Category Archives: TFTD

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 27 January

Thought for the Day by Kevin Ward (St Michael’s)

There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The devil and his angels fought back but they were defeated.

Revelation 12:7

During lockdown, I have taken to wandering around Headingley and Far Headingley. Not far from Headingley town centre is Bennett Road. There’s a large ecclesiastical-looking building there. At the entrance is a stone sculptured panel depicting  Michael and the Dragon.  The building was originally called the St Michael’s Parochial Institute, and  was the brainchild of  Canon Frederick John  Wood,  vicar of St Michael’s  from  1881 to 1913. He intended the Institute to provide a social gathering for all who lived in the parish,  to ‘give opportunities in the evening for self-improvement and wholesome recreation to young men’. (Why not also young women, one may ask!) There was a large meeting room for public entertainment, and for gatherings of various political parties and  religious groups of all denominations, and there was a reading room which provided newspapers and periodicals; also a billiards room.  The Institute was opened in 1884, and for its first two years  served as the place of worship for St Michael’s parishioners, during the construction of our present parish church. The construction of the new church had earlier aroused heated debate because the larger footprint of the new building necessitated the disturbance, and the feared desecration,  of the surrounding graves:    

                                    A war in Headingley, if not in heaven.

One grave, dating from 1845, which still exists undisturbed outside the East window, has this poignant epitaph:         

Life is uncertain,            Death is sure
The wound is sin, and Christ the cure.

The stone frieze at the Institute shows St Michael as a  young man, somewhat encumbered by his wings, gingerly thrusting his lance into the dragon, a rather fierce and winged lion. Unfortunately for the angel, the shaft  has broken off. Some kind soul has  substituted a metal tube, but this too has become detached from the hilt, and  looks  ludicrously out of place. It somehow feels that  Michael is fighting a losing battle. Remember Geoffrey Howe’s famous resignation speech: “Its rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only to find, the moment the first balls are bowled, that the bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.”

The identification of the dragon with Satan, the Devil, figures strongly in Christian art and iconography down the ages. The Welsh red dragon, however, has positive connotations of struggle against invaders. In China and Japan, the dragon has always had a much more respected status: a heavenly being, representing majesty and authority, with strong connections to water – the dragon bestows rain and fertility on the earth, and protects seafarers during storms. There’s a famous painting by Hokusai depicting a dragon rising above Mt Fuji. Here the dragon is seen as a symbol of worldly success, the heavenly bestowal of good things   on the inhabitants of  earth.

One member  of St MIchael’s remembers using the building for Brownies when she was a girl. In 1957 it still had an active life as the home of the British Legion, a Badminton Club and for meetings of the Mothers’ Union. But at some time the Institute was sold off and was divided into office units. However,  in 2018 Leeds Vineyard, an evangelical Christian group, bought the building, and plans to use it for a variety of social activities to help the local community.  Definitely this will include lots of  activities involving women and children! It is good to see this building again being restored for Christian service to the people of Headingley.

For more information see the website of Leeds Vineyard and R.J. Wood, St Michael’s Headingley,  The Caxton Press, 1957

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 26 January

Thought for the Day by Angela Birkin (St Michael’s)

God with us in Headingley and Hyde Park – Houses of healing.

As I write this the cathedrals in Lichfield, Salisbury and Blackburn are being used as Covid-19 vaccination centres. A perfectly apt use of these beautiful houses of God as church buildings have long been centres of healing and wholeness.

St Michael’s, St Chad’s and All Hallows’ all incorporate prayers for healing and wholeness within their services, and individual prayer and anointing with oil is available to those who ask although this is sadly restricted at the present time.

The Eucharist is, of course, a service of healing and wholeness: we pray,

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

before receiving Holy Communion.

When I began my curacy at St Michael’s I enjoyed walking round the church and looking at the stained glass windows in particular. Most of the windows date from the the time the current church was built, but some glass from the previous 17th century church building was reused. My favourite window is a simple window in the Lady Chapel.

It shows Jesus raising the young daughter of Jairus, one of the leaders of the local synagogue (Mk 5. 22-43, Mt 9. 18-26, Lk 8. 41-56). The girl’s parents watch and pray as Jesus takes her hand and says, in the lovely language of the day, “Damsel I say unto thee arise.”

That window and those words became very important to me as I recovered from major surgery and underwent rather debilitating chemotherapy in late 2017 to mid 2018. My healing involved all the expertise, skill and modern medicine that the NHS had to offer, all of which is truly a gift from God, but also involved, and continues to involve, the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God, and that whatever happens my hand is held by my Saviour who offers ultimate healing and wholeness.

As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, healing of individuals and society is needed. May our churches be houses of healing for our communities through prayer and action.

Thought for the Day : Monday 25 January

Thought for the Day by Alan Griggs (St Chad’s)

Ubi Caritas et Amor (Where Love is, there is God) – a Taize chant

When I see TV pictures of doctors and nurses almost at the point of exhaustion as they care for those who are desperately ill, I don’t worry whether they are believers or not, I want to thank God; for God is with them in what they are doing.

When I see pictures of those working voluntarily in foodbanks to help feed those the hungry, I thank God, for God is with them whether they acknowledge Him or not.

When I hear of the work of the Rainbow Cafe at All Hallows, I give thanks to God.

When I hear that the Samaritans are listening to many more people than usual who are are feeling desperate, I give thanks.

As I hear of those who are campaigning for climate change, and looking forward with hope to the world environment conference in Glasgow in November, I rejoice that they are working for the justice and care for God’s planet.-

There is sometimes an arrogance amongst people of faith, that we think that we are the ones who are doing God’s work, and forget the vast numbers, outside of the religious groups, who are doing the same.

One of the largest secular organisations in the world working for compassion and service to the community, have a branch in Headingley. It is the Rotary Club.

Some of their work is overseas. Alongside the Bill Gates Foundation, Rotary is the largest donor working for the eradication of Polio throughout the world; there are now only a few cases left in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Africa is polio-free.

Headingley Rotary supports Lend with Care; this allows people like us to make donations of as little as £15. which then make interest-free loans to third-world entrepreneurs ; these loans are paid back, every so often, in small amounts; the money is then re-offered in further loans. The Headingley Club raised around £300 which have resulted, over time, in 128 loans totalling £2000, helping 1076 entrepreneurs and creating 508 new jobs.

Much of the club’s efforts have been directed to the local community. You may have seen them, collecting for charities, wearing yellow tabards, at the Arndale Centre. They help with literacy for those who have been struggling with reading at Caring for Life; help with St Peter’s Primary School, an inner-city school with children of more than 30 nationalities. The Club has organised (when there are no Covid restrictions), opportunities for passers-by to have their blood pressure checked at the Arndale Centre; help has been given to local foodbanks.

At Christmas 2019 Rotary sponsored a Window Display competition in local shops; it was not possible to do this in 2020; but it is planned to hold the competition again in December 2021.

The Rotary motto is we’re for communities, for Rotarians themselves ‘Service before Self‘.

Good work – God’s work – is being done in the local community, not only by the churches.

Thought for the Day : Friday 22 January

Thought for the Day by Tim Ward (St Chad’s)

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Thought for the Day : Thursday 21 January

Thought for the Day by Hilary Larkin (St Chad’s)

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Thought for the Day : Wednesday 20 January

Thought for the Day by Robin Fishwick

Thoughts on “Emmanuel”

I think it must have been the Spring of 1979 when I first set foot in Emmanuel. I had learned from my Anglican and Methodist friends that the church near the Parkinson Tower was where the Chaplaincy was based. One Sunday I went to  the Eucharist which I found to be very similar to the Catholic Mass I grew up with and I enjoyed chatting with friends and meeting new people after the service. The choir then started rehearsing an anthem I recognised and within minutes I had joined the Emmanuel Choir. I suppose that was the start of a love affair with Emmanuel that many years later brought me back to the refurbished building as a Quaker chaplain.

Emmanuel Church became the heart of University Chaplaincy in Leeds just because it happened to be where it was – right where much of the University and the Polytechnic was to be built in later years. And it just happened to be called “Emmanuel” – “God with us” – a name that in itself epitomises what chaplaincy is about.

Chaplaincy isn’t like parish ministry. It isn’t inviting people to come to our place, it’s being with people in the place they are already – be it a university, a hospital a prison or an airport. It’s not so much being a host as a guest, not so much taking people on a journey as joining them in theirs, not so much leading as accompanying. Chaplaincy is about being with people just as God is with us.

Since the pandemic took hold, though, we have had to look again about how to be that presence, as by and large we are not wandering about the campuses – and when we do there are not so many people about anyway. How to be that presence when we, and the people we serve, are, by and large, absent? 

We continue to struggle with this, but there have been for me some unexpected flowers in the desert. One has been the sense of “spiritual” presence. A Quaker once wrote “In the real spiritual world there are no starts and ends, all space, time and life are boundless and eternal.” From time to time in shared worship, even shared silence by Zoom and telephone I can become aware that I am no less close to the person I am with, even though I am only with them “remotely”, than if they were with me in my little office in the Emmanuel building. In the real spiritual world there is no remoteness. There is only presence

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 19 January

Thought for the Day by Malcolm Heath (St Michael’s)

‘Endless options for a drink’ and ‘retail therapy’, second and sixth items in a local estate agency’s list of 10 reasons to live in Headingley, were nowhere near the top of my priorities. It was not until I reached the tenth and last item that I found something to my taste: ‘access to outdoor space’.

Admittedly, when I moved to Leeds in 1988 the fact that I’d been offered a job here was my overriding priority: but a job in a city with a high percentage of green space was a welcome bonus. I was only briefly a Headingley resident: after a few months I migrated from a rented flat to my first house—in Burley. Twenty-five years later, I moved just around the corner to a larger house—still in Burley.

I can step down into Burley Bottom Park, and on to Burley Park and Burley Lodge Park, or sample the modest delights of Burley Green and Willow Field in the valley. Making my way along St Michael’s Lane I can peek at the allotments; when I reach St Michael’s Church I can gain uplift from the graveyard’s greenery.

Livia, wife of the emperor Augustus, liked gardens: she had a panoramic garden painted on the walls of a dining room in her luxury suburban villa. It’s well worth a look.

In the Bible, ‘garden’ occurs around 66 times—more than I expected. Here are just a few. A fertile garden is a gift of God, too easily lost (Genesis 2-3). Desirable gardens can prompt envious abuses of power (1 Kings 21). ‘Solomon’ reflects on the insignificance of, among other things, his garden (Ecclesiastes 2.1-8). The Song of Songs is full of garden imagery celebrating love. But gardens are two-edged: they may be shameful (Isaiah 1.27-31) or a joyful gift of God (Isaiah 51.3, 58.11, 61.11). A garden may be an image of God’s assured forgiveness (Hosea 14.4-7) or punishment (Amos 4.9) or restoration (Amos 9.14). Jesus was betrayed and arrested in a garden (John 18.1); he was laid to rest in a garden (19.38); but the gardener was the risen Jesus himself (20.15).

Thought for the Day : Monday 18 January

Thought for the Day by Richard Wilson (St Chad’s)

A cursory glimpse into the past by an elderly organist !

I have lived around Leeds all my life and since the age of 10 have played the organ and so have seen many changes.

When I was 16/17 I was invited to All Hallows to play the organ while Bill Simpson conducted the choir. They sang special music once a month instead of a sermon at Evensong. It was the old church then and on one occasion the Fauré Requiem was performed. Bill always reckoned that it was one of the first performances in Leeds by a church choir. Unfortunately that church building burnt down to be replaced by the new building. You don’t need telling what tremendous changes have happened since (see Katharine Salmon’s TFTD 4/1/21). Bill went on to become organist and choirmaster at St Michael’s.

So Bill and I met up again when I came to St Chad’s and the two choirs joined together occasionally.

If we look at changes in church buildings, Headingley Methodist was reorganised,  St Chad’s has been and there have been changes at St Michael’s.

St Columba’s United Reformed Church was built from new.

Now we have the Headingley and Hyde Park Team Ministry – still developing.

We must not forget Churches Together in Headingley and how many different Christian faiths meet up – this did not happen as much as today.

All these churches have parish centres being used to support other activities as well.

Surely this shows how much God has done and is continuing to do in this area.

Perhaps it is not until we look back we realise just how much this is and that God’s time scale is rather different to ours.

Thought for the Day : Friday 15 January

Thought for the Day by Anna Bland (All Hallows’)

The event that showed me ‘God with us in Hyde Park’ was back in 2014. At this time I was a student in Hyde Park living with five friends. In June of that year there was a week long, student led, community project called June Project. To finish a fantastic week of house cleaning, graffiti removal, tidying community areas across Hyde Park we hosted a street party. 

We dropped invites to many houses on the neighbouring streets, we catered big and kept fingers crossed for good weather. We closed the road, strung bunting up and chalked hopscotch where cars had previously been parked. As the morning wore on the street slowly filled with people from all walks of life. We cooked food and served drinks to so many people, our neighbours that we had never met before.

Hyde Park is a diverse place with people from many backgrounds. On a student timetable we often wouldn’t see our neighbours who were up much earlier for school and work. To see young and old talking and laughing together on our street was joyful and such a surprise when many of us spent all our time with our student peer group. We were unaware of the lives lived alongside our own.

It is well known that relations between students and longer term residents are not always positive in Hyde Park; so this street party symbolised something bigger than the individuals involved. Within that week, and especially on the day of the street party, I saw the spirit of God moving within the connections built and barriers broken down. That day we started to see the spark of God and the fullness of humanity in the other.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 14 January

Thought for the Day by Bob Shaw (St Michael’s)

During these challenging days we need to take full advantage of all the opportunities we have been given to continue on our Christian pilgrimage. Locally we are blessed with a number of assets that are open for everyone to explore freely. You might like to visit Beckett Park next to St. Chad’s Church which is easily accessible with footpaths always well -gritted during icy weather. It includes a university campus with an impressive classical style main building, a sign of architectural creativity at its best, as you can see.

Looking in the opposite direction beyond the trees there is a marvellous view across the Aire Valley and on a clear day you can even see the Emley Moor telecommunication mast which covers most of Yorkshire and even across the Pennines. It’s the tallest freestanding structure in the UK, a sign of the importance of communication across the wider world entrusted to us by God, and a reminder of how valuable technology has been in countering social isolation during this time of lockdown.

The campus itself began its life as the City of Leeds Training College for men and women intending to become teachers. I understand that its grand opening ceremony on 13th June 1913 was disrupted by an unnamed suffragette bravely demonstrating against gender inequality by promoting the voting rights of women. She was giving a prophetic sign in favour of social justice for all humanity, male and female alike.

The following year, with the declaration of war, the college was commandeered and re-named ‘2nd Northern General Hospital’ for the emergency nursing care of the injured, something perhaps not dissimilar to the scale of unexpected emergency care required  today by the NHS for so many victims of the ongoing  Covid19 outbreak. Our Christian discipleship requires us to care for all those in need.

Beckett Park originally belonged to Kirkstall Abbey, and you can still walk down through a lovely wooded area, past a memorial arch commemorating the visit of Queen Victoria for the opening of Leeds Town Hall in 1858, then across a pedestrian railway bridge before finally reaching the Abbey where you can explore its ruins free of charge. You may even imagine yourself alongside 12th century Cistercian monks sitting by the river Aire appreciating its natural wildlife. You might even catch sight of a kingfisher flying past but be prepared to wait patiently.

Prayer is like watching for
The kingfisher. All you can do is
Be there where he is likely to appear, and
Often nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and
No visible signs, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But when you’ve almost stopped
Expecting it, a flash of brightness
Gives encouragement.

Ann Lewin