Touch Base Home Page: Current Issue (July 2017)

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York City Centre Churches; Facebook

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All Saints, PavementHoly Trinity, MicklegateSt Denys, WalmgateSt Helen, StonegateSt Lawrence, Lawrence Street (+FacebookTwitter); St Martin, Coney StreetSt Olave, Marygate (+Prayer Cycle

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 Previous Issues of Touch Base 

The deadline for the next edition (August - September) is 22 July 2017. Please send articles to the Editor at this address 

A letter from our Assistant Priest, Derek Earis

Dear Friends,

Hymns are among the most important elements of worship. Choose a hymn or hymn tune wrongly and the celebrant or organist will hear about it. On the other hand the right hymn at the right time can be a powerful witness. As well as the Father Brown stories and numerous writings G.K. Chesterton wrote a fine hymn that can be found in all the major hymn books. It has I think a startling relevance to the distressing and chaotic events of the past weeks, not least the four terror attacks at the time of writing, the horrendous London fire and the political uncertainty of a hung parliament following the General Election. The hymn “O God of earth and altar” was written back in 1905 for the first edition of the  English Hymnal  when Chesterton was a 31 year old journalist. He entitled it a “prayer for the nation.” After a meeting of the Church Socialist League in 1912 when there was great division in the country, a miners strike and talk of civil war the meeting marched to the Archbishop of Canterbury singing its words:-

O God of earth and altar
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter
Our people drift and die
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us
But take away our pride.

It is the second verse in particular which startles us by dealing so directly with the terror many have so recently experienced. I know of no other hymn that does so in such a direct way. In  dramatic and fervent prose Chesterton’s  hymn demands deliverance…

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.

Chesterton was indeed a prophet who read not just the signs of his time but the signs of all times and the perils and evil  that can beset all nations. He described himself as an orthodox Christian and wrote a book “Orthodoxy” though many  found his views radical and disturbing and far from their orthodoxy. At the heart of his thinking was a conviction that God is God of all (earth and altar) and concerned not with human concerns of walls of gold or swords of scorn but with the good of  all his creation. He resonated with Charles Dickens’ defence of the poor and oppressed and indeed wrote a major study of his writings. He was powerfully moved at the awful possibilities of terror which yet again  surround us. He looks not just to human measures of security but to God to give us judgements, show us right actions and indeed deliver us. He realised that only if we turn to him and his way of love can evil be defeated.

So the last verse of the hymn has a vision of the harmony that this brings:-

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exaltation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation
A single sword to thee.

Here is a vision of a united nation where the lives of all are bound together whatever their background. It is the vision captured in a sea of flowers and candles in Manchester, in Christians and Moslems standing in solidarity and in those who rush to help the afflicted in disasters such as the Grenfell tower block fire. It is that prayer for the nation and right thinking that seeks God’s way of righteousness and peace which we proclaim especially with the peace light at St Martin’s but also with  the prayers and witness of all our churches. To Chesterton this is what can make us a living and united nation.  In short a nation where all are saved from the horrors that can so easily surround us. 

So we try and  make this reconciliation and peace our guide as Christians. As we look to the future we can be guided by an extraordinary man of a different generation who wrote 80 books, hundreds of poems, 200 short stories, 4000 essays and several plays but most importantly one hymn. To me this hymn encapsulates not only his thought and religious faith but speaks powerfully to us in this  uncomfortable summer of 2017 and shows us a way through “aflame with faith and free”.

With prayers for the witness and ministry of all of us in these challenging times, 

Derek Earis

Being a Church of England School

St Lawrence School was founded in the 1790s, at a time when the Church of England was setting up schools for the children of workers who otherwise would not be able to get an education. But what does it mean to be a Church of England School today? One part of this is that the school is supported by the church - here are the ways in which St Lawrence Church supports and serves this school.

Members of the congregation come to the school once a fortnight for Open the Book, where we act out Bible stories in Collective Worship. We try to get the children acting and taking part as well, and they seem to really enjoy the fun! Our Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Jane Nattrass, also leads Collective Worship sessions on a regular basis, and some members of the congregation also serve as Governors, trying to make the school the best it can be. We also take part in a national initiative called Pray, Bake, Read: praying for the school, baking cakes for the teachers, and volunteering to read with children. There’s also Sunday School at church, which is having a break for the summer but starting again in September, for children aged 5 – 11 during the 10am service. Parents are very welcome to come too, and we take part in fun, games, and learning more about God. 

Elli Course, Foundation Governor and member of St Lawrence Church


Two well known people from our churches received awards in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Marie Taylor, who is the area standard bearer for the York area of the Royal Naval Association (RNA), receives a British Empire Medal ”for services to Veterans and the community in York”. She said it has been hard to keep a secret. “Funnily enough over the past few weeks people have said to me, ‘I’m surprised you haven’t got any awards for what you do’ – and I’m sort of going, 'um…’”

Marie, 64, was in the Women’s Royal Naval Service for 14 years.

She’s been on the committee of the York branch of the RNA for several years, and has been area standard bearer for a decade. She said:

I go all over the place, because the area goes from the bottom of Scotland down to the Humber and across to the Pennines. The standard is fairly heavy, but once you get used to doing it, it becomes easier. If the wind takes it, it can cause problems.” Marie is also chairman of the York branch of the Association of Wrens, and is treasurer of the Royal Marines Association, and on the committee of the Royal British Legion locally.

How does she feel about receiving the honour? “It’s just phenomenal. You think it will happen to somebody else and not to you.”

She will be presented with her medal by the Lord Lieutenant, and then goes to a celebratory garden party at Buckingham Palace.


Jonathan Taylor (a former member of St Olave’s) and the former head teacher of Bootham School receives an MBE ”for services to the York Independent State School Partnership”.

Jonathan Taylor set up the partnership in 2006, said he was “delighted, proud and humbled” to receive the award.

“The fact that the York ISSP is still thriving, and expanding its range of activities is testimony to the energy, creativity and professionalism of so many colleagues across the city. It is no surprise to me that teachers from across all sectors, given responsibility, and freedom, can develop innovative and adventurous programmes of education for the benefit of the local community.”

The current head, Chris Jeffery, paid tribute to his predecessor:

“He influenced the lives of thousands of children (and teachers) across York by lighting the touch paper for the ISSP and he ensured that Bootham held the higher purposes of education dear, always pushing for radical spirit of enquiry.”


There are many ways to serve in our churches which helps to build up the church so that mission can happen.


Money counters

Serving team

Hosting concerts

Vergers for weddings and funerals



Flower arranging



Coffee and refreshments

Taking care of pilgrims

It would be good to bring together a team who could give guided tours of the churches on Friday and Saturday afternoons in the summer months. If this is something which interests you, please contact Jane.


You might also be interested to note that York City Council website has details of volunteering in many forms.

There are many things you can get involved with by volunteering with us - read more about the roles you could undertake below.

Here is a flavour of what some of the volunteer roles mean:-

Community Panel member

In this role you will represent the local community when a young person has been given a Referral Order from Court. The Panel Members work with the young person around restorative justice to make amends for their behaviour and to tackle the cause of their behaviour. As a volunteer you will be asked to sit on a panel with another volunteer 2 to 3 times per month.

Benefits to the volunteer: A chance to use and develop your own skills and experience. Access to initial and ongoing training. An opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills improve confidence and self esteem.

Urban Buzz project volunteer

York Urban Buzz is helping insect pollinators such as bees and butterflies in York by creating new flower-rich habitats across the city. These areas are important for wildlife and people alike as they add much needed colour to the urban environment. Volunteers are needed to assist with creation and ongoing maintenance of pollinator habitats such as wildflower meadows, orchards, and bee hotels across York.

Benefits to the volunteer: Opportunities to learn practical skills in habitat management. A chance to meet new people and improve your mental and physical wellbeing by spending time outdoors amongst nature. You will influence what happens to green spaces in your local area.

Volunteer bailiff

In this role you’ll liaise with both the public and fishermen, help promote the fishing rules at Chapman’s Pond, encourage responsible fishing and respect for the site and wildlife, report defects and any health and safety issues around the pond to City of York Council. You will also participate in fishery surveys and assist with the monitoring of fisheries as required.

Benefits to the volunteer: An opportunity to make a positive difference in the local community, improve security in the area and deter any potential anti-social behaviour. Opportunities to network with other volunteers and to make new friends.

Tree warden

As a volunteer you will assist with management and monitoring of trees in York. This can be carrying out practical work such as thinning, coppicing, removing shoots, crown lifting or planting. Assistance is also required to help monitor the city’s trees and report any diseased or damaged trees, such as after high winds. Training, tools and support will be provided.

Benefits to the volunteer: Opportunity to enhance the look of the local area and a chance to influence which trees will be planted.

Check a great inspiring example of a community group in action.

York Cares

They match the skills and expertise of employers and their employees to community projects where they can have most impact.

Their websites says………Our tried and tested programmes deliver tangible benefits for local people as well as workforce development opportunities for employers.

Located at the University of York, some of their projects are co-delivered by employers and university student volunteers, who pool their time and energy, business experience and expertise to make a positive impact on our community.

Our city is facing many challenges and our employers work closely with City of York Council and York CVS to address community needs. By working collaboratively, York Cares employers make an effective and strategic investment to help those who need it most.

Our inspirational employee-volunteers give over 10,000 hours of their own time each year to over 200 worthwhile community organisations and schools in some of York’s most disadvantaged areas.

Sunday School

The children will be following the lectionary for the next few weeks, both at St Olave and St Lawrence.

9 July 2017

Matthew 11:16-19 A friend of tax collectors and sinners

Craft to join up friends

16 July 2017

Matthew 13:1-9 The sower

Plant seeds in the garden

23 July 2017

Matthew 13:24-30 Parable of the weeds

Talking to the gardener

30 July 2017

Matthew 13:31-33 and 44-52 The parable of the mustard seed

Grow mustard seeds


Announcement of a new priest to work in York City Centre Churches, with special responsibility for St Lawrence

The Archbishop of York is delighted to announce that the Revd James McDonald has been appointed as Associate Minister of the York City Centre Churches with special responsibility for St Lawrence’s.

James is currently Assistant Curate at the Parish of St Peter with St James, Brackley

James brings with him a love of music and a real desire to engage with the local community, both younger and older.  He is gifted in enabling all to grow in their faith, and reach out to those around them.

The Archbishop said ‘I am delighted to be welcoming James to the York City Centre Churches.  This is a vibrant City with some fantastic opportunities to make a difference in our communities.  I look forward to seeing all that God will do through James, both at St Lawrence and across the City Centre as we seek to grow as Generous Churches Making and Nurturing Disciples.’ 

The service to mark the beginning of James’ new ministry will be on Wednesday 20th September at 7.30pm at St Lawrence Church, York, when he will be Licensed by the Archbishop of York. Please support James by attending the service.


The York Design Awards competition was judged in April and the results were announced on Monday 26 June at the Racecourse. Two of our entries were declared winners: 

1.     The Rigg Memorial in St Lawrence Churchyard

2.     Pocket Park at All Saints Pavement: 

See our Facebook page for pictures!

Bumps, babies and toddlers

meets every Thursday in the Upper Room at St Martin Coney Street. Following the footsteps in church… a warm welcome awaits. Thanks to Jess Galley for all she does to welcome the children, parents and grandparents



Dr Alan Billings came to give the first annual lecture for the Community of the Cross of Nails in York. The event took place on 15 June 2017  in All Saints Pavement and was part of the Festival of Ideas ‘The Story of Things. Our ‘thing’ was The Cross of Nails was taken from St Martin Coney Street to All Saints Pavement. Rev’d David Simpson provided an excellent DVD on the work of the Community of the Cross of Nails.

Alan is an experience and highly regarded Anglican priest who is currently the elected Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. He has been a parish priest (Jane met him in Carlisle Diocese) and an academic, both at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford and the University of Lancaster (Alan was one of Jane’s MA tutors). He has also been active in politics, particularly in Sheffield and Leicester. He is well known for his Thought for the Day for BBC Radio 4.

He was asked to speak on the theology of reconciliation and to answer the question ‘Is reconciliation in Rotherham possible in the light of the Child Sex Exploitation scandal in the town?’. Those who attended the lecture were captivated by the story. Alan began by saying that theology comes out of experience and went on to describe what had happened in Rotherham. How could a police force say sorry to those who had suffered abuse and had been let down by the police and other authorities?

Alan told of the young women and their families who had been brought together. Some didn’t see themselves as victims, others realised that families were victims too. They didn’t want to meet in a police station or any other official building so the ‘home’ for the meetings is in a hotel. The story of grooming and sex exploitation is not ours to tell – the story belongs to the young women. It was very moving to hear the stories of abuse, of scandal and how communicating with many people, entering into dialogue, is working towards reconciliation. It has been a difficult road to travel…. in a fallen world.

The Community of the Cross of Nails holds prayers on Fridays at noon in St Martin Coney Street. You are warmly invited to attend to join in with prayers for peace.



On the last Thursday of every month at 7.30pm, St Denys organises a book club that reads classic and contemporary Christian books. The aim of the book club is to ask questions, debate issues and seek to deepen faith. In the past the group has read works by authors such as Julian of Norwich, Stephen Cottrell, Rowan Williams, C.S. Lewis and ‘Fynn.’

In June and July  we will be reading John Pritchard’s ‘Something More.’ If you would like to attend please get in touch with churchwarden Rodney Troubridge:

Reading the Lectionary

Every Wednesday at 11.00am in the Upper Room at St Martin, Coney Street, there is a group which meets to discuss the lectionary readings for the following Sunday. Do pop in…. a warm welcome awaits.

Bible Study Afresh

Thursdays, monthly, Bible Study Afresh meets in the Vicarage at 11am for coffee and study. Contact Janet Fox if you would like to attend.

More Learning and entertainment in St Denys’ parish

July 10th 6pm in St Denys’. The Sweetest Thing: making it up in York: On Writing Fiction out of Facts, Fiona Shaw

Fiona Shaw is the author of a memoir and four novels. She has lived in or near York for over thirty years. Her first novel, The Sweetest Thing (Virago, 2003), is set in Victorian York in the midst of the cocoa wars and industrial expansion. It features a Quaker chocolate factory that is not Rowntree’s. Her forthcoming novel, The Outwalkers, is set in a future England. For more, please visit: 

Fellowship of Prayer - York Group - Community of the Cross of Nails

Every month the Community of the Cross of Nails sends out prayers; they may  focus on areas of Peace,  Holocaust, Refugee Week, Reconciliation, Healing or Rememberance or they might celebrate diversity. These are just a few titles that are prepared by Monica Lawrence.  Also, importantly, they include advance notice of events concerning the Cross of Nails, especially vigils for those who have died or have been injured by the act of terrorists. These vigils, when called, are held in conjunction with the weekly Friday Noon service at St Martin Coney Street, to which all are welcome.  

The information is an important part of letting people know what is happening and supporting the work of the Community. We are grateful for all those who do support us and if you would like to be part of the Fellowship of Prayer of the Community of the Cross of Nails, please do email the Rev’d David Simpson for details:

A Personal Pilgrimage to Churches Sharing the Dedication of our City Centre Group: 3. St Martin

My involvement with St Martin’s in York began about twenty years ago when the previous Vicar of St Olave’s, Fr Tony Hodge, was given additional responsibility for St Helen Stonegate and St Martin Coney Street. It was Fr Tony who introduced the regular services on Wednesdays and Saturdays at St Martin’s. Prior to that there had only been the one service on 11th November, which happens to be both the feast of St Martin of Tours and Remembrance Day.

            Arguably the best known church in this country dedicated to St Martin is St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. I first visited that church in the late 1960s when I was in my late teens. I hope to visit it again on a future trip to London, not least to see the interesting east window that was installed in 2008. Another well-known church is St Martin in the Bull Ring in Birmingham which I was able to visit after a work-related meeting in that city. Nearer to home is St Martin-on-the-Hill in Scarborough, where some years ago one of our ordinands from St Olave’s served his curacy.

Of more personal interest to me is St Martin’s Church in Whenby. This is a redundant church in the Terrington group of parishes. For a few years I would venture forth every now and again into the countryside on a Sunday morning to lead Prayer Book Mattins mainly in Dalby but also in Welburn, Bulmer and Terrington itself. I never managed to get to the remaining church in the group at Huttons Ambo, though. However, about once a year a service was held in St Martin’s, Whenby and I was kindly invited to preach at a Eucharist there in 2002. One of the late churchwardens at Dalby used to invite me for lunch after services in Dalby and his house in Whenby was almost next door to St Martin’s. 

            Perhaps ironically I have not been able to visit any churches dedicated to St Martin of Tours in France. However, there are three in Germany which bring back pleasant memories.

            During the academic year 1970/71 as part of my undergraduate degree course in French and German I worked as an English language assistant in the equivalent of a boys’ grammar school in Germany (in a town called Völkingen in the Saarland). In order to prepare us for this the British Council put on a short course (only about two or three days, I seem to remember) just outside Cologne (Köln). I was thus able to have a very quick look round Cologne in late 1970 and then again in 1971 when a reunion was held.

            As well as its enormous cathedral Cologne boasts no fewer that twelve Romanesque churches, all of which suffered serious damage in the Second World War. By the early 1970s many had not yet been fully restored, and indeed a couple have been left as ruins. I thus decided to revisit Cologne this year for a longer stay and have just returned. In the event I was able to visit eleven of the city’s twelve Romanesque churches, plus a few later ones.

            One of the most photographed of Cologne’s churches is Groß Sankt Martin (Great St Martin), with its huge central tower overlooking the Rhine waterfront. Restoration of the church itself was not completed until 1985. In 2009 it was taken over by the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem, which is particularly fitting as it was originally a Benedictine church. This community of monks and nuns was founded in 1975. Amongst other things it has developed a very distinctive style of liturgy and of music.  Although I was not able to attend a service there I did attend the Sunday Solemn Mass at the Community’s church in Paris, St Gervais, in 2005, which was the first to be opened in 1975.

Great St Martin, Cologne

I very much valued my time in Germany in 1970/71, though it made me realise that teaching was not my vocation. It did allow me to visit a number of interesting places in Germany. One of these was Mainz, on the banks of the river Rhine. One of the city’s call to fame is as the home of Johannes Gutenberg (c1400-1468), the inventor of printing. It is perhaps ironic that his invention in this most Roman Catholic of cities helped among other things the spread of the Reformation in the next century. However, Mainz’s most imposing building is its red sandstone Cathedral dedicated to St Martin of Tours. The Cathedral is mainly Romanesque but with later additions. Particularly noteworthy are the two chancels. The reason for this is not clear, though they can be found in some other German cathedrals.  One theory is that the eastern chancel came to serve as the location for the Mass and the western chancel was reserved for the bishop and pontiffs.   

Mainz Cathedral: St Martin

Although the Reformation did not take hold in the Rhineland it found a strong base in North Germany. In 2007 I stayed in Hamburg and visited other major centres including Bremen. Despite wartime damage there is still much of interest in that Hanseatic city. One of its oldest medieval churches is dedicated to St Martin (St Martini). As it typical of North German churches it is built of brick. The words of the well-known hymn ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty’ were written in the 17th century by Joachim Neander, who was the church’s pastor at the time. Apparently the church’s bells ring out the tune, though sadly not when I visited the church.

Kingsley Boulton