St Alphege 19th April
This month’s saint is an Anglo Saxon Cleric who during his life played a significant role in integrating the Danish invaders of Britain into Anglo- Saxon society as part of the British race and who despite this was martyred by the Danes being the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die as a martyr. The writer selected him from the list of saints in the calendar for April because he was acquainted with St Alphege’s Church at Greenwich, although not realising that it was the site of the saint’s martyrdom, and on looking in Wikopedia the writer discovered that the saint was born in a village near Bath where the writer was brought up without realising it was the birth place of a saint. Clearly St. Alphege was a bit short on publicity which perhaps justifies an article about him.
Alphege (or to give him his anglo-saxon name AElfheah) was born about 953AD and became a monk at a monastery at Deerhurst. It has also been suggested that he served as a monk at Glastonbury but there is no hard proof of this. What is certain is that he then moved to Bath Abbey. He fancied the contemplative life and became an Anchorite or hermit living a solitary life in a cave in the Bath area. Here he built up a reputation for good works and a source of sound advice and became something of a cult figure. He then moved back into the Abbey becoming the Abbot about 980AD. His reputation as a source of sagacity was now well established and even the king, Ethelred the Unready sought his opinion.
In 984AD probably due to the influence of St Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was translated to the see of Winchester. Now, in the then capital of England. as well as administering the diocese he became King Ethelred’s principal source of advice. At this time the Danes had taken control of a large part of England and were threatening the kingdom. Alphege recognised that they were here to stay and the future lay in making peace with them and absorbing them into the English nation. With this in mind he negotiated for Ethelred a treaty of peace with one of the main norse raiders, Olaf Tryggvason, who having been paid danegeld agreed that he would never raid or fight the English and would support Ethelred. Olaf and and his followers also adopted Christianity and were received by Alphege into the Church. Alphege did not allow his work for Ethelred to interfere with his running of the Winchester diocese. He enlarged and improved a number of churches, promoted the veneration of St. Swithin, the founder of Winchester Cathedral, and also of Alheah his immediate predecessor as Bishop and also ordered the construction of a large organ at the Cathedral that could be heard over a mile away and required twenty four men to pump it.
In 1006AD he succeeded Aelfric as Archbishop of Canterbury and he took with him from Winchester the head of St Swithin as a relic. In 1007AD he travelled to Rome to be confirmed as Archbishop by Pope John XVIII. On the return journey he was set upon by robbers but managed to escape unharmed. The five years that he had administering the Archdiocese were largely a period of consolidation with changes to the liturgy, improvements in education and training of priests and a continuing dialogue with the Danish invaders.
Although there was by now a sizeable number of Danes settled in England beginning to regard themselves as English and acknowledging Ethelred as king, there were still incursions and raids from other Danes and Norsemen plundering English towns for money and valuables. One such raid occurred in September 1011 when the Danes laid siege to Canterbury, and after 21 days took the town, plundered, sacked and burned the Cathedral and took a number of prisoners to hold for ransom including Archbishop Alphege.
The Archbishop was held prisoner by the Danes until 19th April 2012 but he refused to allow himself to be ransomed and on that day the Danes got fed up with holding him and getting no money to release him. They therefore called a council to decide what to do with him. It is reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles that most of the Danish raiders were drunk on looted wine and the council descended into a drunken brawl. The Danes, enraged at receiving no money as a ransom, had Alphege brought before them and abandoning any pretence of a trial pelted him with bones and other debris from the rubbish pit. Alphege was hit and fell to the ground. It is said that one Danish leader, Thorkell the Tall, was so appalled at the treatment of the saint that offered to let the killers have all his wealth, other than his ship to free Alphege but the other Danes refused and continued to cruelly misuse the saint and one of the Danes eventually struck Alphege on the head with the back of his axe killing him instantly. Some sources allege that this final blow was struck by a Christian Dane named Thrum as an act of mercy to save the saint from further ill treatment and a painful death at the hands of the mob. So died a pious and wise churchman, a diplomat, adviser and counsellor of kings who paid a significant role in the history of England in the middle ages. Thorkell the Tall is said to have been so impressed by the saint’s demeanour that he converted to Christianity and bonded himself and his men to serve Ethelred.
The Saint’s body was buried at St Paul’s Church in London and was moved from there in 1023 by King Canute who had ascended the English throne. With great ceremony Canute, presumably as some expiation for Alphege’s death at the hand of the Danes, had the body removed to Canterbury Cathedral where it was enshrined. When the Cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1174 the body together with that of St Dunstan was enshrined at the high altar rebuilt cathedral.. Alphege was canonised as a martyr by Pope Gregory VII in 1078. A church dedicated to St. Alphege was built at the site of his death at Greenwich. St Alphege is also the Patron Saint of hostages and kidnap victims.
Our Prayers are with France and our brothers and sisters in Christ across Paris. A major fire has broken out during renovation works. This world heritage site dating back to the 12th centenary is one of the most visited churches in the world. Please pray as Holy Week begins, this is a terrible loss, the symbol of centuries of faith. Lord have mercy.
Our Rector Kenny said “our thoughts and prayers are with the community of Notre Dame and also with those who are working to put out the fire.”
The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral is a tragedy not only for Paris and the people of France but for the world. So many different things that make up the building are priceless – the medieval roof, the woodwork, the organ, the stained glass, the relics. But this tragedy is more than the loss of them all. It is the loss of the heart of Paris, the loss of a place of pilgrimage and the loss of a place of romance.
Every day this week, Christians will be reflecting on the heartbreak of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to whom Notre Dame was dedicated. Every day as we do so, we will be praying for the Paris its people as they face their own heartbreak. This was a building that is utterly associated with Paris. But it was an utterly priceless treasure for the world.
We pray for all those who are affected, upset and hurt by the loss of such a beautiful moment to Gods love. We pray especially for the firefighters tackling the tragic #NotreDame fire – and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ. Nous sommes avec vous.
We all here in Scotland hold you in our thoughts and prayers. We stand with you in Love.
Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed Alleluia! The Lenten fast is nearly over, the great feast of Easter approaches. Soon we will be called to be an Easter people. The question for all of us is to find ways in which we can show that we are an Easter people, a people who know and share the joy of Christ’s resurrection.
Lent, Holy Week and Easter are in their own way special times for they allow us space to grow and reflect not only on Christ’s journey to the cross and resurrection but also on our own journey of faith. In our everyday lives we all encounter what could be described as mini Lents, mini Holy Weeks and mini Easters. Times when we are called to face challenges and trials just as Jesus was. Yet also times when we share in great joy. Times when such trials are put aside and we rejoice in the glory of the resurrection.
We don’t have to look far to see that the world can be a troubled and difficult place, presenting us with both challenges and joys. We live in a society where belonging to a particular group, religious or otherwise, is often on the decline. A society where many are seeking some form of spiritual comfort without necessarily knowing what it is that they really want. Surely one of the tasks of the Church is to try and get alongside those who are searching and offer them a faith to engage with. To offer them hope and seek to share in that journey.
One of the wonderful post resurrection stories is the ‘Road to Emmaus’. Two disciples are walking to Emmaus and are joined by another man. Initially they are unaware of who this person is. It is only when Jesus breaks bread with them that they realise who He is. Once Jesus had gone the disciples shared with one another how they felt. They then go and relate this experience to the others and the message is shared. The wonderful point of this story is that Jesus met the disciples on an ordinary walk and in the course of an ordinary meal. It reminds us that so often, it is in our ordinariness that we can encounter and share the good news of the Risen Lord.
Our Lent, Holy Week and Easter experiences challenge, strengthen and enrich us. Such experiences are not ours to keep but ours to share. They are given to us so that we might share our journey of faith with others who are also searching for some meaning and purpose in their lives. The opportunities of how we can do this are presented to us all in our daily life. All that is required of us is to say ‘Yes’ to God and share in that journey. We hope to see you during our Holy Week Services and share together our journey.
Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!
As we seek to share our journeys of faith and move from one season to another I wish you all a joyful and blessed Easter.
Thank you to all for your suggestions and ideas for our Vision meeting. Vestry members discussed these and split them into 2 categories.
- Those concerned with the building were divided into 3 – discuss
now, hope and dream. Vestry will give regular updates on the
progress towards meeting the points raised.
- Those concerned with our services and outreach. Many of these
points are being discussed and addressed by our Growing Congregations and Communications sub-groups.
Dust woodwork above pipes/organ – this was completed during the repair of the organ. Vestry will look to ensuring it is cleaned on a regular basis.
Glass panels have been put into the double doors leading into the church. Thanks to Jack Wardell for arranging this.
The Gospel is now read facing the back of the church so the word is going out and spreading
A report is now available here. Moving forward the Vestry would like to draw on the experience and skills of volunteers to form three working groups – one to investigate costings and grants to fund projects, one to look at property maintenance and one to look at communication. If you would like to help on any of these please get in touch or speak to the Rector.
On a Business note:
the Vestry successfully applied for a refund of council tax for the period the Rectory was empty.
Gutters were cleared.
A grant application was made to help cover some of the cost of the vestibule roof repair which is planned for April or May.
It was agreed to change that Young Church would start in the hall at the beginning of the service and come up at the Peace to be present for the Liturgy of the Sacrament.
James Barcroft Vestry Secretary
This year our Diocesan Synod was held on Saturday 9th March in St Ninian’s Cathedral and the proceedings started with the usual Eucharist however this year it was a bit more special. Firstly because Bishop Ian was presiding for the first time and also Revd Graham Taylor and Revd Christine Fraser were installed as Canons. It was an uplifting service and the congregation included their families and their friends from both their congregations. At the conclusion of the service Synod was declared open and business got underway.
A new addition to the agenda this year was a report from the Dean!! Kenny, now well known to all of us, described his position for those not too familiar with the term as being similar to an Archdeacon in the CofE but with the added responsibility of a charge; thus having a foot in both camps, that of diocesan administration and the care of a congregation.
Within the routine business of Synod, quota will remain set at last year’s rate; the availability of Provincial building grants would continue; it was agreed that the Overseas committee should now be called the Diocesan Global Partnerships committee and this committee identified new links to be fostered, namely Diocese of Barakpore in India, Diocese of Amazonia in Brazil, Diocese of Niagara in Canada and finally the Solomon Islands; +Ian said he would like to set up a communications committee and is looking for a volunteer; the Provost spoke about the restoration work that has been carried out on the Cathedral; the importance was emphasised of PVG work and that it really applied to how we treated everybody, not just the vulnerable. +Ian remarked on how encouraging it was that within the Diocese all four Area councils were active.
Following lunch, in the Bishop’s Charge, Bishop Ian started by saying “God will lead us nearer to Him and closer to His Kingdom as we travel together”. He said that worship should be the best it can be as it is the first response to God’s love therefore it belongs to all of us and that we as a church should “face outwards”. Mission should not be an extra bolt-on, it is God’s project not a church project.
The SEC is looking at Lay Ministry and possible training for those involved. The Bishop is hoping to have a Diocesan festival relating to Lay Ministry.
The Lambeth Conference is to be held in 2020 and Bishop Ian is hoping to welcome four visiting Bishops to our Diocese – hopefully those from the dioceses with which we may be fostering links.
2021 is designated the Year of Pilgrimage and there is the possibility of a Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Bishop Ian also said that Brexit is a cause of dissension and anxiety and he urged every church to be ready to be a visible place of Hope.
Other business in the afternoon included a decision to approve a motion relating to the creation of Honorary Lay Canonries of St Ninian’s Cathedral.
Next year’s Diocesan Synod will be held on Saturday 7th March 2020. General Synod of the whole of the Scottish Episcopal Church will take place in Edinburgh on the 6th-8th June 2019.
Linda Brownlie, Lay Representative