The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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Sunday 12th July 2020

News from the Vicarage

Julia Flatcher

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.

Back in Church

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

Symbols of Hope

Barbara Alden

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

Monday 6th July 2020

Yokes and Burdens

Sheena Ginnings

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.

Monday 6th July 2020 - Remembering in lockdown a Thursday in 2005

David Gardner

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

An outrage upon the familiar sentiment and aspect of a well known locality

Judy East

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
RL Stevension
George du Maurier
George McDonald
Anthony Trollope
Ford Madox Brown
William Morris
Coventry Patmore
Edward Burne Jones
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
FT Palgrave
Sidney Colvin

It would have been a brave Trustee who advocated going ahead anyway. So they didn't.

Threads of Heaven

Ayla Lepine

You never know what you’ll find in Hampstead. I’ve found open hearts and minds, wonderful conversations, beautiful worship, a heart for social justice, deep prayerfulness, and all sorts of other things in this parish that make me thankful every day.
One day, amongst the treasures (and, well, definitely-not-treasures) of Flask Walk, I also found this (with Esther Fitzgerald’s expert eye and quick messages to get me to go take a look!). 
It is a black velvet full high mass set, embroidered with silver and sequins. The most elaborate part of the overall embroidery is an image of the Lamb of God on the front of the chasuble. There are also flowers, crosses, and flowing details that highlight the shape and function of each piece. It’s very likely that it’s Spanish and was made in the nineteenth century.
Black is for funerals and requiem masses. In our church and many others, we tend to use purple for this now, but black has a special place in the history of the Church. It's likely that it's survived so beautfiully because it would be used a lot less than green, which is used for so many weeks of Ordinary Time through the year.

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.
In my black textile set, there is a chasuble, stole, maniple (which goes over the arm, a bit like an old-fashioned waiter), burse, veil, and pall. Except for the maniple, our own vestment sets have the same items. The style is different, but the idea is exactly the same.
This set is now, sadly, in several pieces. I think it may have been cut apart to be displayed in a frame – a tempting thing to do, certainly! However, just before lockdown I planned to take it to a textile conservator to lovingly and carefully put it back together. One day I hope to see it restored and to wear it. When I do, I will always give thanks for the amazing treasures that one finds in Hampstead (and for Esther's eye for beauty!).

Monday 29th June 2020

Objects of Hope

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

The Vicar's bike has a new owner

John Barker

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

Inside old books

Margaret Willmer

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

C4WS and Homelessness during and after the lockdown.

Andrew Penny

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

From My Window

Bettina Schmidgall

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

Evelyn Underhill and Our Churchyard

Ayla Lepine

This week the Church of England remembers Evelyn Underhill, who died on 15 June 1941. She was the first woman to lead spiritual retreats at Canterbury Cathedral, Fellow of King's College London, author of superb books on theology and spirituality, spiritual director, and a novelist too.

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.
She is at rest in our churchyard beneath a beautiful rose bush and is often visited by people. The roses are glorious. Her headstone is....less glorious. Her name is barely mentioned, sandwiched between her husband and her father. The head stone doesn't refer to her significance for Anglicanism, women, theology, or modern British history.
We can change that for the better and create a resting place that will reflect the importance of Underhill and her four decades of influential work. There's a great project underway for the artist Lois Anderson to design a new ledger stone that would be added to the existing grave stone. We're £5500 away from the target.
If you can donate, please do and mark your donation 'Underhill'. 
In an interview about her life and faith, the theologian Jane Williams wrote that Evelyn Underhill ‘had this wonderful turn of phrase: ‘“God is the really interesting thing about religion.” Which is true – however nice our services are, or how good the coffee is, if we are not introducing people to God then we are not really giving them anything that isn’t available elsewhere. God is really what we have to offer.’
A prayer by Evelyn Underhill:
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

Remembering Grenfell

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."

The Women's Retreat

Sheena Ginnings

"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

Feeding of the 5000

Helen Evans and Maureen Smith

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

From My Window

Julia Fletcher

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!

Racial Justice and the Church

Ayla Lepine

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.

Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It's not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation? It's haunting. But it's also holy.
 - Austin Channing Brown
If you are disgusted by what you see, and if you feel the fire coursing through your veins, then it's up to you. You don't have to be the leader of a global movement or a household name. It can be as small scale as chipping away at the warped power relations in your workplace. It can be passing on knowledge and skills to those who wouldn't access them otherwise. It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as you're doing something.
 - Reni Eddo-Lodge
Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can't afford to stay silent.
 - Reni Eddo-Lodge
To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely - to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you...and no empire can take away.
- Cornel West
Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
- James Baldwin
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
- James Baldwin
The reality is, racism was baked into the very fabric, if you will, of the cake of our country…I really do believe that we've got to face the pain of our past and then work together to create new ways to create a new future.
- Michael Curry
Excerpt from a conversation between Regina Munch and Fr Bryan Massingale:
RM: You’ve compared the way that racism functions to a liturgy. How does that work?
BM: I got that insight from a sociologist named Joe Feagin, and he says that just as in a liturgy you have an officiant or presider, you have acolytes, and you have a congregation, so too does racism. You have officiants, the people who are the obvious perpetrators of racial injustice. They’re the people who are telling awful jokes, the people who pass policies that would disadvantage persons of color—for example, policies that create an unequal distribution of educational resources. Then you have the acolytes, who are, in a sense, the enablers. The enablers are those who carry out those policies, who give approval to the heinous actions that are going on. But then you have the congregation. The congregation are the bystanders—the people who see what’s going on, know what’s going on, but who take no action to intervene.
When I talk about the bystanders, I ask people to think about going to their family meal at Christmas or Thanksgiving. You have the family member who tells a racist joke or who says a racist thing. What bystanders or the congregation will often do during that situation is to say things like, “Well, your grandfather comes from a different generation,” or, “That’s just the way your aunt was raised,” or, “It’s a terrible thing that he said, but deep down he’s a really good person.”
Bystanders teach onlookers a very important message: doing racist things is okay because white people will let you get away with it. We create safe spaces for racism to fester and to brew, and it’s out of that toxic atmosphere in our country that more heinous actions take place—the murder of George Floyd or the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery simply because he was jogging in a neighborhood. We create the atmosphere that says when white people do terrible things, other white people have your back. Other white people won’t call you out.
Feagan talks about how white people act one way in public, but when they’re backstage, as it were, in the company of whites, there’s a whole different set of behaviors that come into play. Even if you don’t do anything negative, if you are not actively anti-racist, if you’re not actively challenging people when they say and do terrible things, then you’re creating the permissive atmosphere that allows these blatant things to happen.
Excerpt from an essay by Ramond Mitchell:
Leaders from the margins are viewed as equal parts, necessary and threatening. I say necessary because there is fairly widespread acknowledgement of the lack or underrepresentation of women and people of color in leadership roles within the church. But I also use the word threatening. Some view leaders from the margin as less than.  Leaders from the margins are viewed as a compromise for others. So leaders from the margins have to defy what the world sets before us. So we borough deeper into the margins. We struggle to hold ourselves to a standard of excellence that is defined by us, not by this center. But that resistance can’t be done alone.
For me, my resistance in the margins was done with my mother who as a single mom ensured her children received a college education. It was done with the family who endorsed my scholarships; who used their resources from this center to take my hand in the margins and help pay for me to attend a school where people believed in my academic ability. It was done by the people of God who loved me when loving myself seemed impossible. And it was the church who gave me a space to flourish and use my talents for the greater glory of God.
So I ask each of you, how can we elevate others, leaders, leaders from the margins, leaders for the church, by simply recognizing that their leadership gifts aren't despite the margins but because of the margins?
To read:
Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race
Ben Lindsay, We Need to Talk about Race
Akala, Natives
Walter Brueggemann, Interrupting Silence
James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation
Judy Ryde, White Privilege Unmasked
Robin di’Angelo, White Fragility
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Martin Luther King Jr, Letter from Birmingham Jail
To watch:
What Happened, Miss Simone?
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Sitting in Limbo
Anything by David Olusoga, especially BBC’s Unwanted series
The Bishop and Dean of Worcester taking the knee at Worcester Cathedral
Austin Channing Brown on Justice
Selina Stone on slavery and liberation
Maya Angelou, ‘I Rise’
To listen:
BBC Radio 4 – Chine Macdonald, ‘No justice, no peace: religion and protest’
Southbank Centre – David Olusoga and Akala, ‘Striking the empire’
Commonweal Magazine – David Massingale, ‘Worship of a false god’

Holy Mothers: Three Films by Marika Rose

Ayla Lepine

Dr Marika Rose, who is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Philosophy at the University of Winchester, has made three short films for us about women, feminism and the Bible. You can find them all on our YouTube channel.
The first is about Tamar, Rahab and sex work. The second is about Ruth, Bathsheba and marriage, and Marika’s final film is about Mary. These five women are examples of the way that gender, power, and culture formed and continue to form women’s lives and identities. They are also connected deeply with the genealogy of Jesus and the wider history of God's people.

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.
Marika was going to be our speaker at this year’s women’s retreat. Because of Covid-19 we were unable to come together for the retreat, so Marika agreed to make these films instead. Now they’re available for everyone to enjoy.
If you’d like to use the films in a mini-retreat at home, you might like to combine them with reading the Bible passages about each of these women,  watch the film, and then have a time of silent contemplation closing with prayer. Even taking a few minutes in the day to be nourished by scripture and study can be really transformative and can bring us into closer relationship with God.

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

Black Lives Matter: a square for the altar frontal

Ayla Lepine

Through our Hampstead Parish Church in Exile project, we’re collecting fabric squares for an altar frontal responding to the question, ‘Where is God in the pandemic?’ Margaret Pritchard-Houston is kindly putting these together into an altar frontal. This will be displayed in church in the summer. The deadline for finishing a fabric square is 15 June – you still have a little time if you’d like to make one! Contact Jeremy by email to let him know when you’d like to drop it off at the vicarage.
I’ve made this one in honour of George Floyd, the man who was murdered by a police officer in Minnesota on 25 May. His funeral was on Tuesday 9 June. His death has led to a huge surge of protests, activism, and cries for an end to racism. Black lives matter. We are all caught up in a damaging societal system of oppression that does untold violence. But change is possible.

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.
These recent weeks of our shared experience of the pandemic have also been weeks of bearing witness to this urgent need for anti-racist action and for genuine change.
In response to George Floyd’s funeral, the black American theologian Cornel West said:
I saw in the hearts and minds and souls not just of the Floyd family but of the church, the preaching, the music, the love – not one reference to hatred or revenge – it was all about love and justice….A people who’ve been hated, chronically, systemically, for 400 years, have taught the world so much about love and how to love….We’ve got a love that the world can’t take away.’
‘We cry,’ he said, ‘because we are not numb on the inside.’
Black lives matter. Where is God in the pandemic? On the side, and deep in the heart, of justice, love, and liberation. That’s where God always is. 

Sunday 7th June 2020

Arts and Faith Reflections

Christine Risebero

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

Gardening Group

Judy East

"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

The Spirit of Recovery

Esther Fitzgerald

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.

Our celebration of Pentecost

Sheena Ginnings

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

Fundraising for Solace, Helping Women in Need

Ayla Lepine

Solace Women’s Aid are a London charity who provide support including accommodation and clothing for women who are victims of domestic abuse.
They offer resources and immediate help for women online and by phone. You can learn about the women they’ve been supporting here.
Violence against women has meant that for many women in lockdown their accommodation is anything but safe.
Solace helps those who need it most, and they urgently need donations to support this vital work.
You can donate to Solace online through Hampstead Parish Church by clicking here.
Please mark your donation ‘Solace’. The charity will greatly appreciate any support we can give.

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

Andrew Lloyd-Evanse

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

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

Angela 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.