Category Archives: Worship

A Celebration of Baptism: Sunday 23rd June, 9.30am

All welcome – babies and adults, parents and Godparents –  a chance for anyone who has been christened at St Mary’s, whether in recent years or a long time ago, to come and celebrate together.  Come and join us!

It’s okay to point!

On the 24 June each year the church celebrates the Birth of John the Baptist. Now, let’s be clear about one thing – we don’t actually know when John’s birthday was for sure but it isn’t just a random guess either. In the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel we find an account of the events that led up to the birth of Jesus, and alongside that we also are told about his cousin John. And from the dates that are described it seems as if that is how the 24 June was chosen. It comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. It isn’t entirely clear why it ends up being 24 June rather than 25 June but it might be that this is because of the way the counting was done back from Christmas, rather than forward, that has shifted things by a day. Nonetheless, the purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.

And what that means is that if the birth of Jesus is important then the birth of John the Baptist is too. It acts as a kind of pre-cursor and ‘warm up’ for the main event and that fits with the way John lived and preached as well. He must have cut quite an odd figure with his camel hair shirt and a diet to rival any bush-tucker trial, but what was important wasn’t his appearance but his message.

His role seems to call people to repent of their sins, to be washed clean in the waters of the River Jordan and to turn to the ways of God. When questioned he was quick to deflect attention away from himself and point towards Jesus. And so when we think of John the Baptist we remember the way in which he was close to Jesus, that he baptised Jesus and urged people to live in the way that Jesus was teaching.

As we approach this date we’re going to use this as an opportunity to celebrate baptism with a special service (actually the day before) on Sunday 23 June. It will be a chance for anyone who has been christened at St Mary’s, whether in recent years or a long time ago, to come and celebrate together. It will be a chance to remember the fact that in our baptism we belong to Jesus and we belong to each other as part of God’s family, the church. There will also be the chance to celebrate the important privilege and responsibility that parents have in bringing up their children in the Christian faith. And in our prayers we will be giving thanks for Godparents and the special relationship they have with children who have been christened. We’re going to be inviting families who have had a christening in the last few years but anyone and everyone is welcome to come and share in the celebrations. We will follow the service with tea, coffee, cake and a chance to meet up with each other.

John’s role was to point us to Jesus so that we could become shaped by him and become more like him. That’s also the role for the church, and for parents and Godparents at a Christening. So perhaps, despite what my Mum told me, it’s okay to point…


Evening Service: The influence of women on Christianity through the ages, Sunday 5th May, 6.30pm

Our evening service on Sunday 5th May, led by David Forbes, will recognise the unsung and largely unseen influence of women on Christianity through the centuries, with particular emphasis on:

  • Julian of Norwich
  • Hildegard of Bingen
  • Hilda of Whitby

With readings, reflections, prayer and music we will learn more about the lives and influence of these three significant women.

Please do come and join us.

Image: Detail from St. Hilda at Hartlepool by James Clark (Oil Painting), from Hartlepool Art Gallery (see license)


Choral Eucharist for the Feast of All Souls: 4th November 2018, 6.30pm

This article is the latest instalment of the Choral Evensong Blog, giving an insight into the history of and background to music sung by the choir at our monthly Choral Evensong services.  Click here to read all previous instalments of the blog.

Some of you may already have in your diaries Andrew Green’s talk on Tuesday 20 November on Vaughan Williams short opera The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains. If not, put it in straightaway! More details here

Andrew Green will be talking about his conviction that (though not stated publicly by the composer) the piece is a memorial to those who died in the Great War. The text of the opera is largely adapted from John Bunyan’s allegory of 1678 The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come, which was hugely popular at the time of the Great War. Some of us have heard Andrew’s talk before, and we can promise a moving, intriguing and fascinating evening, just a few days after the centenary of the Armistice. The evening will include the playing of a recording of the whole opera. But don’t worry, it is not a work of Wagnerian proportions, and lasts just over half an hour.

It occurred to Kathy Goodchild that movements from this work and Vaughan Williams’s later and longer opera The Pilgrim’s Progress (of which The Shepherds forms a part) would adapt well into a service for All Souls. She has therefore arranged four movements for choir, organ and viola (to be played by choir member and webmistress Kate Ford).

The Introit and motet after the commemoration of the departed are from ‘Watchful’s Song’ of The Pilgrim’s Progress, including words from Psalms 31, 127 and 121 and Isaiah 11 and 14.

Into thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Except the Lord keep the house, the watchman waketh in vain. The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep peace: the whole earth is at rest and is quiet.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from when cometh my help. My help cometh even from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved. He that keepeth thee shall not sleep. Behold he that keepeth thee shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord himself is thy keeper, he shall preserve thee from all evil: yea it is even he that shall keep thy soul from this time forth for evermore

The Gradual is from The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, and sets words from Psalm 91:

Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his feathers. He shall give his angels charge over thee, that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.

To this the Requiem words have been added:

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis   (Give them eternal rest O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them)

The anthem, taken from The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains sets words from Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters, he restoreth my soul, he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Yea though I walk thro’ the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

We hope that this music will give solace to the bereaved in 2018 just as it did after the Great War.

Jonathan Goodchild