Now is the Month of
The month of May has been linked to the Virgin Mary for
hundreds of years, so you will not be too surprised to learn that, on the first
of this year’s Bank Holidays, I shall be on pilgrimage at the Shrine of our Lady
I have always had a soft spot for Mary, even though the coveted role of
mother of the Christ-Child in the school Nativity play never came the way of a
plain and clumsy child with squinting eyes. Perhaps I would have been less eager
to take her part, if I had been old enough to reflect on her life in the way
that I did when I accepted an unexpected invitation to read the Marian
meditation at the Pilgrim Mass during my last visit to Walsingham’s Holy House.
It is thought that Mary was quite young when she received her life-changing
visit from the Angel Gabriel. ‘Greetings, favoured one!’ Did Mary feel favoured,
as a pregnant teenager in a small Galilean village? She must have endured some
Mary went off to see her cousin Elizabeth, to be met with the greeting,
‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ I wonder
how often she pondered on what it might mean to be blessed, travelling on a
donkey in the late stages of pregnancy, giving birth in a stable, escaping into
Egypt to get away from Herod.
When the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple, as the Jewish religious laws
required, the old man Simeon had prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s
soul. Did she recall his words when, with Joseph, she searched anxiously for the
boy Jesus until they found him? Who could have envisaged the anguish that would
eventually be hers, as she watched her son suffer and die on the Cross?
Like most mothers, love for her child kept Mary going, through all the
pleasures and the difficulties, the joys and the responsibilities. But she had
yet another reason. Mary trusted God’s promises and willingly accepted the
calling to be the mother of His Son, even though she could have had no idea what
would be involved: ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me
according to your word.’
Her faithfulness and obedience reveal not just a simple peasant girl but a
strong and dedicated woman, from whom life as the mother of God would demand all
that she had to give.
Just imagine her joy, as the news of her Son’s resurrection began to spread.
Think too, about how much the first believers must have held Mary in honour, for
the part she had played in God’s plan for salvation. Little wonder that
Christians of various denominations have continued to accord Mary the greatest
reverence and respect and, through the ages, have sought her prayers to support
them in their pilgrimage through life.
So this May, I shall be journeying once again to meet with other pilgrims in
England’s Nazareth and to honour Mary, not for who she is, but for what she
does, because Mary always points us beyond herself, to fix our eyes on Jesus. We
can all pray that our own commitment to God’s calling will be equally faithful,
as we fix our eyes on Him and place our whole trust in His purpose for our
‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.’
A Vision for the Team
During Advent we heard a little more about this Vision Statement which has
been prepared for our North Cheltenham Team Ministry:
The next stage of our work is to apply the Vision Statement locally, to each
of the communities which make up our Team Ministry. The aim is to use the
different aspects of the Vision Statement to enable the ministry and mission of
our individual congregations.
On Saturday 26th June we are holding a ‘Team Day’ at St Nicolas’ which
will be facilitated by the Revd Andrew Braddock, the Diocesan Missioner.
Representatives from each of the PCCs in the Team Ministry have been invited to
attend this day and we would like to extend the invitation to anyone from
amongst our congregations who would like to join us. The day will run from
10.00am until 4.00pm and include coffee, lunch and tea. The hope is that it will
be a stimulating and creative time together which will generate some positive
proposals for future working that can be taken back to our various
Please let one of the Churchwardens know if you intend to join us, or leave a
message at the Team Office on 244373 or email the
Eucharist with a Difference
This takes place every two months with the aim of making worship accessible
for newcomers and for children of all ages. Some of the differences are obvious
(fewer readings, a much less formal sermon and activities to join in with)
whilst others are more subtle. Here are some of the comments about the service
on Palm Sunday:
‘Not having the whole Passion script printed was more effective because
we had to listen. It was much more real.’
‘It’s good to have a change every now and then. It helps us to think
again about what we are doing.’
Thanks to everyone who has given us their comments. These help us to plan
services in the future.
We also used a new form of the Eucharistic Prayer. Comments about this will
be passed on to the Liturgical Commission, who are planning to revise these
prayers this Summer.
The next Eucharist with a Difference will be on Sunday 23rd May, the
feast of Pentecost. Please invite someone you know and offer to come with them,
as it can be quite daunting coming to church on your own for the first time.
For further information contact Fr Daniel .
Association for Church Editors
The Association for Church Editors (ACE), founded just over ten years ago, is
a network of self-help groups for editors and others involved in the production
and publication of local church and parish magazines and newsletters. I first
came across ACE about seven years ago and started attending local meetings,
first in Gloucester and then in Cheltenham. We glean ideas on content and
presentation from each others’ magazines and discuss ways of improving our
ACE holds a conference one year and a competition the next, with occasional
workshops in between. Over the years I have made changes to both the content and
appearance of our magazine, based on what I have learnt at workshops. Twice I
have entered our magazine in the competition, both times receiving either an
award or a commendation, and have subsequently made changes based on the judges’
This year the conference and AGM are being held in St Nicolas’ church on
Saturday 15th May, by kind permission of Fr Michael and the churchwardens.
Frances Murton, Editor
Celebration of Shared
Everyone is invited to a service in Gloucester Cathedral on Saturday 15th
May which celebrates shared local ministry across the diocese of Gloucester.
The service will be presided over by the Bishop of Tewkesbury, and the theme is
‘Centred in Christ’, and will be in the context of a Eucharist. Our own
Celebrate! musicians will be providing the music for the Service.
Coffee is from 9.15am, and a quiet morning with reflection and prayer led by
Bishop John starts at 9.45am. The Service starts at 11.30am and afterwards
fellowship and a simple lunch will be provided in the Chapter House.
If you would like to participate in all or some of this, would you let me
know and then I can give the Cathedral some idea of numbers.
A Perfect Evening
On Saturday 10th April I had the privilege of being a guest at a Soirée
organised by the Friends of St Mary’s, Prestbury. It was a wonderfully uplifting
occasion, featuring music from Bach to Vaughan Williams, and I enjoyed it very
Michael Freyhan, a talented pianist, who began his career as leader of the
National Youth Orchestra, played one of my favourite sonatas, Mozart’s G Major.
Having made a poor attempt at this in my youth it was wonderful to hear it
played so beautifully.
Anne Barton Hodges, soprano, and Paul Barton Hodges, baritone, began their
evening with a Bach Duet. It spoke of the love between Bridegroom and Bride,
from the Song of Songs. Later they sang early folk songs by Vaughan Williams,
part of a collection of English folk songs he had written in collaboration with
Holst and Cecil Sharp.
Many grandparents present admired the calm demeanour of their two young sons
who were part of the audience and appeared to enjoy their parents’ performance
as much as we did!
The recital ended with Frances Mason playing works by Kreisler. I don’t think
I ever enjoyed Kreisler before, but she made her violin sing and it was a joy.
During the evening we were served a generous and perfectly splendid supper.
The church looked beautiful with the Easter flowers – in fact it was a perfect
Thank you to all who worked so hard to organise this memorable occasion.
Bach to Vaughan Williams
The musical Soirée presented by Friends of St Mary’s on a lovely, and long
awaited, spring evening on 10th April was well attended and thoroughly enjoyed.
The music, from Bach to Vaughan Williams, was performed by Frances Mason,
Michael Freyhan, Anne Barton Hodges and Paul Barton Hodges with both
professional skill and enviable talent.
Paul’s and Anne’s voices blended well in their duets and were
enthusiastically received. Solo performances were equally appreciated with
Anne’s pure soprano soaring in the acoustically satisfying loftiness, while
Paul’s baritone gave real pleasure.
Frances’s violin performances were no less than awe inspiring, while Michael
Freyhan’s piano playing must have left those of us who found ‘practising the
piano’ too boring for words almost weeping with regret.
Supper between performances, cooked and served by Lynda and Ladies, was truly
delicious – the result, it is guessed, of several hours of dedicated work.
Profiles of the artists and composers written by Fr Paul Iles provided
welcome information and added interest.
It is hoped that the proceeds from the evening’s event will help towards
filling the ever needy coffers of church funds.
Congratulations to all concerned. Perhaps more of the same?
From left to right:
Michael Freyhan, Frances Mason, Anne and Paul Barton Hodges
The next Friends of St Mary’s event is to be a ‘Wine Tasting Evening’ on the
22nd July (postponed from 12th June) in Prestbury Hall.
In the darkness of pre-dawn I cycled down to All Saints’, the birdsong almost
deafening, and I thought about the women creeping out to Jesus’ tomb. Surely
they must have been consoled a little by such singing, even in their deep
despair? Every new day is a new beginning, even after such an appalling
We, a group of women joined later by two children, huddled round as Tim
kindled the fire from which Fr David lit the paschal candle. We trooped through
the west door into the cavernous darkness of the empty church – a huge tomb? –
lighting our little candles from the big one, and continued up the aisle to
gather around the nave altar.
I first became aware of the windows, large ones high up in the south
transept, when they were pale monochrome grey, the designs just discernible.
Then slowly, as if by magic, they came alive: first I detected a tinge of red, a
little while later a hint of blue. I was fascinated as these reds and blues
deepened and became richer, and I had to force myself not to watch continuously,
but only to glance at them occasionally.
It was about an hour later, after we had renewed our baptismal vows at the
font, that all the other colours, greens, yellows and browns, finally became
visible. And then suddenly a gem of a window shone out from the Lady Chapel,
peeping between the choir pillars, vividly green and red.
By the time the service ended at half past seven the sun had risen, the
windows were brilliant, and it was a truly alleluia Easter! We breakfasted in
the John Wood Room and came out into bright daylight. What a wonderful way to
celebrate the Easter Vigil!
South American Odyssey – Impressions of Religion
Continued from last
Chile has, sadly, has been in our thoughts recently as a result of the
devastating earthquake. We did wryly note the notice by lifts advising their
non-use in the case of earthquake or fire! Chile has separation of state and
religion but the Catholic Church enjoys a privileged status, and church
attendance is supposed to be around 25%. In Santiago there is a huge statue of
the Virgin on top of Mount San Cristobal which overlooks the whole city.
We ascended this mountain by funicular, and when we walked up the steps towards
the statue, rather ponderous religious music issued from loudspeakers.
Half way up there was a (covered) open-air altar with a number of terraces
looking down at the altar, on which were green wooden seats, acting as pews.
However, the main activity we noticed on the Sunday morning we were in
Santiago was a huge outdoor keep-fit session in a park, with music broadcast
over loudspeakers, and an instructor to ensure no flagging!
The last country we visited was Bolivia. Here there is no longer any official
religion, but Catholicism is still widely practised. Additionally, we were told
in La Paz that some of the most elaborate and famous religious festivals are
celebrated to commemorate, for example, the day the country got its
independence, so politics and religion can be closely entwined.
Here the ancient Aymara people hold on to their traditions and beliefs. Old
traditions have lasted over 500 years, for example the Kallawaya (medicine man).
Kallawaya people are an itinerant group of healers living in the Andes of
Bolivia. They are direct descendants of the Tiwanaku culture and treat by means
of plants and potions. This might not be so far removed from homeopathy and our
other alternative medicines here, except there is a huge amount of superstition
involved in the treatments which does not really tally with Catholic thinking.
Mountains are sacred to these people especially when they have snow on them, and
the Kallawaya prays to the mountains. The (newish) president of Bolivia, Evo
Morales, comes from peasant stock, and he is more willing than his predecessors
to encourage this type of thinking where old beliefs have a stronger root in the
countryside than in the cities, and apparently these Kallawayas have recently
been given the same status as a qualified medical doctor.
Tombs in Bolivia frequently have the Christian cross as a symbol, but also a
traditional garland of fruits or leaves.
Superstition holds sway in other areas too, for example before the
foundations of any new building are laid, it is more or less obligatory for a
(take a deep breath...) dried aborted foetus of a llama to be placed in the
ground. This particular delight can be purchased in the Witches’ market in La
We visited the little town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Here
we were quite bemused to see a whole line of vehicles (cars, lorries etc)
waiting outside the main church, bedecked with gladioli and other flowers. Our
guide told us that they were waiting for Mass to be over, when the priest would
come out and bless all the vehicles, to ensure that they would last a long time
and not break down!
Finally, an interesting test of faith. Also by the church were a number of
stalls (see photo above) which sold little plastic houses,
cars, university certificates etc. If you purchased one of these items and had
it blessed by the priest, the belief was that you would obtain a real one at
some stage. (If only it were that easy!!)
changes for PPY at ‘the best AGM ever’
A member of Prestbury and Pittville Youth (PPY) said, as she left the meeting
on 28th March, that it was the best Annual General Meeting she had ever been to.
That may not be saying much, as AGMs are notoriously boring, but for PPY the
2010 AGM was certainly a meeting to remember.
Young People were the stars
This was the first time that the PPY meeting was held on a different day from
the Parish of Prestbury Annual Meeting. The change was made so that the young
people could take a role and they took it with style and energy. Members of all
four leisure-time youth groups were present providing live music, video
discussions, entertaining games and refreshments.
Members of PPY’s two-year alternative curriculum project gave a moving
presentation telling of increases in confidence and their ability to talk to
others and of working to achieve national qualifications. They were proud of
their work as a team, identifying their individual roles, and showing photos of
themselves working at All Saints’, St Mary’s and Glenfall House.
All the young people were thanked and applauded long and loud.
Youth Development Worker, Andy Macauly, introduced all the youth work items
and explained his sabbatical leave. Fr David Gardiner, stand-in leader during
Andy’s leave, thanked the team of volunteer leaders and young leaders and showed
photos of a well-attended adventure and challenge weekend at Viney Hill.
Thanks to Stephen Murton
Admiration and thanks were also given to Stephen Murton. Admiration for the
mammoth task he achieved in cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End and thanks
for the £2000+ that he raised for PPY. Photos demonstrated the achievement
including of some of the hills he had had to climb. He presented a large cheque
to the Chairman.
In expressing PPY’s thanks, the Chairman added that more volunteers to help
with fundraising and awareness-raising were always welcome and identified some
specific jobs that needed doing, including public relations and website
Wider area, shorter name and even younger people
Then there was a unanimous vote in favour of an important amendment to the
charity constitution to enable PPY to work with young people aged 9+ (instead of
11+) and across the whole of the North Cheltenham Team Ministry area.
Because of this wider area, it was announced that the charity would operate
under the name ‘PPY’ in future.
Annual Accounts, Executive Committee Members, etc
Then came the usual business of an AGM which was handled quickly but
Hon Treasurer, Gill Wood, presented the 2009 Annual Accounts, thanking all
those who had provided personal support for PPY’s work, saying the number had
increased considerably. The Annual Report had been circulated with the agenda.
Both were adopted unanimously.
Members of the Executive Committee 2010/11 are: The Revd Michael Cozens as
Chairman, Gill Wood as Hon Treasurer, Liz Greenhow as Hon Secretary, Linda Biggs
and Clare Wyatt as Parish of Prestbury Appointees and Jill Bradley as an All
Saints’ Appointee. Peter Horne and Tricia Wilson were elected for one year.
There was one vacancy for an All Saints’ Appointee. Paul Broekman was appointed
as Independent Examiner of the Accounts.
The Chairman thanked members for their support, prayers and time and urged
them to encourage others also to support PPY’s work with young people.
from St John’s Gospel
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his
life for the sheep." … "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be
saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." … "I am the true vine,
and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no
fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be
even more fruitful." … "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never
go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."
John 10:11; 10:9; 15:1-2; 6:35 (NIV)
‘I’m a nurse.’ ‘I’m a husband.’ ‘I’m a plane spotter.’ ‘I’m an alcoholic.’
‘I’m the greatest.’ How do you describe yourself? Do you over-exaggerate a bit
and ‘over-egg the cake’? Perhaps you undersell yourself by skimming over your
gifts, abilities and attributes.
As a Christian I do not believe Jesus was mad, bad or sad but rather I hold
that what he said during his earthly ministry was voiced in order for us to get
to know his heavenly father more closely and more clearly than had, until that
time, been possible for the Israelites – the People of God. Support for this
idea can be drawn from John 10:30 where Jesus said ‘I and the Father are one’.
Thus it seems that the series of ‘I am’ statements by Jesus in St John’s
Gospel are shafts of light helping us to see better the nature and character of
both Jesus and his father.
Good Shepherd: this is an idea developed in the Hebrew scriptures. ‘The
LORD is my shepherd…’ from Psalm 23. ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only
take care of themselves…’ Ezekiel 34:2. (The other thirty or so verses from this
chapter are worth reading if you get a chance). And Jeremiah 23:1 ‘Woe to the
shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture.’
In the culture of the time the Good Shepherd guarded the one and only door to
the sheepfold. He, Jesus, provides in verse 9 both salvation and sustenance. The
former we have celebrated recently in Easter and the latter we will celebrate
shortly at Pentecost.
True Vine: one Old Testament concept was of Israel as a vine or a
vineyard. From Isaiah 5:7 ‘The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of
Israel and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight’, and from Psalm
80:8-9 ‘You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted
it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land’.
Jesus, by describing himself as ‘true’, emphasises himself as genuine, not a
counterfeit. Furthermore, Jesus is the real vine while Israel is but a
reflection of the relationship. The sole purpose of a vine is to produce fruit,
to which end pruning is a critical part. But this is not a purely mechanistic
process, rather nurture and good husbandry by the gardener – the Father – are
Bread of Life: Exodus 16 speaks of the manna and quail provided in the
desert for the wandering Jews. Deuteronomy 8:16 tells ‘He gave you manna to eat
in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and test you so
that in the end it might go well with you’.
Jesus in being ‘the bread of life’ provides for our eternal needs, not just
our daily food requirements as did the manna. This ties in so closely with our
celebration of the Eucharist, and we can understand it as such, though it was an
enigma for the people who heard it personally from the Lord.