Saturday, 8 December 2012

Celebrating 125 Years

As our Diocese marks 125 Years in 2013, since its foundation in 1888, a new book tells the story of those years, 'Wakefield Diocese, Celebrating 125 Years', by Wakefield Historian and Lay Canon Kate Taylor. The irony of the celebratory year marking this anniversary is well known across the Diocese, due to the proposals of the Dioceses Commission, this may be the 125th and last year, if the mega-Diocese of Leeds/West Yorkshire and the Dales/whatever it is going to be called this week is to be formed. That irony is not lost on the author; there is clearly a sub-text to the book, that the loss of 125 years of loyalties to one another and of our particular traditions and ways of working, will not be compensated for by the new proposals.
The book itself is a perfectly decent read, and sets out to tell a continuing story, rather than a last word. One two counts it is a pleasant surprise - it is a 'proper book', published by Canterbury Press, and not the large pamphlet that a number of folk were expecting! Secondly, unlike a number of Diocesan histories, it is not simply a story of Bishops and Cathedrals, indeed, I would have expected more on the life of the Cathedral than we are actually given. The story of the wider Church of England from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries can be traced in this book, and developments and problems are placed carefully into context.
The story is told in three sections, from Bishop Walsham How and the early days through to 1938, from 1938-67, and from 1968 to the present day, these slightly arbitrary dates seemingly relating to convenient changes in the Episcopate. The final section takes up over half of the book, presumably reflecting a greater availability of both archive source and living memories. At times, the final sections become a little breathless, perhaps reflecting the difficulty of comment and analysis on recent events, but also reflecting the sheer activism of those years. As one of the 'younger, mission-minded priests attracted to the Missionary Diocese by Bishop Nigel McCulloch', in my case in 1995, it is exhausting at times to read again the variety of initiatives, programmes and proposals we have lived through in those years.
A few minor gripes; a stronger editorial hand would help the final sections, there are I'm sure some inaccuracies in dates, which makes me wonder how secure some of the factual information is, and it would have been good to be able to trace the evolution of the Deaneries, increasingly significant now the Deanery Plans are a key factor in appointments and Parish planning. The story of the establishment of Groups and Teams in the 1980s is not matched by that of their dismantling over the last few years, as they haven't delivered; (here not for the first time, we wait for the Church to catch up). Better maps would help, and, given our current context, it is surprising that more is not said about the reasons for the changes in Diocesan boundaries and transfers of Parishes that have already happened over the 125 years. But a good read, a fitting contribution to the 125th Anniversary, and to the discussions, debates and decision making that ought not to overshadow 2013, in final response to the Dioceses Commission proposals.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Fastest Growing Deanery in the Diocese

St Batholomew Ripponden

Welcome, to the priests and people of the Parishes of St Bartholomew Ripponden, St John Rishworth, Christ Church Barkisland and St Bartholomew Dean Head and West Scamonden, as they transfer to our Deanery of Brighouse and Elland today.

Dean Head in the Snow
Sung Patronal Mass at St Andrews, Stainland, last night, Launch of the Christmass Appeal, Gift Day and Concert at All Saints this afternoon, Hospice Memorial Service and Advent Evensong tomorrow....I love this time of year!

Friday, 30 November 2012

A New Priest for Coley

After nearly a year of overseeing the Parish of St John the Baptist, Coley, it was good to be a part of the celebration of a new ministry last night, in welcoming Canon James Allison as priest in charge. James will also have a Deanery Role, in building links with local Parishes, and in giving a Sunday a month to support across the Deanery. Duly Licensed by Bishop Tony, and Installed by Archdeacon Anne Dawtry, James, who had given out feathers beforehand, asked us to see ourselves, with Hildegard of Bingen, as Feathers on the Breath of God.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Choral Evensong at Wakefield Cathedral

Honorary Canons are asked to preach once a year, and I fulfilled that requirement at Evensong tonight. Having also been present at a joint meeting of the Cathedral Chapter, Council and College of Canons last week, tonight was the second opportunity I have had to attend Cathedral Evensong in a little over a week. Both occasions were a testament to the superb work being acheived with the Cathedral Choirs, and also to the value of having a Cathedral in the midst of the City Centre, as a steady procession of visitors came in to light candles, pause and pray.

4pm Choral Evensong
sung by Boys & Men
Hymns: NEH 248 (ii), 206, 353
Leighton Psalm: 95
Canticles: Collegium Magdalanae Oxoniense Leighton
Anthem: For Lo, I raise up Stanford
Voluntary: Prelude and fugue in C major (BWV 547) JS Bach
Preacher: Canon David Burrows  

Arriving at twilight gave us the opportunity to see the Cathedral Nave now free of scaffolding, as Project 2013 is now 50% complete. Yesterday's picture of the day by Rich Wainwright, from the excellent gives some idea of the scale of the work. The Chancel, where worship continues, is behind the temporary screens to the left of the picture.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Time to Celebrate

Well Done to Mrs Holdsworth our Head, to the Staff, Children and fellow Governors of Elland Church of England School. Our OFSTED Report, made public today, and available soon on the OFSTED Website, tells us we are a GOOD School!

 Summary of key findings for parents and pupils
This is a good school.
n Pupils make good progress. They read well and their handwriting is neat and legible.
n Standards in reading, writing and mathematics have gone up significantly over the past two years.
n The large majority of pupils reach the nationally expected standards in their tests. Each year more and more pupils do better than this.
n The school is well led and managed. The leadership of teaching is a strength.
n Teaching is good in every class and sometimes it is outstanding. Lessons are active and fun.
n Pupils are keen to do well. They work hard and discuss work sensibly with a partner. They work well on their own and in groups.
n Attendance has gone up each year for the past three years. It is above average. Few pupils arrive late, because they enjoy coming to school.
n Pupils feel safe. Older pupils take care of younger ones at break and lunchtimes. Pupils are kind to each other and play well together.
n The curriculum enlivens pupils’ learning. It develops their confidence, awareness and appreciation of art, music and other subjects, and excites their curiosity.
n The school has improved considerably since the last inspection. School leaders know exactly what the school needs to do to improve further.
n Governors support and challenge the school to good effect. This school continues to get better.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A Festival of Crosses

Photographs from the All Saints Festival of Crosses.


This curious item, which normally lives in the Sacristy, is thought to be a model of the Architect's first proposal for the High Altar, though it bears little resemblance to the Altar and Reredos as built.

Finally, two other pictures taken this morning, showing the rapidly changing landscape visible from St Mary's, as a new Supermarket takes shape. Most of Elland is probably unaware that it is being built upon land that was a part of the Churchyard, before various Victorian remodellings of the road system.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Let Us Pray

For Bishop Justin, Archbishop-Designate of Canterbury

God our Father, Lord of all the world,
through your Son you have called us into the fellowship
of your universal Church:
hear our prayer for your faithful people
that in their vocation and ministry
each may be an instrument of your love,
and give to your servant Justin
the needful gifts of grace;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

May he and all of us be spared the dangers of false expectation and party strife, and may we be generous enough as a Church to welcome the gifts he brings.

Monday, 5 November 2012

A Sermon for All Saints Sunday

The Sermon preached at the Patronal Feast of All Saints, Sunday 4th November,
by Father George Spencer, Chaplain to Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.

The Souls of the Virtuous are in the Hands of God

In 1941 a Polish Franciscan priest held out his arm the easier for a lethal injection to be given him. His death came in an isolation cell in Auschwitz concentration camp. He had put himself in the place of another prisoner who had shouted out for his wife and children when faced with the isolation cells. The priest was Maximilian Kolbe and he did what was before him and offered his life for another in a Christ-like act.

In 1343 a woman of prayer concluded her writings on a lifetime’s reflection on the sometimes terrible sometimes comforting ‘shewings’ she had received from God. She was an anchoress who lived walled up in her cell, and her name was Dame Julian of Norwich. From that obscure life has come a treasure trove of wisdom, which seems to be ever more widely read, pondered and appreciated. Wisdom which is homely, humorous and full of confidence that before everything else God loves us, forgives us and draws us to Godself.

And then in 1839 in Britany, France a young woman shared a life of prayer in a simple cottage with another woman and brought in a destitute widow – blind and paralysed – for who she gave up her bed. And then another poor widow was brought to the house and another. Friends rallied round to help supporting these poor ladies and when they had run out of provisions and resources, they started collecting arms. The woman was Jeanne Jugan who found herself next writing a simple rule of life for herself and her friends – and so came into being the Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne accepted the command “whatever you do for the least of these, you do it to me” with such remarkable effect that by the time of her death there were over 2000 sisters running countless homes for the elderly, which are still on the go today.   

I was once trapped in a car park in Bordeau in a minibus with some Little Sisters and rather a lot of packets of cereals; whatever avenue we trundled up we came to the same barrier that resolutely refused to let us out. There was exasperation but much chuckling and profession of trust in the Lord. An example of the Little Sisters’ way of trusting simplicity and cheerfulness.

Well, there you are – three fairly randomly selected saints for you to ponder on the Feast of All Saints, as we celebrate your feast of title. But in a way they complement each other – Maximilian Kolbe instantly choosing to put himself in the place of another and consigning himself to death. Mother Julian by contrast playing a long game and offering us the fruit of a lifetime’s communing with God, mulling over her  experiences and testing her conclusions in prayer. And Jeanne – practical and pulling her friends and others into her endeavour – very much serving God in community.

It seems to me we need the example of these and many of the saints at the present time. I don’t know if you feel like me that so much in our national life seems tarnished.: the police seemingly attempting to cover up loopholes in their care at Hillsborough. Jimmy Savile – loved and admired by many – turning out to have a shocking and depraved private life, which now seems to have implications for the BBC and some parts of the healthcare sector. Not to mention the recurrent direct abuse we hear of in the social care sector – and, of course, the smouldering issues concerning high finance and the ethical behaviour of the bankers.

We need the example of the saints to show us another way. To point out that it is possible to live lives of service with integrity and altruism. And yet… Whilst the saints give us examples of Christian living to inspire and cheer us they can also seem far off, raised up apart from us in their stained glass windows or on their plinths. Me? I am only me. We talk about the patience of a saint – I know what mine is like! I fear I know what I would opt for when the chips are down – my life and my bed! And anyway are we supposed to be heroic? Isn’t there some value in modest lives of use to others, of support to our families, of measured giving of our time and talents to the Lord? Are the saints a tiny little bit too good to be true, just a fraction remote for us, a bit irrelevant to our everyday?

But reflect on this. Those saints I started out with did not suddenly achieve the things they are remembered for. Their Christ-like acts of selflessness are the fruits of their lifelong discipleship. It is only through prayer, pondering, living the life of the Church, lamenting over one’s shortcomings and the myriad of other aspects of rededicating themselves to Christ that they come to saintliness.

It has always been so. I’ve been reading about the desert fathers and mothers recently – these were the kind of protosaints who in the first centuries of the Church sought God in solitude. They were just Abba and Amma – Mum and Dad – just a bit further on in the faith. And their great thing was ‘you just sit and wait for God’. You sit and wait trusting that your life is hid with Christ in God. And you listen for the voice ‘come, follow me’ –or if you want to use the imagery of today’s Gospel of the raising of Lazarus – “come forth”. Come and follow in the spirit of love and trust. ‘Come’ -  as many followed along the lakeside, as the first disciples left their nets, as Lazarus’ bandages fell from him. Come –not to any place other than that place where God makes his presence ever more fully known – in our hearts.

So I am not sure that the saints are so very different from us. They are just simply further on from us. For their calling and ours – to follow the Lord – is essentially the same. And their high privilege and ours – to be filled with the graces of God – is essentially the same. They are vessels of God’s love with whom we share fellowship by virtue of our own discipleship.  That is the truth of the communion of saints, I think.

There is a lovely story told a bit against himself by the Bishop of Vienna visiting a very poor Christian community in the Indian subcontinent. The people make a great fuss of his arrival, raking the dirt track to the village and covering it with sand. They put out flags all along the road. As the bishop processes along the road with his entourage the cheering reaches fever-pitch and the people continually re-rake the sand on the road and place mats on it for him to walk on. The old missionary priest welcomes him and says, “Do not imagine, dear Father in God, that the people have done all this for you, Bishop Christopher. No, they did it for Jesus Christ!”.

‘They did it for Jesus Christ.’  That is what we say of the saints. That is what we want to be able to say of ourselves as well, with God’s help. I began with some words from our first reading today – from the Book of Wisdom. I’ll end with some more from it:-

“They who trust in the Lord will understand the truth,

Those who are faithful will live with him in love;

For grace and mercy await those he has chosen.”


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Banks of Green Willow

Our Congratulations to Tony Murphy, from St Mary’s Choir, whose Book ‘BANKS OF GREEN WILLOW: The Life and Times of George Butterworth’ is published in November. Butterworth, who has strong Yorkshire connections, died in the Trenches of the Somme, and his orchestral work, ‘The Banks of the Green Willow’, is rightly regarded as a high point of early 20th Century English Music, and continues to be among many people’s favourite works.

 From the Publishers description:

The Banks of Green Willow places the life and music of George Butterworth (1885-1916) in the cultural and political context of late Victorian and Edwardian England. It considers the intellectual and ideological origins of the folk-music movement, in which he was a central figure. It looks, too, at his close friends, the lives of many of whom were sacrificed on the battlefields of the First World War.

The author has had access to an hitherto unpublished collection of Butterworth's correspondence, and other material, deposited in the Bodleian Library by members of George Butterworth's family. Together with more recent documentation concerning his friends, they not only provide invaluable biographical detail, but also illustrate his single-mindedness of character, whether at Eton and Oxford, or as an enthusiastic collector of folk-songs or a Morris dancer and, finally, as a very brave soldier.

Butterworth's music compositions are considered informatively so as not to deter the general reader and uses extracts from his own diary, letters, and the regimental diary records of the Durham Light Infantry. The book concludes with an account of George Butterworth's war years, in which he was recommended three times for the Military Cross.

Monday, 1 October 2012

A Dedication Festival

The Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale, Bishop Tony, Bishop of Pontefract and myself, pictured on Sunday 30th September, as we celebrated the Dedication Festival of St Mary's Church, marking the completion of 3 years and £300,000 worth of repair and renovation to the fabric of a building now the best part of 850 years old. The day marked a fitting re-dedication of priests and people, and an expression of hope and faith that this House of Prayer may continue to be a beacon for this community. No sense of job done quite yet though, as the rain water is coming through the north aisle again! Now the Forth Bridge is no longer being constantly painted, perhaps ' it's like repairing St Mary's' could become a replacement metaphor. A great day nonetheless, rounded off with Choral Evensong supported by folk from Churches Together; my grateful thanks to all who have worked for this day, and all who worked to make it special, may it live long in the memory.
We are also pleased to see Moses and Aaron back again from storage. Up until at least the early years of the 19th Century, these two paintings formed a part of the High Altar Reredos, so that Elland folk spoke of 'taking Vows before Moses and Aaron', meaning they were getting married. An early 19th Century Rector and his Wardens tried unsuccessfully to levy the fee for their renovation to the cost of the daughter chapels, who refused to pay, meaning the pictures languished in the Rectory for some years. They are not unique, similar ones survive for instance in Silkstone Church in South Yorkshire, and the style was perhaps quite common at one time.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Celebrating Sundays

The Postman delivered a gift yesterday, that I have only just had opportunity to look at, Celebrating Sundays, Readings from the Fathers for the Sunday Gospels. As I haven't time to write my own yet, there is a very helpful Review here.

Reflections on Benedict & Leadership

Worth a read here

Friday, 7 September 2012

Clergy Conference

A superb address from Sam Wells at this week's Diocesan Clergy Conference - available here. Well worth a read.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A Thank You

Beacuse its good to be appreciated, a message from Visitors to All Saints on a recent Sunday:

Just a note from us both to say how much we enjoyed joining your
congregation for last Sundays Eucharist. This form of worship within The
Anglican Communion can only be described as uplifting in every sense of the
word and at All Saints we were not disappointed!

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Elland Parishes

The 100th Post, and a structural and Pastoral Change.

The Church Commissioners have just confirmed that the Team Parish of Elland will cease to exist at midnight, to be succeeded by the United Benefice of the Parish of St Mary the Virgin, Elland, and the Parish of All Saints, Elland.

Do listen out for the fireworks......

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

By Death our Sister Praised be...

To All Saints, Otley, where I had been asked to Assist with the Requiem Eucharist for Barbara, my Sister in the Third Order, and to offer words of Tribute on behalf of Tony, (my training Incumbent all those years ago) , and his family.
And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.
O praise him! O praise him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Where next for the Team Parish of Elland

We are on the verge of a new beginning in the Parish, or perhaps I should write the Parishes of Elland. Following widespread consultation, last year our PCC began the process of dismantling the Team Parish of Elland, and creating two Parishes, St Mary the Virgin, Elland, and All Saints, Elland, to form a United Benefice of these two Parishes. The Diocese and our Bishop Stephen, together with other interested parties, have all supported this Scheme, and we are now awaiting final confirmation from the Church Commissioners, which may arrive as early as 1st September, but is more likely to be 1st October.
Full details of the Scheme have been on display in our Churches, together with a map of likely new Parish boundaries. Basically, everything to the South of Victoria Road and Dewsbury Road forms the new Parish of All Saints, and we have also tidied up an anomaly by ‘ceding’ all of Ravenstone Drive to the Parish of Greetland and West Vale, rather than at the moment, where the boundary goes through several living rooms and someone’s kitchen. We are keeping the Historic title of Rector, so I will become Rector of the United Benefice, rather than Team Rector, and will continue to live in Elland Rectory. Our Church School will serve both Parishes, and members of the Pastoral Team will continue to be Licensed, work across and belong to both Parishes. Both Parish Churches will continue to be open and welcoming to all, largely regardless of home address, except where we are obliged by Canon Law to take notice.
It is worth reminding ourselves why we are doing this. The Team Parish, established in 1983, enabled All Saints to become a Parish Church, and encouraged us to look at collaborative and supportive ways of working as both priests and people. There have been many good things to celebrate, and we will be marking some of those things in our Worship in both churches in weeks to come. Yet a Team Parish needs at least 2 full time Incumbent Priests, and, since August 2005 when Fr Martin Wood left, that has not been the case, and the post of Team Vicar was ‘cut’ by the Diocese after I became Team Rector. In other words, we have been left with a structure designed to be operated by 2 Incumbents, operated by 1. After I leave, (no plans yet, sorry, although the appendicitis nearly got me!), a Team that is not a Team will not be terribly attractive in terms of our Succession Planning.

Alongside this, it became clear that many people in both of our Churches felt that the identity and distinctiveness of our Churches’ worshipping and decision making traditions had got lost in this thing called ‘the Team Parish.’ As we explored ways of working with the Wakefield Ministry Scheme and the Core Groups, it also seemed right to allow the two Church Councils, or DCCs, to reclaim their identity, and become the places where the real thinking and decision making was to happen. In the new structure the DCCs become individual PCCs in their own right, and the existing Team PCC/Standing Committee layer is the one that is taken out.
Inevitably, there will be teething troubles in setting up a new structure, and a need to bear with one another; there is a lot of ‘detail’ to sort out. The crucial word we have to work on is the first one in the phrase, United Benefice. For we are still, along with our brothers and sisters of other traditions in Elland, one people of God. All through this process, the need to be United has been stressed, we cannot and will not ignore one another, that we may be  committed to taking our share in God’s Mission in Elland together.


Monday, 27 August 2012

The Miracle of the Bread

Several Sunday Gospels reflecting on Christ the Bread of Life from John 6, have inspired me to try and bake bread again for the first time in many years.
Even with the always helpful if not uncritical contributions of the current Mrs Burrows, I have to say that, while not perfect, this has turned out OK.
For once, today, this parish priest has achieved something!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Our Lady of the Harvest

At this Assumptiontide, let us remember that the Souls of the Saints rejoice in Heaven!

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Wednesday 15th August is the Church's Principal Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church. We give thanks that Mary, Seat of Wisdom, leads the joyful hymn of heavenly praise to her Son.


Into his joy, the Lord has received you,
Virgin God-bearer, Mother of Christ.

You have beheld the King in his beauty,
Mary, daughter of Israel.

You have made answer for the creation,
To the redeeming will of God.

Light, fire and life, divine and immortal,
Joined to our nature you have brought forth,

That to the glory of God the Father,
Heaven and earth might be restored.
-OSB West Malling Abbey

Our Lady of Haddington


Sing of Mary, pure and lowly,
Virgin mother undefiled,
Sing of God's own Son most holy,
Who became her little child.
Fairest child of fairest mother,
God the Lord who came to earth,
Word made flesh, our very brother,
Takes our nature by his birth.

Sing of Jesus, son of Mary,
In the home at Nazareth.
Toil and labour cannot weary
Love enduring unto death.
Constant was the love he gave her,
Though he went forth from her side,
Forth to preach, and heal, and suffer,
Till on Calvary he died.

Glory be to God the Father;
Glory be to God the Son;
Glory be to God the Spirit;
Glory to the Three in One.
From the heart of blessed Mary,
From all Saints the song ascends,
And the Church the strain reechoes
Unto earth's remotest ends.
-Fr Palmer SSJE

Virgin and Child, Imogen Stuart, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Thursday, 2 August 2012

St Mary of the Angels

Today, August 2nd is a commemoration of particular significance for the Franciscan Tradition, Our Lady of the Angels. The little Chapel that bears this dedication, also known as the Portiuncula, the Little Portion, stands at the foot of the approach to Assisi, now contained within the Basilica that serves as a Protecting Veil over the place Francis saw as a gift from the Lord, when he and his first group of little brothers needed a shelter and a chapel.

An early life of Francis tells us that, 'in olden days, there had been built in this little portion a church in honour of the Virgin Mother, who, by her unique humility was worthy to become the highest of all the Saints after her Son. In this place, the Order of Friars Minor began and here, as on a firm foundation, arose their noble structure in its vast array.' The Chapel is still regarded as the Mother House of all Franciscan Orders, and is also the site of Francis' Transitus, or passing.

"Franciscans celebrate today as the feast of Dedication of all Franciscan Churches, particularly when no other date is known. The origin of the dedication to 'St Mary of the Angels' is obscure. However, Mary received the good news of Christ's coming by the message of an Angel and then herself was the first to share that message with humanity. So Mary is the chief patron of Franciscans, and her intercession at the throne of grace in the heavenly places is the subject of constant pleading and gratitude by all the followers of Francis and Clare. " (The Late Brother Tristam SSF)

Loving God,
by the message of the Archangel Gabriel
Mary received your word
and by her willing obedience
brought forth him who is the world's redemption:
may we, like her, share the good news of his coming
and with Angels and Archangels
give praise and glory to you for ever;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever, Amen.

Friday, 27 July 2012

More than Gold

A helpful God-incidence:

Verses 9b-10a of Psalm 19, as appointed by the Lectionary to be said at Morning Prayer today

The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether

More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold

More than Gold - Perhaps that's all that needs to be said about the Olympic Games. It has been very easy to be cynical about the Corporate nature of the build up - this is not really about Sport, but about the Sponsors. The somewhat joyless fun fascists have already been out; apparently, it is my patriotic duty to enjoy these Games, and I think we could have done without the ridiculous, macho posturing we have seen this week from our Prime Minister and the Mayor of London (a Province in the South of our nation, I believe). Reports from priests and Parishes in East London make it clear that the so called Legacy has already failed; there has been and will be little benefit for those who live and work in the Area, and even routine journeys have become almost impossible, for communities who are now just gritting their teeth and waiting for it all to finish.

Nevertheless, as the Sport finally begins, I hope it delivers in terms of expectation and enjoyment for both participants and spectators. The genuine warmth and interest shown as the Torch Relay progressed through Yorkshire, for instance, hints that enough of us are prepared to ignore the nonsense, and do something at least to make this the People's Games. So, with prayers for the safety and well-being of all involved, I will permit myself one genuine grumble:

What on earth is this 'Team GB' business? Why have we excluded one of the four Nations that make up our Country? Does no-one from the organisers realise that the name of this Country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Prayers for the Games

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Holy Annie, God's Granny, Pray for Us!

The Commemoration of Sts Anne and Joachim, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Grandparents of Our Lord.

A Fraternal greeting to the good folk of my former Parish of St Anne, Southowram, and having spent a delightful day yesterday in the company of our granddaughter, a prayer for all grandparents, including those, who for reasons of family difficulty, distance or circumstance, are unable to see their grandchildren regularly.

O Anne, most blessed in God, grandmother of Christ our Lord, who didst give to the world a shining lamp, the mother of God; together with her intercede that great may be the mercy granted to us.

This has been my first post for a while, for two very good reasons, firstly, a sense of being a little overwhelmed on return to work after a period of Sabbatical leave, secondly, due to an unplanned stay in Hospital leading to the removal of my Appendix, and a period of recovery that is taking far longer than I had hoped it would. There have been some good days, and some not so good, but I am incredibly grateful for so many expressions of support, so many cards and offers of practical help, and most significantly of all, for prayers offered.

It has been, as all the best reality show contestants claim, a journey - in that I have learnt a lot of stuff about myself, some of which is quite uncomfortable. Leaving aside the odd bout of flu and the occasional migraines, this has been my first ever bout of serious illness, and my first Hospital admission apart from a couple of day surgery procedures over the years. As a Healthcare Chaplain, I have been particularly struck by how it feels to be on the receiving end, especially that so much waiting around has been hard. I'm also aware how some of the spiritual strategies and resources I have sometimes offerred to those in need just don't seem to have touched the sides for me. I hope I can receive this as a prompt to humility, and I am certainly grtaeful that my enforced inactivity has given me the chance to catch up on some reading.

Good St. Anne, mother of her Who is our Life, our Sweetness and our Hope, pray to her for us, and obtain our request. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Thought for Myself

Marking 23 years as a Priest, and 24 years as a Deacon in the Church of God....

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Handover

Catching up after a period of Sabbatical Leave. Much to the amazement of some, I decided that for most of the time when I was away from home, I would try and survive without t'internet, and make do with old fashioned methods of communication, well, the Mobile anyway.

A view of Assynt, in the astonishing North Western Highlands of Scotland, where I spent the beginning of June, thanks to the kindness of friends.

Back at work for a fortnight, and immersed in both catching up and trying to get on with the mix of the daily grind and the daily joy that make up ministry in Elland. This week, I have to hand over my baby...and I'm delighted to do so!

For ten years I have had the privilege of serving as a part of the Voluntary Chaplaincy at Overgate Hospice, and, for 9 of those 10 years, have acted as the Chaplaincy coordinator. As Chaplains, we have tried our best to contribute to Spiritual Care for Patients, for their Families and for Staff, and to witness to the significance of Spirituality in Palliative Care. A demanding, at times thoroughly exhausting ministry, for which I constantly feel less than adequate. In the midst of everything else that goes to make up Parish Life, it has sometimes been difficult to find the time to prioritise this ministry, and for most of those 10 years, I have been quietly campaigning for a more sustainable pattern of staffing. Last year a breakthrough was made, Funding was found for a 20 hours a week appointment, and Lesley begins her ministry as (Lead) Chaplain there this week. I look forward to continuing as a part of the voluntary Chaplaincy Team, in support of her role.

Much of May was spent with the Church of Ireland. Just two snaps from then, one from Northern Ireland, one in the Republic. The distinctive Ballintoy Parish Church, on the North Antrim Coast.

The remarkable Mermaid carving in Clonfert Cathedral, in the west of Ireland, a symbol of the Church's dedication to St Brendan the Navigator, who is buried in the nearby churchyard.

May he pray for us, for we too are strangers and pilgrims upon earth....

God of sea and land,
you endowed your Servant Brendan
with a bold and adventurous spirit
to occupy himself for your business on the great waters
and revealed to him your wonders in the deep;
Make us, who recall with thanksgiving his life and ministry,
zealous to be pioneers and pilgrims for the faith of Christ;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Cathedral Work

A picture shamelessly pinched from the excellent showing the progress of the work to renew our Cathedral, and a scene very similar to what we saw during a tour for the College of Canons last week.

The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

St Francis had a great love for John the Baptist. Among his biographers, Thomas of Celano tells us he rejoiced in keeping the Feast of John more solemnly than any others, for his real name, given by Divine Providence, was John, Francis, or Frenchie, being a nickname.

Apart from our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, John is the only Saint who is honoured with a Feast to mark the day of his Birth. The biblical story of John, the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, begins even before his birth. His leaping in his mother's womb is seen as a great alleluia in anticipation of the birth of his Redeemer and the good news of Jesus Christ is related in all four gospels as beginning with John as Christ's forerunner.

John is the traditional Patron of the Church in Calderdale, an image of his severed head still standing as a badge for Halifax, and the South Aisle Altar and Chapel in S.Mary’s Elland, where the Organ now stands, are dedicated to him, together with the ancient place of worship within Halifax itself, now the Minster Church. There are various medieval legends that claim his severed head was buried either in Halifax, the place name claimed to mean 'Holy-Face', or elsewhere in Calderdale, perhaps by the Church of St John in the Wilderness, Cragg Vale. Sadly, all of this is as likely as the recent claims to have found his bones!

Yet the memory of his ancient Patronage of this Area remains. When the Serbian Orthodox community took over a redundant methodist building in Boothtown in 1965, it was St John the Baptist who was to be their Patron, for a Parish that covers the whole of Northern England and Scotland!

While I was Parish Priest of their neighbours at St Thomas the Apostle, Claremount, I was grateful for the hospitality of Fr Alex and his community, so, in recognition of St John and his fearless witness to Christ, a fraternal greeting!

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Centenary Celebrations of the Consecration of All Saints Church, Elland

The Sermon Preached by Canon John Gore, former Rector and Team Rector of Elland, at the Centenary Celebrations of the Consecration of All Saints Church, Elland, 29th April 2012

Readings: Genesis 28. 11-181 Peter 2.1-10, John 10.22-29

When Bishop George Eden came to All Saints to consecrate the church in April 1912, the service, in the words of Father Cedric Frank in his book ‘Fitly Framed Together‘, was ‘a quiet and unobtrusive’ occasion. This low-key approach Fr Frank attributes to the fact that it was only nine years before, in 1903, that the church had been dedicated. That dedication had been amid much celebration and rejoicing, and in the presence of the great and the good. This consecration of the church in 1912, therefore, was just the topping up of the dedication process, now that all the bills had been paid off, and the church well on the way to completion.

It might just be, of course, that the public mood was not for celebration and rejoicing in April 1912. After all, it was only a few weeks before that, that the Titanic had sunk with great loss of life, and with a blow to the country’s pride. A deep gloom had descended upon the country, the effect of which is still with us today, as we all know. Perhaps that explains, also, why, again in the words of Fr Frank, the Bishop, at the consecration, spoke to the congregation of ‘the need for fellowship‘. Well, I suppose that is what leaders, bishops, always do in times of national despondency.

But the mood seems to have been rather different a few days later. The bishop had gone home, and All Saints could now be itself, let its hair down. This was indeed a day of celebration. There was a High Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated, of course, in the splendid, old fashioned way. The principal celebrant, quite rightly, was the Priest in Charge, Fr Paul Stacey. The deacon of the Mass was none less than Fr Walter Frere, the newly elected Father Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, a formidable figure in the Church in those halcyon, Anglo-Catholic days. It must have been quite an occasion.

That was 1912. But for my purpose today I want to move on sixty years, to 1972. In 1972, it seems, the church was in urgent need of repair. Nothing new there, of course. So making a virtue out of necessity, the then Priest in Charge, Fr John Crawford, a priest much loved, but, sadly, soon to die, hit upon the idea of a series of fund-raising events around the sixtieth anniversary of the consecration of the church. The highlight of all this turned out to be a weekend in June 1972 with a Flower Festival, still fondly remembered, and a High Mass on the Sunday. This mass was presided over by Bishop Morris Maddocks who had just been consecrated Bishop of Selby. Brought up in Elland Rectory, he would have often worshipped in All Saints, and would have known it well.

And no doubt Bishop Maddocks would, therefore, have echoed words written by Fr Crawford in the booklet prepared for the Flower Festival, words that have struck me as particularly perceptive, and which I would like to home in on today. Fr Crawford wrote: ’As the pilgrim enters the church, there is an immediate confrontation, with a challenge to faith and a call to holiness‘. A challenge to faith and a call to holiness. It is true, isn’t it? That is the effect that entering All Saints still has on people, and we need to keep that effect, that confrontation, fresh and true.

It was a confrontation - a challenge and a call - that young Jacob, back in the mists of time, experienced, as we have heard in our first reading today. Sent on a journey by his father Isaac to go and find a wife in his ancestral homeland, Jacob found himself benighted. So taking a stone for a pillow he settled down for the night. Well, that night he was presented, confronted, with a challenge to faith, and a call to holiness.

For sleeping on his stone pillow he dreamed a dream, and in his dream he saw a ladder set up between earth and heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. It was a vision of heaven opened, of heaven joined to earth.

This vision was a challenge to his faith in God. For the Lord God appeared in heaven speaking with him: ’The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring’. It was a challenge to the young Jacob, to found a nation by which all nations would be blessed. It was a challenge that he must have found, in his straightened circumstances, daunting. It was a challenge to his faith.

The immensity of what God was demanding of him, and the vision of those angels ascending and descending between earth and heaven, overwhelmed him, and he cried out, ’How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven‘. He had heard God‘s challenge, he had seen heaven opened.

So what did he do? He marked that place, set it apart as a holy place, a place where God had given him a vision of his presence, and a vision of his calling. He consecrated that place, setting up that stone pillow - anointing it, consecrating it with oil, just as places, churches, people, Kings and Queens, have been anointed, consecrated, ever since.

Consecrated - made holy, set apart for the worship of God, set apart for the service of God. Just like All Saints. Just like us.

When Canon Ernest Winter conceived, received, his vision of a church in this part of Elland, this part of the town was growing fast. Houses were going up, new streets were being created. People were setting up home here. Children were being born here. I have an old photograph of All Saints in my room in Skipton. It shows All Saints soon after it was opened, but before it was quite completed. There are houses in the background, but the Church itself stands clear of any other buildings, and rises proud like a great rock standing straight up out of the sea.

It stands as a statement of God‘s rock-like presence among his people; his sovereignty and authority. It stands as a constant reminder to us of his claims upon us; we who have thrown in our lot with God, revealed in Jesus; we who have accepted in our baptism and confirmation that we will serve God,put him first, and him alone. All Saints stands as a challenge to our faith, a challenge to keep faith-ful in a faith-less world.

But remember that in his dream Jacob was called not only to be the father a nation, but to be the father of a nation by which all the families of the world would be blessed. Should that not be what drives us at All Saints: to commend and reveal the reality of the God’s love; to share the blessings that our faith has brought us; to be a blessing to all who live around ? How good it is, then, that All Saints is now able to open itself up even more to the local community through the new Canon Winter Centre. The challenge goes on because the vision goes - a vision and a challenge to faith, that is All Saints.

And the call to holiness. Yes, the holiness. That was part of Canon Winter’s vision too. His vision was of a church building that would lift the heart to God, raise our eyes in awe and in wonder to the holy God. To be a place where heaven and earth are joined; a place where God’s grace descends in the sacraments, and where our prayers rise with the incense. To be a holy place, an awesome place; what people in the Celtic tradition call a ’thin place’. How well the vision of Canon Winter and the skill of George Fellowes-Prynne, the architect, came together to produce a church that confronts us with the call to holiness?

I have also in my room in Skipton another picture of All Saints. It shows the sanctuary of All Saints as Canon Winter planned it, and as the architect finished it after Canon Winter’s death. The high altar, the reredos and east window behind, confront us every time we come into All Saints with a vision of the holiness of God, leading us beyond ourselves, lifting our eyes to the glory of heaven. There we see our Lord seated on his throne in heaven, surrounded by angels, worshipped by the saints in glory. It is a vision of holiness that brings us to our knees in awe and adoration; the same holiness that drew from Jacob the cry, ’How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God’.

But for the young Jacob, dreaming on that stone pillow, the holy house of God is also the gateway between earth and heaven, the place where heaven and earth meet. The God who is awesome is also accessible, reaching down to us, to lift us to a life of holiness.

For like the saints whose images are all around us we, too, are called to holiness, to grow in holiness, to open up ourselves to all the means of grace that God offers us through his Church. Canon Winter’s vision was not only to create a church building that speaks of God’s holiness, but one that calls us to holiness; a robust holiness, nurtured on diligent prayer and sacramental grace, centred on love for God and for his people.

Sleeping on his stone pillow, Jacob dreamed a dream. It is a dream that continues to inspire and to challenge. Perhaps this was Canon Winter’s inspiration, too, when he undertook the daunting task of building this church, this house of God, this gate of heaven.

And I am sure he would be gratified to know that for the past hundred years the church he built has been both a challenge to our faith, and a call to holiness. May it continue to be so for us. And may it be so for the generations to come.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Elland Slows Down

The 20mph Zones have arrived, as shown by this sign on Northgate by St Mary's Churchyard, also exhorting us all to be responsible dog owners.

Holy Week and Easter didn't slow down at all, congregation numbers showed a significant increase at all the major Liturgies. Being a little weary in mind and body this week, I have had no option but to slow down through illness, though I have mananged the Daily Mass in Easter Week, always one of the most spiritually rewarding times of the year for a priest, the bounty after the fast.

As pictured here this morning during April Showers, the next Phase of the crucial fabric work has begun at St Mary's, with scaffolding in place outside for re-pointing and other ancillary tasks. Inside, we will soon see the walls re-plastered. I have to admit I have got used to seeeing the rubble and stone on the bare walls, it has been a helpful visual metaphor for those of us who feel we too are but a work in progress, as we will reflect tomorrow on the Sunday of St Thomas; not 'doubting Thomas', but 'Thomas, man of faith.'


Friday, 30 March 2012

A Mirfield Pilgrimage

A gruellingly busy Passion Week, enlivened on Tuesday by a visit to the Community of the Resurrection, for a Pilgrimage around the newly re-ordered Church, celebrating the Stations of Salvation.

Like a number of contemporary fabric projects, the Community still face the difficulty of closing a significant funding gap, but they have nonetheless successfully renewed this space for Prayer that lies at the heart of their apostolate.

Many thanks to Fr Simon and Br Jacob for their reflections, and a prayer for Guillermo, Ordinand at the College, who has now competed his attachment with us.

Friday, 23 March 2012


A long, but fruitful day today, appointing a Deputy Headteacher for our School, so, by way of some light relief...

The 5th Sunday of Lent, March 25th in 2012, is often known as Passion Sunday. We are still in Lent, but begin to observe Passiontide, marking a clear change of mood in the Church’s Liturgy, as we focus more clearly on the Passion of Jesus. With him we journey to the Cross, and to the empty tomb.

Like many Churches, we mark this distinct change of tempo by Veiling, or removing, Crucifixes and Statues in our Churches. This is an ancient practice which might seem puzzling at first. Surely, it is at this time that we ought above all to be mindful of Jesus' offering of himself for us – that is, to see the Cross?

There are a number of reasons for this practice, but at its heart, it is done for the same reason as giving up other things in Lent – the use of ‘Alleluia’, and the Hymn of Praise, the ‘Gloria’; the value is found in their restoration on Easter Day. Veiling for the final two weeks of Lent means for us that we are more aware than ever of the great hanging Roods, the Crucifixes that hang over the chancel in both of our churches. There we see the love of God shining out for us, in the Crucifixion of his Son, and in the faithful witness of his Blessed Mother and the beloved Disciple, a picture recorded for us in St John’s Gospel.

The Great Rood in St Mary's, Elland

One traditional reason is based on part of the Gospel reading for the day in the old Latin Mass: John 11v. 54: 'Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews' because they planned to put him to death, after he had raised Lazarus from the dead. The symbols of Jesus are veiled because he hid himself at this time; also, one writer says, to remind us that his divinity was hidden during his suffering and death.

Images in stained glass windows, and the Stations of the Cross are never veiled, as they continue to be used for devotion and prayer. It is usual of course for items such as Flowers and banners to be removed from Church for the whole of Lent (except for Mothering Sunday). Some Churches will veil for the whole of Lent, often using a Lenten Array of unbleached Linen and Sackcloth. Veils in our Churches are usually purple, except on Maundy Thursday, when White veils may be used to honour Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Through All the Changing Scenes of Life

Photos taken this morning, as Spring dawns, showing the Wooden Fence across from St Mary's Churchyard, and, just visible behind it, earthmoving and other preliminary works.

The tall building in the right background is Nu-Swift's, Fire Extinguisher Manufacturers, which will soon be demolished as their new building, not visible here but soon to take shape, will enable the cleared site to host a brand new Morrisons Supermarket, bringing much needed re-develoment - and people - to this part of town, and, we trust, beginning to help us restore the 850 year-old St Mary's Church back to the centre of our community.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

How to make the most of Lent

How to make the most of Lent.

Lent is God’s gift, God’s springtime. It is a time of the year given specially for us, that we may grow in faith, and learn to make the most of God’s precious gift of Life. Beginning with Sunday worship, there are countless ways to get in touch with the Church’s spirit of Lent. There are plenty of opportunities to engage in prayer, fasting, and charity.

Remember your own Baptism. If you have memories of your Baptism, share them with your family. If you or other family members have baptized children, ask: How did you feel as you brought your child to the Font? Think about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ through these sacred moments.

Create a prayer space in your home. A small table with a purple cloth and a cross or candle on it is all you need, perhaps an Icon or a religious picture. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t go to your prayer space to pray every day. Set it up in a place where you will see it as you come and go; let it be a quick reminder to raise a prayer of thanks and praise to God.

Clean out, give away. Make traditional spring-cleaning symbolic of the interior cleaning and clearing of clutter that Lent calls all of us to undertake. As part of your cleaning, there might be opportunities to make a small gift of something, to give something away.

Set out on a journey. As the Hebrews journeyed for 40 years in the desert to the Promised Land, we too journey to Easter through the 40 days of Lent — and not always in a straight line. Real spiritual growth often takes a more meandering path. Reflect on this aspect of the season, take a fresh look as you travel, don’t simply take the familiar scenes, or people, for granted.

Practice and seek forgiveness. Forgive someone for a wrong or hurt, and ask for the forgiveness of someone you’ve hurt — or at least take a first step. Talk to your priest or trusted friend or adviser and move toward reconciliation. Also take time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, (Confession). Even if you aren’t ready to celebrate the Sacrament, prepare carefully for that moment at the beginning of the Sunday Eucharist, when, together, we make a Confession, and hear the promise of God’s forgiveness.

Share in God’s generosity. Jesus’ death and Resurrection is the ultimate gift to us. Remember all the gifts God has given you, and imitate God’s generosity by increasing your offering to your Parish and to outside charities, and keep it up throughout the coming year. See these offerings as sharing in the love and generosity of God, a love and generosity that are stronger than sin and death.

Simplify. Try to keep things simple as a family. So many of us are spending so much of our lives in a relentless pursuit of more stuff. Try to rediscover the simple joys of being together. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t always go well. If we were perfect, what need would we have of a Saviour? “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,” the Church sings at Easter, “that won for us so great a Redeemer!”

Give a little more time to Worship. Get to Church earlier, and don’t use the time before Worship to have a gossip with your neighbour, but use it to talk with the Lord. Go to an extra weekday Mass; making that Mass for your own special Intention, e.g. praying particularly for someone who is sick, for the restoration of a relationship, or whatever concerns you have. We can never fully plumb or exhaust the mystery of God’s presence in the Eucharist. We all would benefit from some extra time spent at church in God’s presence, adoring and contemplating the gift of God’s own self to us.

Pray: Offer a brief prayer of praise in the morning and in the evening. Remember the example of Mary, the Mother of God, whom the Church holds up to us as the perfect model of discipleship. Ask her to help you always to say “yes” to God’s will, as she did.

Celebrate spring. We often think of Lent as a season of harshness and privation. But Lent is also a springtime season that celebrates new life soon to be born.

Above all else – remember! Don’t assume that Lent is for others, and that you should just go on as you are – Lent is for you!

Fr David