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Sunday 12th July 2020
The Vicarage has some new residents! Two bee hives now sit tucked away on the 'top lawn'. They've been with us now for about three weeks and it is hard to imagine life without them. The minute the sun is out the bees are out and about in the garden and further afield. There is a true 'bee' line across the bottom of the garden where you can see bees taking off and coming in to land, like an airport runway. They then land on their landing board and crawl into the hive with large sacs of pollen tucked between their legs.
When Erika and Maurits Dolmans were looking for somewhere to site their hives and the new bee colonies that were on order, we were delighted to be able to help. We know nothing about Bee keeping but we hope to learn a bit this summer! The two hives have names - Sage and Alma. Starting out initially as a small nucleus or 'nuc' the bee colonies in each need to grow so they are inspected regularly to check that all is well, that they are collecting pollen and that the Two Queens are laying eggs. At the moment 'Queen Alma' seems to be taking a break from laying for some reason, so if she doesn't buck up, the bees will create a new Queen to replace her - no room for complacency!
It's very therapeutic watching the bees come in and out but it is also great to think we are helping support our bee population which is on the decline.
In other news, the exterior decoration of the Vicarage, which started in mid-March, is now completed at long last. The scaffolding has gone and we can come and go from the garden without having to crouch down! The house looks extremely smart and hopefully it won't be long before we can welcome visitors back.
It was lovely to be back in church for communion on Sunday for the first time since lockdown began and then to be outside in the sun afterwards.
Friday 10th July 2020
Surely one cannot say
Yes! to just one,
Many compete, which
Bring problems galore
Oh! such decisions I decide to ignore -
Leave it to others to
Single out one.
Of course, Hope sings from trees, from
Flowers and leaves - though amongst much more,
Humour as well has its place for me
Offering distraction from doom and gloom
Perhaps sowing seeds for a simple joke, where
Each line of verse grows from
SYMBOLS OF HOPE!
Monday 6th July 2020
More than seventy members of our wider congregation took part in Sunday's Intergenerational Service, including from places outside London, and as far away as Nigeria and Germany! The theme for the service was from Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest..for my yolk is easy and my burden light.."
In her sermon Ayla invited everyone to choose a physical burden of equal weight for each hand, to feel its weight and then to think about how our hands felt when we put the burden down. There were some interesting burdens including bottles of wine, books, cans of juice, jam, actual weights, grapefruits and mustard and a banana! We were also encouraged to see this gesture of our hands with our palms held up without the heavy weights as a gesture of both giving as well as receiving.
This beautiful service included a reading from Christina Zandstra, a prayer from Peter Diracles and prayers from the Gardner family which included prayers of rememberance for those who died or who were injured in London on 7th July 2005.
"Peace be with you" was exchanged in sign language (one of the photos shows Jeremy demonstrating this)
And there was lots of lovely music. Jeremy on his guitar invited us all to sing two songs popular with Holy Hamsters and Hampstead Parochial School. Then It was very special in our own homes to sing "Holy, holy, holy" with the choir and Malachy's trumpet accompaniment. The choir treated us to another amazing online anthem "His yoke is easy and his burden is light", from Handel's Messiah. As Margaret Willmer said in the chat box commenting on the anthem and the images of the different singers appearing as their voices joined in "I am in awe of the mathematics of putting this together"!
Zoom has its frustrations but it does enable us to be together and to share God's love with each other.
Tomorrow will be the 15th anniversary of the 7/7 London Bombings when three tubes (at 8.50am) and a diverted bus (at 9.47am) were targeted by suicide bombers. I was one of those caught up on his way to work, lucky to survive in an Edgware Road carriage where seven had died.
When I got home from hospital mid-August, I thanked fellow tube travellers, the emergency services, the police, the NHS, friends and family, including my extraordinary wife Angela.
I always maintained I saw more love than hate that day.
Every year since then we have marked the day. Angela and I (with Matthew and Alice, if a weekend) take the tube to Edgware Road, joining others on the platform for 8.50am. We stand and remember the 52 victims and those who responded so bravely, from fellow travellers to paramedics. And we pay our respects at St. Mary's Hospital.
Some years have been marked by official events such as the unveiling of the Memorial in Hyde Park and a service at St. Paul's marking the 10th anniversary.
However, a group of us survivors also get together for a Greek dinner with physiotherapists, prosthetists, police and others who helped us that day and have become part of our lives. Last year there were four of us who got together (with four legs between us) and our long-suffering wonderful wives. We were planning a bigger commemoration this time but, like much these days, it will have to be postponed.
I've only missed two of these reunion dinners, including the very first, which coincided with a performance of The Hampstead Players' Julius Caesar production (which had been due to be staged a week after 7/7) - and turned out to be a very memorable night at Hampstead Parish Church with a couple of my saviours in the audience.
Angela and I intend to drive early tomorrow to Edgware Road, and there are also some events online.
I always remember and, in the depths of other crises and tragedies, I cling to the hope that there will be more love than hate.
Saturday 4th July 2020
Nowadays if we want to make any alteration to the church we go through a faculty process - plans are submitted to the Diocesan Advisory Committee, notices are posted on the church and people are given a set period to register any concern.
It wasn't like that in 1874. When the Trustees wanted more space for a growing congregation the chosen architect, F P Cockerell, suggested pulling down the church and starting again rather than adding an extension. A petition was got up and signed by some 270 people. Not that many, you may think, to effectively prevent the church's destruction, until you look at some of the names:
W Holman Hunt
George du Maurier
Ford Madox Brown
Edward Burne Jones
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
It would have been a brave Trustee who advocated going ahead anyway. So they didn't.
Although there are variations and changes throughout Christian history, the main colours for textiles in the Christian year are green, purple, red, and white (or gold). Sometimes you see blue for Advent (following the medieval Sarum tradition) and we also have our 'Lenten Array', which is plain canvas with a subtle grey motif symbolising the crucifixion.
Monday 29th June 2020
The congregation and a number of friends of the parish, including writers, artists, and clergy, were invited to make 3-minute videos reflecting on something that was, or has been, a symbol of hope for them during the pandemic. Everyone chose one thing and made a short film describing its significance for them. A symbol of hope might be a favourite picture, a flower in a person's garden, or something at home which holds a special meaning. Objects chosen ranged from a holiday souvenir to a valuable piece of sculpture; from a blank piece of paper to a precious piece of embroidery; from a holy object to church building; from a bunch of keys to a valuable painting. The videos are thoughtful, personal and moving and show in times of crisis what is precious to us and helps to encourage and sustain us. These videos can be viewed on the Hampstead Parish Church page on YouTube
Below are a couple of written reflections. Sarah Phipps has chosen a painting by El Greco and writes "This is my object of hope. I pray with it every day. Jesus is at Calvary surrounded by Roman soldiers and people. They do not know now, but in three days the risen Christ will come. Christ is my hope, and he will be my hope always."
Caroline Barron writes "My objects of hope would be my two large flower pots filled with seedlings which I have grown for the first time: calendulas, marigolds and cornflowers. I rarely plant seeds and have never planted out seedlings with such careful attention. Lockdown gives one a chance to notice things - and appreciate them. Perhaps when the lockdown ends we will emerge better at noticing and cherishing not only seedlings but also each other."
Saturday 27th June 2020
In a conversation recently Monther (a member of our Community Sponsorship family) told me how much he likes bike riding and so Jeremy generously offered to repair his Purple Townsend bike to give to Monther. A few days ago I cycled over to the bike shop in Archway where Monther and I met to pick up the bike. We bought him a helmet and a good lock and rode off down parkland walk - which was much longer than I remembered! He looked as if he was really enjoying himself and talked about riding with his father. I left him on 7 Sisters Rd. He has a great sense of direction and was very confident that he knew the way home.
Then on Friday I had a WhatsApp video call from Monther - he said he was at the Victoria Embankment by the Thames. And sure enough there was his bike against the railings with the London Eye behind. He looked as pleased as Punch. He pointed out all the other cyclists riding past. He said he was cycling round London.
It was a great moment.
Friday 26th June 2020
A couple of weeks ago I took apart a mid-nineteenth century book to rebind. The spine lining was some printer's waste. It looked like a Law Report and the interesting thing for me was the reference to Admiralty, salvage and collisions which many of you will know was John's law speciality. The photograph shows the spine lining of the book I took apart yesterday, also mid-nineteenth century. There isn't any sense to it but some of the words stand out!
Tuesday 23rd June 2020
Some of you will know that many homeless people were found accommodation in the otherwise empty hotels when the lockdown was imposed in March. The following is taken from Nikki Barnett's report to the Caris Camden trustees on 10th June. Nikki is manager of the C4WS shelter project.
Post Shelter & Guests we are still Supporting:
• 7 guests were accommodated by Camden Council when we had to close the shelter at the end of March.
• 2 have been rehoused in more permanent accommodation.
• 1 left London to work on a farm.
• 3 remain in The Britannia Hotel in Primrose Hill. This hotel was arranged by the council specifically for those who needed to 'Covid Shield,'
• Of these, 2 are able to make housing applications as they now have ID and are in receipt of benefits. They are working with their referral agencies on these and have a clear move on plan.
• 1 is No Recourse to Public Funds and their move on plan remains unclear. It would usually be into a hosting scheme, but understandably these are all currently on hold. We are exploring the possibility of HO accommodation for him with the help of his solicitor. If this is not forthcoming, we will need to think of how C4WS can provide ongoing accommodation for him when the hotels close (currently the date is the end of June)
• 1 has a local connection to Camden and is being supported by their team either into their hostel pathway or into Hope Worldwide PRS.
• We have continued to support former C4WS guests who moved into other shelters and are being housed by the GLA. 2 are EEA migrants who are now eligible for benefits. Both have secured accommodation which is covered by housing benefit. C4WS has supported 1 with a hardship loan.
More widely across Camden:
• The majority of those who Camden Council had been working with who had been placed in random hotels when the crisis hit, have either been moved into their hostel pathway or alternative GLA provision (also hotels).
• The official occupancy for The Britannia Hotel where C4WS guests who were identified as needing to COVID shield and are currently housed is meant to finish at the end of June. However, Camden have a contract with the hotel which could mean they can negotiate an extension of up to 3 months. This is currently unconfirmed.
• For those who are eligible, Camden are working towards a housing first option with significant support, and they are providing 20/30 more properties for this purpose.
However, for the C4WS guests who have recourse, their housing is being managed by their original referral agencies.
• There are two council commissioned shelters which were talked about being reopened, Chalk Farm (but this sounds more like a day centre/drop in), for EEAs and one in Holloway whose management falls under Islington Council.
• The issue here will be is capacity/social distancing. The information about how these will work hasn't been released (it sounds as though it's not ready yet).
• Chalk Farm is likely to be limited in capacity, with reduced accommodation and will focus on the team getting their referrals into work and other accommodation, rather than operating as a shelter.
• DePaul Night Stop (a hosting scheme for young people) is running, but it's gone from 30 hosts a night to 3 across the whole of London.
• The issue with sustaining all the above is funding. Camden has a large budget for tackling homelessness, but the hotel model is not sustainable long-term.
• There is also a large transient homeless population, which is not being housed in the hotels. This is made up of those who were offered places initially, but for whatever reason could not sustain them plus new arrivals in the borough made up of those who were in precarious work before the crisis hit and have lost their accommodation and are not eligible for benefits.
• We know there is still a large street homeless population, as those drop ins who remain in operations have reported large numbers, such as the American Church who are feeding around 150 people a day, and Streets Kitchen around 60 people a session.
For the future, there are challenging times ahead for C4WS and all Cold Weather Shelters. We are waiting for guidance from Housing Justice but it is very unlikely that a rolling shelter (one night each week in 7 different churches) will be possible and we will explore ways of running a more static shelter while involving as many of our volunteers as we can. I'll write more about our plans when they are clearer.
In the meantime these are a few reminder photos of the 2019/2020 Night Shelter at Hampstead Parish Church
Thursday 18th June 2020
I love the big trees outside my window, even on a rainy and cloudy day like today. They really are a symbol of hope, reliability and patience. If I'm lucky, I can sometimes see a flock of parakeets flying above and listen to their very noisy cheerfulness.
When we ventured out to the Heath on Easter Sunday after spending long weeks inside our flat since the beginning of lockdown, I was dumbfounded that spring had arrived in all its glory. I was clad in winter clothes, because to me everything seemed like we were still in the middle of a dark winter. But Mother Nature doesn't care about the pandemic or our problems and rightly so! For far too long we have treated nature as an afterthought. A friend texted me to say that she thinks the pandemic is nature's way to pressing the reset button. Scientists have already warned that zoonotic pandemics will happen more
frequently in the future if we press ahead with the destruction of the natural habitat of animals and plants. I worry very much about what this means for my children. I want them to have a green and sustainable future that they can look forward to. Luckily, it isn't too late to make changes and it really starts with me to make more careful and responsible choices every day.
Wednesday 17th June 2020
In December the parish hosted a study day about Evelyn Underhill with talks by experts including Revd Professor Jane Shaw, Revd Dr Julie Gittoes, Revd Dr Earl Collins, and Prof Anne Loades. You can listen to them and learn more about Underhill here.
God, who dwells invisible in the heavens and yet for the salvation of humanity does manifest Your power on earth, pour down upon this place the light of Your countenance: that all who come hither to seek Your face may truly find You. Amen.
Tuesday 16th June 2020
Sunday 14th June was the third anniversary of the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower. Our church bells rang out 72 times at 6 O'clock in the evening to remember the 72 people who died in that dreadful fire, then there was a pause for reflection, followed 3 rings to remember that it was 3 years ago.
Lucy, who was a volunteer the morning after the fire, created this tribute at the church door with 72 night lights to remember each person who died.
In Lucy's words "It was an incredible privilege to be invited in by a community so utterly shocked and devastated. I went to the community centre which was the support hub. I was one of the few white people there and of course many of the victims were from the BAME community. It was the first time I had experienced a situation where those directing everyone's efforts were not white. It really reaonates in the context of the current BLM campaign. The memory that has never left me is the number of people taking "selfie" photos against the background of a smouldering, blackened block. The most terrible personification of our instagram culture. The love and dignity I witnessed at the community centre on that day was in stark contrast."
Jeremy reflected that "It was incredibly humbling to ring the bell 72 times, to keep silence, and to ring three times for the years since the fire. Lighting the candles brought home the value of each human life, and the need to ensure that our systems and processes are just, fair, and safe for all. That's a call for the church to hear, as we remember, and as we act."
"There are gates in heaven that cannot be opened except by melody and song"
from an 18th century description of the purpose of Eastern European Jewish Nigun singing
Saturday 13 June would have been the Women's Retreat at St Katharine's. We couldn't go this year, and so Barbara Alden and Ayla led a group of 16 women on zoom in a beautiful meditative hour and half of of music, poetry and prayer. Barbara sang Jewish Nigun songs and a range of Native American chants. Sometimes we joined in, and sometimes we just listened. We reflected on this image as we sang "Halleluia"
The music was interspersed with images, poetry and prayer and Ayla led a short meditation on the Magnifcat from the Gospel of Luke and the Song of Hannah from the first book of the Samuel.
Some of the feedback..."a blessing"; "taking time out and being still"; "I hadn't realised how much I needed this quiet time"; "the time flew by"; "lovely and peaceful"; "Hannah and Mary, two strong female voices bound by the arc of the universe"...
Monday 15th June 2020
On Saturday 13 June Junior Church met for another action packed zoom family service, this time based on the 'Feeding of the 5,000'.
Jess Mathur told the story, aided by some very inventive props, and Maureen showed everyone how to make an origami boat. Jeremy then led the children in some lively action songs, with everyone being encouraged to join in
The service encouraged children to think about those who do not have enough, as well as the need to share what we have; inspired by the boy who handed over his meagre amount of food to Jesus.
The prayers were written and read by children in the group.
The session ended with the blessing and what has now become a zoom custom - the children’s Wind Up Amen!
The service was another lovely way for junior church families to stay in touch and feel engaged in our lively community.
(The photos show some of the boats complete with fish, sharks and random starfish and the Sea of Galilee; and Maureen’s snack of fish and chips!)
Sunday 14th June 2020
This is the view from my upstairs window. It is also the view from my Cross Trainer; that's not something I thought I would ever say three months ago. I would normally use the Cross Trainer once a week at my gym, because my back prevents me from running, but seeing Lockdown looming, I decided to buy one for myself to keep on top of aerobic exercise, particularly if the Spring weather proved bad. During the Pandemic use has in fact been sporadic, varying from once a week to every other day and I have found it very cathartic.
We have also been surrounded by scaffolding since March 16th. It's the same throughout the house, making it dark and bringing a whole new meaning to the word 'Lockdown'. We do literally feel that we are in lockdown here - access to the garden has been compromised, and it feels oppressive. I can't wait to fling open the French windows downstairs on a sunny day. Now that the decorators are back privacy is compromised too.
But beyond the scaffolding is our garden which has been a great blessing; a symbol of life beyond the Pandemic, of growth, exploration and creativity. Praise God that he is with us in all things; here's to the removal of the scaffolding and to happier days!
On Sunday 14 June, after our bell rang 72 times for the lives lost in the Grenfell Tower fire 3 years ago, we had a parish conversation about racism, the Church, and transformation.
I compiled some quotations and resources to help frame and stimulate our discussion and they're below, together with film, book, and podcast recommendations.
I'm especially inspired by what James Baldwin, the black gay American writer, has to say about change:
'Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.'
The photograph was taken at the recent London protests. Change is possible. Good conversations are possible. Growth and transformation are possible, as we strive for justice and liberation together.
Marika’s approach is accessible, clear, and inspiring. By reading biblical passages closely, these women’s determination and wisdom, as well as their trust in God, are revealed in new ways.
Tamar: Genesis 38
Rahab: Joshua 2
Ruth: Ruth (it's a short book, read the whole thing!)
Bathsheba: 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 1-2
Mary: all four Gospels explore the life and importance of Mary in different ways. Highlights to read:
Matthew: Chapters 1 and 2; 12:46-50; 13:53-58
Luke: Chapters 1 and 2
John: Chapters 2 and 19
Wednesday 10th June 2020
As we've seen in Bristol and elsewhere, as statues of those who bought and sold enslaved people are coming down, it is time for real change. Not just words, but action that resonates with a promise of repentance and a commitment to work for liberation.
Sunday 7th June 2020
At the end of the day, at 5pm Bill and I have been attending Evening Prayer on Zoom. I enjoy the rhythm of this recurring time of prayer, and it helps to give us a structure to our lives. However, on Thursdays following Evening Prayer, we are treated to a half hour of 'Arts and Faith' reflections. These are led by our clergy and readers, and each one chooses a poem or painting to talk about for a few minutes, drawing out points and meanings we might well have missed. The poem or picture is shown to us on screen, and we are invited to ask questions or make comments. We are encouraged to look and really engage with the painting or poem which can have surprising results.
An extraordinary poem, presented by Ayla, that stands out in my mind is a mystical prayer/poem written by St. Teresa of Avila. It is called 'Seeking God' and it portrays God speaking in the first person directly to St. Teresa's Soul. It begins
Soul, you must seek yourself in Me,
And in yourself seek me.
With such skill soul,
Love could portray you in Me
That a painter well gifted
Could never show
So finely that image. . . .
The painting that left the deepest impression on me was 'The Water seller of Seville' by Velazquez, presented by Handley. The water seller, an older man in a torn leather jerkin seemed so human I felt I knew him. But what was extraordinary was the way the two water pots were painted, so perfectly that you could 'feel' the pottery. The pottery of the large pot is so round and perfect and seems to come out of the painting presenting itself to us, offering us water. The colours are muted, dark and true. I had never seen it and it feels like a special Thursday gift. These sessions are proving to be an enriching time.
Saturday 6th June 2020
"A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot" (Thomas Edward Brown 1830-1897)
So surely a churchyard must be even lovelier - and certainly ours has a rugged charm, even at this time of year when the wildflowers are going over into seed and it may be thought to be somewhat lacking in tlc. Actually the gardening group, who met today, have only missed two sessions but hasn't it been a lovely spring, and hasn't everything grown! The churchyards are designed as Nature Conservation Areas which means we have to be gentle with our gardening at any time so this is the year of the bug, the beetle, the caterpillar and the bee. They must be very grateful to be left alone. But nature needs a helping hand from time to time and we were glad to get back to work - to do some weeding, pruning, sweeping and watering (and it rained as it often does when we plan a gardening morning). Not that the graveyard's been entirely neglected: wer'e grateful to the work Jeremy has done clearing a way for the Infant School returnees to get to their classrooms, to Camden for cutting the paths so they could see where they're going, and to Andrew and Joe for clearing the gutters on the Columbarium - not a nice job. I still remember holding the ladder while the then vicar, Philip Buckler, scraped maggots and beetles out of the drain onto my head. Some memories just don't fade.
Brown finished his poem
"Not God? In gardens? When the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
"Tis very sure God walks in mine."
Monday 1st June 2020
It has been sad to see the Church closed as I walk my dog every morning. I so enjoyed doing the flowers at sunrise on Easter morning with Kim and Adrian from Hampstead Players ( we met in the Tesco queue ) -So Pentecost was another opportunity to decorate the outside of the church and show that although the doors were locked the people were still there.
Jayne Gill and I, aided by Sheena, gathered flowers and grasses from the graveyard and wove red ribbon around the railings. We thought grasses were good for wind. Sheena did the Holy Spirit bouquet at the top of gate!
We had lots of fabulous conversations while doing it . Somebody asked if it was for a wedding , Jayne asked "why were they planning one? "Girl ( I now know to be Hannah ) said "he hasn't asked me yet". They then sat for 3 hours by the vestry steps. Then Mohammed (the chap) asked her and she said " yes!" He took great joy in telling us ... So maybe we will decorate the railings for their wedding too!
Then a young family came by and asked what we were doing I explained Pentecost as best I could and mentioned speaking in tongues-I asked if they spoke any other language - they were Iranian.- so I asked whether they would write a poem in Farsi and tie it to railing. The children said they would love too.
Then a Jewish family chatted about Shavuot and a festival of flowers. So all in all we were well nourished in the human spirit.
Aided by Sheena's wine and Erika and a Maurits delicious chocolate ginger biscuits we were having lots of fun until way after dark.
On Sunday 31st May at 10.30 am we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost like we have never celebrated it before. About 120 members of the congregation got together on Zoom. The screen was a sea of red outfits. Ayla led the service, Jeremy played his guitar while we all sang 'Shine Jesus Shine'. John Willmer who celebrated his 90th birthday the day before did a moving New Testament reading. Junior Church, in wonderful homemade flame headbands, creative 'pentecostumes' and colourful streamers, told the story of Pentecost, led by Maureen. That was just the beginning! We had dancing, waving and bubbles, a lovely sermon and more music. We sang the glorious hymn 'Come down O Love Divine', the Junior Choir sang a beautiful 'Alleluia' chorus and we saw the choir on our screens singing a heavenly Thomas Tallis anthem. Technology can be a wonderful thing! It truly was a joyeous celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit
Sunday 31st May 2020
The Gardners and others sang Happy Birthday to John from across the road. A huge thank you from John to the Gardners for making a splendid banner. In addition to those in the photo passing folk and cars joined in.
Following on from the Lent groups studying the Eucharist we decided to continue our meetings on Saturday mornings in order to study other books. Currently we are looking at That all shall be saved by David Bentley Hart, a Christian writer of the eastern orthodox persuasion. He goes through in detail the arguments for universal salvation and how a god of love could not condemn people to an eternal hell. He writes in a rather self-opinionated and pretentious style, but after struggling through that we have all learned a great deal from it and it has certainly challenged opinions we have held, often deriving from our diverse Christian pasts. About a dozen people take part and you do not have to be super intellectual. You are free to contribute to the discussion or not as you feel led. So far the sessions have been expertly led by Ayla. We are nearly at the end of our current book and are discussing what we shall do next. I for one have found the sessions valuable and it has given me opportunity to get to know people better. We should love to have more participants so don't be scared! It is really very enjoyable.
Saturday 30th May 2020
Thursday 28th May 2020
The idea came from Dorothy Welsford who said she missed Kew but it was hard for her to get there. Diana Raymond and Nina Mitchell said they would like to go as well. So on a lovely sunny September day with Sarah Knight, Audrey Stocker and Peter we all went to Kew and afterwards Diana Raymond wrote me a beautiful poem which I came across in 'lockdown sorting'
September 13th, 2005
Leave the shadows behind
Shadows are for a dull day.
Go with the sun on a September morning
Go with the friends who will take you there.
Take you where? Why, to Kew, of course
Wide lakes of grass and the scent of old summers,
This summer dying now, but still alive with colour
Sunflower and cyclamen and the fading splendour of old rose.
Travel by chair - with a close friend behind
The chair rides smoothly as if it had wings
But of course it has no wings, only the faithful friend
Who give you time to 'stand and stare'
To see the long green distances,
Avenues that ride between the tall trees into the mists of the sun.
Into the Palm House where the air is darkened by leaves,
Where the tropic warmth and the moist air
Touch you with a different wonder,
And in the shadow of the jungle trees you find strange constructions
Glass imaginings like a wizard's twisted dream,
Shapes of every colour, strident as the playground of a child.
The day glides on - already it is afternoon
The fountain has turned silver and the water sleek with shadow
Not long before evening when the great spaces will lie empty,
Lotus and water lily bloom unseen,
And the gates will close.
I am not - alas! Andrew Marvell, but will borrow from his Garden:
"Meanwhile the mind from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness...
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade."
Tuesday 26th May 2020
Our pre-lockdown panic buy was chickens. I had wanted chickens in our garden for years, but my husband had always objected. Then, when lockdown became imminent, he mused that if eggs were going to become scarce, perhaps chickens were worth thinking about. That was enough for me and within days we had acquired a coop and run, yards and yards of chicken wire and 4 young hens.
The hens were named by the children -- Marianna, Etheldreda, Wilhelmina and Roasmunde. They seem happy in our garden, especially the more untidy corners where they find slugs and woodlice to feast on. They get very excited when I turn a log over or pick up a flowerpot to reveal hundreds of creepy-crawlies, and a pecking frenzy ensues.
The chickens lay about 20 eggs a week, and because each hen lays different coloured eggs, we know whose egg we are eating for breakfast. They are also wonderfully therapeutic. I have started taking my tea into the garden, and sit and watch as they wander round, and listen to their clucking noises.
The children have set up an Instagram account for the chickens, and they (and more recently I) have posted photos and videos of our chickens pecking round our garden, with some guest appearances by our tortoise, Percy. It turns out that other people like watching our chickens, too. Follow them at @chickpics72
Knowing that I was a stitcher, Sheena forwarded me the Royal Free volunteers' newsletter, in which there was an appeal for volunteers to help with making disposable PPE gowns for doctors and nurses at the Royal Free Hospital.
There was a similar group of volunteers set up by the head of a small Art and Fashion college in or near the Brompton Road. (Thank you to Ursula Clements of U3A in London for this info via their newsletter). The college head had a daughter working as a doctor at the RFH so she put together another group of volunteers, many of whom are students of fashion, in the Town Hall here in NW3. There are 350 volunteers working on this sewing project for the RFH with about 50 at any one time.
There are several teams: one cuts pattern pieces from large sheets of 'hospital drapes' (a fabric which resembles paper towelling bonded to a thin plastic layer); then the stitchers sew together the fronts, backs and sleeves, with another group - of which I am one - finishing the garments by stitching on the neck ties/neck binding and waist ties. Finally, another group inspects and packs them up in boxes, ready for delivery to the hospital.
Currently we are producing about 600 gowns per day, seven days a week. It is quite intense, and I have to keep stopping to exercise my shoulders, but I am glad to put in two shifts a week to help out in this way.
Friday 22nd May 2020
Monday 18th May 2020
This is 'my' grave.
In 2014 when we were researching the graves and memorials of WW1 it was clear from the Camden History Society survey in the 1970s that there was a Naval Chaplain recorded on grave A104 in the ABG. His was listed as Edward Gleadall Uphill (which is what is on the grave) and the grave survey page said that he went down with HMS Aboukir in September 1914. We couldn't find him on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list as Uphill nor could we find the inscription on the grave. This was later found to be buried beneath more than 6 inches of earth. A bit of research on a Chaplains website found that his name was Edward Gleadall Uphill Robson and so his story was found.
Following yesterday's suggestion of a Green Gym we went to clear the grave. I have been tidying it on and off for the last few years. The inscription had been buried again so I've dug down 6 inches.
Before and after shots
More information about Edward Robson here
On Saturday evening, 16 May, an enthusiastic group of junior church families logged onto zoom to join a special children's service based on Daniel in the Lion's Den. Our children's worker, Maureen, led us through the story then taught everyone how to make a really simple and fun lion mask. If you want to watch the story or make a lion puppet watch these two YouTube videos
Maureen tells the story:
Making a lion puppet:
Many children responded in amazingly creative ways to the story of Daniel and the Lions. Here's a couple of beautiful examples!
Ayla explained how the story of Daniel still rings true today- and how we need to have faith even when times are tough. Jeremy led us in song, mixing some old favourites with a great new song based on the story. We finished up with a loud "Amen" after some of the children led us in prayer.
This latest instalment of the zoom children's services was a great hit, and is helping to keep the families involved and engaged in junior church.
Thursday 14th May 2020
These unusual times mean that we must find inventive ways of continuing our normal activities which is why we are now holding our weekly choir sessions on-line using Zoom. Although it cannot replace the joy of singing together in the Choir Vestry, we are nonetheless enjoying singing a few pieces per week from our Community Choir song backlist with Aidan accompanying us on the piano. In addition to singing, each week we have a musical 'book club' where members of the choir are invited to share their favourite pieces of choral music along with the memories they evoke. We welcome anyone who would like to join us on a Thursday evening at 6.30pm. Contact Chris Money via the Vestry and be part of our virtual choir.
The Show must go on!
A month ago, the Church was asked if it could help fund the material required for a team from SewMuchFun to make 36 scrubs for Camden GPs and the Royal Free. Donations came in and the team led by Roz Hunter produced 100 scrubs and matching bags. At the request of Jane Padkin, some bespoke scrubs were made as surprise, surprise not all doctors are the same size.
Lots of happy medics.
Tuesday 12th May 2020
On May 8th, the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, Jon Siddall reached the summit of Everest, or at least the top of his roof by climbing an extended ladder for the 2,500th time! It was a marathon achievement which he started on 4th May and the distance travelled over 5 days equates to reaching the summit of Everest. The start of this idea goes back to July 2018 when Jon registered to run the 2019 London Marathon in support of Alzheimer's Research UK to remember a close friend who had recently lost a long and brave battle with dementia. The following month he was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer which meant instead of starting training for the marathon the start of a different journey.
At the start of April this year, Jon was declared 'cancer free'! His climb was to thank all those who have supported his battle against cancer, to remember those who served in the Second World War and importantly to raise money for charity. Jon decided to focus his fund raising on five charities "beyond the hospital door". Two of the charities provide care to those in need, two support carers, and the other is committed to defeating the enemy that is dementia, thereby lessening the burden on those who endure it and those who care for them.
Jon's initial target was to raise £7,500. By the time he had reached the summit this target was well exceeded. If you would like to know more or support Jon's challenge please contact him.
We are grateful to Philip Wolmuth for allowing us to use his super photographs
The Almasri family are well and happy. At the beginning of April Aseel celebrated her 6th birthday in lockdown. Lucy Dennett cycled over the M&S to buy her a caterpillar birthday cake and some other birthday goodies then cycled over to their flat to leave them at their front door. You can see from the photo that Aseel was clearly pleased with her birthday cake.
The family are lucky that they live just across the road from Coram Fields which is a big open space to walk and play in. Baby Yousef is growing rapidly and Rahaf is very busy looking after him. Here is a recent photo of him with his father Monther and his sister and brother, Aseel and Mohammad.
Keeping up with English
Lockdown means that the adults can't attend their English classes. John Barker is finding creative ways to help Monther keep up with his English during the lockdown, using WhatsApp video.
"I sent Monther a pack of 45 high frequency words. We are using 13 to practise reading. It was too complicated to give him instructions, so I've made my own words to demonstrate what I want him to do and to test him and make little sentences. It's amazing how many sentences you can make with I, see, went, like, you, mum, dad, we, me, she, to ,and, yes. Sometimes I think I can hear someone whispering answers, and I realise Mohammad or Rahaf or Aseel are listening in!
Monther answers the phone I get a cheery 'Ramadan Kareem'. Ramadan is a fruitful topic of conversation. We discuss the date, and how many days until Eid - which he says will be on 24th May. Then the time - and how long till Iftar, when he and Rahaf can break their fast.(it's about 8.40 ) If we get onto favourite food, he will go into the kitchen, where there are always pots on the stove, a salad, a yoghurt dish. Aubergine is his favourite."
Have a look at the other lovely Church Chat below describing how John is doing bedtime stories with Aseel to help her to keep up with her English.
Accessing health and benefits during lockdown
Getting baby Yousef registered with a GP and updating Universal Credit to get Child Benefit for him during lockdown was a bit of a challenge. All the forms are in English and have to be filled in and signed by the Rahaf. Our two interpreters, Lily Garty and Suzy Cartledge were incredibly helpful in sorting this out
Moving on after September
The family will need to move from their current accomodation at the end of September when their tenancy expires. We still haven't been able to find them somewhere suitable to move to. If anyone has any idea please let Sheena know via the vestry. email@example.com
Monday 11th May 2020
8th April - An appeal was made for people to help to make scrubs for local GP's. Sew Much Fun, a local sewing shop, agreed to order fabric and Hampstead Parish Church agreed to pay for the fabric. Sew Much Fun agreed to put sewing kits together. I was anxious to get ahead and I found a free digital pattern to print out.
To make the pattern I hoisted the big roll of pattern paper onto the cutting board on the table, assembled the pattern using masking tape, traced around the lines for the size I wanted with the perforated tracing wheel and cut out on the marks. Some people have snazzy pattern weights to hold things in place. I have a Zimbabwean tortoise and a commemorative plaque for one of my heroes, Jean Moulin. I ordered 25 metres of material said to be suitable.
15th April - My material arrived and I was ready to start
22nd April - SewMuch Fun's kits arrived with sufficient to make 3 kits. I decided to sew in batches. One of the photographs shows three necklines ready to go.
28th April - Four sets with their washable bags were complete and sent to the GP hub
I've got enough fabric for about three more, and I'm told they can be used, so I'm going ahead. This has proved to be a good way to keep positively busy. I'm happy to share my pattern, and method if that would help anyone.
Keeping up with school work is a challenge for lots of families. It is a particular challenge for the Almasris, the Syrian family that HPC supports, because Monther and Rahaf, the aprents of Aseel and Hamoudi, don't speak English. John Barker has been thinking of ways to help the children keep up with their English.
"At 6pm each evening I Whatsapp the Almasri family to give a bedtime story to Aseel, who is 6. Monther greets me with "Ramadan Kareem". I read a new book to Aseel each day, and then she chooses one or 2 favourites to share again. Today she wanted this story in the photo about 3 witches who have turned the king and his family into frogs. Her favourite stories seem to be ones with a bit of action and humour. Last week it was one where a little boy had his tooth knocked out by a swing, which always makes her roar with laughter. Aseel has lost her front tooth so she could identify with him. We end up with a bit of singing -'Old MacDonald' is a favourite -and quite often Aseel makes up her own song based on one of the stories."
Sunday 10th May 2020
I think of this poem when I look out on my garden
'The Kiss of Sun for Pardon
The song of the Birds for Mirth
You are nearer to God in a Garden
Than anywhere else on earth.'
Friday 8th May 2020
National plans for the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 2020 have had to be scaled down due to the global Pandemic of Corona Virus. Nevertheless, with a forecast of fine sunny weather some are still using the day to mark the remembrance of the end of the Second World War in Europe and especially all those who fought for freedom, and also to pay tribute to all those currently fighting the deadly virus on the front line. Inevitably comparisons have been made between the two, but a marked difference is the requirement at present to 'socially distance' and 'stay at home'.
I thought it would be interesting to collect the memories of some our senior members of our congregation at HPC. It seems that for those under the age of 10 at the time, who lived outside London, the event almost passed them by. Sheila Christie Murray, away at boarding school in Worthing, remembers little. Her older brother Martin was sent home from his boarding school and he remembers going into London on his own. He says he had never seen so many people in one place before; it was fantastic. He was literally swept off his feet and carried along by the crowd.
Derek Bunn remembers VE Day as a happening, but with no clear picture of what he was doing. He lived in a village 7 miles from his school in Wisbech. Jenny Bunn was 8 years old, and remembers a street party, with tables down the road and bunting.
Jean Hathorn recalls: On VE Day we were staying in Beaconsfield. I was 11 years old. I recall there was a wonderful feeling of relief and jubilation, knowing that there would be no more nights spent in air-raid shelters and we would be finally returning to our London home in Weymouth Street after such a long absence. There were church bells ringing and the skies were illuminated with exploding fireworks.'
Roger Corley was twelve by VE Day and living in Hull. He remembers the day as 'a day of sombre relief rather than a day of jubilation. In the evening people gathered in the central Queen's Gardens. My brother, then sixteen, persuaded my parents that the three of us could join in and, disappointed that fireworks were not available, decided to take and let off a firework of his own making. I think it was a rocket which he stuck in the ground. Luckily, no-one was hurt when it exploded, but the next morning we went to inspect the crater in the grass - from unreliable memory I would say it was inches deep and about a foot across!" Fireworks were clearly popular; Leon Rathbone recalls that he was living just outside Preston on VE Day, aged 15. 'There was a large field at the bottom of our garden and lots of people gathered around a bonfire there. People brought fireworks that they put in a box, but a sparkler fell into it and the whole lot went off at once! The rockets were flying horizontally into the crowd and a few people were injured as a result!
Patrick Garland was 15 rising 16 on VE Day and living in a small Norfolk village. 'My school extended the Easter holidays, so I was at home. Father was away in the Army. We had suffered from V1 flying bombs and the V2 rockets (a neighbouring farmer was blown across a field by one) which you couldn't hear coming until after they had arrived), so the relief was enormous. We rang the church bells, had a huge impromptu bonfire, left the lights on (no blackout), fired guns in the air and let off ex Home Guard Thunder-flashes. There was a tinge of not going OTT as the war in the Far East was far from over and one battalion of the Royal Norfolks had been taken prisoner in Singapore. Then it was back to school and even stricter rationing as the Allies had to feed a starving Europe.'
Marguerite Morton and her parents were also living in Norfolk at the time. She says: I don't have any memories of VE Day but I think it must have had a great impact on my parents as many friends were in the East Anglian regiment, captured in Singapore, so, for them the war was not over.
My father was a farmer, and much of the land he farmed was requisitioned for an American aerodrome until May 1945. They got to know many of the men well. My parents hardly slept on the nights the Hurricanes went out on bombing missions - they listened for the sound of the aircraft coming home - often they could hear the aeroplanes limping home on one engine; they prayed they would make it, but I know one crashed when very nearly home. Many did not get back across the Channel.'
John Willmer was away at school at Winchester College, aged just short of fifteen. 'My recollection is that the housemaster came into breakfast (a meal which he usually took in his own part of the house) and told us that Germany had surrendered, so it was now peace in Europe (although the war against Japan continued in the Far East). Consequently, the Headmaster had decided that the day should be a special leave out day'. John decided, over ambitiously, to go off on a bike ride to see Corfe Castle. He never made it but did have a lovely day out!
Peter Loyd was a 22 yr old Captain in the Royal Marines on VE Day and Adjutant of 42 Commando. He was living in the State of Belgaum, India, where his unit was training to fight in the jungle. 'We had news from the other side of the world of VE Day, but the war continued where we were.'
Some folk were living abroad at the time. Pamela Lloyd-Hart has a memory of her father Evan on the day putting an enormous Union Jack on the front of their house in Cape Town. She learnt only later that the flag was a political statement as well as a mark of celebration. Evan could not associate what he perceived as an Afrikaner emblem with the triumph of VE day, and opted for the Union Jack; this despite the fact that dissident Afrikaners under Jan Smuts procured the overthrow of Herzog in 1939 and brought South Africa into the war.
Monique Parsons was living with her mother and sister in St Germaine-en-Laye, in occupied France. They heard on the radio that the Americans were on their way to liberate Paris. St Germaine-en-Laye was set on a hill, and Monique rode out to a vantage point on her bicycle to see the first tanks rolling towards the city. 'The Americans were throwing chocolate and chewing gum out of the tanks to us. I then biked back home and my mother had hung flags out.'
Meg Weston-Smith was evacuated to America for five years. 'On 8 May 1945 I was in California, aged 12. On the West coast all eyes were on the war in the Pacific, and Europe seemed remote. I went to a school largely attended by children of scientists at the California Institute of Technology. My American host was an astronomer and friendly with Walter Baade, another astronomer, who was put under restrictions because he was German. I recall sympathy for him. They were wonderful years.'
Sheila Broadway, and her brother and sister were also evacuated across the Atlantic to Canada during the war. 'We came back to our parents just before the end of the war - I remember doodlebugs - and I also remember an enormous bonfire and loads of people getting together on VE Day. I was 10 at the time'.
David Gardner's mother Pat, recently deceased, was out in South Africa having left Belsize Park in 1940 to join her mother out there. She joined the South African Army and became a 'Waasie', stationed in Durban, that is a member of the Women's Auxiliary Army Services. By the time VE Day came round she was 21 and romantically involved with a South Africa pilot, David Gardner (Senior) and the rest, as they say, is history…
Back in London, Bill Risebero was living in Enfield, aged 6 on VE Day. 'The crowds in the Mall after Mr Churchill's broadcast rather passed me by. I can just about remember my parents' relief at the news, and them hanging a Union Jack from our window. I had lived all my conscious life through the War, so air raids and explosions were 'normal' to me, and I don't think the concept of peace meant a lot. I do however remember the VE Day Celebrations in June the following year and seeing the King and Queen and the two princesses in procession through London. That left a big impression.
For Anne Stevens, then aged 2½, VE Day is her earliest memory. She remembers standing with her twin on a balcony at their home in in Notting Hill Gate watching the RAF flypast and wearing a hair ribbon in a braided red white and blue pattern! 'And then the union flags on the lampposts in the Mall when we were taken to see the decorations a few days later'.
On VE Day Charles Perrin was 5 and living with his parents in a flat at 20B Ellerdale Road, Hampstead. He doesn't remember VE Day, but like Bill does remember the Victory Parade a year later on 8th June 1946. His father, who was a significant figure in the war effort, had been given tickets for a stand to watch the parade. His mother had prepared a picnic lunch which in the excitement to get to the parade they forgot to take!
He remembers the bombing and being pushed under the kitchen table when there was an air raid. On one occasion a bomb dropped so close to the house that their windows were blown in. He also remembers a trip to London Zoo when an air raid started and people diving into the London Zoo tunnel which goes under the road.
Charles' father kept a diary in which there is an entry which shows that at 8pm he visited 'the Parish Church'. Charles is reasonably confident that this reference would have been to Hampstead Parish Church, so it would seem a service was held in church that evening. For more information on Charles' father, buried in the Additional Burial Ground see http://tombwithaview.org.uk/abg-people/michael-perrin/
According to the Westminster Abbey website on VE day they held services of thanksgiving every hour from 9.00 am to 10.00pm. See https://www.westminster-abbey.org/media/4109/ve-day-1945.pdf. The main service seems to have been at 3.00 pm when the Lord Chancellor and House of Lords attended.
A few have no memory of the day, among them Jenny MacDonald Hay, Stephen Clarke, Derek Bunn, John and Angela Read who were all living away from London. Space prevents further elaboration, but if you want to know more, then do ask contributors when we are next able to be together again in our beloved Church.
Thank you to everyone - I have found it fascinating listening to your stories. In the meanwhile, stay safe everyone - 'I know we'll meet again some sunny day'.
Wednesday 6th May 2020
I bought these 2 orange Kalanchoes last September for my Harvest Festival arrangement and as there was nowhere for them in church afterwards - they looked silly on their own - I brought them home. So something of that lovely time is still blossoming, where in a sense the church remains open!.
Tuesday 5th May 2020
On Saturday 2 May, at 6.30 pm, 37 junior church children from 13 different households gathered together for a special children's service on Zoom. The theme was Noah- a fantastic way to weave into the service the images of rainbows that are currently festooning so many windows, as well as God's promise that he will always help us through adversity.
In advance of the service, the children were asked to collect together a "few animals". Judging by the evidence on zoom, most people had taken this task very seriously indeed:
The service started in an atmosphere of great excitement. Many of the children hadn't seen each other since the start of the lockdown, or since the Junior Church Passion Play on zoom on Palm Sunday. Lots of children were in costume or animal masks, or were surrounded by toys.
Once the hubbub calmed down a bit, Jeremy guided us through the story of Noah and some prayers, and led the singing of some of junior church's favourite songs. The service had been devised by Maureen (our children's worker), who was wearing an animal headdress. The story of Noah was read out by children from several families, and children also wrote and led the prayer.
Although all the families were physically apart, there was a real sense of togetherness and community. The experience was exhilarating and uplifting. Miranda (age 8) said it was "awesome". Benedict (age 7) described it as "amazing". The only trouble was persuading the children down from their high, and into bed, after the service ended.
Junior church plan to meet again in this way in a few weeks' time, and the children continue to light candles and display them in their windows as a sign of hope at 8pm every Sunday.
Friday 1st May 2020
The Junior Church have been making cards for the residents of Spring Grove to cheer them up during lockdown. Every child was given the name of a resident so that the card would be personal and when they had finished the cards were posted or dropped off at Spring Grove. Every resident received a card. Here are some of the really beautiful cards that were made
Thursday 30th April 2020
Wednesday 29th April 2020
Tuesday is food distribution day at the Caris Haringey Food Bank. The photo was taken on a very wet Tuesday. It is an unrecognisable Jane Young, the office manager, protecting herself against both the rain and the virus with her creative homemade PPE.
We are pleased to be able to support Caris Haringey. They support the most vulnerable people, like those living in temporary accomodation or people who have been given the right to stay but no right to access benefits. They regular provide a full weeks food and essential toiletries to 35 families, plus they deliver to families who aren't able to get out because they are isolating or have other health problems
My ceonothus Cynthia Postan, my pride and joy.
Monday 27th April 2020
Health trusts have been asking volunteers to make uniform bags for staff. Chris Weatherhead and a group of 8 friends have been making bags for the North and East London hospitals which include the Royal Free, Whittington, North Middlesex and UCLH hospitals.
What are the bags used for?
The uniforms are keyworkers are potentially contaminated with coronavirus. Having a bag means that at the end of a shift they can change their clothes and put all their work clothes into a bag to take home to wash. This reduces the danger of infection to their families
What sort of fabric is used?
A patterned fabric (so staff can easily identify their bag), that is a close weave, robust and washable at 60 degrees C. If you would like to help make bags but don't have any suitable fabric, fabric can be provided.
This photo shows Chris with some of the bags. So far the group have made 62 bags!
If you want more details of how to make the bags, or need fabric, or to deliver bags please contact Chris via the office firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as providing food for food parcels, the staff at Age UK have asked for cakes to share with residents who come down to see them wanting a bit of reassurance and a cuppa. If this is something you can help with, please do. Donations of cakes and biscuits can be left at the entrance to Henderson Court on Prince Arthur Road anytime during the week 9.00 - 5.00. Here's Brian, one of the residents, enjoying his cake!
Judy East has been making Twiddlemuffs for dementia patients at the Royal Free after receiving a request from Jane Padkin, a physiotherapist at the hospital. What is a twiddlemuff? It is a woollen tube with buttons and ribbons attached. Patients can put their hands into it and twiddle with the buttons and things. They are especially needed now because patients aren't getting visitors. The photo shows what they look like and how to make one. Judy has been making them for years and says they are good for using up odds and ends of wool - the brighter the better. Because you can't go up to the wards at the moment Judy delivered hers to the A&E department labelled 'twiddlemuffs' and they found they way to the ward where Jane said they were gratefully received. Why not make one for someone you know who might like one
Monday 20th April 2020
Members of our congregation are involved in so many ways in providing medical support, either through the NHS, or other organisations, both in the UK or abroad. One family deeply involved is the Bunn Family. Derek and Jenny's eldest son James is in Sierra Leone, working for WHO, and his wife Mary is a palliative care doctor. Matt is a GP in Hemel Hempstead, and Alex is Lead GP at Wandsworth Prison. He is also working 3 days a week at the Nightingale Hospital. Sophie is their eldest granddaughter, qualified last summer, and is working on a respiratory ward at Coventry Hospital.
Jenny said 'We feel very blessed to have a family working in the caring professions, especially James and Mary, who have a very uncomfortable and difficult life, but like Alex , look upon it as part of their Christian commitment.
is a worrying time for us all, but we are looking forward to the rainbow , as a sign that all is well with the world again'. This is a photo of Derek and Jenny's front door covered in spring blossom which they see as a sign of hope.
Just before Easter a call came in to HPC from Jess Mather, a GP and member of the congregation to say that scrubs were urgently needed for Camden GPs who are working in a COVID Hub, for face to face meetings with patients. Was there anyone in the congregation who could set to with a sewing machine? Only a day later, four congregation members had been enrolled into the project to make 50 sets of scrubs, spearheaded by Sew Much Fun, of Primrose Hill, where one member attends sewing lessons. The plan is to make up packs complete with fabric, thread and elastic, in a bag which can be used for laundering, and to distribute them this week for making up. Hampstead Parish Church has been happy to fund the project, so it's all systems go! Here is a photo of Jess and a colleague outside the Camden Covid Response Unit which launched last week. Jess is wearing scrubs made up by one member of the congregation ahead of the game. The other photo is Jane Hinde another member of the congregation at her sewing machine making scrubs.
GPs can also do home visits if necessary, but it is a very controlled procedure, so Jess practiced by visiting her husband Tarun at home!
Thanks to all concerned - a fabulous effort, and prayers for protection for the GPs and support staff working to keep us all safe and well.
Sunday 19th April 2020
My 4 tulips with 4 more about to open were all bought at church last year and I look out at them many times every day; although they are so few, they have brought me much joy.
Saturday 18th April 2020
Thursday 16th April 2020
In the parish office at Hampstead Parish Church, there are usually some delicious baked goods around. Doughnut Thursdays became a delicious fixture in the church calendar. We may not be able to share doughnuts together, but here's a fantastic recipe. Made some at home today. So good.
Sunday 12th April 2020
Saturday 4th April 2020
As Holy Week begins, we are not where we should be. We should be in processions waving palms, we should be gathering for the Eucharist, we should be together. We are not. But physical distance cannot separate us from one another in spirit and in love, and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.
No matter where you are, or how you're feeling, there is a chance across these days to build up the Body of Christ by placing all we are into God's hands. By reaching out to each other and making best use of the communication tools we've got. Our shared ministry, lay and ordained, is interwoven with YouTube clips, Zoom passwords, online Passion plays, Communion celebrated quietly at kitchen tables and in the corners of our homes. We yearn for togetherness and we know we're together no matter what. It is not oppression or violence, anything like what Jesus and his first followers had to endure, that keeps us from gathering. It is the need to preserve life, and not to destroy it or threaten it, that is keeping us all physically apart. It is right not to gather. It is wrong not to gather. We have to hold both in tension as best we can, walking the way of the cross within the familiar yet strange environments of our own homes. Wave your palms, listen to the Passion Gospel, ask for God's grace to be poured out into your hearts. You will find God waiting for you there.
Here are the medieval words of Hadewijch of Antwerp:
You who want knowledge,
seek the Oneness
There you will find
the clear mirror
During the Palm Sunday service, our soprano Christine Buras and our alto Jess Dandy sang music and words by another medieval theologian and composer Hildgedard of Bingen. Here is one of the responsories, which began our Palm Sunday service:
O bloody red, that flowed from up the height
divinity has touched: a bloom you are
that winter with the serpent's blast
has never marred.
Tuesday 31st March 2020
"I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope
Saturday 28th March 2020
Two very exciting things have happened today in the online life of Hampstead Parish Church. This morning we had our first Lent Group meeting since lockdown. It was on Zoom, and being able to see and hear each other was a real joy. The topic for this Lent is the Eucharist, and so, painful as it is that we can't gather for Communion, we stuck with it. The yearning for the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar is profoundly deep. The sense of being the Body of Christ together, yet dispersed, is deeply evident too. There will be another session next Saturday at 11am and everyone is welcome. This image, from the earliest days of the church, struck a chord with us:
'As this broken bread once scattered over the mountains has been gathered together to make a single loaf, so Lord gather your church together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.'
The second exciting thing is a YouTube video of our choir singing an achingly beautiful Lenten anthem by William Byrd, Afflicti pro peccatis nostris. Byrd's composition, using text from Isaiah, is rooted in the traditions of the medieval Sarum rite, bridging the centuries and bringing his own time of precarity and vulnerability near to our own this Passiontide. This is another way of being connected through hearing one another's voices, and this recording is to be treasured in a unique way because we are currently prevented from worship in which choral music infuses our Eucharistic liturgy.
In these days there is also new longing in the idea of simply popping round to someone's home for a cup of tea, shaking hands, embracing someone, or being together in ways that are not just familiar but truly necessary for comfort and for empathy. We can resist, knowing it's essential to refrain, but we hope it's not for long. This is certainly what's expressed in this drawing by Charlie Mackesy, 'One Day'.
Hampstead Parish Church's Be Drawn project, led by John-Paul Flintoff, has brought life into inboxes too in recent days. You can sign up for daily Be Drawn emails, revealing one of his portraits alongside Sheena Ginnings' photographs of the process underway. These portraits were meant to be exhibited in church from Passion Sunday onwards; we'll have an online exhibition instead in the coming days. Here's is the one he made of Aidan and the Junior Choir rehearsing. None of us had any idea, only two weeks ago, that this would be their last rehearsal and their last service in church for a long time.
As the Covid-19 crisis continues to keep us physically distant, as we stay home to save lives and support the NHS, we can light candles in windows, watch and pray, and connect with each other as best we can. There is new poignancy to the prayer often used in Compline,
'Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, sustain the dying, calm the suffering, and pity the distressed; all for your love's sake, O Christ our Redeemer.' Let us be sure that no matter what tomorrow or the day after tomorrow will bring, the God of love sustains us all.
Thursday 26th March 2020
Saturday 21st March 2020
The Sacred Space app offers a daily reflection on a Bible passage which opens and closes with short prayers. Their prayer for today includes this focus on freedom:
In all these ways we can grow closer to God and participate in a community founded on Christ's love. As we look towards Mothering Sunday tomorrow, and walk the path of preparation and peace this Lent, we ask God to 'strengthen us in our daily living' in the Collect for Sunday 22 March:
Wednesday 18th March 2020
Events have moved so rapidly this week that it will soon be hard to remember what a normal Sunday looks like. Denied the opportunity to gather together, what will we miss? I have often said that my favourite place to be is at the altar, looking at a church with established members and some new faces, coming to celebrate Communion together. This Sunday the clergy will celebrate Communion on everybody's behalf, but on our own. The pews will be virtually occupied, but I will miss seeing and hearing and greeting you all. The physical makes it real.
We will learn all sorts of ways of making our community real in other ways in these next days and weeks. Our Mission Action Plan from 2018 talks about being creative with video and audio technology, in order to communicate more widely. We have the most powerful stimulus to do that now, and apps have been downloaded, and live streaming experimented with. We will speak to each other by phone, on Facetime, WhatsApp, and Zoom. We will share words and images by email, and by actual letter. We will check up on each other more, and value or conversations all the more deeply because we are looking out for each other.
And we will demonstrate community by finding out each other's needs and meeting them, by approaching those we don't know who live around us and checking they are OK, by being proactive in calling and texting and writing, but offering a cheery word and a profound prayer. What we will miss by not gathering together we will make real in new ways. I pray that we will discover what it is to be the church without walls, so that we will grow closer together and grow stronger in acts of service despite, even because of, our being apart.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians:
"Always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5. 15 - 18)
Know that you are prayed for. May God bless you, as you bring that blessing to others in word and action in these difficult days.