Saturday, 16 June 2018

The birth of St Barnabas Church

All Churches have many beginnings. In effect, St Barnabas’ Church started in 1870. On 1 May of that year, the Revd John Gouldie French was ordained by James Fraser, Bishop of Manchester, to become a curate at St James’ Church in Oldham. St James’ Vicar at the time was the Revd Septimus Gooday. He felt aggrieved that for six months he single-handedly had a long spell of cemetery duty in addition to his ordinary parochial responsibilities. In consequence, he applied for a curate to assist his work. Gouldie French was selected and moved to Oldham the very day after his ordination.
    As was common then, a curate was given a series of projects to show his mettle. One was to conduct Cottage Meetings in different parts of the parish. He found many people willing to open their doors in the vicinity of the Church, but he experienced more difficulty in finding suitable accommodation on the Lees Road side of the Parish. He received occasional hospitality for his gatherings in Mount Pleasant Street, Marsh Street and Overens Street, and Jackson Street, but it was not always easy to find a room.
    After conferring with the Vicar and Church officers, Gouldie French was authorised to rent a room in Back Marsh Street just off Lees Road. This location was demolished some years after the War, but was then near the present-day Lees Road. He started a simple service each Wednesday evening, assisted by volunteers from St James’ School. History records the first helpers as Miss Swailes (who soon became Mrs Gouldie French); Miss A Scholes; Miss Berry; Miss Beilby; and Messers D Simmonite, Josiah Greenhalgh, Walker Whittaker and Joseph Holt.
    It was soon evident that scope existed for a Sunday School. The Vicar sanctioned its opening and appointed Joseph Holt as its first superintendent.
    Later still, St James’ Church authorised a regular Sunday Evening Service — still at Back Marsh Street — and attracted good attendances. Gouldie French conducted the first such service in December 1872. He also preached, and later noted a ‘pleasing’ collection of £3 4s 7d.
    Gouldie French left St James’ Church in 1873 but later returned to become the Vicar of nearby Holy Trinity Church in Waterhead, for which he was Vicar for 48½ years.

St Margaret of Scotland

Image of Margaret from a medieval family tree

Saint Margaret of Scotland was also known as ‘Margaret of Wessex’ and ‘the Pearl of Scotland’.
       Margaret was born in exile in the Kingdom of Hungary, probably in 1045. In context, she was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the shortly reigned and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England. Edward the Confessor invited the family back to England in 1057, but again they fled following the Norman conquest of England in 1066. This time, the Scottish King, Malcolm III offered his protection to the royal family. Margaret married Malcolm in 1069 or 1070 to become Queen of Scots.
     Margaret was pious from an early age. Her biographer was Turgot of Durham, Bishop of St Andrew’s, who credits her with having a civilising influence on her husband the king by reading him narratives from the Bible. Among many charitable works she established a ferry across the Firth of Forth to enable pilgrims to reach the shrine of St Andrew in Fife which, incidentally, gave the towns of South Queensferry and North Queensferry their names. She rose at midnight every night to attend the liturgy. She gave alms on a lavish scale. Her charitable works included serving orphans and the poor every day before she ate and, in imitation of Jesus at the Last Supper, washing the feet of the poor.
    Margaret’s faith was later inspired by Lanfranc, a future Archbishop of Canterbury. With his help, she reformed the Scottish monasteries and helped the Scottish Church conform to the continental Church. She founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels, and established the Royal Mausoleum at Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury. She also helped restore the ancient abbey on Iona, where the remains of almost all the Scottish kings are buried.
    Under Margaret, Mass was changed from the many dialects of Gaelic to the unifying Latin. By adopting Latin in this way, she hoped that all Scots could worship together in unity, along with the other Christians of Western Europe. Indeed, in doing so, Margaret sought not only to unite the Scots but also the two nations of Scotland and England in an attempt to end the bloody warfare between the two countries.
    Margaret was mother to three Scottish kings and passed her faith to each, especially the youngest, who became King David I of Scotland, and who clearly revered her.
    Margaret’s piety involved severe fasting and abstinence, and probably shortened her life. According to Turbot’s Life of St Margaret, Queen of the Scots, she died at Edinburgh Castle in 1093, a few days after receiving the news of her husband’s death in battle. She was aged forty-seven. She was buried beside her husband Malcolm in Dunfermline Abbey. Her youngest son, King David I honoured her memory by building St Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle on the spot where his mother died in 1093. Within a few years, miracles took place in and around her tomb, and it became a popular shrine.
    The Church formally declared her a saint in 1250, and celebrates her feast on the anniversary of her death, 16 November.

God the Holy Spirit

God manifests Himself in many ways. One of them is through His Holy Spirit. (Many older translations and texts call him ‘God the Holy Ghost’ — but these two titles mean the same thing.)
     Whenever the Bible talks about ‘the Spirit’, it usually means God the Holy Spirit. Most of these references occur in the New Testament, though the image also occurs often in the Old Testament.
The Holy Spirit is sometimes described as Jesus’ Spirit on earth (Matthew 28:20; John 15:26). He is powerful:
· He helped create the world (Genesis 1:2).
· He is responsible for keeping us alive.
· He facilitates prayer: Romans 8 describes him acting almost like a translator between us and God the Father during our prayers.

Most people first receive the Holy Spirit at baptism (Matthew 3:16, Acts 10:47, 18:25), though the sensation and impact can be relatively unexceptional at the time. The action of the Spirit explains precisely why baptism is a sacrament. Most people are baptised as babies or as very young children. In a sense, the action of the Spirit at baptism helps ‘kick start’ a person’s Christian life, even if they are far too young to understand or respond for themselves at the time.
    The Spirit often also enters a person through the ‘laying on of hands.’ This curious phrase indicates the way the person doing the praying places his hands on someone else —generally on the top of the head — and prays for the Spirit to come. The classic example occurs in Confirmation. Incidentally, when praying, they may choose to use the word ‘anoint.’
    But will the Spirit come to us, if we want Him to? In the Gospels, Jesus tells us a parable that compares God to an earthly parent. It illustrates the way that we as humans give presents to their children. It says:
Jesus said, ‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him
a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (
Luke 11:11)

Some people worry that, having asked God’s Spirit to enter their lives, they feel no different. Do not worry: if you ask repeatedly, and seek to serve God, then changes will occur. You will change.
    God the Spirit enters us in order to change us. In the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:27, God says that all humans are made in the image and likeness of God. All Christians retain the image of God, for everyone has a soul. But sin mars the likeness; so sin means we are no longer holy. The Holy Spirit seeks to direct us into a new way of living—God’s way—which leads us into holiness of life. In fact, the Spirit directs us to act in the ways of holiness in order that we can understand God better. Figuratively, we can ‘see’ God: as one of Jesus’ beatitudes says, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God’ (Matthew 5:8).

Models of the Church: the ark

The Bible employs many different models that try to explain the concept of ‘Church’. Firstly a word of warning: Jesus did not directly create the Church. Rather, he came to usher in the Kingdom. His concept is very simple: if God is King — a sort of divine ruler — then we live under him and must obey his rule and obey only him. When all humanity does obey God as King, life on earth will be transformed, leading to an earthly paradise. He called it ‘The Kingdom’.
    Today, the Church is one of the principal vehicles that God uses to create the Kingdom.
    St Peter describes the Church as an Ark. This metaphor derives from the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6–9: only those on board the Ark were saved; and all others were drowned. The model is implied by several biblical authors and is most clearly described in 1 Peter 3:20.
    The idea behind St Peter’s imagery is obvious: only those within the Church will be saved. This view is biblical, but was first stated explicitly in this way by St Cyprian in about 250 AD: ‘there is no salvation outside the Church.’ On the face of it, Cyprian’s statement sounds restrictive — judgemental even. It’s actually a circular argument: if the Church comprises all those who have given their lives to Jesus, then only those in the Church can be saved.’ So the ark model of the church illustrates the importance of being a believing, Spirit-filled member of a Church.