Well, Halifax must indeed be the Promised Land…it’s been much hotter here than any summers we’ve had down south (it’s always like that right?)…virtually no rain…rhubarb that’s still growing way past rhubarb season…and to top it all, as we turn from August into September – blackberries growing in the wasteland dump which passes for the Curatage back garden…which is improving gradually with the (almost willing) help of my kids! Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and all that – just need some apples to go with the blackberries for the next batch of Bramble Jelly, but I’m sure as this is the Promised Land, there must be some somewhere. Talking of the Promised Land, the other week someone in the Minster asked me where I came from, and I told them “Halifax”. All joking aside, I popped (or should I say “bobbed” now I’m in Yorkshire?) down South for a Wedding last weekend and got very homesick for Halifax!

So, where do we all belong? Hopefully we’d all say, “in God’s family”, and for the time being for me, like all of you, that means being part of God’s family here at the Minster and as part of the wider Benefice. One fun fact about September is that it’s the only month with the same number of letters in it as the number of the month…so with that in mind here’s nine things that being part of God’s family might mean for us all…

  1. Families have history. Life revolves around stories, and at the Minster I’ve noticed we seem to excel at telling our ‘story’. Our Welcomers do an absolutely amazing job and have very impressive skill sets to deal with whatever the day brings with a cheery smile and untold knowledge. Halifax Heritage Weekend (6th – 9th September) will soon be upon us with WW1 Sweetheart Pincushion Workshops and a talk from Lt Col Neil Stace, walking and bus tours, trips up the tower, and a Sans Illuminaire performance, all available for booking.
  2. Families enjoy entertainment together. Your opportunity to enjoy the Minster Organ Recitals is fast diminishing before the well-oiled wheels of the operation go into hibernation for the winter. Come along and chat with friends old and new over what always looks like an amazing lunch, before enjoying an Organ Recital. Thursdays 12:15pm for lunch; Organ Recital 1:00pm; optional Eucharist at 12:30pm between the two!
  3. Families delight in each other’s progress. Follow the progress of the outstanding Minster Choir as they went on Tour – find them on the Minster Facebook and YouTube.
  4. Families know and families care. Funerals, Weddings and Baptisms are very important life events; as part of God’s family we are privileged to be able to extend a warm welcome and embrace to those who come our way, even though it may be fleeting. May we welcome strangers in our midst during September, as in other months, as though we are entertaining angels.
  5. Families trust each other. PCC and Deanery Chapter continue their cycle of oversight and care. Please remember these important church bodies in your prayers; they carry out a vital and Godly function.
  6. Families have favourite seasonal events. I have it on good authority that our very own Revd Canon is rather partial to Michaelmas (29th Sept). As I like asking questions, I for one will be finding out why.
  7. Families eat together. The Friends of the Minster’s Afternoon Tea (strawberry scones, cakes and tea) is on Sun 30th, 2:30pm ‘til 3:45pm, followed by Choral Evensong at 4pm. Please do support them, they do an excellent job, and all you have to do is eat cake…what’s not to like?
  8. Families grow up. Nurseries, Schools, Colleges and Universities all start back in the coming weeks. Do pray for the local education establishments and for all those children in God’s family here, who will be starting the new academic year with everything which that brings with it.
  9. Families look out for each other. As God’s family here in this place, we have a wonderful opportunity to look out for each out, in love and compassion. Keep an eye out for anyone on whom you may be able to practice a Random Act of Kindness (google it if you need cheering up yourself!).

With much love and blessings to you all, 

Jane

Today it has rained for the first time in a long time. The garden is very dry and the grass brown. There is a hose ban already in the North West, and we are all encouraged to use water sensibly. We are reminded of our mission partners in Tanzania, Africa, where many villages still have no mains supply of water or electricity. Its tends to be mainly the women and children whose role it is to collect water, and to carry it in large containers on their head. Wakefield Diocese had a campaign called Water for Life, as wells were dug and rainwater goods were put on Churches, to collect the water when the rains eventually come. I was able to see this for myself first hand when I went to Africa a few years ago. Because of the shortage of water, when it does rain, they call it a Blessing from God!

In October we shall have two visitors from Tanzania: Peter Oyoo the Link Officer from our Mission Partner at the Cathedral Church of St Peter at Kowack; and Melina Galibona who runs the Safe House for Mara Diocese in Musoma. Some of us will remember Rhobi Samwelly, who set up the Safe House and came to preach here a few years ago? It will be good for us to renew our partnerships across the Anglican Communion and strengthen the Africa link. In order to bring some focus to our International work, it is my hope to re build the Social Justice Vision Group, and to encourage a group of us to come together and help to remind the whole community of the world’s poor, and of our responsibility as Christians to remember them in prayer and solidarity.

In November, a group of us from the Minster will travel to our other International partners in Aachen, Germany. We shall be attending Memorial Day on Sunday 18th November, when Germany has a national day of mourning for those who died in conflicts past and present. This comes the weekend after Remembrance Weekend, when we shall host a German delegation here in Halifax. In these awful days of Brexit, our friendships between the churches and peoples of Europe, need to be strengthened and sustained, more so now than for many years. Next year will be the 70th anniversary of the Halifax Aachen link.

Some of us will be leaving these shores for summer holidays and going to many places across Europe. The Anglican Communion has always been part of the glue of European Communities over hundreds of years, albeit a left over from Colonial days. Whilst our history is not always a pretty one, we have an important role to play as Christians, as Brexit not only leaves our nation torn and divided, but also has the potential to significantly damage the relative peace Europe has enjoyed for the past 70 years. The fall out should we leave Europe without any deal doesn’t bare contemplating as jobs across Europe will crash, medicines, security, scientific research, and the freedom of movement all comes to a halt. It’s clear from the end of Parliament before the summer recess, that the future of the government, at this significant time, hangs in the balance. Let’s hope the summer allows the politicians time to reflect and to come to some kind of sense, as we are all desperate to see strong governance supported by a strong opposition, as currently we seem to have neither?!

Hilary


As the Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Season reached its climax at Pentecost, so the warmth of the Summer months arrives and the Minster Parochial Church Council enters a new season. Last Monday the Minster Council met and had a large agenda to consider. Under Matters Arising was a further discussion about the Minster Tourism Strategy, as we observe a continued increase in visitor numbers, both casual visitors and from events. Through the Minster Development Board and Lloyds Banking Group all our wonderful Welcomers have been trained in Customer First skills, looking to ensure that our hospitality is consistent and of a high quality. One only has to look at Trip Adviser to see how good some of our Welcomers are when hosting visitors. We’ve been successful with an application to the Bishop’s Development Fund for a small amount of money to improve signage and interpretation around the Minster, match funded, we hope, by Lloyds Banking Group. Many of you will have seen new signs outside the Visitors Centre at the new Library and outside EUREKA car park. Last month 12 Guides were trained to provide Guided Tours of the Minster, interpreting both the heritage and the Christian faith. We have seen a significant increase in the number of groups requesting guided tours, and it our intention to provide guided tours throughout the summer to visitors, in partnership with the Visitors Centre and refreshments provided by The Friends. Gary Knapton has taken over from John Hardy as Shop Manager, and we have both new stock on Order and following a visit from Design and Display, we hope to provide some new display units, improving the entire visitor experience of the Minster. By the time visitors leave we hope they will want to tell others just how good the experience was and to return another day.

On Monday the Church Council approved the introduction of new Choir stalls in the Nave, which are being given to us by Ely Cathedral, who no longer have need of them. They were first designed by George Pace for St Alban’s Abbey, and then later transferred to Ely, and now hopefully to Halifax. They will require modification before they arrive, and a Faculty Application is being submitted. Drawings will be on display at the back of the Minster. Having put the new floor in place along with the new dais, it’s time now to finish off the project with new choir stalls, altar, and lectern. The design of the choir stalls will now dictate the design work of the altar and lectern, which we hope will follow on shortly.

The other major discussion item came from the Minster Development Board, with a proposal to submit a new application to the Heritage Lottery Board. This would include repair to the fabric of the building as identified in the Quinquennial Report, re-lighting the building, the introduction of the Treasury, (now to be in the tower) and additional toilets and new Kitchen area at the West End. Approval in principle was given so the application can be worked up, with a draft to be presented at the next meeting, and a submission made in August.

In addition to all of this, a major discussion took placed with regard to the Harrison Organ, following a visit by an independent Organ Advisor, whose report we are awaiting. It was clear that he viewed the organ as a Rolls Royce of an instrument, and that we were so lucky to be custodians of such a fine instrument. The organ will feature several times in the Minster Summer Festival – I hope everyone will come enjoy what will be on offer over 10 days of visual and performing arts.

It’s been quite a marathon the first weekend of July, with the Minster hosting BBC Radio 4, the Choral Society 200th anniversary Concert, the arrival of Jane Finn, the new Curate, and a large celebration event for the Archdeacon of Halifax.

This all comes within the Minster Festival, which runs for another week. Someone asked me the other day how the Minster was, and I had to answer manic! It’s wonderful to see the Minster so full of life, and such a cultural hub for the town, alongside our partners. Its seems only yesterday that the Piece Hall re opened, and ever since, we’ve seen a significant increase in visitor numbers, and more and more requests from organisations to make use of the Minster.

I’m very mindful of the pressure this puts on staff and volunteers, and some of us are working very hard to share out more equally those tasks that need to be undertaken, and not to over burden particular individuals. This presents an opportunity for us to be more inclusive by inviting new people to help, enabling them to make their contribution to the community alongside our own. There are no areas of the Minster which are privatised to an individual or a group of people, the whole of our community life belongs to everyone. In this business we try to pause three times a day, to remind ourselves of God’s presence with us, and to offer our prayers and petitions to God, and to hold the town and borough, and his world up to God. The Minster is the spiritual centre of Calderdale – the Mother Church. Our core business is to pray, and to represent the world to God. Sometimes the Minster is so busy we forget why we are here. Morning Prayers are at 9am, and we come to pray when the building is quiet, and before the day gets going. If you come into the Minster to volunteer, please remember that Morning Prayer is taking place, and help us keep the Minster quiet until after 9.30am, when prayers are over and the kettle is on! All of us need time to rest and recreate. Choir term finishes on Sunday, and then many families go on holiday, and term begins in September. This year the Choir will tour East Anglia at the end of August, visiting Bury St Edmunds, Norwich, and Ely Cathedrals. But all of us need to slow down a little, and make time to re energise for the autumn term. In September we will begin preparation for this year’s Initiation Service on the 4th November, when the bishop will come to baptise, admit children to communion before confirmation, confirm, and re affirmation of faith.

Each year a small group of people feel it’s the year for them, so over the summer please think about any of the above, as together we seek to grow in holiness. As well as people taking the plunge to make a first commitment to God, it’s also an opportunity to renew one’s faith publicly, re asserting those confirmation promises made all those years ago. Every year I pray that more people will want to re affirm their faith, setting out an example to all of us, about commitment and what it is to be a role model. Wouldn’t it be great if the whole Minster Council decided to re affirm their faith – it would send out a powerful message? Here’s wishing you all a lovely summer, and time to rest and slow down!

On yer Bike

Wheels are turning and we’re all gearing up for another Tour de Yorkshire Festival.

Cyclists will compete across the region from Richmond to Barnsley, from Beverley to Halifax, with everyone ending up in the city of Leeds.

Come rain or shine, folk will be out in full force to enjoy the spectacular event, roads will be mended, the bunting hung high, and thoughts of Brexit and the local elections, firmly locked away for this Bank Holiday bonanza.

The Tour celebrates not only the geography of Yorkshire, be it hill or dale, but also its great heritage, such as the two Minster towns of Beverley and Halifax which both host start days and are located in both the old East and West Riding.

Beverley boasts not only the Minster but also a fine parish church in St Mary’s.

Halifax too has its Benedictine Minster, with the start of Sunday’s race nearby at the newly revamped Piece Hall.

The Tour encourages all of us to get behind the race, either on the television or more importantly to get out doors and literally cheer those taking part.

Easter joy has brought an end to winter, and as the resurrected sun climbs higher and the trees blossom and we can all come out of hibernation and embrace the strong Yorkshire air.

Churches across the Anglican Diocese of Leeds will open their doors to join in the cycling celebration.

Refreshments and toilets for visitors, prayers for the cyclists and bells will ring out.

The Tour brings communities together, as they reach out to welcome and offer hospitality to the visitor.

This is what churches do so well for their communities, providing community spaces where everyone can gather for significant occasions, be it in the lives of individuals, on days of national significance, or on this occasion, to show the world that Yorkshire is the place to be, and that the churches across the region are alive and out wood looking.

Halifax has become one Yorkshire’s newest tourist destinations.

Well actually it’s not all that new – a tenth century tomb stone in the ancient Minster demonstrates a pair of Croppers Shears, that inform us that the weaving trade was already common place.

Having made their cloth, The Piece Hall was built in 1779 as the place to sell your wares, and remains the only Cloth market in Europe that has survived.

Many northern towns on the M62 corridor pulled down their heritage buildings, but Halifax in its wisdom has managed to retain many fine buildings, including The Town Hall (Charles Barry), The Borough Market, The Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, and the newly reopened Industrial Museum, located next to the New Library, with a wow factor that incorporates glass and heritage.

EUREKA, the National Children’s Museum, is a must for families and the Minster sits close to the railway station and the Piece Hall.

St Benedict, whose community founded the Minster, inspired his followers to embrace Hospitality as if they were welcoming Christ himself into their homes and it is open all year round to visitors - none more so than over the TDY Bank holiday weekend.

Its Friends will be providing refreshments for everyone, guided tours of the Minster promoted through the visitors centre in the New Library and an organ recital by Yorkshire’s own Dr Simon Lindley on the Monday afternoon.

Halifax Minster simply reflects all the activity of Church communities across our huge diocese as we lift up our hearts and celebrate all that’s good in our local communities.

Events like the Tour gladden the heart.

Life has been tough for so many people this year: with Universal Credit hurting many vulnerable families, foodbanks growing in number and providing more and more food for those in need, the nation still divided by the Brexit referendum.

It’s been a bleak winter with emergency services and gritters working through the night to keep roads open and rescuing people, many are struggling under the weight of debt and crippling interest payments from loan sharks.

Others wait for surgery as the NHS wobbles through the heavy weight of demand, the inequality gap continues to widen, leaving those who seem to have everything, and others who have so little in comparison.

But sport is a wonderful way of bringing different communities together, and provides us with signs of hope in the same way Churches across the region do so week by week and day by day.

Many great sporting fixtures begin with the singing of hymns, gathering everyone together into a common humanity, and uniting people in their common quest for stability and community life together.

For Christians, their whole life is a race, looking to Jesus who is the pioneer of their faith. Somehow sport and religion seem not to compete on this occasion, as they do most Sundays, but maybe find a commonality, and sharing of aspirations and potential for individual lives and whole communities.

Let hope the Tour de Yorkshire will be the tonic we’ve all been longing for and that blessings abound throughout God’s own county!

Canon Hilary Barber