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!