The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

Church Chat

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Sunday 31st May 2020

Happy Birthday - Social Distancing

Margaret Willmer

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.

HPC Book Club

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 fell 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

The Spirit and the Word

Ayla Lepine

The Spirit and the Word is a series of 8 short films for the days leading up to Pentecost. 
They explore hope, loss, fear, love, grace, and God’s presence in the darkest of circumstances. They connect scripture with the pandemic. They offer a little inspiration during a challenging time and they invite us all to pray, through Pentecost and beyond, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’.
The films feature people in our parish (Jenny Lupa, Jeremy Fletcher, and Ayla Lepine) alongside brilliant and diverse people including Ally Barrett (Chaplain at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge), Carol Barrett-Ford (vicar at St Martin’s, Gospel Oak) and Emily Kempson (Lecturer at St Mellitus College in London).
You can watch all the films on our YouTube channel.
Look out for more video projects in June, too!

Thursday 28th May 2020

Remembering a 'Parish Outing'

Sheena Ginnings

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."
Diana Raymond

Tuesday 26th May 2020

The Mattich Family Chickens

Lucy Vinten Mattich

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

Working on the Royal Free assembly line

Julia Scott

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

The Spirit and the Word: New Films to Prepare Us for Pentecost

Ayla Lepine

In these sacred days between Ascension Day and Pentecost, which is on Sunday 31 May, the Church prays ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’ As we wait eagerly for the Holy Spirit, and we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come’, Hampstead Parish Church is publishing a series of short films. These daily films offer new ideas and perspectives. They prepare us for Pentecost and give us a chance to reflect alongside some wonderful speakers.
In this series, titled 'The Spirit and the Word', each video makes connections between scripture and themes including hope, fear, loss, transformation, and truth. The first one is Mother Carol Barrett-Ford, Vicar of St Martin's Gospel Oak, on 'Being Human, Finding Hope'. You can watch it on our YouTube channel.
In addition to Mother Carol, who is vicar of a neighbouring parish and a great colleague in the Edmonton Area, as well as our own parish clergy, the speakers in this series include:
Revd Andrew Bowyer, Dean of Chapel, Magdalen College, Oxford
Jayne Ozanne, Director, Ozanne Foundation
Revd Ally Barrett, Chaplain, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge
Dr Emily Kempson, Lecturer in Theology, St Mellitus College
Between now and Pentecost, we pray that the Holy Spirit will come and fill us with hope, inspire us with love, and lead us in God’s service.

Monday 18th May 2020

Green Gym

Margaret Willmer

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

Daniel in the Lions Den

Helen Evans

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

Hampstead Community Choir on-line

Chris Money

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!

NHS Scrubs with HPC funding

Jeremy Fletcher and Inigo Woolf

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

Jon Siddall climbs to the summit of Everest

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

Community Sponsorship - April/ May update

John Barker and Sheena Ginnings

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.

Monday 11th May 2020

Sewing scrubs diary

Anne Stevens

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.

Bedtime stories with Aseel

John Barker

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

From My Window

Angeal Read

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

VE Day reminiscences

Julia Fletcher

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

According to the Westminster Abbey website on VE day they held services of thanksgiving every hour from 9.00 am to 10.00pm. See 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

From My Window

Barbara Alden

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

Noah's Virtual Ark

Helen Evans

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

Making cards for Spring Grove

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

Seeking God

Ayla Lepine

I recently gave a talk about St Teresa of Avila in a new online series about saints (it was recorded and the video is here). She was a sixteenth-century Carmelite nun, a friend of St John of the Cross, and a powerful advocate for women and for contemplative prayer at a time when the Church was in turmoil. She wrote an autobiography describing her ecstatic visions of God, and The Interior Castle, a manual for prayer. I’ve been interested in her writing for a long time, and over Eastertide decided to read The Way of Perfection, which she wrote for the nuns in the Carmelite convent of St Joseph that she founded. In it I’ve found real hope, peace, and insight about the love of God and the importance of being patient and still even in very difficult times.
A couple of days ago, the psychologist Sylvia Gosnell wrote an article that really seemed to resonate with the links between the sixteenth-century saint’s approach to life and our own circumstances in lockdown. She says,
‘It is difficult not to notice that, whether by prudence or government mandate, these times lead us inside: into our interior spaces — physical, emotional, spiritual. As our physical movement in the exterior world is curtailed, we can sit more — and more deeply — with ourselves and with our closest relations. For many of us, habituated as we are to the incessant doing that our culture demands, it is an anxiety-ridden proposition. A cloistered nun noted recently that “People say that they want peace and quiet. Then, when it is thrown in their lap, they panic.” As a result, we sometimes flock online as a compulsive escape from the fear of simply being— of being inside and being with those with whom we share a dwelling place. 
Yet at times we also go online out of our deep hunger to go deeper into the life of the One in whom we live and move and have our being… the One who is love and, being love, is always seeking “the other.” Seeking us. We yearn to respond, to bridge the spatial divide and be in closer relationship with God and with our worshipping communities…’
St Teresa of Avila wrote beautiful poetry, and it’s worth putting this poem in conversation with Gosnell’s insights about longing to be with God, and longing to be with each other too. This poem is called ‘Seeking God’:
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.
For love you were fashioned
Deep within me
Painted so beautiful, so fair;
If, my beloved, I should lose you,
Soul, in yourself seek Me.
Well I know that you will discover
Yourself portrayed in my heart
So lifelike drawn
It will be a delight to behold
Yourself so well painted.
And should by chance you do not know
Where to find Me,
Do not go here and there;
But if you wish to find Me,
In yourself seek Me.
Soul, since you are My room,
My house and dwelling,
If at any time,
Through your distracted ways
I find the door tightly closed,
Outside yourself seek Me not,
To find Me it will be
Enough only to call Me,
Then quickly will I come,
And in yourself seek Me.

Wednesday 29th April 2020

At the Caris Haringey Food Bank

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

From My Window

Beryl Dowsett

My ceonothus Cynthia Postan, my pride and joy.

Monday 27th April 2020

Making drawstring bags for the NHS

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

Treats for residents at Henderson Court

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

The busy Bunn family

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.

Creative Scrubs

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

From My Window: 8 Tulips

Sue Kwok

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

From My Window: Egbert Bear Junior and Grace

Sheena Ginnings

We've just started a new Church Chat series called “From my window”.
What can you see out of your window during lockdown?
It may be something beautiful or it may be something that makes you sad; it may bring back memories or you may just glimpse God. We’d love to know.
Looking out of my top floor window is my bear Egbert Bear Junior and his small friend Grace. They are up there because they will be taking part in a teddy bear trail on Sunday.

Thursday 16th April 2020

Doughnut Thursdays

Courtney Terwilliger

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.

Yeast Doughnuts courtesy of the Joy of Cooking cookbook.  
Whisk together in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer:
* 240ml warm (41 to 46C degrees) water
* 4.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
Let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Add, and whisk until smooth:
* 120 grams plain flour
Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and let stand at room temperature until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Whisk in:
* 130 grams sugar
* 150 grams butter, softened
* 3 large eggs
* 10 ml vanilla
* 1 teaspoon salt
Add and beat with the dough hook or paddle at medium-low speed until the dough wraps around the hook/paddle and comes away from the sides of the bowl:
* 450 grams plain flour
Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Cover tightly with cling film and let the dough rise at room temperature until tripled in volume, 1.5-2 hours.  
Punch the dough down.  Wrap it tightly in cling film and enclose in a large plastic bag.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 16 hours.  The dough will rise slightly and may pop out of the cling film; if it does, the plastic bag should prevent it from developing a crust.  
Roll out the dough about 1-2cm thick, and let the cut doughnuts rise, uncovered, at room temperature until soft and puffy, about 1 hour.  
Begin frying the doughnuts as soon as they have risen, in about 8cm of oil at 191C, or they will overrise and the taste and texture will be impaired.
Each doughnut takes about 1.5-2 minutes to cook per side, depending on the size.
Glaze or dust with sugar and serve!
Courtney Terwilliger
Parish Administrator

Sunday 12th April 2020

Early in the morning

Jeremy Fletcher

Early in the morning on the first day of the week. 

Sleep patterns being what they are in lock down times, for several mornings running I have heard the first birdsong. The same individual begins, greeting the dawn spectacularly and melodically. Except that there is no light yet. All is dark, yet this herald knows the darkness is ending. It is not yet light, but it will be so. 

On his iPad in Normandy, David Hockney sends a message to an isolated world. “Do remember they can’t cancel the spring” is a depiction of the kind of daffodils you get for a pound a bunch, so ordinary and ubiquitous you could pass them by without a second glance. Yet, in the darkness of lockdown, isolation and shielding they are the herald of dawn. Spring will come. 

I wondered how Easter Day would be in lockdown. Passiontide, with its lament and despair, seemed right. How could there be resurrection? My 5.15 herald of dawn had an answer. It is dark, but light will come. Hockney’s daffodils have an answer. “You can’t cancel the spring.” As the sun shone directly on the church down Church Row this morning there was an answer: flowers picked on permitted walks from the churchyard and round about, beautifully arranged outside a church we cannot yet enter. 

The first resurrection was only glimpsed. Jesus was mistaken for a gardener. The emptiness of the tomb was too much to take in. Most initial responses were all about fear, bewilderment, unbelief. It took time for the early herald of light, Mary Magdalene, to be proved right. She is my 5.15 am singer of the greatest music: “I have seen the Lord!”

Resurrection will be celebrated in isolation today, and it is still dark in this pandemic. But light will dawn. You can’t cancel resurrection. 

Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia. 


Saturday 4th April 2020

Seeking Understanding

Ayla Lepine

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
already waiting

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

Lament and Hope

Jeremy Fletcher

A week ago the Archbishops of Canterbury and York requested that churches be closed for private prayer, even for the clergy. So I find myself 10 metres from the altar, and a world away. I will comply with this advice, because I know I should be in full solidarity with the congregation and community. That’s why I won’t celebrate Communion until we can celebrate together.

Just because I understand this doesn’t mean that I am content. I have come to realise, in a deeply physical way, how much my living the Christian faith is deeply physical. When I go into our church, (as I do for practical purposes but not to pray), I see the people who are not there, hear the music which is not played, grasp the hands of Peace which are not outstretched, taste the bread we do not eat and the wine we do not drink.

Over the last fortnight I have said as positively as I can that though the church is empty it is full, that though we cannot meet we are close through many means of communicating, that though we are apart we are together. But it still hurts, really hurts. And this will go on at least until Easter, and almost certainly for weeks after. 

I was directed to a profound article this week in Time Magazine by Tom Wright, the world renowned theologian. In it he described the urge to give a theological, a Christian explanation of what is going on. “What is God doing?” is not an unreasonable question, and it’s not hard to find Christians telling us exactly what part of God’s plan this is. Tom Wight disagrees. 

“Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament.”

“…The mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in his world. That’s not the picture we get in the Bible.”

Sometimes all we can do is recognise the pain and wait. Some explanations are too easy, some hopes too shallow. In the article Tom Wright alludes to words by T S Eliot, which prompted me to find the full quotation. It’s from one of the Four Quartets: East Coker

"I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing ; wait without
For love would be love of the wrong thing ; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the

That does not sound very positive, very hopeful. It almost feels disloyal to my calling. Yet this experience of desert and exile, brought about because of a threat to life and cohesion and community, is so profound that to seek an explanation or an easy solution would be to dishonour the seriousness and the dislocation, the grief and fear. At this moment then, all I can offer is the lament tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures, expressed in the agony of Christ on cross. The faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting, for God in Christ waits with us.

Saturday 28th March 2020

One day. . .

Ayla Lepine

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.

Yesterday, Tilly and her siblings produced a video of them playing a bit of Bach at home, their musical lives enriching our own. This is on YouTube too. Every chance we get to hear and to make music together is an opportunity we must grasp.

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

On trauma and standing on the rock

Jeremy Fletcher

I wrote this late on the feast of the Annunciation. March 25 commemorates the faithful “yes” of Mary, who looked into an unknown future trusting in the presence of God, the one who works miracles. 

We look into our unknown future today with a mixture of fear, wonder, desperation, and perhaps even grief. I have felt crushed by successive blows as the ways in which we have operated as a church community have been stopped one by one. To be told on Tuesday that no one could now come to church to pray, and that I should not do so either, was the occasion of great sorrow. It feels like the lights have gone out. 

My sermon last Sunday (available on the Sermon page of the website, and the video is on our new YouTube channel) spoke of how we would deepen our bonds of fellowship and service even as we demonstrate love by preserving a physical distance. My sermon of the previous Sunday (also on the sermon page) spoke of how the Scriptures neither minimise fear nor downplay danger, yet also affirm the strong rock of faith, the safe hiding place of the love of God. 

The church is now called to live out her calling: to be with those in the depths of despair; to bear with those in the confines of isolation; to bring food to the hungry and solace to the weary; to strengthen the hands of the healers and to shine the light of hope in to those in the valley of the shadow of death. We will do this. Already people are communicating more while preserving our physical distance. 

I have been immensely encouraged by the desire of so many to offer help, and to leap the boundary walls of isolation and quarantine with the assurance of care and practical concern. Those experienced in the ways communities respond to trauma call this the “heroic” phase. However, the fires of self-sacrifice do burn out, and (especially in what we are facing) the trauma remains. The next phase is “disillusion”, and we should be prepared for it by building long lasting foundations of love and bonds of deep service and fellowship. This will be a long haul. 

We will find new ways of being Hampstead Parish Church. Can I ask all of us to reach out beyond our immediate circle and think about people we know of in church who need a phone call and expression of practical concern? Don’t hesitate to let me know of people for whom you are concerned, once you have spoken to them.

Please know that I will be praying for the whole of the church Electoral Roll and database by name. The Blessed Virgin Mary showed us how to put trust in God despite not knowing what her future would be. She sang of the God who has mercy, gives strength, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry. I am sure that you, like me, are fearful and uncertain. Please encourage and support one another as we encourage and support our wider community. Please help each other, even and especially in these days, to “magnify the Lord” (Luke 1. 46 – 55)

With my prayers for God’s blessing


Saturday 21st March 2020

Re-imagining Prayer and Getting Connected

Ayla Lepine

In church we’re developing ways of keeping in touch online so that we can stay connected and worship together. As we respond to this strange and anxious situation as best we can, and offer help and prayer to those around us, it's useful to have resources that keep us inspired and stimulated, as well as faithful and hopeful. 

Every day I receive three emails in my inbox from very different organisations. The first is NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. It could be a nebula, a galaxy, or the Jupiter Abyss. The photographs and their dense yet accessible scientific descriptions are a poignant reminder of the vastness of our universe, and the stars and planets that surround our home. In London it’s almost impossible to see the stars most of the time. This brings the stars into view at their most spectacular.

The second is Maria Popova’s ‘Brainpickings’, which is a vast treasure-trove of cultural jewels, from contemporary music and poetry to Greek philosophy and art from all over the world. A recent post included Amanda Palmer reading Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Trees’.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

I also get a daily reflection from the Society of St John the Evangelist monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. SSJE were founded in the 1860s in Oxford and were the first Anglican monastic order. For Lent 2020 they’ve produced a series of films called ‘Signs of Life’. This week’s theme is food, and they’ve made profound connections in the film between feasting, community, and the Eucharist. In it, Br James Koester, who leads the monastery as its Superior, observes that ‘Food is love made edible.’ The films can be found here.

In addition to these small ways to expand hearts and minds online, there are great smartphone apps for prayer, too. The Church of England’s Daily Prayer app has all the readings and liturgy for Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline, and includes both Common Worship and the Book of Common Prayer. We’ll be saying Compline online through Facebook each Sunday night at 9pm. You can use the Daily Prayer app to join in and follow along.

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:
‘Thank you for the gift of freedom, Lord. Grant that I may always choose to follow you. Keep me ever mindful of your ways, of your love, and of your concern for all people.’ 

I’d also recommend an app called Reimagining the Examen, which can be used at night to reflect on how the day went, where you noticed God’s Spirit at work, where aspects of your responses to things were positive or negative, and to rest in God’s love. It is inspired by a form of daily prayer developed by St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

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:

God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Wednesday 18th March 2020

The Church Without Walls

Jeremy Fletcher

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.