The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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June 2018

The Vicar writes

Jeremy Fletcher

In 1854, in a lecture at the University of Lille, Louis Pasteur said:

“Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.”

“In the fields of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind.”

Pasteur was referring particularly to scientific observation and experiment, where many world changing discoveries were not what was originally being sought. The right ‘accident’ in the right environment then opened up new fields of study. We owe Bakelite, X Rays, Teflon, the microwave and Post-It notes (among many other things) to this process. The trick is in having the capacity to recognise that the unexpected might be exactly the thing you were looking for, even if you didn’t know you were looking for it.

I have pondered this particularly in the last year. Two of the most profound parts of our church life are the Saturday night C4WS homeless shelter (which I would like to commit us to hosting again this year) and the project to become a Community Sponsor for a refugee family. I submitted our application to the Home Office on May 19, and now we wait and see. My thanks especially to Sheena Ginnings and Alice Sims, our project leaders, who have got us this far, to many volunteers, and to the generous couple who are making a flat available.

Neither of these projects were in the minds of those who drew up our existing Mission Action Plan, yet it was easy to see how these new possibilities were exactly what we were looking for. As we draw up our next vision and plan, I’m keen for us to be very clear about what God has made us and will make us, so that when the unexpected appears we can be ready to embrace it. Of course, there will be things we must plan for and must do, and there will be strategic and action plans. But our minds must not be closed to God’s surprises. In them we will find our hope.

The Spring Fair was a lovely example of this. Originally we thought we should move it away from the Royal Wedding. Then Bishop Sarah announced the date of her installation, so we had to move the Fair back to May 19. We wouldn’t have planned it this way, but we felt we needed to have a big screen so people wouldn’t miss out. It turned out that watching the great occasion together was not just convenient but essential. Many people said it was their highlight, and we learned from it: whenever there is a great national or international occasion, why not mark it together in this way?

Elsewhere you will find various figures about the money raised. It’s complicated! Money is still coming in; the silent auction and a couple of stalls carried on for another week; some expenses are yet to be met, and so on. But we know that over £8,600 was taken on the day, and we are confident that the final total, after expenses, will be over £10,000. Many people gave their time and skills towards this, not least Julia Fletcher who coordinated the whole enterprise.

Perhaps Pasteur’s law should have a variant: “sunshine favours the prepared team”. Who knows how many people would have come if it had been raining? But in the sunshine Hampstead Parish Church – building and people – was at its very best. Thank you!

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