Inspired to Follow: Advent Course

from St Martins in the Fields, London
We have now added a third Advent Course to our resource Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story, which takes us through Advent in terms of the candles on ‘The Advent Wreath,’ so exploring the Patriarchs, the Prophets, John the Baptist and Mary.
 
As part of our updating of the Inspired to Follow resource we added two Advent Courses to the site in 2018. These Advent Courses explore ‘The Four Last Things’ – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell – and ‘Advent Characters’ – Elizabeth & Mary, Joseph, Zechariah & Elizabeth, Herod.
 
As part of our Advent preparations this year at St Martin-in-the-Fields, we will be running the Inspired to Follow course exploring ‘Advent Characters’ on the following Sundays between 12 noon and 1.00pm:
 
• 24 November: Elizabeth & Mary – Luke 1:35-49, ‘The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth,’ Workshop of Goossen van der Weyden, about 1516
• 1 December: Joseph – Matthew 1:18-25 & 2:13-15, ‘The Dream of Saint Joseph,’ Philippe de Champaigne, 1642-3
• 15 December: Zechariah & Elizabeth – Luke 1:57-71, ‘The Naming of Saint John the Baptist,’ Barent Fabritius, probably 1650-5
• 22 December: Herod – Matthew 2:1-12 & 16-17, ‘The Massacre of the Innocents with Herod,’ Gerolamo Mocetto, about 1500-25
 
All are most welcome.
 
We are also preparing a Lent Course to add to the site later in 2019. This will be entitled ‘Who is my Neighbour?’ and will be written by Ayla Lepine and Jonathan Evens. We will send information about this new course later in the year.
 
If you have any feedback after using the resource, please do get in touch at clergyoffice@smitf.org. We would be glad to hear what your experience has been.
 
Access the course

The God who says “I do”

Not just I could, or I will, but I do. Listen to this moment from this morning’s bible reading;

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’

Allowing for all the complexities of how we read and receive such bible passages, my heart still leaps that deep down, beneath all the complexities and conundrums of life, is that word of God: I do.

And all shall be well; and all manner of thing shall be well.

St Hilda and St Hilda’s (Shiregreen, Sheffield)​

Today we celebrate St Hild(a), with a beautiful collect (below). My mind goes back to St Hilda’s Church, Shiregreen in Sheffield where I grew up. My dad was vicar and he is pictured here by it late in his life and late in the church’s life too.

The collect is beautiful and so is the memory of Hild, St Hilda’s is more problematic as is Shiregreen and its Flower Estate. The estate was built by architects from the Garden City movement as as showcase council development and the church designed by the famous Temple Moore practice – and from the right and angle and in the right light it had a delightful Arts and Crafts feel.

But the estate quickly became a sink, and from the wrong angle and in the wrong light the church loomed cliff-like in harsh red brick on the vertiginous slope of the ancient Wincobank fortifications.

I must write the story of those days one day, when I am a little older perhaps but not too old – or is that what everyone says who in the end fails to chronicle the past?

Eternal God,
who made the abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land
and through her holiness and leadership
blessed your Church with new life and unity:
help us, like her, to yearn for the gospel of Christ
and to reconcile those who are divided;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
AllAmen.

Formed out of portions of the parishes of St. Cuthbert (Fir Vale); St. Thomas’ (Wincobank) and St. Thomass# (Brightside) in November 1936.

The site of the church (consecrated 1938) was given by Mr. Bradley Firth, and a sum of £3,000 was presented towards the building by Mrs. Jeffcock, a former resident of Shire House, Lower Shire Green.

The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £550, with residence, in 1957 by the Rev. Ronald Thomson, B. A., of Leeds Universty.

On a Roll?

Our excellent Vicar Ruth pointed out in her sermon last Sunday that Jesus was giving his teaching not on the Mount but on the Plain. He had come down to where the people were.

I was inevitably reminded of the story of the Transfiguration, where Jesus also has to come down and help his disciples out in their ministry at ground level – famously captured by Raphael.

And I am reminded too of George Lings’ succinct analysis that whereas in the days of Christendom the prevailing culture meant that people would roll down into church naturally as it were, now they will roll away.

So what does it mean for a church y to be on a roll? Most of us have been brought up to assume it means folk flocking in. But perhaps now it must mean folk flocking out, to where the people are, trusting that Jesus is there too.

It’s not an easy thing to give up our image of a church on a roll, but “I believe in God” is our creed, long before the church gets a mention, and God is there waiting for us in the world he loves so much.

A Song of Trust in God

A beautiful and favourite Psalm, also used as a morning canticle. Written from a very different context of course, but somehow resonating with the retirement mix of both rediscovering encounters with God without the trappings, but feeling the gap they leave too. To pray and ponder.

As the deer longs for the water brooks, ♦
so longs my soul for you, O God.

My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God; ♦
when shall I come before the presence of God?

My tears have been my bread day and night, ♦
while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul: ♦
how I went with the multitude
and led the procession to the house of God,

With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, ♦
among those who kept holy day.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, ♦
and why are you so disquieted within me?

O put your trust in God; ♦
for I will yet give him thanks,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 42.1-7

Castle Frome and its Romanesque Font

Castle Frome is a little hamlet just off the Worcester-Hereford road: you could easily miss it as you drove by, and most do. Which is remarkable, because it has the best font in England. (Discuss! Nearby Eardisley is another candidate, as is the one at my old parish of Bridekirk in Cumbria…) Pevsner called it ‘one of the masterworks of Romanesque sculpture in England. It would arrest attention in any country.’ We wree glad to be introduced by old friends George and Jane Howe who live nearby, and share these church crawls sometimes.

The thing about actually visiting is that you can really get into the detail, and at Castle Frome I mean get into, as the undercutting is amazing, especially if it was done without a chisel. But look too at the flowing, flying feet of the St Matthew winged man, and the drama of his face. There too is the cheekier Kilpeck-like caricature of St Matthew’s ox. And that is before we look at the main event which depicts the Baptism of Christ (photo: Michael Garlick). And of course the pedestal figures, perhaps shackled and representing the Old Man in us, captive and burdened by sin, to be set free by the waters of baptism.

There are other treasures too, the tomb of William and Margery Unett, Cavaliers before it all went so horribly wrong, asleep in the chancel with the lustrous green of their bedlinen still showing well; and green though not with anything original, a rare original (Norman) sundial hiding above the north door (the porch is later work). I wonder who used it and why?

Too Ancient an idea to be Modern?

Hymns A&M was the brainchild of Herefordshire Vicar Henry Williams Baker (see my blog on Monkland). It proved a very useful book, but did of course involve editorial choices. One was to omit a verse from Charles Wesley’s “Forth in thy name I go” that gives us pause for the thought – both the verse and the decision to omit it:

“Preserve me from my calling’s snare,

And hide my simple heart above,

Above the thorns of choking care,

The gilded baits of worldly love.”