Weekday Masses – breakfast anybody?

One of loveliest things is that quite a few people got into the habit of coming to the occasional weekday Mass, either at lunchtime on Wednesday or in the early morning before going about their studies, employment or other business. (As a reminder: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 8am; Wednesday 12.30pm, Saturday 9am).

The usual pattern is that the Mass lasts about 20 minutes and those who want to stay for a coffee/tea and a biscuit pop over to the hall for half an hour or so. It’s a wonderful way for me to start my working day and I am delighted to have company. As a trial for the next few times I will offer some form of breakfast beyond a biscuit on Monday mornings – this seems to be the busiest morning. No pressure obviously – but you are most welcome to join! The photo is a rough approximation of what is provided…

Fighting the dirt and getting the Peace Garden ready

The building work causes an enormous about of dust – that’s normal and a sign of work happening. I am hugely grateful for the small crowd which turned up on Saturday morning to make sure everybody can sit down on Sunday without having to wash their clothes afterwards. We also managed to make a start with the garden, so hopefully it will be ready to enjoy as soon as the weather gets warmer. Last year it’s been a joy to sit out there, particularly on Sundays after Mass.

Do you enjoy gardening? If so, you could adopt a patch and make it yours and look after it whenever you feel like it. Access to the surroundings of the church is 24/07 – and to the Peace Garden by arrangement. Have a word with Tony or myself. We will need some hanging baskets soon – but not quite yet. We could also do with some more gardening tools – got some spares at home you could ‘lend’ us?

The next date for doing some work in church together is Saturday 18 March, 9.15am to 11.15am. It’s actually one of the more fun occasions during the week, not least thanks to the delicious cake Joyce and others keep making!

Mini Sermon Series about Liturgy

St Andrew’s as a whole has quite a liberal outlook on many things – as I said on many occasion, part of our identity is that a lot of us carry scars and burdens and are quite open about this, which makes for the most welcoming and amazing group of people I have ever been part of. In spite of our huge diversity in ethnicity, origin, nationality and cultural background there is a palpable sense of being curious about each other and at ease with difference. As a congregation we seem to care about each other – and I am delighted about the obvious success of the White Elephant Table which is a tangible example of mutual care.

In other ways we are a very serious church indeed: we make a huge effort to make our services as worthy of God as possible. We take enormous pride and care with everything you can see, smell or hear – my constant nagging about caring for the building is because the first impression of our church is unrepeatable. I am intensely proud that the building looks loved and cared for (in spite of the building work going on) and over the past year we took huge steps to make the building work better and increase the impact of our worship – so that the building speaks in harmony with everything else we do. Disharmony in worship happens easily and has nothing to do with music, it is possible to lie in worship: celebrating the Mass with a dirty altar cloth is a lie – if the King came for dinner one would never allow this to happen.

We put huge resources into dignified worship: full service orders for every Sunday and major feast, music, flowers, ritual, the daily Mass – we are very serious about this and in our tradition this matters hugely. The reason this matters so much is the meaning behind it – some of those things will be completely familiar to you and you may have been engaging with all your life as a Christian, other things may be news to you or we could offer a different perspective. We hope the next three Sundays offer something interesting.

Easter Egg Extravaganza

 We will be holding a fundraising raffle on 26th March and 2nd April. 

 How can you help? If you can gift an Easter egg, any size or make, that would be marvellous. There is a bag near the back of the church for your donations. 

If you are able to buy a raffle ticket they will be available in the centre at coffee time on both dates at £1 single or £5 per strip.

 All monies raised will go towards our building project with its unexpected deficit. Thank you!

Annual General Parish Church Meeting (APCM)

Our meeting is going to be on Zoom Tuesday 21 March at 7pm. The link is here. I had conversations with a number of different people about joining the Steering Group and I am glad that we will have a larger and more diverse group of people taking responsibility for the strategic direction we are going to take.

Somebody is needed to join the Deanery Synod and represent us there (the meeting of the local parishes in the City). Please have a word with me if you think this might be for you.

St John’s Chapel

You may have seen my note a few weeks ago (HERE) talking about that it has been annoying me for quite a while that St John’s Chapel (which has been dedicated as such in 1921) does not have an image or a figure of St John – instead St Andrew is there – somewhat hidden. We do need St Andrew very much as he is the patron saint of the church, but not there! I think St Andrew needs to move to the entrance area at the west where currently the black stage is in the way (and needs to disappear – see below) and St John’s Chapel needs a St John! Things are happening quite rapidly at the moment but obviously none of this will happen before the Parish Room is completely finished.

A potential good place for St Andrew after the removal of the stage – welcoming, visible and prominent.

To my utter delight with little encouragement and no blackmail at all Fr David Clark took on the project of carving a sculpture of St John (is there no limit to talent at St Andrew’s?) and below he writes about his ideas and plans.

St John the Evangelist

The parish priest, Fr. Johannes Arens, sent an email, asking if I, as a wood-carver, was interested. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind and spirit that night. And set about thinking what I would have to do to create a suitable image.

A new sculpture: what happens when a church needs a new sculpture for their St John Chapel? – A need which arose last year at St Andrew’s Jarrom Street.

For the past twenty-five or so years, I have hoarded a piece of yew tree trunk in my workshop with another sculpture in mind, but which there never was time to start. So I had a well-seasoned and potentially beautiful object to work. I began to research the tradition of carvings of St John the Evangelist, making sure that it wasn’t St John the Baptist who was required (pace Donatello’s famous image in Florence). I found that he (the Evangelist) was always depicted as young and clean-shaven, with curly hair (Tilman Riemenschneider, the Austrian sculptor,  shows him with a particularly baroque mass of curls). There is also a painting by Albrecht Dürer with the same kind of appearance but older.

I found some wallpaper which needed recycling and started making sketches. Then I looked around the congregation at St Andrew’s for a model, and saw our curly-headed thurifer, Tony Simons, and asked if he wouldn’t mind sitting for me. He agreed enthusiastically. I needed to get the proportions as correct as possible, given the constraints of the wood, but the right arm of St John must surely be over his heart for he is the Apostle of Love par excellence. In my drawing his left arm indicates below some of the physical illustrations of the great “I am” sayings in St John’s Gospel.

“I am” reminds us of the voice of God from the Burning Bush in the Moses stories (Exodus 3). Moses, scared at the prospect of telling Pharoah he must free the Enslaved Israelites, says, “Who shall I say sent me?” And God replies, “Tell them that I AM has sent you to them.” So when Jesus uses the term ‘I am’, we may safely conclude that these sayings have some kind of divine commission. “I am the Bread of Life” refers to the Eucharist. “I am the door of the sheepfold” indicates that it is through Jesus that we are brought into relationship with God. “I am the true vine” is the claim St John puts into the mouth of Jesus, meaning that he embodies the full spiritual heritage of the Chosen People. 

Another, most important ‘I AM’ saying is, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life”. St John’s Gospel 1:36 also records the witness of John the Baptist to Christ, when he said: “There is the Lamb of God”. Of course, all of these sayings may be used as effective prayer pointers.

The carving itself has a long way to go.

Fr David Clark