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Church matters.

Byline: By Francis Wood

Light the LIGHTS!

It's hard to imagine a solemn occasion in church without candles. At the time of the death of Princess Diana and when Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were killed at Soham in Cambridgeshire, mourners found that a lighted candle helped them to share their grief. A candle speaks volumes where words fail.

Yet, little over a hundred years ago, a bishop caused an uproar in the Church of England by lighting candles on an altar. The Evangelical Church Association took Bishop Edward of Lincoln to court, where the Archbishop of Canterbury ruled in his favour.

So Monday sees Candlemas, a day for lighting candles to mark the day when the infant Jesus was taken to be presented at the Temple in Jerusalem. There he was greeted by the old couple Simeon and Anna and recognised as the Light of the World. We still have the words of old Simeon in our worship in the words of the Nunc Dimittis.

It's good to see that candles are now well-established in the Church. The simple flame brings hope in despair, brings lost friends together and provides a token of love at a time of darkness.

There's an old weather prophesy for the season too:

If the sun shines on Candlemas Day

The worst of the winter is still on the way.

Remember that when you open the curtains on Monday morning.

Candles are not always what they seem, either. I once served in a church where we had a pair of candles 4ft high. They were beautifully white and you stood on a beer crate to light each wick. Few people knew that the main "candle" was a white metal tube and only the top three inches were of wax. This mini candle was held in place with a spring. Imagine the excitement on the day when, half way through the sermon, the mechanism failed and a ball of fire shot across the sanctuary, making a graceful landing in a flower vase. No one went to sleep that morning.


Why did the vicar burst into tears in the pulpit? Who wants to poison the organist? And why meet on the top of the church tower in a raging storm? It's all very simple. There's an alien at St Wilfrid's!

And he's coming to the Phoenix Theatre in Blyth on Tuesday (7.30pm) in a play performed by the Saltmine Theatre Company. Alien has been adapted for the stage from his book of the same name by humorous writer Adrian Plass.

Saltmine Theatre Company began in 1985. Members are committed to presenting the Christian faith through innovative theatre. Their recent touring production The Vigil received much acclaim and was performed at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

A local vicar has won an award from Ecclesiastical Insurance to enable her to explore how Christian communities can help not only themselves but the wider community.

The Rev Mary Judson is vicar of St Mark's, Millfield and St Luke's, Pallion. The award will enable her to visit South Africa to find out how churches there have been able to help with peace-making. She says, "Not only personal peace-making but reconciliation after a troubled past. Churches in South Africa have much experience of that."


TUESDAY: Brunswick Methodist Church, Newcastle.

United Service with Bishop of Newcastle, 1.10pm

Phoenix Theatre, Blyth.

Play: An Alien at St Wilfrid's, 7.30pm

THURSDAY: St Bartholomew's, Benton.

Pantomime: Robin Hood (also Friday and Saturday), 7.30pm

NEXT SATURDAY: St Peter's RC, Low Fell.

Concert: Felling Male Voice Choir, 7.30pm

NPlease send items for CHURCH MATTERS to Francis Wood, 53 Albemarle Avenue, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 3NQ or telephone (0191) 284 5338.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 31, 2004
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