On Tuesday, 21st August a party of over 50 adults and children enjoyed the Downpatrick Sunday School visit to Streamvale Open Dairy Farm. The weather was kind and the large party were able to enjoy the various attractions on offer including feeding all manner of animals (deer, Highland cattle, sheep), tractor rides, sheep racing and a whole lot more. It was a hugely enjoyable day out for everyone and a big thank you to Annabel for arranging the coach.
I never like to pass up an opportunity to visit the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth. Anyone with an interest in Unitarian and Dissenting history, church architecture, or the history of Liverpool will not fail to be enthralled by such an evocative building. On Mothering Sunday I was very pleased to be able to join in Sunday worship there, a service conducted by lay preacher Graham Greenall who led an appropriate act of worship which weaved together themes for Mothers’ Day, peace and a reflection on the recent shocking events in Westminster.
The late Christopher Stell, who produced the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments inventory of chapels and meeting-houses in England, was a big fan of this chapel. Dating back to 1618 the building is really redolent of the late eighteenth century when it was restored. It is part of Toxteth but speaks of a continuity of worship that stretches from the puritan farmers who cleared the forest and built the chapel for their minister Richard Mather to the present day.
An examination of the interior always throws up new things. One thing that I learnt from Christopher Stell was that the chapel builders, although puritans, were also heirs to the Anglican tradition and almost certainly built a small chapel with a chancel on the lines of a parish church. Little remains to display this today but above the organ you can still see the chancel arch. At some point in the eighteenth century the chancel was turned into a schoolhouse, later still it was used to house the organ loft and the present porch.
In 2018 the congregation will celebrate 400 years of worship in their building and will mark that milestone with suitable events.
The view from the gallery
Mather family pew dating from 1650
Graham Greenall in the pulpit
The chancel arch in front of the organ
Sunday School corner, recently restored
Fifi, who was also present, waiting patiently for some cake following the service (photo: Sue Steers)
In the latest issue of Faith and Freedom Clair Linzey contributes ‘Animal theology: a view from the periphery’. Clair is the Deputy Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and the article is based on a sermon she delivered in the Chapel of Harris Manchester College. In it she takes her lead from Jesus’s concern for the poor and Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff’s theology of liberation which extends concern for the poor and marginalised to the planet itself and its non-human inhabitants. She makes a case for concern for animal welfare to be moved from the margins of our thought and discourse to a more central place in our consideration for the sake of our own spiritual and personal well-being. It is well worth reading.
Those who attended the Old Students Association at Harris Manchester College in June will also have seen Nigel Clarke’s excellent presentation on the journal over the past twelve months. This included our own modest foray into animal matters with the appointment last year of Billy as the custodian of the Faith and Freedom archive.
Billy had initially done an excellent job in minding the archive and expressed evident delight at being appointed to such an illustrious role.
However, in more recent times he seems to have grown bored with this position and hints of dissatisfaction, indolence even, have crept into his demeanour as this candid picture illustrates:
This has led to calls for the position to be offered to Caspian, the cat. Caspian, however, indicated that he had other things to consider and was not at all minded to be tied down to such a position. His friend Rosie, however, has given it consideration and seems at home in a bookish world.
Time will tell if Rosie will prove suitable for this job. Caspian, however, declined to be photographed for this report and appears only in silhouette.