be said, with two essays still to be written and deadlines still to be met there is a real risk of feeling like the end of one year is simply the beginning of the next. I do hope to be able to preserve some of a summer break and so I will be stepping back for much of the summer to recharge for the year to come.

It has been a year of much change. I have learned a lot, laughed a lot and made some incredible new friends. It has been my great pleasure to journey with you all at St Nick’s over the past year and I look forward to all the exciting things to come. St Nick’s seems particularly filled with life at the moment and while it is important to ensure we do not get lost in the busyness, Rachel and I often talk with much excitement at seeing the ways in which the Holy Spirit is moving within our community. It is a privilege to witness and be a part of what God is doing in the life of St Nick’s.

I have been immensely grateful for all the support and encouragement I have received over this past year. It has been incredibly humbling to realise how keen people are to support me, both personally and professionally, to not only do what is required but to grow and flourish in the ministry to which God is calling me. It was never going to be easy and at times has been incredibly difficult, but the practical, emotional and prayerful support of so many people has been a consistent source of encouragement and I cannot thank you enough. Please do continue to pray for me as I move into the second year particularly as myself, and those supporting me in training, look for ways to ensure I can support Abbie through the complex medical situations she faces this year while continuing to train.

As ever, I am thankful for the variety of opportunities to grow and to learn that have been offered to me. There is a real richness in this particular model of training, and particularly in its practical outworking for my own training, which allows me to experience some of the breadth of the Church of England exposing me to different types of people and different theological perspectives. This can at times feel like I don’t quite fit in some of the contexts I find myself in.

But as time goes on, and I find myself more established and more willing and able to question and challenge, I am becoming increasingly aware of what a privilege it is to be presented with such a broad perspective. Even when I find myself in a position of profound disagreement I am doing so in the context of community, prayer, and worship. I am immensely blessed by being surrounded by gifted teachers and theologians, not least in Rachel, who provide me with space to reflect and discern what for me is at the heart of the Gospel we profess.

It has been a challenging year in many ways but also a year of great blessings. I have much to be thankful for. As we look towards the year to come, I look forward to getting to know our new curate, Alan, and the insights and perspectives he will bring as well as continuing to journey with you all in both new and familiar ways. I pray that there may be times of peace and rest for us all over the summer months and that God will be our ever present guide in all that is to come.

Blessings

Sally

Download the August 2015 edition of the church magazine

Adams Cycle for Liam by Sam Travis

On Sunday 5th July, I had the privilege of joining Adam, a member of St Nick’s Maker’s Club, on his sponsored cycle ride to raise money for my nephew Liam. For those who may not have heard, Liam was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in May and has been undergoing chemotherapy to try to eradicate the secondary tumours in his bones and in preparation for surgery to remove the primary cancer on the adrenal gland above his kidney. As Liam’s family live in America they will be faced with a substantial bill for the 18 months of treatment that is currently planned. Hearing this news in the church notices several weeks ago, Adam took it upon himself to organise and complete a 90-minute sponsored cycle ride in a local park to raise money for Liam’s family.

I was so impressed by this show of compassion and commitment by someone of primary-school-age that I thought the least I could do was tag along as Adam’s ‘domestique’: a French term used in cycle racing to describe a rider who works for the benefit of his team leader. One of the roles of a domestique is to sacrifice his bike to the leader should they develop a mechanical problem at a crucial point in the race and I feared this would be the case when Adam turned up on a bike with neither front nor rear working brakes! He explained that he had wanted to get them fixed before the event but the bike shop couldn’t do the repairs in time. Instead he had developed his own stopping technique that required him to push his footwear down on his front wheel while still in motion and having witnessed this for myself I had to admit that he had quite the knack (and worn trainers) for it. Nevertheless, we thought it wise to enlist the help of our new Curate, Alan (officially inducted into post only that day), to bless the bike, giving Alan a crucial, though just too late, insight of what kind of church he had gotten himself involved with.

Adams Cycle2I’m happy to report that the blessing had the desired effect and the actual ride was much less eventful than the prologue. In glorious summer sunshine Adam completed the 90-minute cycle, covering a total distance of 11.46 miles and, most incredibly of all, having zero crashes.

So far Adam has raised £377, which is an extraordinary amount, but even more extraordinary is the way Liam’s illness is touching lives around the world and people like Adam are responding with selfless love and solidarity. As Jesus said, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).

The Rector Writes – July 2015

Rachel Writes

I hope that when any of us look back on our lives we have some strong highlights in our ‘show reels’. For many people I suspect their personal show reel will include wedding days, the birth of children and the various anniversaries that mark out a life. Like most people I’ve experienced my fair share of ups and downs. One definite highlight was being ordained ‘deacon’ in 2005. It was a sweltering day and the culmination of years of ordination formation and training. Manchester Cathedral was abuzz with people and, in truth, it all went by in a bit of a blur. Nonetheless, as I recall it, it was a great day that brought together family and friends for a day of rejoicing.

I mention this because by the time you read this, our new Curate Alan Simpson will have been ordained deacon. I am delighted that he’s going to be with us over the coming years and I trust you’ll all welcome him to our fellowship. He, along with Sally, will bring new eyes and insights into how we can grow as a community of service and love. Some of you may be wondering what the difference between a ‘deacon’ and a ‘priest’ is. Well, I’ll leave Alan to give you the details! The important thing to remember is that in June 2016 Alan – supported by a fair few representatives from St Nick’s – will be heading back to the Cathedral for his ordination as a priest. Being a deacon is not just a temporary thing however. I am – for example – both a deacon and priest. The deacon’s ministry is very much focused on service and pastoral care. It is liturgical too, emphasizing welcome and peacemaking. At theological college we used to joke that every time one of us tidied away the chair we were getting in touch with our diaconal ministry!

Ultimately I hope that we at St Nick’s can offer a place of grace where Alan can feel welcomed and be the minister God is calling him to be. Over the next few years he will need to find the shape
of his ministry. In some ways that will be shaped by the nature of church – for example, after he’s been ordained priest, he’ll preside at the Eucharistic table and officiate in all of the things that make the church ‘the church’. But within that wider calling he will have his own gifts and interests. Alan won’t be here to be my ‘mini-me’. He will be here to be Alan Simpson.
One of the things I really hope for over the coming years is the ongoing growth in the ministry of all God’s people in this church. People have stepped forward into all sorts of roles and I hope this process continues. Sally and Alan can inspire us to step forward and say, ‘why not me?’ when it comes to the various liturgical and church roles in the church. Please don’t be shy in offering yourself in service to God. God will be with you. You might be delightfully surprised by where it leads!

Rachel x

Download the July 2015 edition of the church magazine

The Rector Writes – May 2015

Rachel Writes

‘Where are you going, where are you going, won’t you take me with you?’

These lines from Stephen Schwartz’s 1970s’ musical, Godspell have always haunted me. Sung by two female disciples just before Jesus is crucified, the lines form a plaintive counterpoint to the violence that’s about to take place. The women are desperate to be where Jesus is and have not yet begun to understand what that might entail. If they’re to follow him it might mean the death and resurrection of all they’ve known and treasured up to this point.

As I offer this report to St Nicholas’ Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) the words of that song are echoing round my
mind. I think it’s part of my responsibility to ask where we – as St Nick’s – are ‘going’ and equally to spend time discerning where Jesus is leading so that we can get involved and follow. But this is not just the Rector’s responsibility. If we as a serving parish community are to be around in the future, we are all called to examine who God is calling us to be and to get involved in his works of creation. Increasingly, the work of St Nick’s will be the work of the whole people.

Part of discerning God’s call entails looking back at where we’ve come from and seeing the good news (and, sometimes, not so good news!) within it. As our churchwardens have indicated in their own report, it has been an incredibly busy year for St Nick’s.

What with our production of The Tree of War, heritage open days, tree-lighting events as well as various fairs there has been an incredible footfall through our building this past year. Some people will ask, what has that got to do with being church? Let’s be clear, however: unless we become both a destination for people and also a community building, we can’t serve our local community. The hall continues to be well used and I have been delighted at witnessing a new Rainbows unit grow and flourish. The Burnage Community Choir goes from strength to strength, we have held another successful holiday club and we have never had better relationships with our local councillors. Equally, long-standing groups like Women’s Fellowship continue to be witnesses to God’s love. Though it continues to be a struggle for us to be seen, we are becoming more visible.

Our building is both a profound blessing and a challenge. We know this is a landmark building that is justly celebrated. But it remains a challenge for our congregation to manage and service.
We are waiting to hear whether we shall receive a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for c £170,000 to help repair our leaking roof. It has been a difficult process to go through and if we receive support it will continue to be challenging. Not only will we be required to manage the project with great care, but we’ll be required to raise match funding. I am pleased to say we’ve received some grant funding already and there have been donations, but we have a long way to go.

Buildings are not ends in themselves. That’s why I want us to focus on where Jesus is leading us. I want us to hunger to be involved in what the Spirit is doing and saying. We’re privileged to have Sally Robinson with us as an ordinand and, in the summer, Alan Simpson, will be joining us as curate. Sally is beginning to examine how we, as a church, can become an ever more welcoming and inviting congregation. I’m sure she is going to helpfully challenge us in all sorts of ways. Alan will bring his own wisdom and insight, and I trust will help us grow as we attempt to support and encourage him. I hope Sally, Alan and I will work together to develop our whole congregation’s theological understanding, not only through preaching, but by developing new home groups for prayer and reflection.

It has, as always, been a year of goodbyes as well as new beginnings. Our community mourns the loss of Vera Gawkrodger, Barbara Stenton, and Ken Paterson. Each, in differing ways, made lasting contributions to our fellowship and community. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. In a different way we say ‘farewell’ to Elaine Jess who stands down as treasurer after many years. I’m delighted that Caroline Abiodun has stepped in and it’s important that we carefully support her during this time of transition. Equally, it has been great to welcome Sam Travis and Rachel Varughese to our fellowship. Rachel’s design skills have brought new energy into the magazine. I extend my thanks to Alison Mills for her work as editor of the magazine, but I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that she’s glad to step down from this important role. This is also true for Anne Tudor and Norma Cookson who have let go the reins of arranging flowers. Thank you to Val Hagan and Christine Price for stepping in and continuing this valuable way of visually representing our trust in God.

I see so many seeds growing in this congregation and it is thrilling. I feel like there is so much promise and possibility at St Nick’s. We are a small fellowship, but in many ways a remarkable one. We are becoming a richer, more inclusive congregation and I think we’re slowly learning to be open to the communities in which we are set. I extend my particular gratitude to the Wardens for their patience, steadfastness and willingness to commit to these key roles. As you will know, my own health continues to be troublesome and I’m seeking to be a good steward of the energies and gifts has apportioned me. Please pray for me, as I pray for you.

Rachel x

(This text comprises the Rector’s Report given at the APCM, Palm Sunday, 29th March 2015.)

Download the May 2015 edition of the church magazine

The Rector Writes – April 2015

Rachel Writes

Most of us have met one or two remarkable people. Sometimes those remarkable people will be counted among what the modern world calls ‘celebrity culture’. More often the people who are remarkable are self-effacing, ordinary folk who have found themselves caught up in extraordinary situations. They have not sought out celebrity, but have become high profile because of their insight or talent or courage.

One does not need to be a Christian to recognize that Jesus was remarkable. I’ve met many atheists, agnostics and adherents of non-Christian faith traditions who consider Jesus great, as a wise and original thinker and a singular holy person. Before I came to faith I very much believed that Jesus was an amazing figure who challenged many of the orthodoxies of his day and remained a critical ethical voice in ours.

The Easter story invites us to consider Jesus as something more than a wise person or great ethical teacher. As I’ve said before, there is something offensive about the ‘Easter Event’ – the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. For, on the one hand, if we suppose that Jesus is God the idea that he might die is offensive. How could God die and die a criminal’s death at that? Jesus is honoured as a prophet in Islam and – in virtue of his status as a prophet – they insist that he could not die on a cross. Given that we say he is the Son of God, how much more offensive is it to say he died on a cross? Yet, at the same time, if we believe, as Christians, that Jesus actually dies on the cross, the notion of his resurrection is an offense to reason. Don’t we all know that no one dies and lives again?

Yet, the Jesus we are invited to meet and be loved by is no mere teacher or prophet. He is the Christ, the Son of God, as St Peter has it. And I think the significance of Easter lies not simply in some act of redemption undertaken two thousand years ago, but in our ongoing participation in redemption now. Easter symbolizes an invitation to each of us to meet Christ afresh as if for the first time.

What do I mean? Well, while I return again and again to the powerful image of the Cross, for me the most powerful moment in the Gospels is found in the Garden on that first Easter. It is when the risen Christ meets Mary Magdalene. This is the Christ who comes with love, reconciliation and hope to the ones who betrayed him and failed to stand by him in his hour of need. It is the Christ who stuns his witnesses into awe.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I constantly want to meet again the Christ who reconciles and invites us into a way of peace, generosity and new beginnings. I suspect that this is because I’m conscious of the inadequacy of my faith and my need for forgiveness. But it’s also predicated on my desire to participate in God’s good news here and now. As we celebrate Easter, let’s not just see it as an historical event, as something from long ago, but as part of God’s living creation now. Let’s seek to live on the promises of God and be people of grace and peace today.

Rachel x

Download the April 2015 edition of the church magazine

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