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!