Touch Base Home Page: Current Issue (July/August 2019)

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Our front cover image this month marks the celebration of the Holy Trinity; three ‘Persons’, one God. It shows how the three diverse ‘movements’ of God remain in constant unity, which is something we as Christians, and especially Anglican Christians, try to model in our daily Church life. It also marks the transition of the Church into ‘ordinary’ time. A vital time for the Church, a time to apply the gifts we have been given at Christmas and Easter, to proclaim in love, that God-is-with-us and God-is for-us and in God we live, move and have our being.

A letter from Jane, our Priest in Charge:

Dear Friends,

Last month I had the pleasure of a holiday in the Loire Valley. There’s nothing unusual about that, but if I add that it was a cycling holiday it might make you smile. It was a first for me. Thanks to much advice given by people from our churches and my cycling companions, I set off armed with all I needed. The weather was glorious, the bikes were well equipped, our hotels were sumptuous, and the beauty of the Loire Valley was breath taking. On the third morning, when asked if I’d slept well, my answer was no. I’d spent most of the night trying to work out what my friends would say, which excuses might they find reasonable … “I’m going the rest of the way by train and taking the easy way out.”  My friends responded that Thomas, one of my brothers, would never let me live it down. “He wouldn’t know,” I replied. “What? You’d tell him?” Well, the thought of the wrath of Thomas plus the wrath of my cycling friends meant that I cycled a further 46 kilometres to reach our destination. That day was warmer than the previous and the tracks amongst the vineyards were hilly (probably little slopes to experienced cyclists, but I found it quicker to walk up them than peddle like fury and get nowhere). The sense of achievement when we reached Amboise was celebrated in a patisserie. I’m glad I persevered. My friends were delighted that we’d made the journey together. 

Safely back in York, many of us attended York Minster for the ordination service. Maxine Waller and the other ordinands were lit up with joy. The Gospel from Luke included the words of Jesus speaking to would-be followers: ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’.  It was one of those times when I longed for the preacher to concentrate on the words which were ringing true for me. Instead, the sermon was about calling and there was nothing wrong with that. Saying yes is the easy bit; it’s the commitment and dedication to follow Christ which bring the challenges.

At baptism we put our hand to the plough and throughout our lives other ploughs demand our attention … young people to their studies, couples to their marriages and relationships, priests to ministry, doctors to their patients, and so on. Our attention is divided if we keep looking back, as will our energy if we approach tasks half-heartedly. There is great strength to be found in looking forward when we are completely committed and giving the task our undivided attention. There is also great joy to be found when we do things wholeheartedly, even when there is hardship. Jesus was facing Jerusalem and would not be deflected from that path even though it meant rejection, betrayal and death.

To complete my cycling journey required support and encouragement from my friends. To follow Christ and to persevere requires the grace of God. That will keep us faithful to God and to one another. God helps us to persevere with our discipleship, with friends supporting and encouraging us along the way.

There’s been a lot going on since the cycling holiday, not least the discussions about the support for parishes, ministry team and congregations with churchwardens and PCC vice chairs.  I was humbled by their responses and those of clergy, Readers and others. I am thankful for their kindness, generosity and wisdom in the decision making. Since Sept 2018, staffing across the parishes has been depleted, leaving stipendiary clergy at 1.5 posts – myself as the only one working full-time, and Derek Earis working half-time. We are grateful for the work of the retired clergy and are aware that we have been asking a lot of them – they officiate at baptisms and weddings as well as at many Eucharist services. We are awaiting news of the review of the parishes and cannot recruit until that has been undertaken.

Following meetings with churchwardens, lay chairs, clergy and Readers to discuss the situation regarding staffing, a decision has been made to temporarily suspend or change some of the services across the parishes from 1 July 2019.

On Wednesdays, there will be one Eucharist, at St Martins at 12.15pm and there will be Noon Prayers at Holy Trinity Micklegate.

There will be no 8.30am Eucharist at St Olave's.

On Saturdays there will be no 10am services at St Martins, all will be welcome at the noon Eucharist service at St Helen.

On the 2nd Sunday of the month, a Service of Morning Prayer with hymns and sermon will be held at Denys instead of a Eucharist.

We hope that you will recognise the need to make the changes in order to ensure the wellbeing of all concerned. We hope too that you will keep the situation in your prayers. Thank you for your understanding and support to persevere until such times as the review of the parishes is completed and recruitment of clergy takes place. I am hopeful that all will be well and will continue to keep the situation and all of you in my daily prayers. Please persevere with your prayers.




From the Community of the Cross of Nails, York Group

During July we are praying for Reconcilers Together, a recent ecumenical initiative aiming to develop the ministry of reconciliation more widely in the Church.  Eight Christian partners are involved in the network so far: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reconciliation Ministry, St Michael’s House at Coventry Cathedral, The Rose Castle Foundation, Corrymeela, St Ethelburga’s Centre, The Blackley Centre, Place for Hope, and Bridge Builders Ministries.  It is supported by both Anglican Archbishops and by the Roman Catholic Cardinal.  If you are interested in this aspect of ministry the Reconcilers Together website is worth a look. Reconcilers Together is a very welcome and positive step forward, offering much opportunity for the future.

Reconcilers Together

We pray for this ecumenical network of Christian peace building and reconciliation centres around the UK and Ireland.

Reconciling God, we give thanks and praise for all engaged in your ministry of reconciliation. We remember particularly those Christian leaders who have this year followed a ‘Journey of Hope’, and now aspire to transform their churches into reconciliation hubs.    Amen

UN International Day of Peace

The next annual event held at St Martin Coney Street, will be the UN International Day of Peace on Saturday 21st September.  The theme for this year is Climate Action for Peace.  

Here is a paragraph from the Secretary General’s announcement: “Climate Action for Peace brings a clear message: the global climate emergency is a threat to security and stability. As coastal areas and degraded inland areas are becoming uninhabitable, millions of people are being forced to seek safety and better lives elsewhere. With extreme weather events and disasters becoming more frequent and severe, disputes over dwindling resources risk fuelling climate-related conflict."   

Please remember the date and look out for further details nearer the time.

Monica Lawrence


Diaconal Ordination

On Sunday 30th June we celebrated the ordination of Maxine Waller as a Deacon during a service at York Minster. Maxine was an active member of the congregation of St Denys prior to moving to Bridlington, taking her closer to her family, where she will serve as Assistant Curate at the Priory Church of St Mary. Members of the clergy and congregation at St Denys and the City Centre Churches were delighted to join her, along with representatives of the Priory Church in Bridlington. Family were joined by friends from Holy Trinity Bridlington, St Michael le Belfry and St Luke’s where Maxine had worked whilst in York, York School of Ministry and St Hild’s College along a large group of Maxine’s former dance students! Celebratory refreshments were held at The Grange Hotel after the service. We wish Maxine all the very best as she starts her new role.


A new Graduate

On June 26th, at a significant ceremony in the Chapel of York St John University, Muriel Daniel received an honorary degree from the university Vice Chancellor in recognition of services to education and for her inspirational work with generations of young people. Winning her teacher education certificate in an earlier incarnation of YSJU, Muriel is now proud to enjoy her newly acquired status for the next chapter of a life well-lived.


St Olave’s Church and Churchyard – History rediscovered

Over the last few months, in-depth research has been undertaken to discover the history of people buried and/or memorialised at St Olave’s over the centuries. St Olave’s has been at the heart of Christian worship in Marygate and the parish since before 1055.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the death and burial of Earl Siward (the founder of St Olave’s) in 1055 somewhere on this site. Ecclesiastical records indicate that George Neville (1432-1475), former Archbishop of York, granted land, goods and money from the estate of the powerful Benedictine Abbey of St Mary’s to St Olave’s.  A portion of the grants related to the creation of a churchyard. Early texts on the history of York (e.g. Drake, 1788) provide references to burials at St Olave’s prior to the 15th century but most are documented from the 16th century onwards. The churchyard was closed to further burials in 1854.  

Since then, the churchyard has remained a sacred and largely undisturbed haven of tranquillity in the centre of the city. Occupying a unique position, surrounded by medieval walls and overlooked on one side by the magnificent ruins of the abbey, this ancient churchyard is a repository of remarkable stories, some of which have only recently come to light. The lives of those buried here represent a mix of notable, highly talented people together with less well-known parishioners. All in their various ways, over many centuries, have made individual contributions to the historical, social and cultural history of York.

Remembering and celebrating people with whom, despite the progress and pressures of the modern age, we still have much in common, the research will be available to view at the rear of church in the next few weeks. We plan some open churchyard events later this year. In the meantime, a series of Touch Base articles highlights some of the remarkable stories uncovered.


William Etty (1787-1849) – A York-born Royal Academician  

William Etty (RA) occupies the most prestigious and well-known grave in the churchyard. Despite the undoubted talent of many other individuals buried here, Etty went further to achieve wider national and international acclaim during his lifetime. Born in York in 1787, William was the 7th son of Matthew and Esther Etty. Matthew was a successful baker who owned a shop in Feasegate. After early schooling, Etty left home to take up a printing apprenticeship, which he completed in seven years. He used his spare time to develop his early promise as an artist. In 1805 he moved to London to stay with his uncle, following in the footsteps of his older brother Walter, who had moved there a few years previously. Together, his uncle and brother became his most constant benefactors, encouraging, funding and supporting his artistic ambitions.

Aged nineteen, Etty was accepted as a probationer student at the Royal Academy. He thrived there and seemed to enjoy the capital, but never lost his affection for his native York. Persistence with his studies under Henry Fuseli and Sir Thomas Lawrence paid off, and Etty exhibited and sold his first paintings around 1810. But recognition came slowly. Although yet to become commercially successful, by 1814, Etty was becoming more widely respected as an artist of historically themed paintings often featuring nude figures. He was acclaimed for his ability to paint realistic flesh tones. 

Etty’s father died in 1818 and was buried at All Saint’s Pavement church. Etty always regretted that his father did not live to witness his rise to fame as an established Royal Academician. By 1820, he was becoming well known in London, receiving commissions and attracting the attention of serious art collectors. Major acclaim came with a study of ‘Cleopatra’s arrival in Celicia’. However, his preoccupation with nude figures offended many and courted controversy. Some considered his paintings were composed of ‘dirty flesh’, indecent and pornographic, and that his subjects were ‘out of proportion’. He strongly defended his art.  

After years of striving, Etty was finally elected Associate to the Royal Academy in 1824 and full member in 1828, beating his contemporary, John Constable. Delighted, he wrote to his cousin in York, Thomas Bodley: ‘I have triumphed! I am a Royal Academician of England! Last night the deed was done that made me happy, I am overwhelmed with joy!’  

Etty’s shy character made it difficult for him to host social events, now expected with his elevated social status. He was essentially modest, preferring to keep himself to himself, but was popular with fellow artists. His typical day consisted of rising at 7am, painting until 4pm, having a meal, going for a walk and retiring at midnight - following 2 cups of tea. He was considered unattractive and slovenly, short in stature with a large jaw and brows. His hair was wild and sandy, his face pock marked from smallpox, contracted when he was a child. During travels abroad he had fallen in love on a couple of occasions, but his love was unrequited. He never married.

Betsy Etty, (his niece) came to live with him and keep house in London. The daughter of his brother John, she remained with him until his death. When his mother died aged 76, in 1829, he was deeply affected. Esther was buried with her husband at All Saint’s Pavement. A memorial plaque was subsequently erected to his parents by their younger son, Charles Etty in 1852.  

Soon after this loss, Etty became involved in the conservation of York Minster and the City Walls. He adored York Minster and his interest in conservation was further stimulated after the Minster suffered major fire damage in 1829. On hearing of the disaster, he apparently burst into tears and was soon writing letters to the Dean and Chapter offering support and suggesting an architect to manage the restoration. Etty did not shirk from being in dispute with those who wished to change original features of buildings and over many years he and his friends campaigned passionately to oppose plans which sought to damage York’s heritage.

During a visit to Paris in 1830, Etty was inadvertently caught up in the ‘July Revolution’, an experience he never forgot as he had to escape the ‘mob’ on more than one occasion. He was lucky to escape unharmed. Throughout these distractions, he continued to paint and produce works as expected for Royal Academy exhibitions. He accepted commissions from notable people in London and York, including the aristocracy and prominent politicians. He rubbed shoulders with many other famous artists such as Pugin, Turner, Robert Browning and William Makepeace Thackery. In the mid-1830s he also sat on a Fine Arts Commission chaired by Prince Albert. The Prince subsequently commissioned him to paint frescoes on the walls of a Summer pavilion in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Although this was unsuccessful, it did Etty’s career no harm.

In his last decade, Etty lobbied for, and succeeded in establishing, a provincial School of Design (1842) in his native city, which provided a legacy for art in York. He paid a further visit to France and on return began to explore the potential of buying a property for his retirement. He purchased a house in Coney Street, close to St Martin-Le-Grand church and the River. He was by now financially independent, making most of his money in later years. Ill health hastened his retirement from the Royal Academy, and in 1848 he left London for York, with his faithful niece Betsy. When not troubled by long-standing respiratory problems, he enjoyed taking walks along the riverside and continuing to paint. He frequently attended services at the Minster and enjoyed the company of his trusted friends.

After a retrospective, London-based exhibition of his work in August 1849, he suffered a bout of rheumatic fever, which exhausted him. Although he rallied for a short time, he never regained his health. He died on Wednesday 13th November 1849, aged 62. Apparently reconciled to dying, he said to a servant: ‘Wonderful! This death!’  Etty’s fervent wish was to be buried in the Minster but he failed to make provision for this in his will. It was decided that Etty should be interred in St Olave’s churchyard, with a vantage point through a ruined arch of St Mary’s Abbey and reasonably close to his beloved Minster.

The funeral took place at St Olave’s on 23rd November. It was attended by many dignitaries and friends, the cortege processing slowly, to the sound of muffled bells, from Coney Street, Blake Street, St Leonard’s Place (with a last view of the Minster), to Bootham and finally Marygate. Shops were closed as a mark of respect. The service was dignified and impressive.

Betsy was grief-stricken, writing to a friend: ‘I am heartbroken, I have lost my best friend, I can say no more.’  Four months later, Walter Etty died and was buried at the foot of his famous brother’s tomb at St Olave’s. Betsy eventually married and left York to live in London with her husband and stepdaughter, dying in 1888. In February 1911, the City of York belatedly unveiled a statue to William Etty outside the Art Gallery. A stained-glass insert was also placed in one of the south nave windows at St Olave’s. Minor exhibitions of his work were held in the 1930s and 40s, but his work had largely fallen out of fashion until 2001/2 when the Tate Britain had an exhibition entitled ‘The Victorian Nude’, which helped to revive his status. In York, the City Art Gallery had a major exhibition of his work in 2012 and now holds the largest collection of Etty’s work in the country.  


Evening talk and music to celebrate the life of William Etty RA 

Friday 13th  September 2019, Saint Olave’s Church,7-9 pm. 

An expert talk on ‘The Life and Works of William Etty RA’ will be given by Dr Beatrice Bertram (Senior Curator), York City Art Gallery. The evening will feature music composed by Matthew and John Camidge, friends and contemporaries of Etty. The organ will be played by Keith Wright, Director of Music at St Olave’s.

It is intended that at the end of the event, the audience will gather around his tomb, in candlelight, to give thanks for his life and work. Boards featuring his work will be on display. Wine/cold drinks and nibbles provided at the close. Donations/retiring collection towards the restoration of William Etty’s tomb. 


Open day at St Olave’s Church

14th September - 10.30-4.30 pm

- Church and churchyard tours (11am, 1pm and 3pm);

- Crafts and preserve stall;

- Refreshments;

- Board displays and booklets.


Sunday School has been benefiting from lovely weather. They have been planting, growing and learning about God in creation. Bunting about how to love one another was a real treat. Thank you to Carole, Lucie, Lorna and others for their work with the children. Gill Pace looked really surprised when she encountered the donkey!

Sunday School meets during the 10.30am service at St Olave’s. Come and join us.