Rector Writes – February 2017

As many of you will know, I’m fascinated by words. Perhaps that’s hardly surprising given I’m a writer. ‘February’ is an interesting case in point. Its origins lie in Roman antiquity. It’s derived from the Latin name for the second month of the Julian calendar, ‘Februarius’. This name itself was derived from the Roman festival of ‘Februalia’, a term which basically means ‘purification’. So, the meaning of ‘February’ is – effectively – ‘time of purification’.

I have to admit, when put like that, ‘February’ sounds rather ominous. ‘Time of Purification’ sounds like a slogan Chairman Mao might have used in Communist China, c.1965. It would have
presaged nothing good. For the Romans, ‘purification’ would have referred to rituals of cleansing and preparation, of purging excesses. In an agrarian society such practices would have been
significant as it prepared for spring and the agricultural year. It was both ‘spring cleaning’ and ritual purification.

These ideas of purification – of purging excess and spring cleaning – all have resonances in our modern world. February is usually the month in which we begin Lent, that extended season of preparation and fasting. Shrove Tuesday is a modern way of gathering up ‘excess’ and having a splurge before a time of restraint. And in February – as we usually see the first signs of spring – people often begin to think of having proper ‘spring clean’.

This year February is slightly different. As Easter is very late, it’s March before we begin Lent. Yet, in some ways, perhaps this year’s extended wait for Ash Wednesday only amplifies the (forgive the word!) ‘purgative’ nature of February. In my imagination, February always conjures a time when the weather is at its bleakest and – despite the appearance of flowers like snowdrops – there is snow on the ground. It feels to me like the deepest bite of winter. I think of it as ‘cleaning up’ the last remnants of the previous year.

In our modern technological world in which most people live in cities perhaps we’ve lost connection with the deep rhythms of life that most of our forebears knew. Pieter Bruegel, the great 16th
century artist, understood how seasons, life and devotion all went hand in hand. He – and his team of painters – produced extraordinary images of early modern life in which ‘holiness’ and
devotion were simply part of life. That incredible painting of the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ is shown as taking place in deep snow in the Netherlands. He is always alert to how the divine – in both beautiful and terrifying manifestations – waits to greet us in the ordinary. If you have time, look that painting up (as well as the justly famous copy of his ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’.) The extraordinary always lurks in the ordinary.

Perhaps that’s what we all need to recover: a sense of God’s grace and wonder and terrific power in the midst of our humdrum lives. As we prepare, once again, to enter
Lent, perhaps it is time to look around and see, or to still ourselves and listen. February can feel like a bleak month, where we are caught between the echoes of the old year
and the desire to get on with spring and summer. But perhaps that’s its power: God is sometimes to be found ‘in-between’: in our frustrations and longings as much as our joy and fulfilments. On
chilly and dark mornings I hope that you, along with me, are prepared to wait on God and discern his love, emerging like the first spring flower.

Rachel xx

Holiday Club 2018

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

5,4,3,2,1 Blast Off to St Nick’s free holiday club
for children 5 to 11 years
28th – 31st August from 9.30am till 12.30pm

Once again we are very excited to continue our tradition of providing a Free Holiday Club for Children 5 to 11 years old.

Our theme this year is Space,

Activities include Art and crafts, songs, baking, planetarium and lots of fun and games!

 

Click here to download the registration form.

 

Rachel Writes – December 2017

1932 was an interesting year. Future US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was named Time ‘Person of the Year’. The aviatrix Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a solo transatlantic flight. In March the Sidney Harbour Bridge opened, and in that year Liz Taylor, Johnny Cash and Sylvia Plath were born. In Germany Paul von Hindenburg narrowly defeated Adolf Hitler in the presidential election.

Not least among that year’s events, at least for those of us who live in this small plot of south Manchester, was the opening of the brand-new Church of St Nicholas, Burnage. This December, we celebrate eighty-five years of the building (and eighty-nine years of the parish’s existence).

Eighty-five years is a long time in terms of a human’s life span. In Biblical terms, it is significantly more than the ‘three score years and ten’ we are told we are allotted. Yet, I’m delighted that we still have one or two people associated with the congregation who were here from the outset, not least Mr Bevan Taylor. He has been such a faithful archivist over the
decades and he has charted the many phases of life at St Nicholas.

What do we celebrate on this eighty-fifth anniversary? Well, we do indeed celebrate our magnificent Art Deco building. It is a landmark in church architecture. However, I’m glad to say we celebrate much more than simply a splendid collection of bricks and mortar. We are rightly proud of our church building and it deserves the plaudits it has received, but we all know that the church is much more than the building. So, we celebrate our building, but we rejoice in the fellowships and friendships that have flourished in and through it.

We celebrate old friends, both those who have gone to glory and those who remain. We celebrate the ways in which St Nick’s has offered an anchor and focus for the storms of life. We celebrate eighty-five years in which Burnage and Manchester have changed immeasurably and yet St Nick’s has evolved to meet the needs and challenges of our diverse community. We celebrate friends, colleagues and Rectors old and new.

We also look forward, knowing that this little parish is not done yet. We have so much to offer, not just alone, but in the company of friends at St Chad’s. We have so much to offer because we seek to make Jesus Christ central to all we do. He is the Light of the World and we delight in that light.

December, of course, calls us to a time of preparation and hope. We look forward to Christmas Day when we receive the Christ-Child anew. We are filled with anticipation and excitement. We prepare to celebrate.

As we celebrate the life of St Nick’s on Birthday Sunday, we give thanks. Thanks for those who’ve gone before us who made the church what it is, thanks for those with whom we share our life with now, and, of course, thanks for those who shall come after us to take the church forward.

All this is grounded in the God who comes to dwell beside us in Jesus Christ. This is the God who comes as one of us and whose face is shown in the vulnerability of a child. This God invites us to make a response: to show our love and care and grace.

So, may God bless us one and all this Advent and Christmas. May we rejoice in friendships and fellowships made. But more than that, let us prepare to serve the Christ who dwells within us – who calls us out of easy comfort into the bracing and exciting journey of faith and service!

Merry Christmas!

Rachel x

The Rector Writes – November 2017

At the start of September, two months into my sabbatical, I found myself in Alnwick, Northumberland. If you’ve never been to that part of England, I encourage you to go. It is almost eartbreakingly beautiful, a region of ruins and castles, of startling coastline and soaring moors. Alnwick itself is famous for its castle. It is the home of the Dukes of Northumberland, as well as the site of filming for the first two Harry Potter films.

Northumberland is, I think, what some Christians call a ‘thin place’. That is, it is a place where God seems very close. Not only is Lindisfarne or Holy Island found there, but there are countless sites and signs of Christian history going back the best part of two millennia. This is a place that has been prayed in and prayed over. At the same time, the ruins of castles also reveal it is a place that has been fought over. The signs of power-struggles are everywhere. The evidence of violence and prayer lies on every horizon.

Just on the outskirts of Alnwick’s town centre is one of those huge, striking memorials to the dead raised after the Great War. Three bronze servicemen stand on a plinth looking solemnly down on the traffic below. The memorial contains the names of dozens and dozens of men from Alnwick killed in the brutal campaigns between 1914 and 1918. It is a place of stillness in the midst of a busy thoroughfare.

I suppose we are used to seeing these memorials. Certainly, the commemorative events of the past few years have raised awareness again about the ghastly events of a hundred years ago.
Perhaps we have become more attentive to the lessons told by the sad, sombre figures which stand on memorials across this nation and many others. I hope so. In this year when we particularly remember the mud and terror of Passchendaele we certainly should.

My sabbatical visit to Northumberland, with its strange landscape of holy sites and ruined castles, reminded me that we shouldn’t take our commitments to peace and human flourishing for granted.
Beautiful though it is, its history reminds us that war runs deep in our DNA. Kings and would-be kings struggled over this landscape for centuries.

If my memory is accurate, atop the Alnwick memorial to the dead is a cross. It’s a good two metres above the bronze soldiers’ heads. It signals, perhaps, that faith, hope and love triumph over our violence. It indicates that the community which put up the memorial in the early 1920s had known tragedy and catastrophe, but wanted to show – in the Cross – that tragedy can be transformed into hope.

That’s what I like to believe they were doing. They channelled Northumberland’s ancient history of Christianity and its powerstruggles and showed forth their commitment to a world where the Cross stands for more than ‘the gun’.

During November, as our minds turn once again towards ‘Remembrance Sunday’ and all the mixed and complex emotions and thoughts that holds, we could do worse than meditate on the Cross. It’s a symbol that’s been used to legitimate wars that have raged for centuries and have destroyed countless lives. Medieval knights emblazoned it on their chests as they fought each other
and people in near and distant lands.

However, it also holds within it the challenge to turn away from violence. For, via the Cross we are led to the remaking of the world in Resurrection. The resurrected Christ invites us into practices of reconciliation and new life. It is from that perspective that we should attempt to live in this troublous, violent world. The violent wish to make the Cross the final judgment on the world. God invites us to another way: to live in the world from the perspective of Resurrection.

St Nicholas Church – An Inclusive Church

The Inclusive Church ‘statement of belief’

“We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”

About Our Church

St.Nicholas Church is a Grade II* listed building.

It is the first church designed by the architect Nugent Francis Cachemaille Day.

In 1931 The foundation stone was laid. The ‘old’ hall was built and used for services.

In 1932 the building was completed at a cost of £11,600.

From 1963/64 an extension was added to create choir stalls to the rear of the building.

In the late 1990’s the rectory and two halls were demolished and the land sold in preparation for the restoration project.

At a cost of over £1million a complete restoration was carried out in 2000/02 under the guidance of the architect Anthony Grimshaw.

The interior was redesigned with the rear (West End) of the church , including the choir stalls , being converted into a hall for community use. The new hall and worship area are separated by a moveable screen and a striking glass circular meeting room has been constructed at first floor level. The exterior remains as in 1932.

As a part of the restoration a new rectory was built on the corner of Kingsway and Poplar Road.

The new building was dedicated by the Bishop of Manchester in June 2002.

WikiPedia – Nugent Francil Cachemaille Day

Find out more about the history of St Nicholas Church