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  Dear friends,

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th - St Valentine's Day ... but also the day in the Church's calendar when we remember Ss Cyril & Methodius.

‘Who?' I hear you say. Well, you aren't alone if you've never heard of these Ninth century brothers, originally from Thessolonika in Greece. I was recently at a meeting and mentioned to a few other clergy that I'd come across a church in Bratislava dedicated to said brothers - the first church I'd seen to bear their names. My comment was met with blank looks. When I said that their feast day in the calendar was 14th February, various dairies and phones and ipads were reached for - and everyone drew a blank (...I realised that this year's calendar wouldn't show them as Ash Wednesday takes precedence). I stuck to my guns and produced last year's diary from my bag which showed the date clearly as SS Cyril & Methodius.

The church was by the penultimate bus stop on a journey I made on a trip to the outskirts of Bratislava back in late November. My destination was Devin castle, a ruined building on the banks of the confluence of the Morava and Danube rivers. Despite being a bleak day, it was a rather spectacular site, especially the watchtower, which, I gather, is one of the most photographed things in Slovakia. Devin Village is rather charming, and has a delightfully eclectic row of homes built against the remains of the castle walls.

Back in 2013 Bratislava hosted a big celebration to mark 1150 years since the arrival of the two missionary brothers to their land, and Devin was one of the places which featured in the celebrations, having been an ancient settlement from Neolithic times, and a place where Cyril and Methodius visited in 863 during their missionary work to the Slavonic people. The Slavonic language only existed in spoken form, which the brothers conversed in, and Cyril developed an alphabet, now know as Cyrillic script. He began translating the Bible into Slavonic, a task his brother Methodius continued after Cyril died in 869. They also celebrated Catholic liturgies in Slavonic as they sought to evangelise the people of eastern Europe. They are celebrated as saints in both the Orthodox and the western Churches, and in 1980 Pope John-Paul II declared them co-patrons of Europe, alongside Benedict of Nursia.

So, why am I writing about these brothers in preference to Ash Wednesday/ the beginning of Lent? Well, for two reasons. Firstly, in our Lent Course this year at St Martin's we'll be thinking about the Creeds of the Church. St Methodius was very much caught up in one of the greatest controversies about the Nicene Creed, when the Roman Church added a clause, in Latin, to the text that had been agreed at the Council of Nicea in 381AD. Commonly known as the Filioque clause, it became a cause of tension between Eastern and Western Churches, opening up difficult questions about theology and authority within the world-wide Church, that resulted in Schism in 1054. (If you want to know more, come along to the Lent Course sessions - details are elsewhere in this magazine - or for some in-depth theological information look up the Filioque on the website

Cyril and Methodius were gifted linguists and they knew the joys and problems of translating from one language to another. The Season of Lent is partly about how we translate our faith into our lives: how do we experience God and show him in our living in ways which communicate effectively both our love for him, his love for us, and his love through us for his world and his people? Mis-translation and misunderstanding are problems to be grappled with in terms of living out and inhabiting our faith and Lent is a time when we can set our minds to reflecting on these things.

Secondly, as missionaries to the Slavs, the brothers took to heart the call to make Christ known to those who had not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. They travelled extensively in countries and cultures which were very diverse, yet they became well known and well regarded, by those who ‘sent' them and those to whom they were sent. Lent gives us an opportunity to consider our calling as those who are to communicate that same Gospel to a world today with its diversity and complexity. It might not require us to be gifted linguists, but it does require us to be committed to Jesus Christ and to think about how we can introduce family/friends/colleagues/strangers to God. How do we tell the Christian story so that it resonates with them - and how do we embody that story of God's love in our lives?

Lent is often seen as a time for us to concentrate upon our own faith; upon our personal growth as Christians. Maybe this year, as Ash Wednesday falls on SS Cyril & Methodius' Day, we should also consider our call to be witnesses and evangelists of the Gospel of God's love in Ashton Village, in Sale and beyond.

With my prayers for a blessed and joyful Lent,



The Methodist Covenant Prayer


I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

 to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.



"BE PREPARED"  Our Lord tells us that he will come again... but he doesn't say when!  For over 2000 years people have been waiting but it could be tomorrow!



St Martin's Church, Church Lane,  Ashton-upon-Mersey,  Sale,  Cheshire ,    M33 5QQ  

0161 976 4086 
0161 973 4204