I’d like to begin by welcoming everyone to the Minster this afternoon, and at such short notice and during the working day. This event is organised by Calderdale Interfaith Council and the Calderdale Council of Mosques, supported by The Local Authority and West Yorkshire Police. I’m delighted to welcome Chris Harris in her role as Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Marcus Thompson as Mayor of Calderdale. I’m also delighted that Holly Lynch MP for Halifax has managed to make it back from London, and to see cross party representation in these weeks leading up to the local elections. Its really good to welcome people of many different faiths and none to this Minster Church, founded by a Benedictine Foundation, who saw the role of the Minster as providing daily worship and meaningful hospitality, which I hope is evident not just today, but with increasing visitor numbers and events, something we try to do here every day. I’m equally saddened to be standing here today, after the terrible attack on fellow Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter Day.

This event on the other side of the world became more real for me, when my former MP for Withington and close friend, Keith Bradley, now a Working Peer in the Lords, contacted me to say both his sister and brother in law had died in the attack. Sally had been a GP and her husband a Firefighter. I recently read an account that described children coming to front of the church and one of the suicide bombers moving to be with the children before his detonated his bomb. I can’t begin to imagine what possessed or drove him to perform such an atrocity and cruel act, and how one could ever justify such behaviour in a civilised society in the 21st century. It was only a few weeks ago that many of us met at the Madni Mosque, to express our solidarity and horror following the NZ attack, and the death of many of our Muslim brothers and sisters. I’m greatly saddened, that yet again, religion is the focus for terrorism and murder, and that religion is somehow manipulated as the justifying means of this wickedness.

This is so far from the truth that Religion tries to bring to the world, and these fanatics are not religious followers of a loving and peaceful God, they have nothing to do with Religion, only their own sense of power over others, and their desire to inflict misery on others, and whole communities and nations. Fear is what they peddle, and we now see it closer to home, following not only the death of Jo Cox, but now Lyra McKee.

Last night I was at Old Trafford, and saw armed Police on the streets on Manchester, trying to reassure and protect, for fear that a football match provided a useful situation in which to cause harm. Here in Calderdale, we have the local elections – I’m saddened to see the National Front and Britain First standing for election, for I’m concerned that their history tells us they want to divide our communities and not stand up for tolerance and cohesion, and for the resilient communities that make up this Borough, that many of us have been building for many years. Bigotry and Racism have no place in Calderdale, and we need to ensure it stays that way and that Hate Crime is always reported and challenged. Calderdale is a place of hope, where despite the challenges we face, we don’t take social cohesion for granted. We work at this at many different levels every day of the year, challenging hurtful words and opinions and celebrating the rich diversity that makes Calderdale what it is today.

In this religious Christian building, we look to the Easter Candle as a sign of hope, that God’s love for the world can never be extinguished, that light always overcomes darkness, and that good will always overcome evil. I’m pleased to be working in Calderdale as a faith leader, because relationships with politicians and other faiths are strong and resilient, and not only should Calderdale strive to be the best Borough in the north, but the best at making Communities work: resilient, hardworking, diverse, and caring. My hope today is that we will continue to strive for all that is good in this world and across this town and borough, that we commit to building a fairer society in which everyone can flourish, and a place where children are safe to play, adults can peacefully grow old, and people of faith can happily go to Church, Mosque, Temple, Gurdwara, Synagogue, or walk in the Pennines, whatever faith they choose to follow, in the knowledge that they are free to do so and without fear or intimidation.

Canon Hilary Barber 25 April 2019

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday: where did that year go?! One of the many different opportunities the Minster affords is to host important mile stones in the lives of the people of Halifax and Calderdale. These come at the beginning of life when a child has been born, or in the middle of life when two people want to make promises to each other and to God about their future lives together, and then again at the end of life. We’ve had the privilege to host nine Funerals since Christmas, and whilst somewhat exhausting for those involved, they provide the Minster with a window to provide care and attention to the community around us. Because we are the largest Church in the locality, we tend to pick up those funerals that are perhaps unusual and often tragic. This makes the Minster an interesting place for those here in training roles and gives them valuable experience to take with them when they move on. Most funerals don’t involve the Class of 92 and the national media as we had the other day for Eric Harrison!

Last week, after Eric’s Funeral I spent the rest of the week at Selwyn College Cambridge. A lovely room and food, to allow me to slow down a bit, read, and pray. Not something that comes naturally to me, but something I’m still learning is good for me, and I suspect for the whole community while I’m away! Not surprisingly I fell asleep in the Fellows garden on Wednesday afternoon, as everything I’ve been doing since Christmas began to catch up with me. I did get to read and dip into a few books, which was restful as well as stimulating. I was able to revisit some old haunts from childhood days, with Evensong at John’s College on Wednesday, at Selwyn on Thursday, and then a Sung Eucharist on Friday for St David’s Day at Kings. Josh came to join me as Stephen Cherry the Dean gave us seats in the Fellows stalls, and the choir sang the Mass by Victoria O Quam gloriosum. With the music and the architecture, it was for me, a true glimpse of God’s glory and the thin veil between heaven and earth. Saturday I had tickets for Old Trafford as Manchester United took on Southampton!

Lent begins tomorrow, and we have an annual chance for some self-reflection and renewal. I can’t quite decide what I’m going to do this year for Lent, and time is running out! I’m thinking of taking a short walk each day, to give myself space and time, for me and for exercise! Most of the time I’m charging around chasing my tail, and it would be good to have more head space to reflect and simply be with God. The Minster shop has a few books, including the Archbishop’s Lent book for 2019, I think I will buy a copy and dip into it – last year I ended up reading it on my summer holiday! This year’s Lent Sermon Series will explore How other Faiths Pray, giving us insights to other windows onto God that might feed our own?

Friday the Minster hosts a Schools Fair Trade Conference as its Fair-Trade Fortnight, organised by Fair and Funky and Holly Lynch our MP. The Minster shop is now selling Fair Trade tea and coffee - you should try it sometime? Saturday we host The Battle of Heptonstall – another opportunity to welcome people into the Minster. We really are so lucky to have such a wonderful building that so many people want to come and enjoy!

Happy Lent!

It’s the autumn term and the days are getting shorter, the temperature is cooling down at night, and the leaves have begun to change colour. As the seasons change in their turn, so does the Calendar of the Church, as Sundays after Trinity come to an end, and we celebrate Michaelmas and Harvest, and prepare for the Kingdom season of November, and the end of the Church’s year on the Feast of Christ the King. When I think of Harvest I’m always drawn back to the visit Jenette Lee, Ned Smith and I made to Africa some four years ago, to our Mission Partners in Tanzania, in the Diocese of Rorya and Mara.

It’s really hard to describe the experience, other than to say it was life changing, and that one can never view the world the same after visiting a place with such economic poverty and spiritually very rich. There are things in the West we simply take for granted: water, access to education and health, housing and metal roads, reliable electricity and gas, Stipendiary Clergy! In Tanzania, most of these things are not available in the way we experience them, and it is through their faith in God and Jesus, that they find fulfilment in life and in serving the communities in which they live. On Sunday 7th October, Peter Oyoo, the Link Officer for the Diocese of Rorya will be preaching in the Minster. Peter is the main person with whom we communicate with our Mission Partners at the Cathedral Church of St Peter in Kowak, and the bishop + John Adiema.

They continue to build the Cathedral – floor, walls, and roof all now in place. I presented the Dean with a Book of the Gospels as a gift from the Minster to the Cathedral. We have some candle sticks in the Holdesworth Chapel from Kowak. At the Cathedral is both a theological college and an orphanage, where they look after many children whose parents have died from HIV and Aids. As well as supporting Kowak, we have supported the neighbouring Diocese of Mara, especially through the Safe House, set up by Rhobi Samwelli, who came here two years ago. This will be a chance for us to renew relationships and to hear first-hand how things are going for our Anglican fellow brothers and sisters.

This year will be special in terms of Commemorating the end of WW1. This begins for us in October with a special performance of The Armed Man to be given by Overgate Hospice Choir and the Kirklees Youth Symphony Orchestra. Some of our own Choristers will also take some of the solo parts in the performance. This theme will continue as we continue to prepare for Remembrance Weekend, when we shall receive a Delegation of Church, Civic, and we hope MOD from our twin German town of Aachen.

We have now had confirmation that the Hannover Girls Choir (similar to the Vienna Boys Choir) will be performing in the Minster on Saturday 10th November, with an special event late afternoon on Remembrance Sunday beginning at 5.30pm with The Annapurna Dance Company, and Faure’s Requiem, leading into the national lighting of Beacons, Last Post, and Bells rung across the nation.

The following weekend I shall lead another delegation from England to Germany for a return visit. Preparation for Initiation Sunday on the 4th November is about to get underway. Please consider baptism, admission to Holy Communion, confirmation, and re affirmation of faith, and join in this great opportunity to renew our faith corporately and individually as a whole community.

Happy New Year to everyone within the Minster Community! My thanks to everyone who has supported the Minster in the run up to Christmas – large numbers of Volunteering hours were clocked up by lots of people, and without your help we couldn’t have welcomed the thousands who came through our doors, whether it was the Tree Festival, the Illuminations Festival, or attending the many Christmas Services and events that took part. As we welcome the New Year in, so we are reminded that the seasons come and go in their turn, and that nothing ever stands still - at least not for long. Just before Christmas we said farewell to Canon Stephen Spencer as Chaplain to the Minster. Stephen now has a new job as a Theological Educator for the Anglican Communion, and his wife who is a Methodist Minister, has a new post in Bristol, where they will move to over the holidays. David Simon, the Lecturer, will be stepping down as Lecturer in the New Year as he supports Marjorie following her ill health, and will have Permission to Officiate allowing him to support the Minster on a Sunday until a new Lecturer is appointed or Jane the Curate is Priested. We thank Stephen and David for their ministry amongst us.

This term we have a Trainee Reader on placement at the Minster Shan Evans. She begins at Epiphany and will finish at Easter. In early January we shall print the Minster Planner for 2019 giving the whole community a heads up of what to expect in the coming year. This year we shall host a Lent Course during the principal 10.30am service on How other Faiths Pray as we look to deepen our own prayer life with God through Jesus, and seek to draw down the very best practices from the other faith communities who live around us. Other visiting preachers will help us consider the creation and ecology, transfiguration and how our own town and borough is being transformed, and how we might explore vocation of the whole people of God, empowering and equipping us all to deepen our own sense of calling and service.

In November we shall have been formally designated a Minster for 10 years. This provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how things have changed, and what we have achieved, and how much more there is still to do! This will be focused around a Benedictine Weekend at the end of November, on the Feast of Christ the King, led by the Community of the Resurrection Mirfield, as we look to re affirm our commitment to Benedictine Spirituality, to daily worship and hospitality. The Minster Development Board will continue to work in the background, providing expertise and capacity to take the Minster forward on capital projects as well as looking to invest in people. This year the Harrison organ celebrates its 90th birthday, and in the first week of January Harrison’s of Durham will come to report on the next steps that are required to take her forward for another century. The new Choir stalls are due to arrive early January, and we hope that the PCC will approve the designs for the new Nave Altar and Lectern, followed by Faculty application and public consultation. The Development Board are fully committed to the redevelopment of the West End, including new toilet provision, kitchen and treasury – we’re geared up for our third attempt! With every good wish for the New Year and the coming year, Hilary

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,