A Very British Nativity
The following video has been produced by the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches Joint Public Issues Team for Christmas 2017. Do take a look.
The search for a name ... If you look closely at the Trinity Methodist Church War Memorial (which is today in the front garden of our Church), you will notice that near the bottom of the list of names there is room to insert another name. The reason for this was deliberate.
The original memorial was in a poor condition and several names were badly worn. After a great deal of photo-taking and discussion, the WW1 group decided that the renovated memorial would have space for the unknown name and that one day someone might trace it and we could then inscribe it in its rightful place. Well surprise, surprise! We found what we believe to be the missing name. We could make out the name Efic Sax ... something, but nothing else. Searches of the War Graves archives showed that there were two E. Saxons who died during the Great War. Who were they and did they have a connection with Frodsham? Of the two names, Ethel Saxon seemed a stronger candidate but we still could not link her with Frodsham.
We knew that her father was a primitive Methodist minister and further research showed the family living in Runcorn during part of his ministry, although the family was living in South Wales prior to the outbreak of war. Recently Territorial Forces records for nurses became available and we obtained a copy of her service records. Normally these are usually 2/3 pages long, however Ethel's ran to 147 pages. It turned out that her father had bombarded the War Office with letters about her effects, missing salary and if they were prepared to erect memorials to the nurses who had been killed/ died during the conflict. Whilst slowly ploughing through all the paperwork, a reference was found to a Mrs E. Thornton of Frodsham as being where all the mail should be directed. Further searching established that she was Ethel's aunt whose husband owned the motorcycle works opposite the church and that they lived in the large Edwardian house next to Trinity church, Deyne Court. When Ethel was sent to work as a nurse she was sent to Liverpool and not Cardiff wherever she lived. Coincidence?
Without going into further details, we now firmly believe that Ethel Saxon is the name we have been searching for and we are going ahead with arranging for a stone mason to inscribe her name.
Now does anyone know who Alan Stevenson was?
Lest We Forget
Frodsham Town Council’s WW1 Group, with the help of children from all Frodsham Primary Schools, produced a Poppy Cascade to commemorate the Frodsham soldiers who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 during WW1, and this has been displayed in the Medical Centre. I was asked to cut the ribbon to open the Cascade, as my Uncle Billie (William Jeffs) was killed in action, aged 21, during the battle of Mont St Eloi in May 1916.
Following the opening ceremony, Ken Crouch, from the WW1 Group, read out the following story, written by Mr Percy Dunbavand of Runcorn. “Around 1948, Mr Wilf Cotgrave, who lived at 2 Fountain Lane, Frodsham, was employed as a Bin-man (refuse collector) in the town, and one day, while depositing a bin full of rubbish in the bin wagon, he noticed an object as it fell out. He picked it up and found it to be a Bronze Death Plaque that had been awarded to the next of kin of a young Frodsham soldier who had lost his life during the Great War. It was known as the “Dead Man's Penny” due to the similarity to the smaller penny coin. Wilf took it home,
where it was kept on the mantelpiece. His son, John, remembers seeing it there when he was 6 years of age 68
Percy continued, "In 1964 John Cotgreave married my wife’s niece and came to live in Runcorn. He inherited the Plaque and always maintained that if ever he found a relative of the man who was commemorated on it, he would return it to them. However, John had never discovered any relatives until, in July this year, when I attended the Frodsham Fete in Castle Park and visited the stall that commemorated the Frodsham lads from the Great War. I talked to Sara Wakefield and after telling her of the Plaque she mentioned that there were relatives of the man still living in the town and if John was still willing to return the Plaque she would arrange for the transfer to go ahead. "
I rang John Cotgrave and he agreed, but unfortunately he could not attend the Ceremony, and asked if I would do the honour, which I gladly did. To my surprise, I was then presented with the Plaque, which was inscribed,
'William Jeffs' (my Uncle Billy). It was extremely emotional and my family can only think that when his
Mother, my Granny, died and the house was cleared, it was mistakenly thrown away. Thankfully it was found and we will now treasure it greatly.
Family Worker Ramblings
I started off this half-term in school reminding the children about being lights in the world. Matthew 5: 14-16 says, “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven."
When the darkness closes in, either from shorter days or it’s just one of those days when nothing is going right, remember God’s presence provides a light in that darkness. Connect to him and shine brightly through this season. May you rest in God’s love and peace.
Let me suggest 3 ways we can share God's love this Christmas:
Finally, let me tell you about an event we have in early January. "Be the Light Holiday Club" at Frodsham Methodist Church on Thursday 5th January 2017 Time: 2-4pm. Lots of fun, games and activities for Primary School Children. Cost £5 each. To book a place contact Andrea on 07749877823. At the end of the afternoon, at 4pm, there will be a Celebration of Light Service, followed by refreshments to which everyone is invited. Come and join us for this festive session.
Young Families Worker
Christians like me sometimes complain that our society no longer remembers “the true meaning of Christmas”. We regret that Christmas cards are more likely to feature snowmen or Father Christmas rather than the “traditional nativity scene”. Picture that nativity scene now as you read this. There in your mind’s eye you can
see a wooden stable. Mary and Joseph are in the middle (conveniently identified with halos so that you know who they are). They gaze at baby Jesus in a manger of pristine hay or straw. To their left are some shepherds with neatly trimmed beards. To their right are the wise men, usually three of them. Above them all, hovering inexplicably at a scale altitude of about 12 feet, is a star. If this was the scene that was featured on all our Christmas cards, we Christians would be happy! Unfortunately this cosy, familiar image is about as near to the Christmas story of the bible as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
There are four accounts of Jesus’ life in the bible. They are named after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Of these only two of them, Matthew and Luke, tell the story that sounds something like the story that we are familiar with. Remember, Matthew and Luke are religious insiders who are inspired by God to write their accounts to convince all of us that the birth of the baby at the centre of the story is of ultimate significance for every man, woman and child in every place and every time. This is the story they tell.
Firstly, they set their stall out by making it clear that the question of Jesus’ parentage scandalised their local community. Matthew tells the story from Joseph’s point of view and Luke tells it from Mary’s point of view. Far from being people of influence or of noble birth, Mary and Joseph are a couple of nobodies who are compelled by the so-called real power of the time to travel a long distance. There is no room in any of the guest rooms in the town so with labour underway, they find shelter in a cow shed. The baby is born and placed in the animal feeding trough. Who witnessed this amazing event?
Luke is writing to a wealthy, educated man, yet Luke tells us that amongst the first to be invited were poor, uneducated shepherds. Matthew, writing to a community of religious insiders tells us that amongst the first visitors were “magi from the east”. These magi (the word from which we get our word “Magic”) were not God-squad types, they were most probably astrologers from the area that is now modern-day Iran. God it seemed had reached out beyond the traditional faith community to those with a different religion or none.
Matthew concludes the story by telling us that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were forced to flee persecution and seek asylum in a foreign land.
The story claims that at the centre of this messy story that tells the truth about my life and yours; God gives himself to us. You are invited to join us at any of our services this Christmas. You are invited, not because we in the churches have a story to share with you; but rather because this story belongs to all of us. It a story of truth speaking to power. It is a story of radical inclusion that calls time on the barriers of wealth, race and religion in our community. It is a story that dares to believe that we belong to each other and that each one of us, in all of our wondrous diversity, is of infinite worth and value. You are invited, not by an establishment or institution; you are invited by choirs of angels!
May we all know God’s presence, peace and love this Christmas.
Andrew M Emison
Minister, Frodsham Methodist Church
Written by the Minister & Members