Category Archives: music

The Story that Matters Most

We are still early in the new year, still at the time when any new year’s resolutions are at least not a distant memory (the second Friday in January is said to be the one when most of us have given up on resolutions). What if one of our resolutions this year could be to follow Jesus more truly? What if we were able to respond to the question “is this the year we’ll walk in Your ways?” with a promise to do all we can?

That question is one asked in a carol which was sung at St Mark’s last month. It was in fact a world premiere of a carol by author, songworker and artist Ash Brockwell. The carol was ‘The Story that Matters Most’.

Just before we sang it, I told the congregation how I had come across it. Ash had shared it on Facebook because of his concern and compassion for a 17-year-old transgender boy, Eli, who had already attempted suicide twice, who had then been asked to leave his church. Ash asked: ‘How is it possible that we still have church leaders who can reject and hurt such a vulnerable young person and yet convince themselves they’re doing God’s work?’. I don’t know the answer to that, but the God I put my faith in is one who welcomes all and loves all and who asks us to walk in his ways and do the same. We dedicated the song to Eli and others like him.

The carol, sung to the tune of William Parry’s Jerusalem, is going to be part of our canon. The story of how Ash came to write it is recorded here.

And here are the words:

The Story that Matters Most

Two thousand years this story’s been told,
Two thousand years and still we sing:
The Magi came with spices and gold
To glorify the new-born king;
The stable bare, the angels there,
the humble shepherds gathered around…
To tell the story that mattered most,
The love and hope their hearts had found.

Two thousand years and still we’re the same,
Watching the flames of hatred burn,
The grief and fear still spread in Your name…
Beloved, will we ever learn?
I know Your only law is Love,
I’ll hold to what I know to be true,
Perhaps the story that matters most
Is one that starts with me and You?

I won’t let hatred tear me apart,
I will not yield to doubt and fear;
I’ll look within the core of my heart,
And find You always waiting here.
You know the truth of who I am:
Open my eyes and help me to see,
Until the story that matters most
Begins again with You and me.

Is this the year we’ll walk in Your ways?
Is this the year we’ll learn to lead,
And share Your truth through worship and praise,
But also thought and word and deed?
What leads to fear is never right,
what leads to Love can never be wrong;
We know the story that matters most
Is one in which we ALL belong.

 

 

Stella Wiseman

 

 

 

The 25-year story behind The Story that Matters Most

By Ash Brockwell

The song that evolved into ‘The Story that Matters Most’, which had its world premiere at St Mark’s, Hale, in December 2018, started life in Southampton a quarter of a century ago.  That makes me feel old!

At secondary school, I was well known as a poet, composing odes on everything from Bonfire Night to homelessness.  So when the music teacher, Duncan Bradley, decided that he was bored with teaching the choir the same old carols every year, and wanted to write some new ones, I was the student that he approached for help with the lyrics.  It was the early 1990s, and at the time, a lot of people were convinced that Jesus would return in the year 2000 – so several of the carols that we collaborated on, as well as a short poem that never made it into song form, had a bit of a millennial flavour,

This particular song, then called ‘Peace and Goodwill’, examined how, 2,000 years after the message of peace and goodwill came to earth in the shape of a child, there was still war and oppression. It ended with a call to action to bring that peace and the challenge ‘Could it begin with me and you?’

The original carol was performed two or three times in school carol services, before Mr Bradley retired and the choir went back to a more traditional repertoire.  A few years ago I tried to track down a copy in the hope of getting it arranged for a four-part choir – but to no avail and with more immediate concerns like work, money and parenting, I forgot all about the song.

Fast forward to November 2017, when I was figuring out how to admit – to myself, to my church, and to the world at large – that I wasn’t the straight cisgender woman I’d always assumed myself to be.  I’d tried coming out as a lesbian in 2011, and again in 2016 to a bigger audience, but the word never quite felt right to me.  After discovering the term ‘non-binary transgender’ (neither fully female nor fully male), I’d embraced it enthusiastically as my new label – at least to myself and a few close friends.  My conservative rural Baptist church was less than impressed with my declaration that I was a lesbian, coming out with some version of ‘well, gay sex is a sin so you’ll have to take a vow of lifelong chastity if you want to become a member’ – so I didn’t even try to go there with my newly discovered non-binary identity.  But then a friend of a friend introduced me to Inclusive Church, and I somehow found myself signing up for their free Faith Leaders’ Gathering in London.

At the gathering however I found myself freaking out with social anxiety and unable to say anything at all, other than my name (which I hated anyway).  I knew I couldn’t possibly fit in. My non-binary identity was difficult to explain, my theology felt much too ‘out there’ and heretical to be discussed in front of bona fide vicars, and I wasn’t even a proper faith leader.  Most people had a congregation of some sort, and wanted to talk about practical things like how to get them to participate in Pride marches:  I didn’t even lead a prayer group.  I couldn’t understand what I was meant to be doing there, or why the ‘calling’ to attend had felt so strong.

But then there was a labyrinth walk, and everything suddenly clicked into place.  After everyone had walked the labyrinth, the conversation took on a very different tone.  It wasn’t about the practicalities of Pride any more: it was a deep sense of love, commitment, and passion to do something that would make things better for the thousands of LGBT+ people hurt by the Church.  On the train home, I was inspired to write two brand new sets of inclusive Christian song lyrics.

That gathering was a new beginning for me, in amazing ways.  One of the other participants introduced me to a private Facebook group for LGBT+ Christians, in which I later met my wonderful fiancée.  After the group chats helped me accept that it isn’t ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’ to dress in a masculine style and accept myself as non-female, I started describing myself as transmasculine – and eventually came to realise that I’m actually a transgender man.  Coming out as male, changing my name and switching to ‘he/him’ pronouns has helped me to feel much more comfortable and confident in myself, and to experience moments of joy that trans people refer to as ‘gender euphoria’ – that feeling of finally being seen for who you really are.  I’m now registered with the NHS Gender Identity Clinic in London, and hoping to have HRT and chest surgery in the future, although there’s still a long road ahead (the usual waiting time for a first appointment is 18-24 months).

Being in the group also inspired me to collect up all the Christian songs I’d written over time, both traditional ones and more controversial ones, and compile them into a book.  It was in the process of doing this that I remembered the carols I’d written as a teenager, and decided to update them for a post-millennial age; and after trying out some songs with a women’s group on the Isle of Wight and receiving the feedback that they were too difficult to learn, I came up with the idea of setting some of my lyrics to well-known hymn tunes.  I needed music that would be out of copyright, and of the old Victorian hymns, ‘Jerusalem’ has always been a favourite of mine.  And so ‘The Story That Matters Most’ was born, focusing not on war this time, but on the exclusivity and holier-than-thou attitude of so many churches – the ‘grief and fear still spread’ in Jesus’ name, especially among LGBT+ people!   I was sorry to miss the premiere because I was travelling overseas in December 2018, but I’m looking forward to hearing it sung in the future.

Emily and the Generations on the radio

Emily and the Generations may sound a little like a pop group, but today’s blog post title actually refers to an interview with Lesley Crawley on BBC Radio Surrey this morning (Sunday, Jan 13).

She was interviewed on the Sunday Breakfast show about our final push to raise money for Emily the organ – just £559 to go folks, come on, we can do it – but the interview spanned far more than just Emily, important and beloved as she is.

Interviewer Emily Jeffery talked to Lesley about how Emily the organ is a beloved part of the community and how her overhaul will allow us to use her again in worship, concerts and for children to learn on.

Then the interview broadened out to something that is also dear to our parish – the way we try to bring old and young and in between together.

Lesley spoke about the fact that local school children will be welcomed in to see the organ when it is being restored, how the table tennis club we run has become a ‘youth group for all ages’, the fact that we don’t send the children out of church for a separate Sunday school (“we are an inclusive church … and it seems wrong to send out part of our congregation”), the plans for opening St John’s up more to the community and bringing people together with a café, and other resources, perhaps even a nursery which could link in with a local care home.

To hear the interview click here and go to 2:38:52.

 

 

Picture by Will Francis. Unsplash.

 

‘Emily’ the Organ – one last push!

We are nearly there! ‘Emily,’ the pipe organ at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale, is in need of a thorough overhaul – at 106 years old she is showing her age. We need £23,000 to mend her and we are almost there – just £559 to go!

The money has been raised by the generosity of local people, the hard work of fundraisers and those who have put on and taken part in events, as well as funds from grant-giving bodies. Some people have sponsored pipes, others have made donations at concerts, sung, produced art, recited poetry, made cakes, bought cakes, even constructed a model organ and pushed it round two carnivals! Thank you everyone for what you have done.

We are now appealing for the last little bit so that work can begin this year. One easy way is by sponsoring a pipe. Pipes can be sponsored anonymously or not, and if you sponsor a pipe you can dedicate it to a loved one. You will receive a certificate and the church will display all the names and notes that all the sponsors write on a ‘Sponsoring a Pipe’ manuscript. There will be a celebratory concert once ‘Emily’ has been restored to which all those who have sponsored a pipe will be invited.

Rev’d Lesley Crawley from St Mark’s said: “Emily is a beautiful Edwardian pipe organ which is over 100 years old. She is referred to as ‘Emily’ after her benefactor – Emily Mangles. Sadly, she has been used very rarely over the past six years because, after a century of service, she is in need of a complete overhaul. Once she is restored then she will be available for community events such as concerts, and children who are learning the organ will be able to practise on her once again.”

These are the recommended donations:

Choose your level            Donation

Stop                                           £100

16ft pipe                                   £60

8ft pipe                                     £30

4ft pipe                                     £15

If you would like to donate, please contact Lesley on
revd.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org

Come and sing carols!

Come and sing carols for Christmas!

As we approach Christmas, there are plenty of opportunities to join in singing carols in celebration, starting with Informal Carols by Candlelight at St Mark’s on Friday (14th) at 6pm.

Then on Sunday (16th) both St George’s and St John’s are holding carol services.

At St George’s at 11.30am come and join the Worship for All Carol Service, and later that day there is a Candlelit Carol Service at 6pm.

Meanwhile at St John’s at 4pm, join in the beautiful traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols by Candlelight.

On Monday (17th) at 6pm, there will be carols under the lit tree at St George’s (inside if wet).

And on Tuesday (18th), come and sing carols at the Hale Institute from 6-8pm.

Come and celebrate with us! Everyone is welcome.

A Christmas carol extravaganza!

Come and join our Christmas Carol Extravaganza on Saturday (December 8) at St Mark’s, any time from 10.30am.

The day starts with coffee at 10.30am followed by carols from 11am and a light lunch at 12.30pm.

There are plenty of favourite carols to join in with – O come, O come Emmanuel; Silent Night; Hark! the herald-angels sing; Good King Wenceslas; The Holly and the ivy; O come, all ye faithful, and many, many more. There will also be ‘Christmas Rhythm’, a piece by Geoff Willis with eight Christmas carols hidden within.  The audience can have some fun identifying them.

All the pieces and carols will be played  on ‘Emily’, our treasured Edwardian organ, with other instruments sometimes to help her out.  Bob Shatwell is MC, and he’s leading ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ at the end, so anything could happen!  Donations welcome in aid of Emily. There will also be a raffle.

Emily is 106, and has a few tricks! You’ll hear surprising sounds you wouldn’t expect. A short demo will reveal her eccentricities, and the need to raise funds.

Reflections on a rainbow

 

Last Wednesday (July 18) I and several others from the parish, had the privilege of being part of a ‘Rainbow Service’ at St Mary’s Church in Guildford, a communion service which celebrated diversity and in particular welcomed people from the LGBTI+ community, along with family, friends and allies.

The word ‘privilege’ is often used to describe people’s feelings when they have attended an event, so often used that it has become a cliché and I thought carefully before using it, but it really did feel a privilege to be part of a warm, joyful, colourful service which not only celebrated diversity but was also ground-breaking. There have been other such services in other places but this was, I believe, the first in this part of the Diocese of Guildford. It was also packed, and not just with Anglicans, for it was an ecumenical service. I don’t know who came from which church but among those I was particularly pleased to welcome were three from the Godalming Unitarian Chapel including the minister Sheena.

The word privilege is important here for another reason too. Those who identify as straight and cisgendered have been privileged in society, and LGBTI+ people have been at best marginalised and discriminated against. More than that they have often been persecuted, attacked, forced to hide themselves. In some places they are imprisoned, killed. Though in many countries society is much more welcoming now – we have equal marriage after all, though ceremonies cannot be conducted in the Anglican Church – discrimination remains and the church is in large part responsible. There were those I knew there who had experienced direct discrimination and humiliation from both church and society, and I knew just a few of the congregation.

During the service there were references to the wounds that have been and continue to be inflicted, but there was no sense of bitterness, simply an offering of ourselves to God and a joy that God welcomes us all here, now, as we are, and loves and celebrates us. The Confession included the words: ‘Forgive us when we don’t believe such love is true or possible, when we wonder how you could love us just as we are, when we forget our intricate construction, fearfully, wonderfully made, in your image! You know our hearts – and you love us still.’

There was joy, there was wonderful music, and there was colour, not least in the ribbons that we all wore and then tied to a huge circle of wool which we all held, before placing it on the altar, in the rainbow cloth in front of the altar, in the rainbow banner which until the night before had adorned St Mark’s in Hale, in the amazing rainbow cupcakes which a lady called Liz had made, in the installation celebrating and challenging us on inclusion which Lesley Shatwell had prepared, in the rainbow collages which Dave and Helena Walker encouraged us to make.

There was also talk, lots of it, with people lingering over nibbles, wine and those cupcakes, making friends, just feeling welcome. It was, as I said, a privilege and the first, I am certain, of many such occasions.

Stella Wiseman

Arts at St Mark’s

NEWS RELEASE

5th October 2017

 

Arts at St Mark’s as church holds inaugural arts festival

 

St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale, is holding its inaugural arts festival over the weekend of October 20-22.

 

The festival, which will include a concert, a ceilidh, art exhibition, arts, craft and music workshop, and a sung service on Sunday morning, has been organised by a group of artists and musicians in the church who were inspired by the wealth of creativity in the parish.

The festival is open to all at no charge and among the workshops on offer on Saturday will be stone-cutting, working with clay, music and an opportunity to redraw the map of Hale in an art workshop.

There will be a concert on Friday evening at 7pm featuring organ music, a ‘Cajun Boogaloo’, Wildflowers choral group, and the rock-a-billy country band Fingersmith and the Rocking Thumbs, and on Saturday at 7pm there will be a ceilidh and a celebration of work from the daytime workshops.

The Sunday service at 11am will be almost entirely sung (including the sermon) and will take place in a church decorated with artwork from Saturday.

Licensed Lay Minister and musician Lesley Shatwell, one of the organisers, will be leading the Sunday service. She said: “I love all kinds of music, but since I have been licensed as a lay minister, I have been wanting to share the variety of religious songs, gospel music and folk hymns; and maybe to see if I could put them together into a completely musical service.

“Creativity was bubbling up throughout our parish and I am not sure who first thought, ‘We could have a festival to celebrate all of this’, but the idea took hold. People offered time and expertise, musicians looked through their repertoire to select the right pieces and suddenly, it is all taking shape very quickly. Admission to the concert is free but donations may be made in aid of parish funds and the century-old organ, known as ‘Emily’, which is in need of refurbishment.

For further details call 07592 571243 or visit http://www.badshotleaandhale.org

 

Singing Together

Last Thursday fifteen of us met at St. Marks church for a lovely evening singing together.

Frances had invited local renowned musician, Len Tyler, to meet us and encourage us all to sing even better than we do already!

Len is an expert in the Kodály method of singing. This encourages us to listen, think, and sing at the same time. Within an hour we, as a group, were all singing confidently in four parts. We all felt very pleased with ourselves.

Many of us feel we would like to meet again. Len is extremely busy so cannot join us, but I did a Kodály course as part of my teachers training many years ago, and I am very happy to revise it in order to lead a few sessions if everyone is happy about that.

I suggest we meet again on Thursday 18th May at St. Marks church at 6:15 until 7:30, to sing and socialise.

Len has said he would visit us again in a few months and it would be good to show him what we can do!

See you all soon and  keeeeeep singing!

Margaret 😃

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Sponsor a stop to save Emily

‘Emily,’ the pipe organ at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale is 103 years old and in need of a complete overhaul. The Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale have been fundraising and so far have raise £2500 towards the target of £23,000.

St Mark’s Church are appealing to the community to help save this local piece of history by sponsoring an organ stop. A ‘stop’, when it is pulled out, allows pressurized air to a set of organ pipes. This changes the sound of the organ, perhaps making it sound like a group flutes or oboes. There are eight stops available for sponsorship at £100 each, in addition there are pipes available at £60, £30 or £15 each.

The Reverend Lesley Crawley said, “Pipes and stops can be sponsored anonymously or not, and those sponsoring them will be able to write who they are sponsoring it for. They will receive a certificate and the church will display all the names and notes that people write on a ‘Sponsoring a Pipe’ manuscript. There will be a celebratory concert once ‘Emily’ has been restore to which all those who have sponsored a pipe will be invited.”

To sponsor a pipe or stop please send the note of who you are dedicating the pipe to and your  donation (payable to The Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale PCC) to St Mark’s Church, Alma Lane, Farnham, GU9 0LT. For further information or to ensure your donation is gift-aided then call the Reverend Lesley Crawley on 01252 820537.