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Saturday 27th February 2021
22nd Feb to 7th March
During the two weeks of Fairtrade Fortnight, individuals, groups and companies come together to celebrate people in developing countries who grow much of the food we eat, but who are often underpaid and exploited.
At Hampstead Parish Church we usually hold a Big Brew after the morning service to raise money for Traidcraft Exchange, the charitable arm of the Traidcraft organisation. Last year we decided to hold this event earlier than usual and, thank goodness we did. As a result, we were able to send £332.24 to Traidcraft Exchange, before lockdown came into force.
Soon afterwards we had to stop holding our monthly stall selling Traidcraft goods. However, with the easing of restrictions over the summer, the church was able to hold a very successful Open House day when we set up a stall selling refreshments which raised £139.43. We are grateful to all those who have purchased from Traidcraft in the past and, by doing so, generously helped some of the poorest people in the world.
Throughout the pandemic, Traidcraft Exchange staff has continued their work supporting people in developing countries.
- In Tanzania the government does not accept that coronavirus is a threat and Traidcraft Exchange has continued its work supporting people with disabilities such as sight loss, to find work.
- In India coronavirus means that work has completely dried up for women who work in garment factories. Traidcraft Exchange has been providing emergency relief to many of these vulnerable households
- In Bangladesh communities have had to face the double challenge of Covid-19 and extreme flooding. Some coastal and riverside communities have lost homes, crops and marketplaces but Traidcraft Exchange has continued to run training sessions helping to support the long term sustainability of these groups.
This year the focus of Fairtrade Fortnight is climate change, and the growing problems this poses to farmers and workers within the Fairtrade community. Climate change is a huge challenge in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Honduras; countries that have contributed least to the causes of climate change. Drought, crop disease, floods and heatwaves are among the challenges they face and with the emergence of the global COVID pandemic, the problems for farmers in developing countries are bigger than ever.
Choosing to buy fair trade ethical food and drink is a way to make a difference . Through fair trade, farmers and growers can earn enough to feed their families, send their children to school, provide a future for their local community and, helped by charities such as Traidcraft Exchange, they can look for solutions to the problems they face due to climate change.
This year Traidcraft have asked us to delay our Big Brew until later in the year. We hope that with an easing of restrictions we will be able to meet personally.
We certainly hope to resume selling Traidcraft goods once restrictions permit. In the meantime, purchases can be ordered direct from the Traidcraft Shop at www.traidcraftshop.co.uk and donations can
Friday 26th February 2021
Some church recycling
Thursday 25th February 2021
Parliament is a strange and unnatural place in lockdown. No bustling, purposeful corridors of people, no full chambers with lively interactions, no cross-party socialising in a bar – no alcohol allowed anywhere in the palace.
In the Lords there are only 30 allocated seats, all socially distanced. Very few peers actually attend and we are often in danger of not having 3 for a quorum. Most peers loom at us through the 10 Zoom screens around the Chamber. What would Barry and Pugin have made of this desecration of their priceless work? Actually neither of them lived to see it completed, so perhaps their souls rest in peace.
One Good Thing to come out of this is online voting. Peers often queue to go through voting lobbies at unholy hours of the night. Now we log on to our phones, computers, i-pads, possibly in our pyjamas (such sacrilege!). We cannot sit beyond midnight because of the tech teams, but I often find myself on the Jubilee line for a late train home.
But our work is seriously diminished with set speakers’ lists – no impromptu question to unsettle a waffling Minister, no chamber reaction to unacceptable answers. And because our expenses are now dependent on actually speaking, ever longer speakers’ lists fill with people who have no expertise and nothing to add, but who depend on allowances to pay their bills.
As a deputy speaker, I attend to sit on the Woolsack, and to see real people. Roll on a return to normality, perhaps to earlier nights and certainly to proper challenging, debate, personal interaction. Zoom and Teams are amazing tools but as humans we were not meant to live virtually.
In this photo Baroness Anne McIintosh is speaking
Postscript – I had thought the Jubilee line ran through the night and discovered when I got to the Westminster platform recently at 12.28 that the last train was 12.32. So all was well,. Was quite weary after a 12 hour day, so very glad my trusty tube got me home OK! I did wonder how many other 76-year old women worked such silly hours – but I do enjoy it.
Wednesday 24th February 2021
Two hundred years ago, John Keats died in Rome on 23rd February. He lived in Hampstead for the last few years of his life and the house where he lodged, Wentworth Place, in what is now known as Keats Grove, is now a museum in his memory. Hampstead Parish Church has a bust of the poet presented by American admirers of his poetry, just by the steps to the Lady Chapel.
John Keats was not an enthusiastic church goer during his life. But as I discovered when working in Hampshire last year, he is associated with another place of worship, the chapel at Stansted Park which straddles the Hampshire/East Sussex border. In 1958, the then owner, the Earl of Bessborough, published a short book on the history of the estate called A Place in the Forest Being the story of Stansted in Sussex which provides some interesting details of Keats’ visit.
The building, formerly a hunting lodge, dates back to 1480 but was rebuilt as a chapel in the early 19th century in Regency Gothic style by the owner of the estate at that time, Lewis Way. Despite his poor health, John Keats travelled extensively in England, Ireland and Scotland. Towards the end of January 1819, Keats and his friend Charles Brown were staying in Chichester and later in Bedhampton. He was at work on The Eve of St Agnes and The Eve of St Mark. It was probably in The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle that he read that the chapel was to be consecrated on 25th January, the anniversary of the conversion of St Paul. They decided to attend although it was several years since Keats had renounced his Christian faith. His attention wandered during the very long service and he found inspiration in the arms of the Fitzalans and the Earls of Arundel, then depicted in stained glass in the three arches of the window opposite. Back at his lodgings in Bedhampton Mill-House, these are some of the words Keats recorded on a much-scored manuscript
A casement triple arch’d and diamonded
With many coloured glass fronted the Moon
In midst whereof a shielded escutcheon shed
High blushing gules…
(From The Eve of St Agnes)
The painted east window of the Stansted chapel is probably unique in being the only window in a Christian place of worship which is wholly Jewish in design and symbolism. Lewis Way dedicated much of his life and his fortune to converting Jews to Christianity and this chapel was designed to be the headquarters of his endeavours. Mrs JRH Moorman, daughter of Dr GM Trevelyan, was the first to suggest that this wonderful window with its seven lights was the inspiration of The Eve of St Mark.
The first stanza could be describing the entrance to the chapel which is unusually low
Each arched porch and entry low
Was filled with patient folk and slow
The second stanza of the poem goes on to refer to many of the features of the window including silver stars, cherubs, a menorah (seven branched candlestick) and the Ark of the Covenant.
Keats visit to Hampshire was a productive one. He completed one of the world’s greatest narrative poems. But he must also have had some first thoughts for The Eve of St Mark’s too.
Tuesday 23rd February 2021
Judy writes "I think this poem goes well with our Lenten altar frontal"
This is the place of prayer.
Here where the inward pointing nails
The ever-narrowing gate
when the world of time and space
yields up its measured form.
Here in the needle's eye.
Dark upon dark.
The aching, echoing void
of the hollowed heart
at the point of change.
(and that is the agony)
bearing the unknown
to the mystery
at the place of prayer.
Monday 22nd February 2021
This remarkable woman is buried in the Additional Burial Ground and you can visit her grave P 80
What is her claim to remembrance? Simply the fact that almost single-handedly she restored to the Church the serious study of the Christian mystics, those men and women who, she wrote, ‘insist that they know for certain the presence and activity of that which they call the Love of God … They know a spiritual order, penetrating and everywhere conditioning though transcending the world of sense.’
Her major study Mysticism (1911) remains a landmark in the literature on its subject. Through it she wished to make the experience and thought of the great mystics available, not for detached study but as a guide and inspiration to contemporary Christians. The mystics, she said, remind us that engaging with the realm of the Spirit is ‘not to know about, but to Be.’
In her books, she returned constantly to the assistance that the mystics can give to Christian life and devotion today. For Evelyn Underhill, the mystics were no more ethereal or ‘otherworldly’ (in the worst sense) than she was herself. She was a woman who combined deep Christian discipleship with an astringent mind, a keen humour and a down-to-earth character. Today’s vague talk about being ‘spiritual but not religious’, would have earned brisk dismissal from her. ‘No deeply religious person is without a touch of mysticism, and no mystic can be other than religious.’
Given the range of her scholarship, and her grasp of theology and philosophy, it comes as a surprise to find that she was largely self-taught in these disciplines, yet she was regarded seriously by professional scholars. She was concerned that theology should cease being a matter of arid speculation and study among specialists and return to being inseparably linked with Christian life and worship. Her second major book, written near the end of her life and reflecting her mature thought, was called Worship.
Nor did her activities end with writing. From 1924 onwards, she became known as a conductor of retreats. Many of her later books are based on material that she delivered during these retreats. Also, she helped countless individuals by her counsel. She was also engaged in ecumenical work, aimed at encouraging dialogue between Anglicans and members of the Orthodox Church. Everything she did reflected her abhorrence of narrowness in Christian life.
She achieved a prodigious amount of work, yet she did it as the wife of a solicitor, playing her full part in his life. To this, she added regular visits to the poor. She was clear that authentic Christian prayer should lead to awareness of social realities, and to action where necessary.
It must be stressed that though her work was concerned with the life of the Spirit, she was not someone to whom prayer and meditation and even belief came easily. Notebooks discovered after her death reveal that her path was frequently lonely and anguished, though this was never apparent to those she helped. It is her refusal to hide behind easy pieties and sentimentalities that make her a continuing encouragement and challenge to Christians.
We have much to thank her for.
Saturday 20th February 2021
Dogwood and snowdrops in the the Hill Garden near Golders Hill Park
One of the few bonuses of the Pandemic for many has been the time and opportunity to read more.
I often wake in the night, finding it hard to get to sleep again. I decided to sign up to Audible audiobooks and it has proved a great decision. I mostly read fiction, and some biographies and I wasn’t sure how I would get on with listening to a book rather than reading one, but after a few chapters of my first book it just seemed perfectly normal! Books are downloaded on to your smart phone or tablet and then you can listen to them out loud or through headphones. When I wake now, I just plug in my headphones and listen to a book. My only personal rule is that the story mustn’t be too exciting, or I don’t drop off to sleep! There is a sleep timer, so when you do go back to sleep the book doesn’t race too far ahead.
Here are two books I have enjoyed listening to recently:
‘Where the light enters’ – Jill Biden
A hugely readable book by Dr Jill Biden, wife of now President Joe Biden. It was published in 2018 so there is no mention of running for President at that time and is a very warm account of how Jill built a family – and a life of her own. Joe Biden lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car crash leaving him with two small boys to bring up. He then met and married Jill who had to learn to balance life as a mother, wife, teacher and political spouse.
I really recommend this book as a it describes the challenges Jill faced marrying into a strong Irish Catholic family, helping Joe to bring up the boys and supporting him in his political career. I found it a very genuine and honest account and a good background to what is now the US First Family.
‘A single thread’ – Tracy Chevalier
This book is set in Winchester in 1932 and tells the story of Violet Speedwell, who has become a ‘surplus woman’ having lost her brother and fiancé in the First World War. She is drawn into the life of the Cathedral broderers where she finds support and community. She is also drawn to a married bellringer, Arthur.
I found this book soothing and calming. The story paints a rich picture of history and social change in the inter-war years. It is well researched and the description of cathedral life, and all the issues often associated with small communities rang true for me after our time at York Minster. ‘The novel touches on issues of the position of women, of sexuality, of being an unmarried mother, of the importance of friendships, of identity, family, of love and art.’
The Digital Divide:
Prior to the pandemic, some older people were not interested in accessing digital services or getting online, however that is changing. Use of technology is now an important component for many people to keep in touch and access services so they can lead a thriving life and maintain their pre-COVID-19 independence.
Age UK Camden has continued to support those unable to access digital solutions by providing training & telephone support throughout the pandemic on a case by case basis. This has included distributing equipment, training and problem solving. From 1st February 2021, our one-to-one gadget clinics will be returning. These sessions will take place on Monday afternoons, and will be a dedicated time to learn or enhance digital skills, supported by a volunteer tutor. These sessions provide the perfect opportunity to help older people unlock their digital potential!
If you or someone you know needs help with learning how to use Zoom or WhatsApp, or if you were given a new smartphone for Christmas and want to know how to make the most of it, do sign-up to a Gadget Clinic by emailing: email@example.com or calling 020 7239 0400 to book a place. For more information, visit: www.ageuk.org.uk/camden/our-services/it-training
How you can help us:
Fundraising continues to be a vital part of ensuring we can continue to do what we do. We have just launched our 'Donate a Cuppa' campaign, encouraging people to support our older generation by donating to our campaign: www.justgiving.com/campaign/donateacuppaAgeUKCamden
Quality Pre-loved items, donation drive! With our Charity Boutique now online and our Shop in Leather Lane shut due to the current restrictions we are asking those in and around the Hampstead area to donate quality pre-loved items to our drop off point at Henderson Court.
Items we need:
- Pre-loved designer clothes and accessories in a saleable condition.
- Leisurewear in good, saleable condition.
- Fashion, art and design, and autobiographical 'coffee table' books and magazines.
- Shoes and trainers in good condition.
- Vinyl records.
Due to limited space, please only donate one bag per person. You can drop items off at Henderson Court Monday-Friday between 3-4pm. Please do not leave items outside Henderson Court as they could be damaged or thrown away.
Do Stay in Touch: Please sign up to our regular newsletter – we would love to keep in touch with you. www.ageuk.org.uk/camden/get-involved/email/
And last but not least thank you again. You continue to support us on a daily basis and in addition there have been several times over this past year where we have turned to you for help and you have always been there. It has meant such a lot to us and to those we look after.
With best wishes,
Nikki (Morris)CEO Age UK Camden.
Thursday 18th February 2021
Our granddaughter Lucy, aged 13, has started a 'Readathon' to raise funds for Book Aid International. This charity sends books to disadvantaged and marginalised people across the world. Education by reading helps to empower people to change their lives for the better. It costs just £2 for Book Aid to send a book and in 2020 they sent over 865,000 books to schools, libraries, universities, hospitals and refugee camps in 19 countries. Lucy is aiming to read 20 books over 4 months. She has a page on the JustGiving website with the link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lucy-coleman13 which gives further details. She would be very grateful for any support that you could give her challenge to further the work of this inspirational charity. With many thanks.
As some of you will know, Jeremy and Julia very kindly offered to host our two bee colonies in the vicarage garden. We are extremely grateful to them both for their kindness, openness, generosity and interest. During our post-service zoom calls, parishioners have been asking us what happens to bees during the winter months.
Winter can be a risky time for honeybees. Many other insects including bumble bees hibernate during winter, but honeybees hunker down inside their hives, and huddle together to keep warm and protect their precious queen.
Fewer bees are needed in the winter so colonies shrink in size. The queen stops laying eggs, and the male drones, no longer seen as essential workers, are banished. The all-female winter workforce, fed on a low fat, high protein diet when they were autumn larvae, are fatter, stronger and have a longer lifespan (4–6 months instead of only a few weeks) than their summer sisters. They need to survive the entire winter.
When outside temperatures begin to drop, these winter worker bees retreat to their hives and form a tight winter cluster. They shiver and vibrate their wing muscles to generate a survivable heat (32–37°C). The outer layer line up and face into the cluster to create a thermal barrier, while inner bees feed on their stored honey for energy. Though the queen is always at the warmest centre of the cluster, worker bees rotate their position from the outside to the inside, so no individual gets too cold. The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes.
To sustain themselves and the heat, the cluster moves in formation around the hive to reach their reserves of honey. For most of the winter, the cluster stays intact, but when temperatures outside rise, the bees will take 'cleansing flights' and eliminate body waste. They never defecate inside the hive.
The queen is waited upon and fed and groomed, and spreads her pheromones to keep her colony happy. She only resumes her egg-laying in January or February in order to strengthen the size of the colony for the season ahead. This new brood will help to replace the bees that have died during the winter, and to ensure there are enough bees for spring foraging.
The colony's ability to survive the winter depends in part on the stores of honey they have built up during the warmer months, and a careful beekeeper should ensure they have more than enough reserves to last them the winter. Our two colonies had limited stores this year, so we decided not to take any honey from them. So far they seem to still be thriving, though they have several more weeks to get through. Dampness in early spring is another big threat, so we are hoping they will make it.
The Vicarage fox
Wednesday 17th February 2021
For Passiontide 2020 we were preparing to put up Essy Sparrow’s Stations of the Cross in church. But it was not to be – lockdown intervened and instead Ayla made them into a video for YouTube. This year, having learnt how to manage lockdown, we will be making them available for prayer and reflection in church. There will be restrictions on numbers, if necessary, and the usual instructions about face masks and sanitising, and a one-way system will be in operation.
By way of introduction we repeat here extracts from Ayla’s interview with Essy which was printed in the April 2020 Parish Magazine and is still available in full on this website under Magazines.
Thorns, Tears, Truth: Essy Sparrow in conversation with Ayla Lepine
Ayla – The Stations of the Cross focus on how alone Jesus is, even when he’s surrounded by people. The first Station, with Jesus in the Garden at Gethsemane is the only one where Jesus covers his face.
Essy – It’s a mix of both prayer and fear …… Sometimes we see Jesus in the garden as a holy figure who doesn’t look particularly tormented……... For me, Gethsemane and taking up the cross, feel very tied together. They’re connected through the pain of being betrayed by someone you love. That’s a unique kind of grief.
Ayla - The Station covered in text is interesting too, because it’s so densely packed and tense.
Essy – I was flicking through the newspaper and thinking about the story in relation to the news. People were yelling, but nothing added up. Their arguments didn’t make sense. Pilate didn’t know what to do. That felt like so many of the stories that we read……. about a girl who got attacked because she was Chinese. People thought she had Coronavirus. Her friend stood up for her, and she got knocked to the ground. Those kinds of stories, where people are willing to stand up for each other are important situations to watch from a power dynamics point of view. In this story, the attackers’ friends just left her on the ground. They did nothing.
Ayla - Thinking about how you’ve looked at the crucifixion in your series. You made two different images. Why is that?
Essy – The first one is a self-portrait; that’s me in my orange jumper.
Ayla – Why did you choose to make the second one?
Essy – I also wanted to make something for someone to meditate on, if they wanted to have a different experience.
Ayla – When we move through the story of Good Friday, even if we’ve heard the story thousands of times, we inhabit it again, and it changes us in new ways. How did you feel after you finished making the Stations?
Essy – I had a big cry. …….. It was a really intense experience to have. The art is exactly how I felt.
Sunday 14th February 2021
Friday 12th February 2021
It's quite handy knowing an international baritone because thatis how I found out about this book. And he may be called Deutsch but he's Viennese! This was my choice for a Christmas present from a friend, in the original language.
I read on, fascinated by how rude he could be! It's divided into chapters about various famous singers he has played for, mostly from the German speaking areas. He tells you how wonderfully they sang whatever it is - and then he tells you what he didn't like. And this can extend to beer and sausages after the concert, rather than a posh meal. My sympathies were with a well known singer who, when asked why he didn't work with him any more, replied "Oh, Helmut's such a Prima Donna!" He had a Japanese wife who went back to Japan. I wonder why?
Op>f course, Germans's a great language to be rude in. I wondered what he'd think of an up-coming CD where the singer is actually English and the pianist comes from some place called Wales? Thinking of "Tom der Reimer" carried off by the Queen of the Elves with bells on her harness, the rising singer says he wouldn't allow anyone but his duo pianist to tinkle his bells! That's the spirit!
The first time I prayed the Rosary, it was a mistake. Well, not a mistake, but it wasn’t entirely intentional. I had been on a walking pilgrimage, with the British Pilgrimage Trust. One of the people I met, walked with and (at the end, at Westminster Abbey) prayed with was a friendly woman who told me she worked at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Soho Square.
And one lunchtime I was doing work nearby, so I popped in. She recognised me, seemed very pleased to see me, but said, “We’re about to start the Rosary. Would you like to join us?” This, by the way, was before I started going to church regularly at Hampstead, or indeed anywhere. As you can guess, from the fact that I went on that pilgrimage, I was curious - but joining the Rosary suddenly plunged me into anxiety. It promised to be yet another of those things that people do in church that cause me to wonder if I will ever know what’s going on, and how to do it. What if I do it wrong? Will somebody be offended? But on balance I thought it was worth the risk. I followed Lucy into the church and kneeled beside her, and did very little else for the next however long because I didn’t know what I was doing. There seemed to be quite a lot of repetition. But it was restful. I enjoyed it.
Fast forward a few months, and I was by now popping into HPC quite regularly, including for Morning Prayers and Evening Prayers. One day Ayla (our curate until last year) said that she was doing a Rosary group on Thursday mornings. I was pleased, and slightly surprised. I had no idea that Anglicans pray the Rosary. Surely it was too “high” - like trying to pray from the top of the steeple? Apparently not. I joined the (then live, in person, Zoomless) group, and quickly got into the rhythm of it. Once again, I found the repetition helped me to ground myself in a prayerful way. And the rotating cycle of Mysteries provided a different contemplation each time.
Cycle? There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, comprising the early life of Jesus; Luminous (His ministry); Sorrowful (you can guess); and Glorious (the Resurrection and beyond).
When Covid came, our small but perfectly formed group transitioned quickly into Zoom. Then Ayla left, and we have had to lead ourselves. It’s been my privilege to do that fairly often.
When Sheena asked me to write this, I felt surprisingly daunted. I’m not a theologian. I can’t make a robust intellectual argument in favour of praying the Rosary. Happily, I realise I don’t need to. You can find that kind of thing elsewhere, I’m sure. (Have you met the Internet?)
What I can assure you is that I continue to find it extremely helpful in creating a prayerful space, and have missed very few weeks. Others in the group would say the same. To be honest, I quite like the small size of our group just as it is, but at the same time I would be ecstatic if, by writing this, I were able to persuade you to join us.
We meet on Thursday mornings, every week, at 8.30, and finish at 9. Perhaps we’ll see you there.
After a rather sedentary January (including 10 days of quarantine for the Gardner household), a team Step Challenge with work colleagues is just what I needed to boost my energy. Week by week in February, four teams of four are battling it out to be at the top of the leaderboard.
As the oldest participant by some margin, I also feel I have a point to prove! And so I am starting each day, regardless of the weather, with a brisk walk. This morning however, I had to stop in my tracks to admire the most beautiful sunrise over Hampstead Heath. How wonderful!
Tuesday 9th February 2021
At Hampstead Parish Church, what we do is underpinned by our mission: Building an inclusive community of Christian love, faith, witness and action.
As set out in our Mission Action Plan, we are committed to seeking justice and welcoming all.
Last summer, following the tragic death of George Floyd in the US and the Black Lives Matter movement that followed, we witnessed a new and urgent impetus for scrutiny around issues of racial injustice, a need for deeper understanding, and a commitment to effect real and lasting change.
At Hampstead Parish Church, as in many organisations, we felt a need to talk, listen, reflect and take action. This is not merely about celebrating Black History Month in October, and then continuing as normal for the rest of the year. This is about examining our behaviours and actions, and being open to hear and learn from the experiences of others, however uncomfortable that might be, and then taking action to dismantle barriers and create a truly inclusive church.
We have therefore established a Racial Justice Working Party:
- To listen to the perspectives and experiences of others, and take steps to build our awareness and understanding on matters of race or ethnicity
- To raise awareness of the issues associated with race in society today and use every opportunity to promote equality and inclusion
- To promote multi-culturalism and the richness this can bring to our community and our worship
- To recognise injustices and more subtle inequalities and micro-aggressions, and to call them out
- To aim for a more complete telling of the history of our church and parish, one which includes the contribution of all races and reflects diverse historical perspectives
Wondering how you can help make a positive difference?
We are looking for people who can bring diverse perspectives, lived experiences and cultural understanding to this Working Party. If you would like to find out more, please contact Angela Gardner or the Vicar via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racial injustice is a complex matter and we recognise that many of us have much to learn. To help build our awareness and understanding, we encourage you to use the resources which you’ll find on the website here. And do, please, share your feedback with us.
Dear Parishioners of Hampstead Parish Church,
A big thank you to you all for your support over this last year. We have really appreciated it. You have supported us practically (responding to our shout out for items when we’ve needed them, often at short notice), financially (we have needed to provide more services for people at a time when income has been challenging) and emotionally – your wonderful encouragement has really kept us going – thank you! We couldn’t have achieved all that we have without you! You have made such a difference to some very vulnerable people, many of whom have never had to ask a charity for help before.
I am so proud that Age UK Camden has been at the forefront of the local community sector response to the pandemic and has worked closely with local partners such as yourselves to provide effective and comprehensive support for the borough's most vulnerable residents.
During the past year we have had to be flexible, helping with a wide range of practical and emotional concerns which have arisen because of the pandemic and the restrictions. As you know in lockdown 1 we had to respond with providing food for people who had no other means of receiving food. After a time the Council stepped in to support us with this as the numbers in need were so high across the borough. All of our services have continued throughout the pandemic and we have made use of the phone and the internet if we haven’t been able to meet with people face to face. And with the support of the Council and Public Health England our Hub at Henderson Court has continued to offer support and a safe space for some of the most vulnerable, such an important service.
Services that people are finding particularly beneficial at the moment include:
- Online and telephone support – advice, information, befriending and counselling.
- Streamed musical recitals. Listen here: Age UK Camden | Lunch time concerts
- Book group. Join our book group here: Age UK Camden | Book Club
- Community Connectors service – social prescribing to stay engaged with the local community and help with confidence for people to come outside for exercise when they have been isolating for so long.
If you know someone who would benefit from our services please do share our website with them or direct them to our Information and Advice phone line 020 7837 3777 10am-4pm Monday to Friday. There is always room for one more!
With best wishes,
CEO Age UK Camden.
There was mention in Church Chat a few weeks ago of Julian of Norwich’s 'Revelations' as a source of comfort during the lockdown.
I too, have been finding the work of this 14th century visionary something of a go-to. Struggling to reconcile my feeling that ‘staying safe’ at the expense of others is decidedly un-Christian while abiding by the socially responsible rules of ‘staying home,’ has taken a toll on what I can only call my principals. How can we be grateful for our comfort and safety with others imperiled? Is this what it means to “experience a wondrous mix of well and woe?”
One theologian who has recognized Julian as a prophet for the 21st century Is Matthew Fox, who has written a short and accessible guide: Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—And Beyond. Fox positions the anchoress as a ‘fully woke woman,’ a visionary whose wisdom should resonate with us on more levels than her ability to shelter in place while simultaneously embodying compassion for her community: Julian spoke about patriarchies, environmental sustainability and (most anachronistically) – the theology of optimism.
Fox organises his study of Julian into seven lessons – all of which, through his lens, are indeed ‘woke,’ 21st century, and exceedingly wise in the era of Covid. My particular favourite is chapter three, which ‘calls us to deep reflection on the divinity to be found in nature, and in all beings that dwell in nature.’
Some nights ago, with Julian set aside, wide awake at three am, I went to the shelves and pulled down a book that I have been carrying around for three decades, unread, simply because it has my grandmother’s handwriting on the front cover. This book, written by a woman who lived for some time in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, about twenty minutes away from where I was brought up, is one of the most beautiful celebrations of the wonders of the natural world I have ever read.
That’s what I thought on page one. On page three, came an even more miraculous recognition, because on page three, the author writes:
An anchorite’s hermitage is called an anchorhold; some anchor holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle to a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and it keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It’s a good place to live; there's a lot to think about.
Fox sees Julian the anchoress' worship of a creative divine alive in the work of Emily Dickinson. I see it in Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim of Tinker Creek.
May you all find much to think about in your reading this winter…
(unsurprisingly, the UK edition of Tinker Creek is published by Canterbury Press Norwich)
"Have you any holiday plans?" Even asking this question seems a distant memory when the most exciting outing most of us have had recently has been to the local park. However, Wade Davis's book about the River Magdalena allows you to explore with him Colombia's vital artery of commerce and culture that runs a thousand miles from the mountains of Southern Colombia northwards to the Caribbean. The book is peppered with facts about this beautiful country, with its unequalled abundance and diversity of biological life. 1,932 species of birds, including 165 distinct humming birds, and 26,00 native species of flowering plants for a start. Most of all, it is a series of personal encounters with some extraordinarily brave and resilient people who have survived appalling periods of violence, cruelty and sudden death and have shown enormous courage and hope for the future.
Two anecdotes in particular stuck in my mind amongst the many reported in this book. One is an account of those who managed to transform Medellin, from the murder capital of the Americas when Pablo Escobar ruled, to a beautiful city with parks, libraries, a university, science museum, Metrocable and famous botanical garden. The other is the story of Jose Manuel Zapata, known as Morita, who became the guardian of his small town. He was so outraged by the guerrillas who had rounded up all the locals at gun point and marched them to his hut, where he was watching the World Cup football, that he ordered them to let the people go immediately - and ended up letting the guerrillas watch the football with him. Asked how he could face down killers he said "I have a father who is called God who walks with me everywhere".
Read this book and you will feel that you have visited Colombia from your armchair!
Still flush from the triumph of our 2019 summer performance of Vivaldi's Gloria and then our Christmas Lights concert, we enjoyed starting the new year getting to know our new music director, Aidan Coburn. Unfortunately, like everything else, in late March we had to put away our music with the hope that restrictions would be lifted and rehearsals would resume within a few weeks.
By Easter it was obvious that things were not going to return to normal any time soon so it was decided to start our summer term meetings on Zoom. Many choirs have struggled with the challenge of singing on-line at the mercy of 'variable' internet connections (the word cacophony springs to mind!). So we allocated part of our meeting to singing songs that we had sung before (muted of course apart from Aidan!) and spent the rest of our time listening to memorable pieces of music chosen by members of the choir. Some of us still harboured a vain hope that we could put on some kind of summer concert but it was not to be. Never mind, we thought, we can still practice some wonderful pieces for our Christmas Concert!
What a joy in September when briefly we were able to meet again in church on a Thursday night (extra careful to follow the 'hands, face, space’ rules). . . but not for long. By the end of October we were back on-line but this time feeling more confident about the new music we had been practising. We did manage to record a few pieces, Ave Verum Corpus, Panis Angelicus, Crimond, Litany and Wiegenlied - one of which was played to the congregation in December.
So, 2021 sees us back on Zoom but we are ever hopeful that this summer, or maybe in the autumn, we will be able to demonstrate our joy of singing and perform for you in church because we really do love singing in the Community Choir
Wednesday 3rd February 2021
- A compliment is uplifting
- A little praise so worth while
- Especially when reworded with a thankful smile.
- It cost nothing
- To acknowledge a good deed
- Or a simple task.
- To someone, who is there for you,
- And will do, almost, anything you ask.
C H U R C H
- C - is to Care for people
- H - is to Help each other
- U - is to try and Understand each other
- R - is to Respect them too
- C - to Care can feel very rewarding
- H our Hearts can be strong - but at times so weak that can change from you and I.
When Graham and Sue Dowell left Hampstead in 1986, he had been our Vicar since 1974, they retired (!) to their home in Clun. After Graham died Sue moved to a different house with field behind but in the centre of the village. She has sheep grazing on the field and now has acquired 2 donkeys which arrived on 20th January.
Meet Bella and Kamala who love visitors and the attention they get from them.
Each Tuesday lunchtime a group of women from our congregation meet to pray for an hour. Inside Out was formed in October 2019 in response to requests for a church prayer group for women. We actively pray together for each other, the activities, mission and ministry of Hampstead Parish Church, seeking the flourishing of our own spiritual life, and that of our church and the wider parish.
In normal times we meet in the church Lady Chapel but when Lockdown happened we moved on to Zoom. As soon as this was lifted, we met in the Vicarage garden through the summer and then went back on to Zoom as Autumn and the colder weather approached. Apart from short breaks during school holidays this remarkable little group has met every week without fail and we continue to meet! Not everyone can make it every week, but we are committed and look forward to our hour of prayer together. p>We have shared our joys, our sorrows, and our frustrations. We have prayed for our children, friends, family members, our church our parish and more. We have seen wonderful answers to prayer and through praying together we have got to know new people and experienced a strong bond of fellowship.
Inside Out is open to all women. We meet from 12.15 - 13.15 every Tuesday for a time of open prayer and fellowship. If you would like to join us, the Zoom link is in the weekly Wednesday church e- mailing; we would love you to join us.
Sunday 31st January 2021
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This is the writer's first novel, which was short listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2019. She subsequently won thriller book of the year at the British Book awards, seeing off Lee Child and Val McDermid. The title of the book may be off putting to the average reader who is not looking for a blood & gore novel or a violent one. It was actually the working title for the book which somehow stuck.
The writer's childhood was in Nigeria and the U.K. before she returned to Lagos. The action takes place there.
The main characters are Korede who is the sensible and plain one and her sister Ayoola who is the opposite and has a knack of attracting any man she chooses. Korede is a nurse at the local hospital and her sister is a designer of clothes online when she isn't spending time manipulating others to amuse herself.
The action opens with these words 'Ayoola summons me with these words - Korede, I killed him'. What happens next draws Korede into a web of deception which then explores the relationship between the sisters and the mother and father. All is not as it seems on the surface and soon the undercurrent of local customs and misogyny begins to appear.
It does have some amusing moments and in fact, I did not realise until I was deeply engrossed in the novel, that she cleverly draws you into an insightful portrait of a dysfunctional family. I very much enjoyed this snapshot of aspects of life in Lagos, the food and the language. At 223 pages it isn't a heavy tome, but it has a lot to say. I can't wait for her next book to appear, but it is the sort of book you want to re-read.
I have been sparing with details of the plot, so it does not spoil the enjoyment of reading the book, but would emphasise that it isn't a conventional murder mystery.
Thy Will Be Done, by Stephen Cherry
I came across a review of Thy Will Be Done in King's Parade, the magazine for alumni of King's College Cambridge, where Stephen Cherry is Dean of Chapel, and Ayla Lepine is the College Chaplain. So we have some nice personal connections.
The review included an extract which looked promising. The topic of the book, an extended study of the Lord's Prayer, was itself attractive, since it is of course deeply familiar to us all, but not something we have studied together recently. The length of the book is not too daunting (some 200 pages). It is conveniently structured for Lent, in six parts - Heaven, Earth, Bread, Forgiveness, Temptation, Glory - and each part is broken down into six short chapters which can either be read day by day or all together once a week before the group meeting. The extract was enough to convince me that the style and content would be both readily accessible and at the same time sufficiently stretching to engage the attention of a thoughtful and well informed congregation.
So I recommended it to the Vicar, who has agreed that it would be suitable, and he will shortly be using the weekly worship e-mails to invite us to sign up for one of the three groups, to be led by himself, Jan and me, which will meet on Zoom at different times during the week. Stephen Cherry himself has very kindly promised to join us on Zoom at some point, and meanwhile he has helpfully provided a set of questions to stimulate our discussions. We haven't ever run a study group on Zoom before, and it will be sad not to meet in person, but it will be good to take part from the comfort of our own homes, and I hope that it will prove a good Lenten experience for all of us. Lent starts on 17 February, so if you want to get a head start, you can order the book now from the Church House bookshop, or from an online supplier such as hive.
Our theme last Sunday was Fishers of Men. Maureen told the story with props. Afterwards, children made invitations to friends, inviting them to Bubble Church.
Jesus asks four fishermen to come with him to learn to 'fish for people', to become Jesus' disciples. First he walked beside the sea of Galilee. He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea and asked them to follow him. Then he walked a bit further and saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat; preparing their nets. Jesus called them. They all immediately said 'Yes'! They left their father in the boat and followed him.
Children's fish-shape invitations to Bubble Church
'Come and follow me!'
Monday 25th January 2021
"If Candlemas be fine and clear there'll be two winters in that year"
Before there was Groundhog Day there was Candlemas. And before Candlemas there was Imbolc - the pagan festival of the coming of spring.
It seems there has always been a need to celebrate the coming of spring as soon after midwinter as possible. The date is supposedly midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox - not sure the maths quite works but perhaps it did before eight days were chopped out of the calendar in 1582.
But what is Candlemas? It's the day on which churches used to bless all the candles for use during the year. Somehow it's not the same blessing bottles of candle oil (and one tradition states that only beeswax candles should be blessed anyway). In the days when we used wax candles we did bless the whole year's supply (candles burn better if they're old so we always had at least that many in the building).
February 2nd is also The Presentation of Christ, being the day Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, along with their offering of two doves or pigeons (Leviticus suggests a sheep but presumably they couldn't afford that) and seems to be one of the oldest of the Christian festivals. After the Presentation, according to Luke, the family went back to Nazareth (not Egypt, as in Matthew).
Snowdrops were known as Candlemas bells and there was a superstition that they shouldn't be brought into the house before Candlemas.
Candlemas was also the absolutely last day of Christmas - after that we start counting down to Lent and if you kept your decorations up any longer there were dire consequences:
Ceremony for Candlemas Eve
Down with rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith you dressed the Christmas Hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there [maids, trust to me]
So many Goblins you shall see.
Ceremony for Candlemas Day
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
till sunset let it burn;
Which quench'd, then lay it up again
Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year.
And where 'tis safety kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.
End now the white-loaf and the pie,
And let all sports with Christmas die.
Note: We keep Candlemas/Presentation of Christ in the Temple on the nearest Sunday which this year is 31st January.
Seen on Hampstead Heath
Sunday 24th January 2021
To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear was one of Susan Woolf’s favourite lockdown books. The book opens in 1940 against the background of the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk. Maisie Dobbs, the principal character tries to help a local pub landlord and his wife who are concerned about their son who has not been in touch for some time. Young Joe Coombes, a happy-go-lucky young man, who is not yet sixteen, has been working away from home—he is an apprentice to a painting and decorating company with a lucrative government contract, and the work requires a crew of painters to work away from home, and Joe is the youngest on the crew. His father tells Maisie that Joe had been acting strangely of late, and complaining of headaches. Could the lad have been enjoying his first taste of freedom a little too much? Or is there something more serious at the heart of his lack of contact.
Other elements of the story include 'a well-known' London family involved in organized crime (and one member who will not hesitate to resort to extreme violence), and Anna, an orphaned evacuee who is living with Maisie.
Susan Woolf says " the author is reliable and I like her central character, Maisie Dobbs. I always learn something about London in the early twentieth century. Unlike many authors, Jacqueline Winspear does not put in excessive details about meals and tea."
At the end of December there was a ring on our doorbell at about 9 am. Outside there was a very evident smell of gas, and I was greeted by a gas engineer who said they thought the leak was coming from next door (they'd been alerted by the paper delivery service from Anne's Community Store) - they'd tried the bell but no response (not surprising as the house seemed empty). I gave the engineer the landlady's mobile phone number. About half an hour later the road was full of gas & electricity vans, all services in the area had been switched off and a locksmith called - it was then discovered that the front door was bolted on the inside; so the police and fire brigade came with added assistance - finally, the fire brigade achieved entry!
It was discovered that the entire property was being used as a cannabis farm! Quite amazing - and not surprising that they were the quietest of neighbours!
On a very sober side, the criminals had illegally tapped into the electricity supply and this cabling had overheated until finally it had melted the mains plastic gas pipe - hence the smell of gas - and the potential for a catastrophic explosion.
(the photograph, taken by one of my neighbours, shows the inside of one of the rooms after the police removed the plants!)
Friday 22nd January 2021
Taken on a very wet day but these birds have been regular visitors for the last couple of weeks. My book tells me that they are Redwings
Another photo taken 10 days later
Wednesday 20th January 2021
Spotted on a walk this week, signs of hope - spring bulb shoots outside the Vicarage!
Four years ago - in that previous life of somewhat hazy memory - I devised the January Literary Hour on Invisible Women - Significant Writers (NB: 2 years before Caroline Criado-Perez seemingly 'borrowed' my 'nvisible Women' title for her book!).
Mostly I focussed on women writers who'd been first in some way, but had been somewhat neglected, side-lined or forgotten, that is, had become invisible.
One of my selected writers was Julian of Norwich, who had in fact chosen to be invisible, by becoming an anchoress. What made me think of her again now, is realising she lived through another deadly pandemic, the mid 14th century Black Death, yet she managed to retain her trust in a divine wisdom that 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.'
'Julian' became not only invisible, but also anonymous. No-one knows her birth name as she assumed the name of the Norwich church to which her anchorage was attached. A manuscript copy of her writing, dated 1413 (now in the British Library) began:
"Here es a vision schewed be the goodenes of god to a devoute woman and hir name es Julyan that is recluse atte Norwyche and zitt ys on lyfe anno domini millesimo ccccxiii"
This was the shorter version of her later book 'Revelations of Divine Love,' written in middle-English around 1395, which was the first book in the English language known to have been written by a woman. Her manuscripts were carefully preserved and copied by Benedictine nuns and were later published by a Benedictine monk in 1670. However, this book remained generally 'invisible' until 1901, when the longer version was translated into modern English by Grace Warrack.
Perhaps we could see Julian as not only a mystic, but a medieval proto-feminist, given that she sometimes referred to 'Mother God... mother in grace and mother in nature' = "moder substantial" and "moder sensual."
During a grave illness in 1373 she suffered a near-death experience in which she received sixteen "shewings" - ie visions or revelations. She said heaven opened to her, and she wrote:
"God said not, 'thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased ... but said 'thou shalt not be overcome"
If ever there was a time to hang on to these words it is now, remembering and praying for all those presently suffering from this 21st century pandemic.
Let us truly hope that All Shall Be Well.
As a parish we have supported Christian Aid for many years. Their work continues in spite of the pandemic.
Put soap* at the top of your list to save lives, urges Christian Aid
* Not literally buy them soap! As online shopping continues its meteoric rise, Christian Aid this year has expanded its digital gift selection to include a Charity Gift https://charity-gifts.christianaid.org.uk enabling supporters to help train more women to make soap for £15 or provide clean water for £30. It doesn't sound like much, does it? But it makes a big difference to the communities.
The humble bar of soap has morphed into a key tool in the global fight against coronavirus and Christian Aid is urging the public to put it at the top of their list.
Christian Aid has provided soap for almost 250,000 people worldwide since the outbreak began and CEO Amanda Khozi Mukwashi is appealing to the public also to buy the traditional gift of soap for the world's most vulnerable people.
Refugees living in crowded camps are particularly vulnerable to disease. Since April 2020 Christian Aid partner organisations in Bangladesh have provided over 40,000 bars of soap for Rohingya families and the local host community.
In Ethiopia, where coronavirus is an additional threat to lives on top of the climate crisis and the locust swarms of 2020, Christian Aid partners are training women to make soap from the drought resistant aloe vera plant. The soap not only protects the women's own families but provides a vital source of income.
Ms Mukwashi said: "This has been a year when we in the UK have experienced vulnerability in a way we haven't for many generations and have been given an insight into what it is like to not be able to fully protect our loved ones from outside forces.
"But we have tools at our disposal. We can wash our hands with soap and water and this year we are appealing to the public to help put those critical tools in the hands of some of the world's most vulnerable people."
NHS Consultant Dr Paul Grime of St Thomas' Hospital, London, who travelled with Christian Aid to rural Ethiopia said: "We mustn't underestimate the importance of soap and water. These may seem like basic and simple resources to us, but they can make a huge difference to those who don't have them. Making them available gives people the chance to protect themselves and their loved ones, control the spread of the virus and other infections in their communities and avoid the devastating impact that infections like coronavirus have on the poorest members of our global community."
Wednesday 13th January 2021
Here we go again!
Bubble Church resumed smoothly on Sunday on Zoom with love, appreciation, and sense of fun. Bubble church at home has all the elements worship alongside stuffed animals and real ones too. Dressed is . . . appropriate! Our new addition was a kitten. We missed Jeremy and his guitar, but we enjoyed recorded music with well know songs like, One more step along the way and Peace like a River. The theme was a New Beginning based on Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan. Children were asked to think about a time when they had a new experience and whether it was what they had expected.
We drew pictures of Jesus in the River Jordan receiving the Holy Spirit. We talked about our own baptism as a new beginning.
We ended with the usual big wind up AAAAA. . . men!
Tuesday 12th January 2021
Sometimes known as the Octave of Prayer, this runs from January 18th to January 25th. Though it's not in the Anglican lectionary, January 18th is sometimes kept as the date on which we acknowledge St Peter's Confession and the 25th, which we do keep, is the Conversion of St Paul. Hence we commemorate two pillars of the early church, martyred for their faith.
The origins of the Week
In 1908, a Franciscan Friar, Father Paul Wattson, proposed an octave devoted to Christian Unity. The point then and now is to address reconciliation of all branches of Christ's Church.
In 2021 the material has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp* in Switzerland. The theme that was chosen, "Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit", is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community's vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family. The usual printed resources have not been issued this year, instead the material is all online at Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021 (ctbi.org.uk)
Introduction from the material for the Week
Our spiritual well-being is as important as our physical well-being. In the past year both of these have been seriously challenged: the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to be careful about our own health, taking precautions such as washing hands and wearing facemasks and maintaining social distance. Some of us have been ill or have lost someone close to us. Meanwhile the working lives of many have been disrupted and families kept apart, often at huge personal cost. Perhaps it has made us all more anxious about our health and more aware of our vulnerability. Opportunities to worship and pray together have been seriously curtailed. We may well be feeling a sense of isolation from God as well as our neighbour.
Lockdown has caused us to think again about our priorities and the things and people that we value, that make our lives whole. The long periods of absence from family and friends, and the inability to share a meal together or celebrate a birthday or a wedding, are examples of this.
When it comes to our spiritual life, what is it that is most important for our well-being? What does it mean to be part of the one Church, the Body of Christ, when all we see of our sisters and brothers are on the screen of a laptop?
Show your support for Christian Unity by posting unity messages to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Twitter wall - simply add the #wpcuwall hashtag to your Twitter post (note there is a delay before they appear). You can also find updates about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Twitter by following the #wpcu2021 hashtag.
*If you'd like to find out more about the community at Grandchamp see
Community | Communaute de Grandchamp
For some years our Parish has partnered BASR, the Betlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation. Occasionally, our parishioners have visited this modern little hospital on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank. It has become a centre of excellence in the Middle East, while still remaining embedded in the local community. It addresses both physical and mental well-being, especially among children - though its doors are open to anyone in need.
It is difficult enough to live in the West Bank. Through arbitrary restrictions on movement, house demolitions, the appropriation or destruction of farmland, and by sheer physical violence, the occupying forces impose an intolerable burden on Palestinian everyday life. BASR's specialism in physical and mental trauma derives directly from this.
And now there is Covid to deal with, which is drastically affecting both the West Bank and Gaza. The Occupied Territories aren't given access to Israel's supply of vaccines. The demand for BASR's services has never been greater. Against the odds they work tirelessly to bring food, PPE and medication to the people of this beautiful, impoverished city and its refugee camps. Their current target is to support some 700 vulnerable people living with disabilities and 400 inpatients and frontline staff.
Edmund Shehadeh, the Director, has sent us his Christmas greetings and wishes us in Hampstead a blessed New Year. We normally offer BASR a share of our Christmas collections, but that has all changed. But we can still respond practically by contributing through the following link: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/help-basr-counter-covid19/. If you have any questions you can always get in touch with me through the Vestry
Monday 11th January 2021
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on why you need to sort what you have and maybe declutter. That word that we now hear so often. I thought you might like some hints about how to do this.
De-cluttering is surprisingly tiring so select one drawer or one room or part of a room at a time. When sorting paper or small items, handle each just the once. Take the decision whether to keep it or dispose of it. File documents and find a logical place for objects. Resist the temptation to just put them back on the pile! Boxes labelled 'keep'/'recycle'/'charity shop' might be helpful and keep a big rubbish bin to hand. The following questions might be helpful as you make up your mind about each item:
When did you last use it?
Will you need it again?
Is it replaceable?
Is it useful/beautiful/especially significant to you?
Here are some of my favourite tips
- Store out-of-season clothes in a suitcase until you need them again
- Any clothing that doesn't look good on you/doesn't fit (and is unlikely to ever fit) or you can't imagine wearing again, should be put aside to go to a charity shop
- Clear out newspapers and magazines at least once a week
- 'One in one out' is good advice. It is hard to get rid of certain items, for example books. Personally, I usually keep non-fiction but with fiction I keep a book only if I definitely know I should like to read it again or I want to gift it to someone
- photographs- identify individuals before you forget who they are. For groups, trace around the figures using a soft pencil and tracing paper and write in the names.
I hope that I have inspired a few New Year Resolutions!
Thursday 7th January 2021
The shelter opened on 14th December, six weeks later than usual, in the County Hotel, in Upper Woburn Place, hundred yards or so down from Euston Station. Having decided that a rotating shelter, in a different church every night, was not feasible within the Covid restrictions, we had great trouble in locating a hostel or hotel able to house the guests and reasonably accessible for volunteers. The C4WS staff worked like Trojans to find a venue, and several locations were on the point of being signed up when some hitch prevented it.
Although found late in the day, the County Hotel is in many ways an ideal for location and accommodation, and its owners, Splendid Hotel Group, really seemed to want to help us. Each guest has his/her own room and although they do not have en suite bathrooms, we have taken on three rooms on each floor, so that each guest has a communal bathroom to his/herself. The hotel cannot be described as splendid; it is, to put it politely, "tired"; it has not been redecorated for, I guess, 50 years. Brown melamine tables match the yellowing (once white) paint and pub pattern carpet. But is basically clean, and some bits, such as the catering kitchen (in which one cannot cook!) are a good deal cleaner for the attention of some of HPC's volunteers. It's warm (in fact tropical in the rooms unless the window is open), and the beds are luxurious. I have spent two very cosy nights there myself.
Guests can come and go or stay in their rooms; they do not have to leave a church hall with their bags at 9 am and not return to a different church at 7pm. We can take 20 guests where before we were stretched to sleep 16. A decent hot meal is provided by the hotel, via airline caterers in the evening and unexciting but adequate cold lunch and breakfast. A casualty of these arrangements is, however, that there is not much of the community feeling of the old shelter model; the guests do not eat or sleep together and while some friendships have developed and quite a few games are played, most prefer to stay in their rooms. Social distancing and masks make it difficult anyway to build up much of a communal atmosphere.
There was, however, a good feeling at Christmas and New Year. For Christmas a team organised by Rosslyn Hill came to cook a Christmas dinner and there was a short concert and film all well received as were the Christmas "stockings" and a fine array of woolly hats and scarves (both supplied by members of HPC). An industrial oven had been hired for the meal, but alas, proved to big to fit in the lift (and weighing 80kg, it was not getting down stairs any other way) Harry, C4Ws' resourceful Shelter manager quickly contacted Linda Gilson, deacon at the (fairly) nearby Kings Cross Methodist church which as well as hosting Mandarin and Cantonese congregations, also runs C4WS' Friday Lunch Club. Linda was happy to lend her voluminous ovens, and turkey and roast potatoes hurried back and forth along the Euston Rd. Some of the guests are still sporting paper crowns on their woolly hats; It was an evening worth remembering.
The advantages of the shelter in a hotel come at cost. Splendid Hotels have given us a good deal, but it is still much more expensive than using the free churches and their halls. We have received some grants towards the cost but more is needed. Many people who had volunteered for the shelter last year asked if they could make a financial contribution this year instead and others may wish to as well. The easiest way to do so is to visit the C4WS homeless Project website and on the home page (top Right) you will find a Crowdfunder button, which will also allow you claim gift aid, if appropriate. Thank you!
Monday 4th January 2021
It was no surprise to find the text of one of our earliest Christmas hymns, While Shepherds watched, in our Carol service order of service. Hymns were common in reformed churches elsewhere from the reformation onwards, but not in the Church of England. What did exist, encouraged by the puritans, was the singing of metrical paraphrases of the psalms, and While Shepherds Watched, published by poet laureate Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady in 1700, is very much in that tradition. Much more of a surprise was the music, sung by the female voices of the choir, and the attribution to Jane Savage, 1752 - 1824. A female composer, at that date? That she was little known was less surprising; female composers tend to be obscure.
This work, I now discover, was unearthed and edited, and published by the Church Music Society just in time for Christmas, by an MA student at the University of York, Rachel Webber, who was looking into the musical life of the eighteenth-century charity institutions for girls and women. She said 'when I was looking at the one 1785 collection of music for The Asylum, I was shocked and thrilled to see an extended piece with the popular hymn/carol text of While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night by a 'Miss Savage'." ( https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/hymn-student-savage/ ).
The slightly Handelian flavour of Jane Savage's music perhaps picked up on family tradition. Her father, William Savage, was a soloist for Handel, both as a boy treble and an adult bass, and sang in the first London performances of Messiah, itself associated with a charity institution, the Foundling Hospital. The music of churches and cathedrals was a solely male preserve, but music in the charity institutions could, and did, involve women. According to Rachel Webber, "it's interesting that whereas cathedral music at the time tended to hark back to the baroque style of composers such as Handel, the music for the hospitals was more progressive, looking forward to the classical style." Miss Savage was apparently a talented harpsichordist and singer, performing only in private, and her music mostly written for the family home. Alas, she seems to have given up composing after the death of her father in 1789 and her marriage in 1793. The performance by our choir, predating that by the Ely Cathedral girls' choristers two days later, must, excitingly, have been just about the first for over 200 years. How good that HPC has assisted one female composer, however belatedly, to achieve credit and recognition.
The best laid plan. . . this article should have followed on from the Vicar chalking over the main church door, and even have been accompanied by a photo of him precariously balanced on a step ladder as he did it. However Covid intervened and the service was removed to the vicarage hallway. But the chalk was blessed and we were invited to provide ourselves with chalk or crayon to make our own marks over our doors.
So what is it all about?
In previous years passers-by have been bewildered by this chalking over the main door of the church which last year read 20 + C + M + B + 20 and which, from Epiphany this year (6thJanuary but we celebrate it on the nearest Sunday which is 3rd), should read
20 + C + M + B + 21
Never having done it at HPC until Jeremy arrived many of the congregation were somewhat bemused as well.
Clearly the 20 and 21 make up the year - 2021 - but what of the C M B?
Think Epiphany, think Three Wise Men, think legend rather than bible - Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar. That's a start.
But it's on the church door - it's done with chalk blessed during the service - it has + between each letter.
There must be more to it.
There is. The letters stand for- Christus Mansionem Benedicat - Bless this House. Apparently done to ward off evil, I think today it has a more positive feeling, much in the same way that people sometimes ask a priest to bless their homes.
From the order of service at the Eucharist for Epiphany Jeremy's words were:
"Peace be to this house, and to all who enter here. Amen.
followed the star of God's Son who became human
20 two thousand
21 and twenty one years ago.
++ May Christ bless our home/office/school/shed
++ and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen
"May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and in everyone we meet may we seek and serve that same Jesus who is your incarnate Word, now and forever. Amen"
After your blessing the inscription on the door should read as above
20 + C + M + B + 21
So go ahead with this delightful tradition - and bewilder your neighbours.
Tuesday 22nd December 2020
On a table just as you come into church there is a beautiful small Nativity made by Chris Money entirely from recycled materials. Even the stable is recycled. It is made from a box in which paper for the photocopier is delivered.
If you come after dusk the beautiful cedar of Lebanon to the right of graveyard is lit up.
This tree has seen Hampstead through two world wars and now two pandemics. We thought its steadfastness would make a good Christmas tree. Lighting it was a challenge until Jayne Gill, a member of the flower team, met Rupert Nash, a landscape designer and member of our congregation. With Rupert's help we lit up the tree.
The graveyard is adorned with different gifts. In the trees are giant size gifts like those we are given. Also hanging from the trees are other decorations. All of these are made from recycled materials or items picked up on the Heath.
Coming from the East (through the front gate) are the Magi. They brought gifts to the Christ child. It is believed they came from Persia where the religion at that time was Zoroastrianism. These 'wise men' were mathematicians, alchemists, and astrologers.
Crowns and words on acrylic mirrors represent the three wise men. They brought Gold `(a rare element - which was incorruptible), Frankincense (a resin associated with deity and ritual) and Myrrh (a resin that is used in healing and embalming) .
There will be a signpost to Bethlehem on corner of church, but you can also follow the stars.
The Christ Child is God's gift to us at Christmas. The Holy Family is in a tent round the side of the church. In the tent are shepherds represented by mirrors with words describing their qualities. The tent is surrounded by angels represented by convex mirrors with words that describe the qualities of angels and their earthly manifestations - people like nurses, doctors and care workers.
We hope that people in seeing themselves in the mirrors will be able to identify with the personalities in the Christmas story.
There are many challenges right now, but there is always hope. Maybe guided by the Zoroastrian philosophy of 'good thoughts, good words, good deeds keep chaos at bay' and Christ's love, wisdom and compassion as described in the gospels we can meet and overcome these problems and challenges.
The decorations in the graveyard were made possible by the help and support of Andrea Taylor, Paul at First Aid Wheels of 174 Mill Lane who spray painted the shapes, Rupert Nash and Matt@dotbespoke.co.uk who cut, coloured and help to shape the decorations and Sophie at PolyStar Reading who donated the bright recycled plastic and scaffolding net for the presents. We are grateful to all of them.
The very first known depiction of the nativity scene dates from a 4th century catacomb under Rome and Mystery plays enacting scenes from the Bible date back to the 5th century. But it is St Francis of Assisi who is credited with creating the first Crib. Being St Francis of course he used real animals (and people) to bring the Bible story to life.
Our crib figures were made by the Loehr family and given to the church several years ago. This year, whilst we have all been in lockdown, they've been on holiday with their makers and have been beautifully refurbished by Alf, Nicola and Makena. You will notice some additions to our tableau - two female shepherds have joined the group; others have had a change of clothes and hairdos. Joseph is a completely new figure. And two splendid angels have flown in, one with actual feathered wings. The stable too has had a much-needed makeover. It is, I believe, the structure made by Ken Clarke some 40, or even 50, years ago, so it's stood the test of time, but was becoming alarmingly rickety!
We are most grateful to the Loehrs for the work they've put into refreshing our figures and imaginative new layout.
Not sure yet how the new Tier 4 restrictions will impact our ability to visit the crib but isn't it reassuring to know that the figures will be there throughout the Christmas period, bearing witness, even if we can't.
The creation of the Holy Family and their resting place in the week before Christmas felt a lot like T S Eliot's 'Journey of the Magi'. It was a hard birth. It took 5 helpers working on and off over 3 days (from Thursday to Saturday) to create it. It rained, the wind was strong, and it was cold. Jeremy's gazebo kept threatening to blow away, a guy rope snapped and at one point the gazebo actually lifted!
On Friday Monther came to do his job at HPC and when he saw the tent he told us he had lived in a tent like this for two years in Jordan and proceeded to suggest ways we could make it more secure. Esther and her friend David persuaded some nearby builders to give us some solid concrete blocks (the stones from the graveyard which we had been using had not been very effective at keeping the tent sides down) - these with some sand bags left by the electricians did the trick of holding down the gazebo. Esther and I made figures for Mary and Joseph. All seemed to be going well on Friday evening. Monther said he would come back on Saturday to help some more. We didn't think we would need him but we did! On Friday night we think foxes knocked over Mary and Joseph (possibly attracted by some food in the gazebo). The papier mache heads that Maureen Smith had made had fallen off and were crushed.
Monther was really needed on Saturday. Monther and Jane (Hinde) decided Joseph should kneel rather than stand so he would be more stable. They remade Mary and Joseph. Then Monther was adament that the old blankets I had in the corner should go on the sides to provide insulation from the cold (although I had to persuade him not to cover up Esther's angel behind the Holy Family). Jane produced black tights for the faces so we had a black holy family that we were all very happy with. Then we had to make baby Jesus. Jane made the body and we found some swaddling cloth (we were very grateful to the Hampstead Players wardrobe). Monther took it from me and said he would show us how he wrapped his baby. So what we have is a genuinely wrapped Middle Eastern baby! Monther's time, his commitment and sharing his personal experience was his gift to us.
The gazebo and the Holy Family may not survive till Epiphany with all the rain predicted but creating 'it was (you may say) satisfactory'.
The season of Advent calls us to slow down, to watch and to wait. However, in 2020 it might feel like we've been doing this all year already, forced to be at home, watching for news, waiting for it all to go back to normal.
Like many of you, our Christmas plans this year are looking very different from those we originally envisaged. Due to the all the various restrictions, Anouk and I will be spending Christmas in our flat at Westcott House in Cambridge, where I'm training for ministry.
Whilst we'll be sad not to see more family and friends, one thing I am looking forward to is being in charge of the cooking for Christmas.
I've always found making food a great way to relax - it's something practical to do and, usually, you can see the end result of your work which isn't always the case in life!
The kitchen in our flat is rather small, as is the oven and I imagine cooking Christmas lunch, even for just two of us, will be a bit like a cross between playing Jenga and solving a Rubiks Cube, but I know it will also be fun.
Aside from the traditional stuff, I suspect I will also attempt one of my favourites on Boxing Day which I can't take credit for - it's Nigella Lawson's ham in coca cola https://www.nigella.com/recipes/ham-in-coca-cola I usually do a version with cherry coke with a cherry jam glaze which tastes great and is also very festive indeed. It's definitely worth a try.
Whether you'll be in the kitchen over the coming weeks or steering well clear, my best wishes and prayers are with you as we look forward to Christmas, which reminds us as we wait and watch, that there is always light in the darkness.
Sunday 13th December 2020
2020 has provided many challenges to C4WS, not least how to provide and operate our winter shelter in compliance with Public Health England guidelines and ensure the safety for guests, staff and volunteers.
After many months of hard work, and having to change our plans several times, we are delighted that our shelter, in a hotel near Euston Station, will be opening this winter on 14th December. In what will be our 17th season of providing emergency accommodation for those in need there are some significant changes. Instead of a rolling model where the shelter moves between different churches we are using a hotel which will act as a single, static venue. This enables us to increase capacity to 20 guests and ensure that each guest will have a private room of their own. In addition, we will not be a night shelter but providing this accommodation 24/7 and running until 1 April 2021.
The hotel will be providing meal and volunteers from Hampstead Parish Church will be serving them and providing a friendly presence.
As well as this Christmas is coming and Jenny Bunn and Susan Woolf have put together Christmas bags for each of the guests which include practical items, a puzzle book, chocolate and a knitted cap, scarf or mittens.
If you would like to volunteer to support the shelter please contact me through the Vestry
Several weeks ago on Church Chat I wrote about the change in plans for the Hampstead Good Neighbours Scheme which has been necessary because of the pandemic. This year instead of Christmas hampers volunteers will be putting envelopes through the letter boxes of 30 women and 10 men who are isolated and vulnerable and are likely to be alone this Christmas.
The Christmas envelopes are now packed and decorated and ready for distribution
Each envelope contains -
A beautiful pair of hand knitted wrist or leg warmers
A lovely handmade notebook wrapped with a pen
Flannel and soap
Hand cream (wrapped)
Notelets and a book of stamps
Jelly sachets x2
3 chocolate coins
Tin of sweets (wrapped)
Fun lavendar bags, for some and for others a fun Christmas decoration in the shape of antlers or a Christmas stocking with a chocolate inside which can be hung up
Season's Greetings card signed by Jeremy
This has been very much a joint project with Henderson Court. I would like to thank Barbara and her friends from Henderson Court for making the knitted wrist and leg warmers, Diana Finning for helping with the shopping and lots of wrapping, Maggie Willmer for making the beautiful notebooks, and Chris Weatherhead, Julia Scott and Jane Bailey for making all the fun stockings, antlers and lavendar bags.
I also want to thank Rosanna Aruta, her children Matteo and Vittoria and their wonderfully creative friends from Hampstead Parochial School for decorating each of the envelopes. Jenny, Eloise and Harold Lupa helped together with 6 other families. Rosanna said "All of them were super excited to decorate and send messages".
Anyone who's ever visited me in December knows my next door neighbour goes in for Christmas lights in a big way. This year, more than ever, everyone seems to have responded.
You put your lights up first
Someone has to be the one
who reaches out to lift the street
from November darkness
to December light.
Just so he comes
even if no one notices.
Communicating through whatever comes to hand.
Love used to be hugs and kisses
Now is it this - a light shared
In a winter window?
Wednesday 9th December 2020
Following many years working as a museum curator, six years ago I set up my own business, 'Sort & Survive', to provide advice and practical help to individuals and institutions looking to re-home, catalogue or display their collections of antiques, paintings, furniture and memorabilia. I was surprised to find that there was an organisation in the UK, the Association of Professional De-clutterers and Organisers (APDO), to support and provide training and validation for those working in the field. Since then, decluttering has become much more mainstream with almost daily TV programmes where an organising expert is parachuted into the home of someone whose hoarding has got completely out of hand. The Japanese de-clutterer, Marie Kondo, author of 'Spark Joy' is now a household name and has her own trademarked method. Rather counter-intuitively for a self-styled queen of minimalism, she now sells her own range of upmarket homewares!
Unlike some practitioners, I do not subscribe to the idea that de-cluttering is key to good mental health or can become a fundamental organising principle of your life. For me, Church, friends and family do that. However, having worked with individuals whose homes are no longer functional because of an accumulation of 'stuff' I think that it is useful to know how to prevent this happening. Even if we are not drowning in possessions or paperwork, we can start to feel overwhelmed by a stack of unanswered correspondence (or overfull inbox) or an accumulation of junk in the attic or shed.
- Urban living can often mean living in compact spaces.
- You save time when you are able to find what you need quickly.
- Clearing out gives you more space and means that your home is easier to clean.
- You also get a good feeling that your redundant possessions can find a new life elsewhere.
Part two with hints of how to go about decluttering will be in Church Chat in the next few weeks when you may be starting to think about New Year resolutions, and possibly one of them will be to do a bit de-cluttering!
Sunday 6th December 2020
Monther, Rahaf, Aseel, Mohammad and baby Yousef are all doing well.
The Covid pandemic brought particular challenges for them. With limited language skills they have had to learn to send and receive emails and use zoom - but now they can!
We had hoped Monther would start a painting and decorating apprenticeship with a charity attached to Caritas, the Roman Catholic relief and development organisation. However the loss of income felt by churches, as a result of being shut, has meant that this apprenticeship is currently on hold until the company has sufficient work and we don't know when that will be. He is continuing to do 2 hours a week at the church keeping the graveyards tidy, but he needs to widen his work experience and develop other skills. If anyone has suggestions please contact me or Lucy Dennett through the Parish Office.
While we are encouraging the family to be independent as far as possible and to use their own resources to solve problems we are continuing to encourage them as much as we can to improve their English. They have a super team of volunteer teachers helping them - John Barker, Adriana Rouanet Bassi, John Trimbos and Hilary Oulton (from St Mary's RC Church). The photo you see of Monther was taken during an English lesson on WhatsApp video. He wanted John Barker to see him in traditional Syrian costume.
Tuesday 1st December 2020
The tradition of Advent calendars dates back to the mid 19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. The first printed Advent calendar was produced in the early 1900’s. Advent calendars typically don’t strictly follow the period of Advent. Instead, they begin on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas.
Today, most Advent calendars include paper doors that open to reveal an image, Bible verse, or possibly a piece of chocolate. But they have also become a Christmas commercial extra and could just as likely have pictures of dinosaurs behind the paper doors or luxury items.
As Christians we believe that Advent is a time of preparation as we wait to celebrate on Christmas Day the coming of Jesus into the world, God incarnate, and the hope that he brings.
2020 has been a particularly challenging year and our own Hampstead Parish Church version of an Advent calendar seemed appropriate. Each day has a challenge that different people are facing and an opportunity that each of us has to to respond and to demonstrate the love of Jesus. We wanted each reflection to represent challenges in our community right now as we wait in hope for the Light of the World to come. Bubble Church will also be adding their voices to some of the posters.
Sarah Cheriton-Jones has designed a beautiful set of posters incorporating the challenge and opportunity for each day, with an image and the Church of England theme for Advent 2020 - 'Comfort and Joy'.
Each day a new poster will go up on the railings of the Additional Burial Ground and a smaller version will go up on a notice board in church. And each image will be posted on the church website, our Facebook page and on Instagram and Twitter.
I went on an early cycle ride to Richmond Park last Friday because the forecast said 'clear morning'. The forecast was wrong. Very wrong. It was extremely foggy. I did get some nice photographs though.
Sunday 29th November 2020
Is it a tree? Is it a man?
Although our Traidcraft stall isn't operating at the moment you can still get Traidcraft supplies for Christmas through another local supplier, Marion Hill. Please support her because all the profits will go to the Traidcraft Foundation that supports farming initiatives in the Third World, which is not the case with Traidcraft products bought at the supermarket.
Marion advises -
"If you live within safe delivery/collection range of Belsize Park* and would like to buy Fairtrade groceries or sweet treats, Christmas or general cards or a selection of Fairly Traded gifts please ask to see what might be available.
You can view a more or less current stock list (there have been some sales since) at https://drive.google.com/file/d/15ILWcbEER7Ss5JZ6dvu_58CKNHeXxKUk/view?usp=sharing.
I can also supply an illustrated list of cards and photos of my selection of bamboo socks.
Traidcraft products can also be ordered directly from https://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk/ and you can view the Christmas catalogue at https://issuu.com/traidcraftshop/docs/xm20_-_issuu.
At this pre-Christmas stage it will probably not be possible for me to take orders which would require my placing orders with Traidcraft as I would normally do through the year. But I will happily endeavour to meet orders from the stock I hold in Belsize Park.
I met 2 separate customers at Swiss Cottage Farmers' Market on Wednesday and could walk to e.g. Hampstead Parish Church, St Dominic's Priory or St Mary's Primrose Hill.
You can contact Marion through the Parish Office
I was walking through New End and the words 'noisome pestilence' on this plaque on the end of the Heathside Preparatory School building caught my eye. It reads:
"This building was erected by voluntary contributions for a dispensary and soup kitchen. It was founded as a thank-offering to Almighty God for his mercy in sparing this parish for the visitation of cholera in the year 1849. The site was purchased in 1850 and the building was completed in 1853. He shall deliver thee from the noisome pestilence Psalms 91 v3 Thomas Ainger MA incumbent"
Our hopes and prayers that the whole of humanity will be delivered from the harms of Covid-19 next year!
Thursday 26th November 2020
Autumn colours, winter berries and spring blossom on Hampstead Heath this morning.
Wednesday 25th November 2020
In the beginning was a Hug;
and the evening and the morning were very good;
And behold! there came forth many hugs;
numberless as the stars in the heavens;
And behold! they brought much brightness and joy;
And then came forth 2020;
when darkness descended and, from this time forth;
Hugs were thus necessarily 'rested;'
As of an actor's demoralised resting;
awaiting that elusive new ray of hope;
And behold! it was not very good;
And suddenly there arose the mighty Zoom;
thus it came to pass, there was created;
the Virtual Hug;
And lo! the evening and the morning;
were not quite so good;
But behold! there was created a holy Hug Store;
of sufficient dimension to hold all hug desires;
Until such time would come to pass;
when all could gather in and celebrate;
A day of safe delivery from present danger;
A universal Day of Thanksgiving;
where all stored hugs could be released;
And once more shared abroad;
in an abundance of bountiful joy;
Yet God, for now, had no time to rest;
for behold! God said, Be Patient,
Keep Washing Your Hands;
Give Thanks for Soap and Running Water;
and for Timeless Reflections in the Still Waters.
Tuesday 24th November 2020
Our youngest daughter Ahria has always loved a dolls' house. Well to be honest I have too! Having visited the V&A Museum of Childhood on many occasions we would often be drawn to the collection of beautiful dolls houses that have spanned generations.
My favourite is the "Killer Cabnet House" from the 19th century. It was made by Stockbridge surgeon, John Egerton Killer, for his wife and daughters in the early 1830s when he had four daughters living at home: Jane, Mary, Frances Leigh and Ellen, aged 8 to 14 years old.
The beautifully made cabinet shows four main rooms: top left, the drawing room, top right, the bedroom; bottom left, the parlour and bottom right, the kitchen. Everything is up to date and fit for a well-do-do family of the best class. The neat fingers of his wife and daughters made many of the furnishings.
Back in 1783, as a young lad of 16, John Killer started his apprenticeship as an apothecary. The 1822 Herb Garret, St Thomas's Hospital, 5th April, 2020 (category Natural World) will know, it was a long, arduous and intensive training. A hard-working and properly-trained apothecary could rise in the world, as John Killer obviously did; he became a well-respected member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and helped to establish the Stockport Dispensary for the Poor, and the Stockport infirmary which provided hospital beds for workers injured in the cotton mills.
According to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, dolls' houses weren't originally made for children but for the education of young ladies. They were both instructional - the servants you will have and this is what they should be doing - and aspirational - your duty is to help your husband go up in the world and, for that, you need the right sort of home with the right sort of things in it.
Over the years Ahria has had several dolls houses and spent many a happy hour playing with them. More recently she asked if we could get her another one. Feeling reluctant to buy another one I suggested that she make her own. Ahria was delighted at the idea, the only rule was that everything had to be handmade by her.
It is wonderful to see her get so much fun out of a cardboard box, straws, matchsticks and an old hat. I love the plant she made with a few dried up leaves from a house plant in our home.
It just goes to show you really don't need expensive toys to have fun. Everything was already there at our own fingertips!
Monday 23rd November 2020
The Arts & Faith discussion on 19th November considered Martin Wroe's Lockdown poem I Lift Up My Eyes, and its continuing relevance, now we're into our second lockdown. The poem particularly resonated with me as Psalm 121 has been my favourite psalm since childhood.
This re-visiting of it was written on April 24th, a month into our first lockdown, with the strains on the NHS very much in mind, especially because a hospital chaplain, Rev'd Katie Watson (Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) had asked Martin to write it.
Martin Wroe is assistant vicar at St Luke's church, West Holloway and an occasional contributor to radio 4's Thought for the Day. He says he sees religions as poems and tries to write a poem every day.
His lockdown poem is long, with threads of Psalm 121 weaving through different perspectives of where "My help come from," such as "my help comes hidden inside PPE"; and in the "shy defiance of a yellow daffodil"; or from those who "walk beside us when we die"; plus many more examples, until the affirmation "I lift up my eyes, and find my help comes from knowing Love is present"
Faith is certainly challenged - "I thought plagues were the tantrums of a petulant god we no longer believe in" and the poem confronts God with "I don't know if I believe in you, You don't make it easy"
The relentless strain on everyone, but particularly on care workers, is clearly conveyed in many telling phrases, such as "My days slip through these dried out fingers, raw from washing, wet from tears" and the sense of general isolation comes across as lockdown confines us to where walls close in to a caged safety.
A powerful message comes through in so many small details conveying pain, loss, frustration, but ultimately gratitude to those who carry us through such precarious times "against the odds." Finally Hope shines through since "Love will keep our lives from this time forth, for evermore"
So let us hope that a successful vaccine and further effective treatment will 'come forth' before too many more lives are lost.
The poem can be read here:
Tuesday 17th November 2020
After the election results, I decided my cats needed some festive accessories to wear while watching the inauguration. Here is Algie modelling his homemade stars and stripes bandana, which he was surprisingly okay about wearing. If your pet would like one, let me know at email@example.com I will be listing them for sale online, with a percentage of profits going to organisations that secure the voting rights of ethnic minorities and others in the USA who are often disenfranchised.
After the morning service on Sunday Jeremy left the zoom link on so there was time to chat. Harold Lupa was very keen to show us his creative sock squirrels complete with red bows. He explained that they were made with two socks and I think he said toilet paper? Peter even had a go at making one!
Ellie and Harold also introduced us to their adorable new kittens. The Lupa kittens are named after detectives. Watson is on the right and Enola on the left. I discovered that Enola Holmes is the teenage sister or Sherlock Holmes and she stars in a film on Netflix
When I came to Hampstead I was pleased that there was a long tradition of supporting the Children's Society. I've known it since I began in ministry (when it was the Church of England Children's Society). Many know it as the charity which popularised the Christingle.
More recently I've worked with it more closely. Somehow I got linked with the national network of Diocesan Children's Advisers, where I met some CS people. There may also have been an evening after General Synod business when I met the lead person for church relations with the CS, but the details are hazy (it was that kind of evening). I now find myself writing some of the monthly prayers the CS send to churches, and did lots of work in the early summer on Christingle resources. The Church of England's national online service on Sunday 13 December is a Christingle, and I contributed to that too. The Society's research, campaigning and direct work with vulnerable children and young people is stunning. Its' not just Christingle!
I recently received an email from Jon, a volunteer working for the Children's Society. He wrote to thank us for our donation and to share details of one of the projects that he is involved in, which has been impacted by COVID-19. This is what Jon said-
"I'm a volunteer befriender in the Refugee and Migrant team, which works with young people who have often fled war torn countries, and are separated from their families. They often have no support networks here and limited opportunities to make friends.
I meet face to face with a young person, to do an activity that we've chosen together, such as visiting a famous London landmark or museum, or playing games or sports. This helps the young person get familiar with their new city. I personally was overwhelmed with my first visit to London as teenager, not knowing if you tap in or out of buses. Can you imagine how it would be for a young person from another country? These activities helped them get an understanding of British Culture, improve their English and build their confidence.
Well since the lockdown, this has stopped We've replaced these with weekly catch up calls, which were quite tricky, as it's more difficult to communicate on the phone across a language barrier. Fortunately technology is a big helper, we've recreated things we were doing before by taking online tours of museums or zoos - something we can do at the same time.
I do hope I've give you an idea of how we've recreated our services during lockdown. We couldn't do so without the support from parishes like St Johns. THANK YOU
Despite the challenges we continue to walk towards the young people that society crosses the road to avoid. These young people have something within them, that something is hope. We counsel, support and campaign for the young people whose hopes and happiness are the most threatened by abuse, exploitation and neglect. We couldn't do that without the help of our supporters."
Monday 16th November 2020
For several years many of you have generously sponsored Christmas hampers to go to frail, elderly and isolated people in Camden, who are unlikely to see someone at Christmas. These hampers have been put together in collaboration with the Hampstead Good Neighbours Team at Henderson Court and have been delivered by volunteer befrienders
Since March it has not been possible for the befrienders to visit, so this year we are putting together envelopes of goodies that can be posted through their letter boxes. Sadly it can't be as substantial as the hamper we have given in previous years, but working with Annabelle Williams who runs the HGN scheme, we have identified items that will be warmly welcomed.
Gift Aid collected from hamper donations last year means that this year we have sufficient funds in hand to put together the Christmas Envelopes. We do however want to keep you in touch with the project.
The Envelopes - decorated by Rosanna Aruta, her children and friends - will be delivered to 30 women and 10 men, and will include amongst other things, socks and facecloths (always very popular), little soaps, tissues, hand cream, knitted wrist warmers, pens and handmade notebooks, notelets and stamps and little boxes of pear drops.
Meanwhile Chris Weatherhead and Julia Scott are making tiny Christmas stockings for each envelope, plus a little surprise. Each package will also have a card from Age UK and Hampstead Parish Church, which will be signed by Jeremy, so they will know that we are thinking of them
If you would like to know more contact Rosemary Loyd (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
Wednesday 11th November 2020
Due to the second lockdown, Bubble Church returned to Zoom. Having done this for almost six months we were well rehearsed. However, it felt a bit strange in church without the buzz of children and families. Jeremy sang the songs and played the guitar. I played the tambourine quietly! Children participated in the bible reading, prayers and making poppies during the activity.
Fr Jeremy's talk included the origins of poppies and how people wore them to remember those who gave their lives for others. Children and families were encouraged to have hope, love for others and to continue to be willing givers. The service ended with the usual wind up Amen!
The prayers below were written and read by children and we ended with our usual wind up Amen!
Today we remember the dedicated men and women
who serve and have served in our armed forces.
Thank you for those who have fought for our country.
May we always take the time to remember their sacrifice
and that without their bravery our lives could have been so very different,
without the freedom we so much enjoy.
We thank them for what they did for us.
We pray for those who have been injured or disabled though war.
For those who have lost loved ones, homes and security through conflict.
For those who face danger and take risk for peace.
For those especially children, caught up in current conflicts and for refugees and all those in need of help.
Please guide us in building a just and peaceful community for all.
Thank you for making our world and for making us care about other people.
Thank you for making our houses and making gardens for us and creating animals and creating trees.
And thank you for making soldiers that fight for us and try to keep us safe. In Jesus name
Tuesday 10th November 2020
Last year as we got towards Christmas we thought the beds for the C4WS guests looked a bit bare so we bought each of them a Terry's chocolate orange. But we wanted to do more this year so we have been assembling Christmas parcels for each of the 16 guests.
The parcels vary a bit. Each will include a Chocolate Orange and then some practical items like a small tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, comb, soap, a flannel or sponge, sanitizer gel or wipes, lip balm, pens, a pencil, notepads and a Sudoku or crossword book for each bag.
also wanted to include a woollen scarf and hat for each person. Jenny has a friend who, with her husband, has retired to live in in a home overlooking Ambleside. They have a knitting group in the home and she agreed that after they finished knitting items for another charity they would make hats and scarves for C4WS. However one of the party fell ill and in the upset no one checked and all the hats and scarves they had made for C4WS were sent off to the other charity! So we need 15 hats and scarves (suitable for men or women) for our Christmas parcels by the beginning of December, either knitted or bought. You can leave them at the back of church marked for Jenny Bunn. We will also plan to put a plastic box on the back shelf that you can put them in.
If you need more details please contact Jenny Bunn email@example.com
The Cenotaph was unveiled on Armistice day 1920, a century ago this year. I have always understood that my Perrin grandfather, William Perrin, the first Bishop of Willesden (which then including also the area which is now Edmonton) was among the clergy present at that ceremony but I have no certain record or photo of that day.
However, this photo is of an Armistice ceremony soon thereafter in which my grandfather can be made out as the robed (and bald!) Bishop. Queen Mary can also clearly be seen on a balcony behind, and my grandmother and aunt were included in that party (probably not my father as he might not have been in London then). I do not know the year: but my guess is 1926 as in my grandfather's obituary Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London, wrote "When I went round the world from July,1926, to May,1927, I handed the whole diocese over to his care".
Sadly, the lockdown in March made it necessary to call a halt to the monthly Traidcraft stall at HPC on Sunday mornings. I am very grateful to Judy, Julia, Jeremy and Ayla for all their hard work in selling off as much stock as possible before it reached its sell-by date, and distributing what remained to the Foodbank.
As with so many traders, it has been a difficult few months for "Traidcraft plc", and its sister charity "Traidcraft Exchange" and, more importantly, for the producers who rely on what they can earn each day by selling their goods but have either been unable to work or to travel to markets to sell their produce.
In many of the vulnerable communities where Traidcraft work they've seen fragile progress to economic stability eroded, and the harsh reality of living hand to mouth has been laid bare by lockdowns. Farmers in rural communities were unable to harvest their crops and, across the world, markets ceased operating. In India and Bangladesh, factories closed their door, causing a huge number of people to migrate across country and return to their family homes.
In normal times Traidcraft is all about long term, systematic change - they work to build livelihoods, increasing incomes and challenging unjust business practices; put simply, they aim to offer trade support, not aid, but these are not normal times. The last few months have seen a crisis like never before and Traidcraft has taken action to support communities by providing soap, food and the other basics that people need to get through this crisis.
Since the Traidcraft stall was set up at HPC over 10 years ago we have been extremely grateful for the generosity of the members of the congregation who have given their support by buying goods from the stall and by making donations and by supporting our Big Brew each year. We had hoped to find a way to resume operations in a limited way but the latest lockdown has made that impossible. In the meantime below are photos to remind us of Big Brew which we hope will be possible next year!
You can, if you wish, order direct from the Traidcraft Shop by going to www.traidcraftshop.co.uk
You can also donate to "Traidcraft Exchange" online at
Friday 6th November 2020
Whilst out on one of my local walks during the first lockdown I met my friend from the gym, Dilys Ward and somehow we got onto the fact that she was interested to see that there were Commonwealth war graves in the Additional Burial Ground. I had been doing a bit of clearing in the ABG myself with our lodger Michael and so we got chatting about the graves in there, including the World War One graves. Dilys said that in normal times she went every year on a tour to Flanders led by her friend David Humberston and how much these meant to her and she would look these graves out in the ABG herself.
Later in the summer our paths crossed again, and Dilys mentioned that David and his wife were coming to stay for the weekend and she intended to take them to see the ABG. It was a baking hot weekend and I suspected that they probably opted to stay indoors as many of us did! But no - she let me know that they had had a very interesting visit together and spent more time there than originally planned.
I thought nothing more of it until about ten days ago an email dropped into my inbox from Dilys. Unbeknown to me David Humberston is the Chairman of the Western Front Association , Leicestershire and Rutland Branch and a battlefield guide. Since visiting Hampstead he had been busy researching the lives of the six WW1 veterans buried in our ABG and produced the most wonderful piece of work. You can read the results of David's research on the church's website by following this link
On Remembrance Weekend it is wonderful to read of the stories of Geoffrey Rose, Francis Ellerton, George Harvest, John McClure, Anthony Beesley, and Angus Campbell who gave their lives for our nation.
Huge thanks to David for his work - It a timely reminder to us all of the sacrifice made by others for us.
'We will remember them'
Wednesday 4th November 2020
CARIS Haringey supports over 100 vulnerable families, many of whom are living in temporary accomodation. Each year CARIS Haringey invites them to a Christmas party. There is food, games and lots of funs, and each child receives a gift from Father Christmas. Because of Covid the party won't be possible this year. Tonya (in the photo) and the team at CARIS Haringey have been creative. They have ordered a large floor to ceiling Chrismas poster, which includes Father Christmas. Each family will be invited along and will be given a Family Christmas Pack and will have their photo taken with Father Christmas, which will then be WhatsApp'd to them.
CARIS Haringey have asked us to help them to make the Family Christmas Packs really special. Tonya has sent us a list of what they would like to include with some hints of where items might be bought.
- Something to brighten their temporary accomodation e. g colourful throws, bedspreads, cushions or duvets. Primark, Ikea, Morrisons and Asda are all a good sources.
- or Christmas accessories like Santa hats or stand alone decorations
- or luxury body sets for mums (which you could make up)
- or activity items like colouring books, pens, pencils etc
- or new childrens books (because of covid they can't accept second hand books)
- or Ikea lap trays ( called Klipsk the trays you sponsored earlier in the year have been incredibly popular)
Last but not least - TOYS!
Tonya suggests -
- Multicultural dolls
- Wooden train sets
- Super hero figures
- Dolls head (to do hair)
- Paw patrol sets
- Peppa pig sets
All can be purchased on Amazon or at Argos.
Another idea Tonya suggests is "purchasing some Multicultural puzzles from www.verypuzzled.com they have a beautiful range of puzzles. Many of our clients are from Nigeria, Ghana & Jamaica so a few of these would be amazing. I think each puzzle is about £10".
Because of Covid all items need to be new and where possible wrapped especially toys and bedding.
Items to be donated can be left at the back of church of contact Sheena Ginnings firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know more or to arrange delivery or collection.
We need to receive all items for the Family Christmas Packs by the end of November at the very latest.
Tuesday 3rd November 2020
We would normally have been making the final preparations to open the C4WS shelter this Monday 2nd November. Unfortunately we shall not be doing so. It became clear in the Summer that, because of Covid restrictions, we could not run the shelter on the traditional model, rotating round seven churches each week. Since then Adam Eustace, our new Project director (standing in for Nikki Barnett, whose baby ,Daisy, arrived early in January) and his team have been working like Trojans to find a suitable and affordable venue for the shelter.
One of the major factors is ensuring that the hostel is located somewhere reasonably accessible for the many volunteers whose help will be indispensable in running it. An otherwise very suitable hostel was found in Pimlico, but the great majority of our volunteers, including most from Hampstead, were reluctant to travel so far.
Fortunately, after a slow start, Camden has taken up our case, and is now determined to find us somewhere in the Borough. The most likely possibility currently is an unused day centre in West Hampstead. It will require the installation of some showers and an additional lavatory or two, as well as a few stud walls to divide rooms, so that we can accommodate 16 guests. All this is quite feasible and we are seeking a reliable plumber and builder to quote for the work- if anyone can recommend such a contractor, please get in touch with me- email@example.com
Equally, if you have not already heard from me about volunteering, but think you may be able to help, please get in touch.
We will not be opening on 2nd November, but we are determined to get the hostel up and running as soon as we can.
Wednesday 28th October 2020
Bubble Church created a beautiful display for Black History Month which is displayed at the front of the church, just below the Chancel steps. They looked at the life and witness of Martin Luther King Junior and Rosa Parks (who, on 1st December 1955, in Montgomery Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a crowded bus to a white passenger). The display includes works from children who were in church and children who created work at home. One exercise involved decorating a lolly stick and writing one inspiring word based on what they had learned from the life of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Junior
What is Nigeria?
A place. A people. A way of doing things? A flag. A government. A passport? On the 1st of October, 2020, I joined the live feed from Eagle Square, Abuja, of the national festivities to mark our 60th year since independence. The event was attended by the President and Commander-in-Chief, his VP, high-ranking members of the Legislature and Judiciary, top government officials, members of the Armed Forces, cultural troupes, and well-meaning Nigerians who had come to pay their respects to a nation in its prime.
Together, we watched the patriotic display of acrobatics and other performances, as well as the symmetric and beautifully coordinated aerial display by military aircraft. Then in united silence, we observed the traditional three hearty cheers and the national salute, which constitutes the firing of twenty-one artillery volleys.
It was a proud moment. Nigeria was alive; displaying her glory and splendour through the color and precision of her people and institutions.
On the 13th of October, 2020, I joined young protesters at the Lekki tollgate, who had peacefully gathered to voice their grievances against a rogue Police unit that for years had killed, maimed, brutalised and oppressed the constituents they were mandated to serve. I mingled with the crowd; we spoke passionately about our expectations of a better country, we sang, danced, shared refreshments, and renewed our awareness of the deep bonds that connect us a people.
It was a fine moment. Nigeria was as alive on those protest grounds as she'd been on Eagle Square during the national parade.
On the 20th of October, unspeakable horrors were unleashed on these same peaceful protesters gathered at the Lekki toll gate. Armed men in military fatigues, who appeared to be officers of the Nigerian Army, invaded the protest ground, shooting sporadically at protesters. As one eyewitness account coined it, "they were shooting at us to kill us, not to disperse us".
The young protesters huddled together as they sat on the ground. Chanting the national anthem and raising the green white green flag; in the hope that it will be their defence against the invading army. Blood was spilled on the flag, as the protesters were riddled by a steady stream of bullets from the machine guns.
I spoke with West, an aspiring young entertainer, who was present on the scene. He shared with me how he watched as up to four people around him were gunned down by the men in military uniform. Right beside him, a young girl begged for her life after seeing them spray her boyfriend with bullets. They shot her in response.
Nigeria was present at the Lekki protest ground. Just as she was alive in every location around the country where her young people were rising, awakening to the power they hold and the possibilities that their beloved nation could provide them.
The attack on the protesters was nothing short of an attack on Nigeria. The evil forces who for decades have profited from dysfunctional national systems, realise that the awakening of Nigeria in these young people is detrimental to their continued looting and robbery of the commonwealth.
So they sought to silence these powerful new voices; and Nigeria bled out unto her flag.
But what our enemies fail to realise is that Nigeria cannot be silenced; she has 200 million tongues. The hope of Nigeria cannot be extinguished; we have much more reserves of it than crude oil.
The aspirations of these young people, who out of the dark cloud of poverty and oppression that held them captive, defied the cowardly assault of a brutal enemy, while holding on in faith to their national flag, cannot be gunned down.
Our hopes and dreams for a new Nigeria must be amplified by this massacre. We owe it to the fine young men and women whose vision of a new day was the passion that fuelled their discontent.
We owe it to our children. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to Nigeria. Peace and unity.
Tuesday 20th October 2020
Here are two pictures inside and outside the walled garden in Canons Park, Stanmore, close to my home. The land originally belonged to the canons of St Bartholomew Smithfield and eventually passed into the hands of James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. He made his fortune largely by embezzlement and built the manor house and estate called Cannons (with an extra 'n') between 1713 and 1725. He lost his fortune in the South Sea Bubble. As Jonathan Swift put it 'Since all he got by fraud he lost in stocks'.
He was patron to the young Handel among others. Here Handel composed a number of pieces including the Chandos Anthems. He played the single manual organ in St Lawrence Church, Whitchurch Lane, which runs to the south of the estate and was the family chapel. The organ still exists and is still playable.
Legend has it that Handel was inspired to write his air and variations 'The Harmonious blacksmith' after hearing a Whitchurch lane Blacksmith singing the air or used the rhythm from the sound of the anvil. However, both stories are almost certainly fictional.
What remains of the house is now part of North London Collegiate School. Some of the grounds remain as Canons Park. When the estate was dissolved, the iron gates found their way to adorn the entrance to Hampstead Parish Church.
Editor's note. The stone on the churchyard wall noting the provenance of the railings has the double 'n'
On Thursday (15th October) around 20 of us were very privileged to join Bishop Rose Hudson -Wilkin for an inspiring 40 minute conversation on Zoom.
Jane Hinde arranged this very special event. "I first met Rose in about 2014 whilst she was Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. She was hosting an event for her former congregation in Hackney and asked my husband Ian's saxaphone quartet to provide entertainment during the evening. Her husband Ken was then the baritone player in the group. It was a remarkable evening where Bishop Rose shared her life in the House with her old community, ending the evening with prayers in the chapel. Ken is a passionate jazz player who would regularly travel to our flat to practice all the way from Wandsworth Prison where he was chaplain. Ken arranged for Bishop Rose to speak to us."
Below are some of the reflections we took away from the conversation
Jeremy - "I was most struck by Bishop Rose's infectious enthusiasm, energy, and optimism. As one who has been discriminated against, she has turned that negative energy into something positive, not being afraid to challenge and challenge and challenge, but out of love fuelled by indignation. She does not compromise, but allows people a way to change and do the right thing, one small step at a time.
I was struck by the relatively small number of people who chose to come. But we were a very diverse group on screen, and the effects of the meeting will, I hope, be profound."
Angela - "Bishop Rose quoted John 3.16: "For God so loved the world... She referred to Black History Month as being about world history, a shared history, regardless of ethnicity, skin colour, nationality. She urged us to be generous and allow others the space to be who they are. We do not need to apologise for who we are, she said, but we should interrogate ourselves, our thoughts and actions. When we hear something offensive and say nothing, we acquiesce and collude. By having an awareness, we can make a difference where we are and at this time.'
Tari - UBUNTU
I am, because you are.
"Bishop Rose shared this Zulu phrase with us, to emphasize the need for equity in the diverse representations of our one identity in Christ."
Lucy - "I captured that we should start by being aware to the issues; be intentional in our actions and leave space for others; be courageous and call out what you don't agree with - not challenging is the same as passive acceptance; make sure justice is done - and - Go and be the People of God."
Sarah - "I was particularly struck by the story Bishop Rose told about attending a job interview and waiting to be called in. The interviewer was expecting a female candidate and came out of the room to call in the next person for interview. However seeing only Bishop Rose and her husband waiting assumed the candidate had not arrived! I was shocked by the blatant ignorance shown by the interviewer in assuming that a high quality CV didn't match the face of a black candidate. As a church I hope we can understand the destructive power of such deep-rooted unconscious bias, and work together to eradicate it."
Sheena - "She said we shouldn't think of our multicultural society as a melting pot, but rather a salad bowl, where each item is appreciated for its distinctiveness. A rich and diverse community is a strength to be valued and be grateful for."
How lucky we are to have the first concert series of the Hampstead Collective to look forward to every Monday evening right up to Christmas.
The Hampstead Collective grew out of the Parish Choir's experience of working intensively together during lockdown to record the hymns and anthems needed for Sunday worship. Introducing their programme they wrote that although, 'in a busy life as aspiring soloists _ concert, recital, opera cancellations were indeed wounding, and relentlessly so, it wasn't until the closing of churches, that we looked at the centre of things, and realised that the anchor of which we'd only just noticed the existence had become dislodged _ for many of us, choral singing had been the way into music, and coming together on Sundays was a way of honouring that, and maintaining our connection with the source of our identities as musicians.'
Happily they didn't spend long lamenting what was lost. They set about devising an inspiring and varied programme of one-hour recitals, meditations and concerts, which explore their dreams and exploit their strengths both as individuals and as a team. With support from the Friends of the Music, who are assisting with Front of House duties, from the Friends of the Drama who are providing readers, and from the Hampstead Church Music Trust which has backed the project financially, the Hampstead Collective has reached out to draw us all together in an extended parish arts festival, which has lifted our spirits in this sad year.
Space does not allow me to pick out individual performances, and it would be invidious to do so. Highlights for me have included some spectacular instrumental accompaniments and excellent programme notes as well as the vocal stars. There are still many treats in store, so do explore the programme on the Hampstead Collective web-site, and be part of a very special event in the life of our community.
Monday 19th October 2020
These sentences appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services:
Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.'
The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help
Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.
Tuesday 13th October 2020
In Church Chat on 23rd September we set you a puzzle - Could you find the piece of decorative plasterwork in the drawing.
If you're still puzzling here is the solution:
In the photograph it shows up very clearly but not many people will have seen it in such detail since it was done. But the artist didn't mind that. It's the same in all our great buildings - work done to the highest standard even when it's practically invisible to the naked eye. There are carvings in Lincoln Cathedral that you can't SEE at all - you have to slide your hand in and feel them (well, you're probably not allowed to do that anymore but you used to be able to). Craftsmen worked "for the glory of God" perhaps, and to celebrate the skill that God had given them - they did it because they could. A kind of prayer? I would say so. And if their prayer was in the building then is ours in maintaining and passing on to future generations?
Sunday 4th October was a very special day for Beibhinn, Vittoria, Henry, Isabella, Valentina, Emily and Abigail, who were admitted to communion for the first time.
Originally, they were going to be admitted to communion on March 22nd, Mothering Sunday, but sadly lockdown intervened. Some of the families said they wondered if it was going to happen this year. But it did. There was a wonderful atmosphere of celebration. God parents came and so did friends to support them. Beibhinn's Irish family took part on Zoom. Isabella and Henry had a lovely surprise when their Aunt Emma came down to London to join them. Some family bubbles had as many as 7 people!
A special altar was set up below the chancel railings. The altar cloth incorporated each of the children's hand - prints.
During communion, the Junior Choir sang "Soul of my Saviour"
The service was so full of meaning for the children being admitted to Holy Communion as well as their families. One mum said she was so proud when her two children stood up to affirm their faith and say what they believed. Another dad said he felt that because the communion service was especially for the 7 people being admitted it felt very intimate and the 7 were the focus of the service. He said that Covid has some positives.
"It was so lovely for us and my parents were happy and emotional with how lovely it all was" (Parent)
"I loved feeling part of the church last Sunday.
My favourite part was going up to read my prayer because I was really nervous but when I saw my family my friends along side me and all the smiling faces around I felt confident and happy.
Thank you Maureen I will miss our Sunday classes Love Abigail"
And then as with all the best celebrations, the service was followed with cake!
Monday 12th October 2020
I was reflecting this weekend on the word 'generous' or 'generosity', in the light of the wonderful response to our church's request for financial support in these difficult times.
In my teens we used to sing a chorus 'Freely, freely, you have received, freely, freely give' - words from Matthew 10.8. Generosity is a liberating thing and during these times when we all feel life is very restricted, how wonderful to find something which frees us.
Proverbs 11: 25 says 'A generous person will prosper: whoever refreshes others will be refreshed'. So even if we are required to stay indoors, or not meet with others to comply with other restrictions, we have the ability to free ourselves simply through the gift of generosity.
Generosity comes in many forms; financial support, forgiving a hurtful comment made in the heat of the moment, offering time to help or listen, anticipating others' needs, going out of your way to help, checking up on people, being kind to yourself.
The bad news is that generosity requires effort and can take you out of your comfort zone. The good news is that the goodwill it engenders is contagious, blesses others and refreshes you tenfold.
A friend recently shared this beautiful poem with me:
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
" John O'Donohue
Saturday 10th October 2020
Martin Luther and The Gift of Song
Jess Dandy, contralto
Dylan Perez, piano
Sacred Songs by Wolf, Caplet, Vaughan Williams, Dvorak, and Brahms
You'd be forgiven for not immediately associating the solo song recital with Lutheranism, and rest assured, our programme will not feature ninety-five variations on a theme of 'Ein feste Burg' - sorry if that was what you were expecting. Rather, we take as our inspiration Luther's notion of music as a gift from God, existing in beautiful covalence with His other great gift, that of scripture, and indeed our recital takes as its foundation stone Johannes Brahms' beautifully architectural settings of Martin Luther's own biblical translations in 'Four Serious Songs'.
A prophetic art for Luther, music transcends the capabilities of human invention, and anyone who makes music is a vessel, a conduit, a mirror of the sacred - to borrow Hildegard's expression. In singing, divine inspiration is literal, and the soul becomes airborne. Ruach in Hebrew, a combination of psyche and pneuma in Greek, soul and spirit are breath:
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
(From Genesis 2:7 - King James version) The gift of song honours this divine breath of life, and Monday's recital reminds us that, in words and music, we are recipients of something far greater than ourselves:
"I had made sacrifices to all the gods,
But you I had forgotten."
(From 'He who has recovered addresses hope' by Eduard Morike, Lutheran pastor and poet)
If you want to listen to the concert live in church you can book a ticket through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/the-hampstead-collective-30975107523. Or you can watch on Facebook live via The Hampstead Collective Facebook page
There are a lot of cruise ships moored of the south coast because of the Pandemic. Quite a few are in the Lyme Bay area and the Queen Mary 2 is in Labrador Bay off Teignmouth.
The Queen Mary 2 is the only large ship that we have been on, we generally don't go larger than 350 passengers and latterly 100 passengers for our cruises. We did come back from New York on the QM2 a few years ago but she isn't a cruise ship - she is a liner.
Friday 9th October 2020
On a recent walk in Hertfordshire I came across John Bunyans chimney! It is all that remains of a cottage where tradition says he stayed and preached. It is now a Grade II listed chimney.
The Racial Justice Group has been exploring ways that we might mark Black History Month in Hampstead Parish Church. " Listen to the Voices" has been created to encourage reflection and visually demonstrate our commitment to building an inclusive Christian community.
Posters line the nave. They are positioned so that you read them as you walk towards the altar. They are the powerful voices of people we cannot and we should not ignore, and they will be coming into our head from both sides. As we near the altar the last quote is from Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin . . .
"We are visible but invisible . . .because we're not meant to be capable ... Well, I believe that I am made in God's image."
The posters are made from found objects. They are homemade using recycled board, making the words more intimate and personal. These are not distant words on a nicely printed poster. They are urgent and need to be heard now.
And on the chancel railings are other poems and quotes chosen by individuals that have a particular resonance for them.
People are invited to add a quote or poem that speaks to them. There is also a board at the back of church for people to say who or what inspires them in Black History Month.
Wednesday 30th September 2020
What is Bubble Church?
The need to socially distance means we are not yet able to do Junior Church the way we did it before. So, we have devised a new 9.30 service on Sundays, specially designed for families which is participative, creative, spiritually focussed and fun. Families sit in bubbles in alternate pews. They can wave to each other but importantly children can be with their friends, even if it is at a distance.
Father Jeremy at a suitable distance, plays his guitar and sings and there is always an opportunity to follow me with actions in time to the music. There are a range of percussion instruments which children can choose on their way in. The service also includes a short sermon or talk on the theme or story followed by prayers.
Children and families take it in turn to do the reading and the prayers. This includes families participating on Zoom.
Each week there is a craft activity which all the family can join in. Activity packs are prepared beforehand and place on the seats in each family bubble.
For the last 3 weeks we have been focussing on the story of Creation. The first was how God created the world and everything in it. The following week we talked about the need to take care of the world and the importance of recycling and what we can do. It was also a chance to talk about the pandemic and how much quieter it was during lockdown and being able to walk around with less pollution. Children were given a variety of recycled containers to decorate and take home to plant something in. Some children were given packets of seeds and encouraged to take them home to plant in their recycled containers. I gave them a few examples (see the photo).
Finally, we celebrated harvest. Some children came dressed up as animals. They wrote their prayers on paper apples which we hung on the chancel rails and they put their donations of food for the Chalk Farm Foodbank in a specially decorated wheelbarrow.
Through Bubble Church children continue to develop their faith, engage with music, and have a chance to do a fun activity.
Finally, before they leave there is the big wind up 'Amen' with the actions!
Contrasting with the improvisatory and ecstatic outpourings of Hildegard of Bingen heard in last Monday's Sacred Meditation, our next 'Start the Week' event highlights the music of perhaps one of the most consistent and disciplined composers in the entire history of Western music - Palestrina.
Generations of musicians over the centuries have worked hard to learn and imitate his style, precisely because of these qualities. Music students at some universities today still have to undertake exam questions in Palestrina's style, so that they develop the technical understanding needed to appreciate precisely why his music came to be revered by so many musicians across the centuries (Mozart, Wagner, Schoenberg...). However, one does not need to have studied music at university to appreciate Palestrina's sublime music, because we can all simply hear how wonderful it is. As we listen to the singers weaving their phrases effortlessly alongside each other, sharing the same material yet maintaining their independence, the result sounds effortlessly complete, satisfying, balanced, pure, ethereal, transcendental...the music draws us towards an ideal of perfect beauty. For me, this is why Palestrina's music fits so well with The Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, in which the beauty of both the bride and bridegroom plays such an important part.
Of the long array of writers on the Song of Songs over the centuries, the Spanish nun Teresa of Avila (an almost exact contemporary of Palestrina) is refreshingly unconcerned with the long history of theological debate about the precise meanings of the verses in their Christian interpretation. Writing to her nuns she warns against those writers who claim to have all the right answers, and offers her own thoughts simply as her own understanding of, or reaction to, the text. Our Sacred Meditation concludes with the poem known as the 'Dark Night of the Soul' by Teresa's long-time friend John of the Cross, whose poetical writings often refer to the Song of Songs, the text that was clearly so cherished by both of them. The musicians are delighted to be joined by Gaynor Bassey Fish as our reader
If you want to listen to the concert live in church you can book a ticket through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/the-hampstead-collective-30975107523. Or you can watch on Facebook live via The Hampstead Collective Facebook page
Our harvest festival this year was a bit different. There was no harvest lunch, but we were still able to celebrate and to share our own harvests and the harvests of others. It was a very fruitful event! The gates outside were literally decked with grapes and grape vines which had been found overhanging the walls of the graveyard. Fenton House gave us some of their apples and Jerusalem artichokes to share out and the children decorated the chancel railings with red and green paper apples, 'Handpicked by God', with their own spiritual thoughts of harvest. The flower arrangers focussed on their personal pandemic harvests - engaging with their gardens, knitting for premature babies in Sierra Leone and twiddlemuffs for the Royal Free, taking up cycling, sewing scrubs for the NHS and new technical achievements. All things that may not have happened if it hadn't been for Covid.
This year, as in the last few years, our harvest collection went to 'Send a Cow' https://sendacow.org/ a wonderful charity that helps to lift families out of poverty in Africa. People also donated food items all of which will go to our neighbours at the Chalk Farm Foodbank.
We also had the pleasure of hearing Melissa Wilson's first sermon on her placement with us.
There was much to celebrate.
Tuesday 29th September 2020
This morning, I tabled before my husband, Walter, the argument that 'All lives Matter', is a more holistic idea than 'Black Lives Matter'. His response: .."its necessary because black lives have gotten the raw deal in the utopia where 'All lives matter'".
As we search within ourselves and deliberate towards the Black History month event being convened by Hampstead Parish Church, I share a few thoughts and questions for reflection.
Can you say 'Black Lives Matter'?
This may seem like a no-brainer! Why wouldn't anyone be able to say "Black Lives Matter"? Even as a keen observer of all the protests that have rocked our cities in recent months, I was shocked to find that I had never verbalised the phrase. I'm black; and proudly so...why then hadn't I said it? Perhaps it's a bit of pride in me, that resists being singled out from the entire family of humanity, in a fight for my life to actually matter. Why should that be a struggle? Shouldn't any life mattering be a given? So I kept silent. But now I say it, "Black Lives Matter". My life matters.
Are we prepared to face the harsh truths (not white-washed) about the history of Black and White relations?
What sort of event is Black History month going to be? What is Black history? Will we be studying the totality of African history, or looking at it solely through the lens of European slavery and colonialism? If we are to spend time unearthing the truths about Black history in relation to white subjugation, we must be prepared for a jarring, uncomfortable month! Will we accept the truths that will be revealed? How do we plan to heal from them as a community? What changes are we prepared to make?
What does racial justice look like to you?
Think about it. Draw up a scenario in your heart and mind. Can you live with the outcome of a racially just society? Where all lives have the same access to benefits and opportunities? Where the aspirations of your children are not innately given preference above and beyond the needs of their coloured peers? What are you personally going to do to champion such a society, if you decide that it is acceptable to you?
It is said that to create a desirable future, we must take a good look at the past. Our history will only define us to the degree that we allow it. I look forward to working together in love, to inspire a culture of justice and harmony in our diverse community.
Wednesday 23rd September 2020
Do you recognise this piece of plasterwork? If you've spent any time in church you must have seen it, been staring at it, but it's so high up and, even with 21st century lighting, so hard to see, that most people wouldn't notice it. Yet the craftsmen thought it worth taking the trouble to make it beautiful. That's what Open House is about - finding the beauty in our buildings.
I confess that when Ayla said she'd successfully entered the church in the Open House London Scheme I was slightly sceptical that it would go ahead. We were barely out of lockdown, schools were only just going back, there were no services in church, let alone events - there seemed no possibility that it could happen.
I was proved wrong - even though right up the last minute I was receiving updates from the organisers about what we could / couldn't do, what limitations there were going to be. I wondered if anyone would come.
We duly commissioned some eye-catching posters from Maggie Willmer - we were actually going to be open, not just online as some venues were. But the church is open every day so what difference would they make?
They made a difference!
78 people (thanks to Track and Trace we know exactly how many) visited us, spent time looking round, perused the Archive display Sue Kirby had set up, admired the Fulleylove window and learnt more about the artist from Caroline Barron. They devoured Sue Kwok's cakes and coffee.
I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped - Sheena for her imagination and drive when I would have flagged, and all the team of volunteers who gave up their time to be there for the visitors. As one woman said "how lovely to find such a friendly welcome". And personally I felt it was really nice to have an event in church again. All the interesting things to see - people to chat to - tea and cake - it felt almost "normal". Ayla would have been very pleased with it I'm sure!
Tuesday 22nd September 2020
In August Jenny Bunn asked if we could make caps for premature babies in Sierra Leone where her son James works. Sierra Leone is a very poor country and the caps help to stop the babies loosing valuable heat through their heads.
ames is visiting England for Christmas and can collect the caps then. Several of you have already responded and below is a photo of the beautiful caps that have already been made. However lots more caps are needed. There is still time to make a cap (or another cap) before James arrives. If you need a pattern you can download one from this Mothers Union website http://mugloucester.org.uk/b/resourcesPatterns.html The recommended circumference is 28 - 35 cms. The mothers of premature babies in Sierra Leone will be incredibly grateful
We have been given a donation towards the cost of wool if you would like to contact Courtney in the vestry at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a box at the back of church where you can leave the caps. Grateful thanks
Event Five: O Resplendent Jewel
A Sacred Meditation on Hildegard of Bingen's vision of divine love, wisdom, and power
Christine Buras, soprano
Jess Dandy, contralto
Margaret Pritchard Houston, reader
Monday 28th September 7pm, Hampstead Parish Church, in person and online
Next week's Start the Week with The Hampstead Collective is a Sacred Meditation, following the Benedictine Threefold Progression of Reading, Music as Meditation, and Prayer. It was the polymath, Hildegard of Bingen's Feast Day on 17th September, and we wanted to mark that in some way, so, complemented by her own chant, we've taken as our touchstone 'a vision of such mystery and power that I trembled through and through' from the end of her life, from her final offering, arguably the apotheosis of her spiritual experience, 'The Book of Divine Works'.
In it, Hildegard sees the image of a human figure - a woman, her regard direct and unapologetic, pulsating with a life force all vermilion and gold, her face, she says, 'of such beauty and brightness that I could more easily have stared at the sun'. At once the incarnation of divine power, wisdom, and love, this woman is a living cosmology, the 'supreme fire and energy', which enlivens us all as creatures of God's creation, and 'mirrors of His divinity'. Against a contemporary asceticism, Hildegard's cosmology was shocking in its literal embodiment of a living, visceral, impassioned existence. It is not, she argues, through deprivation or self-denial, but through a full-hearted, and full-throated engagement with all parts of our experience - intellectual, emotional, and cosmic, that we are to honour the Creator, and truly realise His intentions for us, which, she claims, He 'foreordained....before the beginning of the world'.
Hildegard's visions sear themselves onto our consciousness, and call us to 'inscend', to feel into the true materiality of our existence - mountain, ocean, flora, fauna, to 'flood' ourselves with 'the depths of God's mysteries'. They are bold, elaborate, 'dripping', or even 'sweating' - as she often writes - with sapphire and gold. She is at pains to point out however that she is the mere vessel for such messages. She refers to herself as a 'feeble form' - and we do know that she suffered from a variety of health problems throughout her life, beginning in childhood; the neurologist Oliver Sacks has even gone so far as to claim that her visions may even have been the direct result of what we now recognise as severe migraines. Some might claim this line of argument was a tactical necessity of her sex, and it is true that it was very dangerous for medieval women to write, or display agency of any kind, as evidenced by the fate of Marguerite Porete a century later for example, but in some ways, the notion of Hildegard as a vessel accords with her own cosmology, and does not actually diminish her power. Human beings in Hildegard's universe are mirrors of divinity, comprising the Trinity -'the sound and life and creativity of all within their life'. God the Father is the intellect, his 'greatest gift' to us, God the Son is the 'heart', the love that 'abounds in all things', and God the Holy Spirit, is the 'mighty course' of wisdom which interweaves, binds together heart and mind, and is the 'divine substance' of the cosmos. It behoves us, and is already within us, therefore, as mirrors of divinity, to be as living examples of the Trinity. Furthermore, if God is the creator, and we are in His image, we too are creators. Hildegard exemplifies this: she cannot hold within her 'inner eye' the weight of the depth of her own heart and mind. She brings forth 'Wisdom's inspiration' through music, poetry, and visual art - using symbolism, allegory, and metaphor to weave her sapiential 'tunic'', to hold what she is, and what we are, as members of God's creation.
If you want to listen to the concert live in church you can book a ticket through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/the-hampstead-collective-30975107523. Or you can watch on Facebook live via The Hampstead Collective Facebook page
Wednesday 16th September 2020
One of the themes running through the Psalms is the visible presence of God. The notion of God pantokrator invites us to consider kratos-power-ut also kratein-to sustain-and in the balance of these two notions, we see an omnipotent God who benevolently sustains, yet does not interfere with, the universe. It is this subject that is celebrated in this week's two cantatas. The famous virtuoso soprano & trumpet work Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen instructs its listeners-every creature in heaven and earth-to praise God both for his glory and for his sustaining help. 'The heavens declare the glory of God,' begins BWV 76, before describing both in the complexity of running semiquavers and in the words of the nineteenth psalm those ways in which the silent voices of the stars communicate across all time the praise of the Eternal. 'So laot sich Gott nicht unbezeuget!' announces the tenor soloist-'Thus God does not leave himself unwitnessed!'.
The second part of the cantata takes an unexpected turn: '[May the world] hate me! To embrace Christ faithfully, I will abandon all joy'. We have, by this point, come some distance from the opening chorus, but the underlying principle is unchanged: it is precisely because the heavens unfailingly declare the glory of the eternal God that the hate of this temporary world is inconsequential. Before long, though, the full chorus returns and concludes: 'The earth brings forth fruit... Your word is flourishing... May you, O God, be thanked and praised.'
Monday 14th September 2020
I was privileged to visit Sarah and enjoy her wonderful garden. So lovely
Saturday 12th September 2020
Just as the Covid-19 pandemic was coming towards its main peak in the UK, and not long before I was re-deployed into ICU to work Nursing shifts, I received a message from a friend and fellow Physiotherapist (who I used to work with at the Royal Free), with a proposition: to join her in setting up a social media page to help boost morale. We had both by this point been pulled in from our normal roles to provide respiratory physio treatment to patients in ICU, and had been seeing lots of Therapists in similar positions to ourselves trying to share information and ideas as well as acknowledge the good and hard work they were doing, but without a platform by which to do so. We also noticed that most of the media and social media attention celebrating the work of Healthcare Professionals in response to the pandemic was directed at Doctors and Nurses (which was and is very well deserved), but with little coverage or understanding of the vital roles played by other workers in the NHS.
The idea behind our Facebook page: 'On the Frontline - NHS AHPs' was to share stories and successes with the aim to spread some positivity during a very unknown and testing time, and also to help raise awareness and promote the roles of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) within the NHS, including their extremely vital roles during the pandemic. There are 14 AHP professions, including Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Radiography. We initially thought we might get a few hundred followers, and were absolutely amazed when our first post got over 3,000 likes, and over 800,000 views! The response has been incredible: we have now reached almost 14,000 followers, and continue to get some really lovely feedback about how useful our page has been.
Off the back of the page, we have also started a podcast: called 'AHPs - Off The Record', for which we are interviewing AHPs from all different backgrounds to hear about how they got into their profession, how they have been affected by the pandemic, and any top tips for aspiring AHPs. We hope that through the Facebook page and the podcast, we might help to encourage young people to consider going into AHP roles, as well as improve the general public's understanding of what we do. If you're interested in hearing more, please have a look at our page or listen to the podcast!
Tuesday 8th September 2020
'Le Tombeau de Couperin et de Sainte-Colombe' transports the listener and observer on a spiritual and meditative exploration of the French aesthetic across genre and period. At its heart, the programme presents a series of sacred songs from the mid-baroque, from the jaunty and resplendent Hymn des Anges by Clerambault, to the pleading supplication of Couperin's Usquequo Domine: 'How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever?'
Tenor Aidan Coburn performs with organist Mark Shepherd - on an exquisite Klop chamber instrument, boasting vertical eight-foot principal pipes - and Jacob Garside playing the viola da gamba. A member of the viol family, the gamba heard in this concert uses seven strings, a number typically associated with the French baroque and with Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe in particular. It is interesting, perhaps, that neither of the eponymous tombeaux of this programme involve the singer; 'Le Tombeau de Sainte-Colombe' is an homage by Marais to his great master, and 'Le Tombeau de Couperin' sees an inventive arrangement of a Menuet by Ravel.
The sacred music is punctuated with moments of secular musings, inviting the observer to reflect on the shadow of the world as we currently experience it. A series of poems from Victor Hugo's Les Chants du crepuscule ('Songs of the Half Light') will be heard against a backdrop of a selection of works by Claude Monet.
We have a new Parish Photo with a difference. We couldn't meet in church for a parish photo this year in the usual way, and even now there are limits on how many of us can be together in church at the same time. So we asked you to send in individual photos. Thank you very much to everyone who sent in a photo. Sarah Cheriton Jones has created a beautiful collage of all your photos which you can see in the entrance lobby and on one of the boards on the left as you enter the church. In all there are 103 images - 154 adults and 38 children. It is a wonderful snapshot of our community and an eclectic mixture of individual portraits and family groups. Do come and have a look
What a joy it was to see so many of our church children and their families filling the church at 9.30 for their own service and opportunity to say farewell to Ayla. Led by Maureen and Jeremy on the guitar, the children joined in enthusiastically with the actions to the songs, sitting in 'family bubbles' on distanced pews. Maureen had prepared colourful packs full of interesting things for them to make their own farewell cards for Ayla, and these were then put on a board at the front of church. On the front of the card was a beautiful drawing by Ellie Lupa of Ayla and Jeremy about to sing a duet!
The Diracles family joined in from Scotland, where they are now living, via Zoom, on a large TV screen, to read the Lesson - little would we have thought this time last year that we would be seeing that in church this year! Backpacks were blessed, as has now become a tradition at HPC at the beginning of a new school year and key rings rather than tags were handed out with the words 'Blessed to be a blessing' on them, for attaching to bags.
Ayla spoke movingly of how, when she first came to HPC, she had had no experience at all of working with under 14s, and of how much she had learned from our children over her time with us. She encouraged us all to remember to experience the world with wonder, as do children, as it is a sign of what Jesus/God/ The Kingdom of God is like. She reminded us that we are learning all the time, whatever is happening around us and to keep our hearts open. Her finishing words seemed apt for all, including her - thank you for being you!
Hampstead Parish Church has had its share of remarkable women and it seemed very appropriate to thank Ayla for everything she has done for HPC with a copy of a very beautiful banner made for the Hampstead branch of the Church League for Women's Suffrage.
I am a museum curator and came across this banner in the Museum of London while researching a housing association set up by suffrage campaigners. This led to some research on the Church League for Women's Suffrage. The League was founded in 1909 with the aim of securing for women the vote in 'Church and State' on the same basis as it was awarded to men. The League also campaigned for the revision of the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer and for the ordination of women. It was one of many specialist non party political suffrage societies. There were also groups set up for Catholic and Jewish supporters of votes for women.
The banner was designed by Laurence Housman and made in silk, sateen and cotton by the Suffrage Atelier in c 1910. The words on the front read 'The Glorious Liberty of the Children of God'. The reverse is painted 'Hampstead Church League for Women's Suffrage'. The banner was carried on demonstrations where different suffrage groups all displayed their own colours. The purple, white and green adopted by the Women's Social and Political Union are the best known and have since come to represent the suffrage cause. The original banner now forms part of the Museum of London's excellent suffrage collections.
Monday 7th September 2020
There something wonderfully optimistic about a sun flower.
When Ai Wei Wei was conceiving his sun flower seed art work for the Tate Turbine Hall he said that "the Sunflower seed represented optimism during difficult times."
The sunflower was much loved by Blake, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, Edward Burne Jones and William Morris, and I always thought it was their passion for art before Raphael that had bought it to their notice. Having just double checked, it appears that although there is evidence of sunflowers In Arizona and New Mexico From about 3000 BC, it wasn't bought to Europe until the 16th century. In fact I can't find a painting with a sunflower earlier than Van Dyke's self portrait around 1633. (A challenge to you Church Chatters.)
They are heliotropic and while in bud follow the sun - hence leading to the symbolic idea of devotion, and the seeds do a spiral in a Fibonacci sequence suggesting eternity.
One Easter Ayla mentioned loving sunflowers so it was the obvious thing to do for her farewell, and our first main service together in church, since the beginning of lockdown.
I really wanted to decorate the gates to the church to welcome everyone, so I was thrilled that Tesco was doing a bunch for £4.00 . Unfortunately when I went to buy them I discovered they were discontinued that very afternoon. So I spent Friday afternoon on the 46 bus going to all their branches to get the end of line flowers. Finally hittting the jackpot in The little Venice branch. Seven bunches of sunflowers are surprisingly heavy but I got lots of smiles.
Sheena Ginnings, Marilyn Brooks, Jane Padkin and Jayne Gill and the very tall David James all helped make the church look wonderfully festive for Ayla's farewell .
Sunday 6th September 2020
Following on from our sold out opening concert on Monday 31st August, everyone at the Hampstead Collective is busy preparing for our second appearance - the first in our series of Sacred Meditations, 'Where two or three are gathered together,' a programme devised and directed by Dr Geoffrey Webber with Jess Dandy (alto), Aidan Coburn (tenor), Ben McKee (bass), Geoffrey Webber (organ) and Handley Stevens (reader) Geoffrey writes:
When we began to plan the events for the 'Start the week' series it wasn't at all clear how many musicians would be allowed to perform together during the first stages of a return to normality, so we planned our series to range from solo recitals through to the forces needed for Cantatas and Oratorios. The Sacred Meditations generally fall in between these two sizes, from two singers performing the music of Hildegard of Bingen, to a larger group of singers for the programme 'Lux aeterna'. On Monday we have just three singers performing music that often drops down to just two voices, so the title 'When two or three...' seemed fitting, though not exactly corresponding to the three figures in our publicity picture for the event (God, Man and the Devil)!
The idea behind the Sacred Meditations is to allow words and music on a particular theme (and often from a similar time period) to complement one another, thus facilitating religious meditation. At an earlier point in my career I was Director of the Edington Music Festival in Wiltshire, and one of elements of the Festival that I enjoyed the most was the occasional 'Sequence of Readings and Music'. The daily liturgical round of services provide the bedrock of the Festival, but the Sequences offer a different and much-valued perspective on religious life. It's a bit like the annual Festival of Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, except not just for Christmas!
On Monday we travel back to the reign of Elizabeth I, with music by William Byrd and John Mundy, and readings by Richard Hooker. We are delighted that throughout the Sacred Meditation series we will be joined by members of the Hampstead Players to perform the readings for us. Byrd wrote much small-scale sacred music for domestic use, and we include his Mass for Three Voices in Latin (probably composed for singing in the private Chapel at Ingatestone Hall in Essex) as well as some Psalm settings in English. The readings come from Hooker's famous 'Polities' in which he outlined much of what we now recognise as standard Anglican theology, avoiding what he saw as the extremes of the Calvinists on the one hand and Roman Catholics on the other. He writes powerful and often beautiful prose, and on Monday we hear his thoughts on subjects including the theology of the Sacraments, the meaning of true penitence, and the value of the use of appropriate music in worship. All the texts being sung and read will be available in the e-programme, together with some thoughts and prayers on Christian meditation.
Hooker came from Exeter, where a statue of him now stands outside the Cathedral. As it happens, I was on holiday there last week (during the gales...) and took the picture below. The blue plaque to him reads as follows: "'Prophet of Anglicanism' and a Son of Exeter, he was a lively Elizabethan priest, quick-witted, urbane, intellectually acute, politically sophisticated and passionately committed to the Church of England he served.
Monday 31st August 2020
As you wander through the Additional Burial Ground you can't help noticing that some graves are overgrown and the people buried there have seemingly been forgotten. And then you come across a grave that is still tended. Anton Walbrook's grave is one of these.
He was a refugee from Nazi Germany who had made Hampstead his home. He was born Adolf Wilhelm Anton Wohbbruck in Vienna in 1896. He always wanted to act and when black and white films started to be made his dark good looks made him an ideal movie star. He went to Hollywood in 1936 to dub a film he had made. Antisemitism had spread through German to his home country of Austrian. Because of his homosexuality and his Jewish heritage he decided he could not return home. He didn't like Hollywood and moved to England, eventually buying 69 Frognal. He died while working in Germany 1967. He had left instructions he wanted to be buried in Hampstead.
Many people remember him as the dark, manipulative ballet master in 'The Red Shoes'. I remember his moving speech in the 1943 film, 'The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp', in which as a refugee from Nazi Germany he is explaining to an immigration officer why he came to England.
The Hampstead historian and author of 'Buried in Hampstead', Christopher Wade, told me that he had always noticed how well looked after this grave was. One day he met a man looking after the grave. He told Christopher that he had worked in the glove department at Harrods and had sold Anton Walbrook some gloves. He thought he was such a charming man and after he heard he had died, and had no family in England, he decided to look after his grave. He lived in Uxbridge and regularly came over to tend it. I suspect he, like Christopher, has since died. However so often when you pass this grave there are stones or pebbles on it; an old Jewish custom to mark that a person who respects the person buried there has visited.
I had noticed that the grave was getting a little untidy. Then, the other day I walked past and saw that it had been tidied up, and tucked behind some stones were these photographs of Anton Walbrook, with his brooding good looks. It is good to think that he is still remembered here, in the part of the world where he made his home.
I have been looking into the paintings we have had in the Lady Chapel over the years. Remember Sergei Chepik's Golgotha (1)- a temporary installation in the late 1990s? That wasn't the first time a crucifixion had hung over the altar. Before Donald Towner's Christ in Majesty, painted in memory of his mother, Grace, in the late 1950s (2) there was another painting of the crucifixion (3). (Apologies for the quality but it's a phone photo of a very old print). Allegedly it suffered from over-zealous cleaning and was destroyed. Imagine being the person who did that!
After Chepik it became for a while a place for temporary artwork. Alfred Lohr provided us with the seasonal paintings from which the covers of our orders of service were taken (below is the one for the Trinity season) (4) and a few of his friends contributed works as well.
However our interest was aroused by a reference to an Ellis Wooldridge fresco - Woldridge designed the windows over the high altar at the time of the major re-alignment of the church and construction of the chancel and chapel but I hadn't realsied that he was also responsible for some of the other decoration. Apparently he painted the Baptism of Christ "in the chapel" - but where? Pictures of the time show that the walls and ceiling of the 1878 church were highly decorated, there wasn't an inch of space, it seems, that didn't have a scroll or a text or an angel. And there was definitely something on the north wall of the chapel, over what is now the clergy vestry. Could this be where the Wooldrige Baptism was? Did nobody think to photograph it? We have pictures of Wooldridge's painting in the chancel (you can find one in Prof Michael Port's "Story of a Building" - or you could if we were allowed to have books out!) so why not the chapel?
Sadly by 1958 all the painting, including those done by Alfred Bell in the nave and Wooldridge's work on the chancel and chapel, had darkened so much that it was deemed necessary to paint it all out and opt for a lighter colour scheme. Visitors today remark on how light the church is. It was not always so.
PS None of this investigation would haver arisen had we not (well, had Ayla not) successfully entered the church for the Open House London weekend - 19/20 September. More about that soon.
Mum, dad and the kids on Hampstead Heath
Wednesday 26th August 2020
The Hampstead Collective has been formed out of lockdown by the choir of Hampstead Parish Church and its organist and director of music, Peter Foggitt. The church and choir have exemplified a new language of connection over the last few months, running virtual services with a weekly hymn and anthem, as well as daily prayers and communal activities. These offerings have provided a lifeline for many in, at best, a landscape without punctuation, and, at worst, one marked irrevocably by suffering and loss. With the generous support of the Hampstead Church Music Trust, The Hampstead Collective is delighted to be at the forefront of a joyous and safe return to in-person, embodied music for spiritual reflections.
The Collective has put together an inaugural autumn season of sacred music, broadcast live online, and to socially distanced audiences, from the historic surroundings of the Parish Church. For seventeen weeks beginning 31st August, the Collective will come together every Monday at 7pm to explore the transformative power of church music-making through a diverse programme of Bach Cantatas, Handel large-scale works, Sacred Meditation, and Song. All repertoire has been chosen to complement and illuminate the cadence of the Church Calendar, but also to illustrate the individual as part of a whole, a chance for everybody's distinct musical voice to be heard.
The online events are free of charge, and can be accessed on all social media platforms, as well as the Collective's website: https://www.thehampsteadcollective.com. Following the announcement of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, the Collective is also delighted to welcome socially distanced audiences to their events. Tickets are limited, and can be accessed via Eventbrite, Facebook, and the Collective's website.
Our opening concert features a double bill of Bach Cantatas, one of the core strands of programming for our series. Bach's music is sacred and societal, but also unmistakably human - this is not the sound of certainty or of one who never questions or wavers, but the music of someone who is searching, looking for meaning beyond what is immediately visible in earthly surroundings, and it is this that makes his music feel so relevant, and so modern.
Soprano Christine Buras writes:
'When Jess (Dandy) first suggested Cantata 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, to open our "Start the Week" concert series, I leapt at the chance to perform it. Anyone familiar with Bach's music, and particularly his sacred vocal works, knows he is capable of delving into and illustrating the deepest and most complex of human emotions in his music. This short cantata, scored for a modest ensemble of strings, oboe, and voice, shows the full scope of this ability, all told through an intimate first-person narrative. We begin in a state of acute suffering and self-loathing, overwhelmed by our own monstrous, sinful nature. But over the course of the cantata, a miraculous transformation takes place. With profound remorse and repentance, and absolute trust in God's forgiveness, our shame is transformed to ebullient joy. I find this work to be one of the most affecting in Bach's entire oeuvre; in fact, it was one of the pieces of music which, when I first heard it as a teenager, made me feel that I had a vocation as a musician. I can't think of a work I'd rather perform for my first live performance after lockdown. I hope you are able to join us on Monday evening to share in the experience of bringing this astounding music to life.'
Link to first Eventbrite event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mein-herze-schwimmt-im-blut-tickets-117662312143?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing
Tuesday 25th August 2020
Twenty years ago my son James, who is a pediatrican, was working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre in Malawi. Malawi is a poor country with a high infant mortality rate and resources available for looking after babies born with problems, such as babies born prematurely , are limited. One of the challenges is that premature babies, particularly, loose a lot of heat through their heads. He asked me if I could ask my knitting friends to make caps for the babies. I spoke to a friend, who was in the WI at the time, and the idea took off. By the time James left Malawi the project had provided the hospital with 639 caps! You can see from the photos how pleased the mums were with the little hats, which they could take home with them.
James is now working in Sierra Leone, another poor country, with similar problems and he has again asked if my knitting friends can help. James is visiting England for Christmas and can collect the caps then. If you would like to knit some caps James and mothers of premature babies in Sierra Leone would be incredibly grateful. If you need a pattern you can download one from this Mothers Union website http://mugloucester.org.uk/b/resourcesPatterns.html
We have been given a donation towards the cost of wool. Please contact the vestry.
There will be a box at the back of church at the end of this week where you can leave the caps. Thank you very much
Last week I wrote about VJ Day and how much it had meant to relatives of the Far East prisoners-of-war, but I've been asked now to say more about the small brass altar cross which my father brought home in his belongings, and how it has touched so many lives since then.
In 1942 the cross was forged in the prison camp in Changi Singapore by a skilled engineer who made it out of the brass of a howitzer shell case to the specifications my father sketched in a pencilled diagram.
My father, Padre Eric Cordingly, kept it with him throughout the war and it graced the altars of four little prison chapels in the three and a half years he was in captivity before he brought it home with him and placed it on a shelf in his study.
Years after my father died, my mother was still caring for the cross and then she heard that there was now a small museum in Changi and she thought that's where the cross ought to be. So my brother John and I took it out for her in 1992 and the prison Chaplain blessed it
and put it in pride of place on the altar of the reconstructed open air chapel. It is a working chapel and visitors leave hand-written notes and scarlet and yellow hibiscus flowers on the altar beside it.
That could have been the end of the story but, for one man, the cross was yet to perform a small miracle. Harry Stogden, the engineer who made the cross, tragically died of beri beri on the boat on the way home, and his son, Bernard has spent a lifetime missing him. But one day something caught his eye in a prisoner-of-war newsletter. "It was a story of the Cross of how it was made by a Staff Sergeant, and the only name they had was his Christian name 'Harry'. The words were jumping off the page, I knew this man must be my father." Bernard contacted the man who had written the article: "'I knew Harry very well' he said. 'He was an extraordinary man. He was a very clever engineer. He made needles for sewing machines and he designed a self-locking joint to use in artificial limbs.'" Bernard was thrilled: "Believe me I couldn't have felt more proud to listen to all the marvellous things my Dad had done."
He quickly arranged to go out to Singapore and when he finally arrived at the museum he found himself overcome with emotion. "I absolutely broke down and the people that were there dispersed while I was in this situation. Then I said 'I'm alright now' and the lady I'd been in contact with said 'This is your father's cross. We've unscrewed it all ready for you' and I took it out of the case and I held it. It was a wonderful day. I felt that my father had held it and he'd made it and I felt I was walking in his footsteps. Everywhere I went my father had been there. It was a very moving time."
Changi Museum and Chapel are currently closed for major renovation. As an independent museum it was so successful that the Singapore National Heritage Board decided to take it over and I'm happy to say that I now have a huge file of legal papers assuring me that when the museum opens next year the cross will be displayed and cared for as one of their most precious artifacts.
The photos show: Eric Cordingly's pencilled sketch of the proposed Changi Cross; Reverend Henry Khoo, Changi Prison Chaplain, accepting the gift of the cross from John Cordingly and Louise Reynolds in 1992; the cross displayed on the altar of the reconstructed open air chapel in Changi Museum Chapel; and Bernard Stogden holding the cross in the chapel in 1998.
Seen on the towpath just outside Oxford
Tuesday 18th August 2020
My father, Eric Cordingly was a Rector in the Cotswolds and married with 2 small boys (one of them was John) when war broke out and he was assigned as an army chaplain to a territorial battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. In October 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, his battalion was sent East, their destination Singapore. They arrived in time to join in the fierce fighting, just days before the fall and surrender of Singapore on 15th February 1942. He was just 28.
All the prisoners were based in an ex military camp in Changi on the north east of the island and in the first week he discovered an abandoned mosque and got permission to use it as a church, which he named St Georges. It became a hub of activity and was popular with the men who, as my father said, were homesick and felt that it reminded them of home.
While he was in Changi my father asked Sergeant Harry Stogden, a skilled engineer, to fashion a cross for his wartime chapel from the brass of a Howitzer shell case. Harry took a historic photo (below) of my father and the cross before he was sent up to Japan to work in the mines.
The men were gradually all sent off in working parties to become slave labour on Japanese projects all over the Far East, the most notorious of which was building the Death Railway. My father was sent off in April 43 in a hideous train journey packed into cattle trucks for 5 days and nights in sweltering heat. He was stationed in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, close to the River Kwai, in the 'hospitals' which took in the sick and dying men who were working on the Railway.
He continued his ministry in the most tragic way by sitting at the bedside of the young men who were dying of tropical diseases, brutal treatment and starvation. Then he gave them as dignified a burial as possible. "In the past several months I have buried over 600 men," he wrote ,"It is too harrowing to picture vividly a ward of men whose sole kit consists of a tin and a spoon and a haversack and a piece of rag, lying on bare bamboo. Many is the time at the bedside of a dying man he has asked me to pray for his death, for release from his abject misery."
When the Railway was complete my father volunteered to stay on with the sick men until they were sent back to Changi in April '44, where he stayed for the rest of the War.
The Japanese finally surrendered on 2nd September 1945. One of the photographs below is of a Thanksgiving service on 7th September 1945. The men were all issued with new clothes from a Red Cross shipment and you can see my father standing under the lamp on the right. My father's step sister worked at the War Office and told my mother to have a look at the Illustrated London News where this photo was published. My mother instantly recognised him and realised for the first time that her husband had survived his imprisonment. He arrived home on 13th October 1945. He had been away for four years.
The first photo is of Eric Cordingly with the brass cross on the altar of St George's, Changi and the second photo is the Thanksgiving Service in Changi on September 7th 1945
Amongst the Far East POW families there has always been a sense of frustration and sadness that the sacrifices made by the men who fought in campaigns in the Far East were brushed aside and forgotten. They came home without fanfare and were told not to talk about their experiences. So there was mounting excitement that the BBC was going to recognise VJ Day 75 with two television programmes.
The commemoration at The National Memorial Arboretum in the morning was "inclusive, dignified and very moving" as one family member said to me. The sight of old men sitting on benches spaced far apart for social distancing was very poignant, and so was the moment when Prince Charles reached out to support an old soldier who nearly toppled over when laying his wreath.
The evening programme, The Nation's Tribute was more showbiz, but no less moving. I'm familiar with one of the men whose face was projected on to the buildings at Horse Guards Parade. Bob Hucklesby, now 99, told the heart-breaking story of being up in Thailand working on the Railway when he became very ill with dysentery and he was laid on a bed in the Death Hut. He asked his two best friends "his muckers," as he called them, to make him a back rest to prop him up and he stayed awake all night. In the morning he was the only one left alive. Bob has devoted his life to making sure that his comrades' memory is not forgotten.
While we are still struggling with the restrictions of coronavirus it was refreshing to see a military band, an orchestra, a choir and some brilliant soloists all performing so enthusiastically and we were given a chance to sing along to "We'll Meet Again". Two wonderful programmes, but by the end which I was an emotional wreck! I wasn't the only one. As the coverage of VJ Day 75 ended, a text pinged on to my phone: "The end of a perfect day. The BBC has done us proud today haven't they? And I feel rewarded for the respect that has been paid to such brave men." It was Bernard Stogden, now in his 80''s, whose father Harry left for the Middle East when he was 5. Harry created the Changi Cross (which I referred to in my other piece), an important symbol for so many. Harry was a prisoner of war for three and a half year, but, after enduring so much, sadly died of beri beri on the boat on the way home. Bernard has spent a lifetime missing him.
The first photograph is Bob Hucklesby, and the second one is of a funeral in Thailand in 1943 which was projected on to the buildings of Horse Guards Parade during the evening programme. Eric Cordingly is the tiny figure in the white cassock leading the processsion. The third photograph is Harry Stogden.
Seen outside a Franciscan Church in Oxford
A beautiful palette of pinks and purples
Tuesday 11th August 2020
'God and Beer', a 2m x 1m panel of printed cotton, was the subject of Esther Fitzgerald's knowledgeable talk. It came from 18thC Alsace and showed a bucolic 'genre' scene of merry-makers and ale-houses, in the contemporary spirit of Rousseau. Much interest lay in the pub-signs, which carried the hexagram, or 'Star of David'. This was not necessarily a Jewish symbol - historically it had been used by both Christians and Moslems - but Esther made a good case for it, all the same. In the 18thC Alsace was a major centre of French Judaism, and inn-keeping was one of the few trades open to them. And it was a time when the Jewish community was moving out of the shtetlekh into more open society. Why not express their growing status with such lively designs?
Sue Garden is a Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords. The Woolsack is uncomfortable but she spoke enthusiastically about the place itself and its role. Holding the Government to account is vital - more so in these uncertain times. Preventing bad legislation through as many as 200 amendments to a single Bill, the Peers are a hardworking bunch - at least, the 450 out of 830 members who regularly attend. Sue emphasises their ordinariness: visiting a school in an old car, without an ermine robe, can disappoint teachers and pupils alike. Covid has cut the numbers of attendees to 30, the others following (and voting) via Zoom, while the dilapidated - not to say dangerous - state of the Palace of Westminster will soon mean that both chambers will be re-located. But the 12-hour sittings will no doubt still remain.
The 19thC philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts was the subject of Sheena Ginnings' entertaining talk. 'The richest heiress in England', and a friend both of the Queen and Dickens, she inherited the Coutts banking legacy in 1837. This included a house in Piccadilly and the (then) country house of Holly Lodge in Highgate, with its 60-acre estate. Beside her many charitable works - for the poor, for children, for animals, in Britain and overseas - she developed the estate into a 'Victorian paradise' with a forest glade, a rose walk, tulip and monkey-puzzle trees and rhododendron groves. The estate was later broken up, but through her utopian Holly Village, her model farm and her famous and extensive kitchen garden she pointed the way to an alternative, ecological lifestyle.
Monday August 3rd saw the start of Holiday in Hampstead 2020 "lite", the non-fattening version. We are pleased to have reflections from two members of the audience on two very different, but fascinating talks.
William Blake: God and Beauty
Ayla Lepine's splendid talk on William Blake addressed the artist/poet's religious dimension. He was both visionary and practical, a combination of 'Innocence and Experience' which today appealed particularly to young people, making him a mainstream contemporary figure. Blake saw Jesus as the Human Form Divine, something mirrored in all people; it was by valuing ourselves that we come to know more about God. With a wide range of visuals and poetic extracts, Ayla charted Blake's respect for the art of the past, his fascination with Adam and Eve, as joint stewards of creation, and his Abolitionist views, whereby all humankind is brought together under God. Blake insisted on the the primacy of the mystical over the rational, recognising the crucified Jesus transformed into the resurrected Christ.
Crime dot com
Geoff White followed with a lively account of his work as an investigative journalist. He introduced Crime dot com, his recent book on cyber-criminals, which has just been published. He identified three types: governments hacking for political reasons; organised gangs out for profits; and 'hacktivists', young people working alone just for the hell of it. He told the story (story-telling is his speciality) of the 'Love Bug', which had affected the world, and how he tracked down its perpetrator. Cyber-crime relies on technology, but even more on understanding people and how they can be persuaded.
Andrew Lloyd Evans
We started off with a bang courtesy of our dynamic duo Ayla Lepine and Geoff White. Ayla spoke eloquently on the subject of William Blake: God and Beauty. Using a series of paintings by Blake and others together with quotes from some of Blake's poetry she illustrated Blake's radically different theological approach. This included: the idea of seeing the divine in everyone we meet recurrent themes of Adam and Eve and the lamb - seeing God in nature the inevitability of the fall and of salvation turning from rationality and scientific discovery to release the mystic aspects of creation he was against the slave trade, since discrimination and slavery would be abolished in the kingdom Blake often used the format of previous artists' painting particularly from the renaissance, for example turning images of the crucifixion into those of the resurrection.
From The Divine Image
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
The hunt for the hacker Geoff spoke on the subject The hunt for the hacker who started it all, an investigative journalist's extensive researches into cybercrime, using material from his soon to be released book Crimedotcom. He divided cybercriminals into three groups:
Organised cybercrime gangs
Activist groups, e.g. teenagers who hack twitter, who are especially dangerous because they seek publicity
Sometimes groups act together, for example the NHS ransomware attack. He told the intriguing story of the Love bug which hit the computer world just as it was breathing a sigh of relief after the millennium. Geoff traced the hacker responsible to the Philippines. Interestingly the success of this virus stemmed from appeals to human emotion by sending a love letter - more psychology than technology. However, this virus stole passwords and propagated worldwide by using personal address books. For the hacker there was no success in terms of career or money. There certainly seems to be a parallel between the spread of computer viruses and the viral spread in the current pandemic.
Sunday 9th August 2020
Back on the 14th of May the kids and I were gifted with a packet of sunflower seeds, a pot of soil, and a watering can. To make things fair (because that's the only way we can manage to get anything done), I counted out each seed. There were 30. So each child got to poke a hole and plant a seed 15 times. I fully expected absolutely nothing to happen (notorious plant-murderer), but just a few days later tiny little green shoots popped up out of the dirt. Surprisingly, every seed actually sprouted and we enjoyed watching which plants grew fastest and became dominant. In the end, we had just over a dozen cheerful sunflowers on our window sill.
We enjoyed sitting downstairs in the communal garden and looking up at the flowers in our window. What I didn't realise was that a lot of our neighbours were doing the same thing. A few of us have already started making plans for planting sunflowers in multiple window boxes next spring. And maybe planting a few on the ground so we can watch the flower heads follow the sun.
So while we watched our flowers grow, we also grew closer to our neighbours. It's probably been the best thing to come out of our time in lock-down. Extra thanks to our friend who started it all with her gift to us. Who knew a little packet of seeds would make so many of us so happy?
Friday 7th August 2020
Here is an Easy Pizza Fish to try for Lunch
Ingredients found at home
Tomato sauce for the base
Courgettes or other vegetables to make the scales
Grill for 5/6 mins YUM !
While you are waiting why not try this ?
Spot 5 things which would not have been around at that time
It's 2 pm. Select hat. Drape scarf nicely. Keys. Check. Identity (just in case). Check. Stick (alas). Check. And off I go.
On a lucky day, who should come bouncing down the road but Scooby. Who? He and his older lady companion belong to a very monsyllabic gentleman who lives up the road. They are King Charles spaniels. Scooby takes no notice of rules. Social distancing? Pah! And he nearly has my hand for lunch.
Moving on. ..Perhaps Monty and his jolly owners will be around. Monty is the smallest dachshund in the world. He is about 12 inches long. He used to hate my hats with a passion, but he has now decided if he's put on the rock garden he will lick my hand. I'm in!
By now, I've advanced to the top of the road. A quick sniff at Tim and Julia's roses and its heigh ho for Platts Lane. As you round the corner, a great sky opens before you, with wonderful clouds. I am looking out for the gentleman I think of as Mr Labrador. The Lab, which is yellow, and very large, likes a lot of - shall we say? comfort stops, and he keeps his owner busy.
Passing various busy builders, including one who always wears a piratical bandana, I reach the top of Briardale Gardens. Briardale Gardens is Arts and Crafts (and how!). You can tell it's posh because people grow flowers in the tops of their stone walls. Jasper and Charlie might be out - they're Cavaliers (bigger size breed than Scooby), and brothers. They're always full of gallantry! At number 19, I always wave, if she is there, to the nice girl I think of as Ms Computer - and it's a nice little touch. She sits in her bow window working at her computer - she's been doing it for weeks. Briar Cottage has the prettiest garden, and I know the owner, so I can tell her.
And before I know where I am, it's down to the main road, and a hope of seeing Violet, the Dalmatian puppy, but she is a big girl now and can go on the Heath.
The only place I am going is to sit down! And have a nice big coffee. And then it's all to do again tomorrow.
Where did I hear that advice Keep Moving. . .?
Thursday 6th August 2020
If it's Thursday on the Holiday in Hampstead programme, it is tea at the vicarage. The sun shone gently, despite dire warnings from the weather men, and the vicarage garden was beautiful. Julia and Jeremy were wonderful hosts. Pergolas has been set up to protect us from the sun, there were flowers on all the tables and bunting to celebrate our first parish tea party since lockdown. It was idyllic. Jet was sunning himself, the bees were gently buzzing in a very well behaved way and Diana, Rosemary, Sue and Julia kept up plyed with cups of tea and delicious cakes.
It was lovely to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, including Pippa Adams who was born in June during lockdown.
Wednesday 5th August 2020
The All Age Service on Sunday 2nd August was interactive and wrapped around with love, generosity, creativity, prayer and lots of laughter. The published theme was the feeding of the five thousand. We started with the Junior Church hymn that includes the words "God is a great big God, higher than a skyscraper".
Maureen taught everyone how to make a paper fish. Much talent was displayed and not a little frustration expressed in the 'chat' forum, including "This is the hardest thing we have done in ages."!
Jeremy's sermon was on this miracle of feeding the 5000, which shows God's amazing provision, love and generosity. It happened on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which tradition says was at Tabgha. Jeremy has visited Tabgha and showed us the fridge magnet which he has to prove it.
And then what we were waiting for - we all sang "Happy birthday" to Jeremy and watched a fabulous video made up of birthday wishes from the congregation - which included greetings in English and Arabic, and a greeting accompanied of a strange hooter (I think); also children popped out of boxes, or were waving placards; people were sitting in pavement cafes, on windy Beachy Head, or in their back gardens; and even from Greece - everyone wishing Jeremy 'Happy Birthday' all interspersed with modern rock captions. It was wonderful and amazing!
And then to end the service a Bach voluntary with Peter Foggitt, playing the organ at Emmanuel College Cambridge, lit up in beautiful psychedelic colours
This service was possibly the largest HPC service on zoom with 84 people, including 20 children. A great celebration!
Tuesday 4th August 2020
A couple of weeks ago Peter and I were invited to help to pack and distribute summer activity packs to the families CARIS Haringey is supporting. During August most years CARIS Haringey has a one week summer camp for the whole family, with a range of activities. It is an important part of the support they give their families, who don't get away for a summer holiday. But this year because of Covid 19 and the need for social distancing this wasn’t possible. CARIS therefore decided to give each family an activity pack. They also wanted to give each family something that children could work on. Bettina Schmidgall, in our congregation, came up with the creative idea of Ikea lap trays, which many of you donated towards. Other members of the congregation donated items or money towards goodies for the activity packs.
All the families that CARIS supports were invited to get an activity pack, not just the families who have no recourse to public funds. We made up over 100 packs! Peter pumped up 100 footballs, with the help of Oscar and Cecily, who are friends of Ruth, one of the volunteers. Amongst other things he also had to unravel 100 whistles on strings that had somehow got tangled up. I made up parcels with balls, bats, chalks, stickers, writing materials, games, books, sweets, hand sanitiser, and other fun items. After the packs had been made up (and our backs were aching) we had lunch and a chat with the rest of the team, more than half of whom volunteer each week. I spoke to Amy who runs the knitting group at St Ann's, where the food bank is temporarily based. They made colourful knitted shapes, which they tied to the railings outside their shut church, till someone stole them! I also chatted to Ruth who runs a Coffin Club and Death Cafe and does Humanist funeral services. She had encouraged Oscar and Cecily to come along. p>After lunch the families arrived. It was so super to see how excited the children were to receive the packs and the trays and a hula hoop for each child (In the photos you can see the activity packs and the folded Ikea trays and hula hoops)
Each time I go to the foodbank at CARIS Haringey, I am so pleased that they are one of the charities that we support
Monday 3rd August 2020
A group of parishioners has been meeting from time to time over the last few months to talk about racial justice and racial inequality. We have been discussing how we as a church, as we seek to follow Christ, can address these issues in our own community, and through this engagement help to bring about a fairer and more equal society. At each meeting we have listened to a range of black voices either in the press or through video clips. Sunday 2nd August was our third meeting and we heard clips from Revd Azariah France-Williams (priest in the Diocese of Manchester, Chine Macdonald (Head of Fundraising and Community Engagement, Christian Aid), and Dr Anthony Reddie (Theologian, University of Oxford). At the same time the Saturday morning book group is reading 'Ghost Ship' by Revd Azariah France-Williams, who describes powerfully the prejudice he has experienced in his life and in his ministry.
The discussions have been open, honest and thoughtful and I hope they will continue after I move to Cambridge. This photo shows books that I would recommend to anyone who wishes to find out more about racial inequality in our society and the challenges that black people face.
Sunday 2nd August 2020
On Saturday afternoon some of the Youth Group met for a socially distanced picnic at Fortune Green. Despite not being able to share food, it was great to meet together and connect in person for the first time since lockdown. This is a summer of big changes, too.
Rika is going to York University to study English Literature, Tilly to Cambridge, and Tamsin to Washington DC. All of them are in some ways truly venturing into the unknown, as there is still a lack of clarity about exactly how teaching and university life will happen in the various possible scenarios of Covid-19. Though there is uncertainty, there is excitement too.
We talked about protest, war, and injustice, as well as the debate around Hagia Sophia and the decision that it will become a mosque again. We also spoke about a recent BBC series on Iraq, which Nesh highly recommends. We also talked about TikTok: compelling, imaginative, ingenious, addictive, politically ambiguous. . .
Every time the Youth Group gather, amazing things happen. The conversation ranges widely, there is time for everyone to explore ideas in depth, and the mutual respect and trust in the group means that we deepen our faith and ask vast questions about God, society, and culture.
From September Nesh and Jan will run the group together. Anyone between c.15-18 years old is very welcome.
And, PS, Nesh told us he's selling his electric car. It's a bargain, and has had one careful driver. . ..
Tuesday 28th July 2020
Monday 27th July 2020
It all started last week when Maggie met Harold Lupa's new bear Richard. Maggie offered to introduce Harold to her bear Gregory, which she did on Zoom coffee on Sunday. And then everyone decided to introduce their bears (and other animals)!
There were bears from the Netherlands, Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Switzerland and Engliand.
Bear friends included a large hippo from Canada with a special Japanese hat, a bull, a tiger, a squirrel, a pink elephant, a black bird and an interesting puppet.
Some bears were with their original owners, while others have been inherited. The bears had had different life experiences. They had been through several marriages, or been taken to school (some with nametapes which are still on), or been used at work or crossed continents. Some are still called 'bear' and others are named after people, like 'Iggy' after 'St Ignatius'
Like us the bears, and their friends, all have a history. Erika, who is Canadian, had a neighbour who had gone to school with Christopher Robin and had met 'Winnie the Pooh'. He said Erika's bear reminded him of the original bear. ( 'Winnie the Pooh' was originally called 'Edward' but after Christopher Robin Milne visited the London Zoo and met a lovely Canadian bear 'he' became 'her' and 'Edward' became 'Winnie'. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian lieutenant, had brought the bear cub, named after the city of Winnipeg, to England at the beginning of World War I, as his regiment's mascot. He left her at the London Zoo when his unit left for France in 1915.)
Jane has a bear that is over a 100 years old that belonged to her mother called Ben Dalton (her mother's maiden name). Jane says he is very old, very small, very loved and very worn and he just fits neatly into her hand.
Nick's Swiss mountain bear (with backpack and walking stick) is even older. He is 150 years old!
A fiercesome tiger and bull were presented to Sue by the China-British 48 Group. Sue remembers then peering nervously over the top of a Chinese New Year goodie bag as the recipients were told how terrifying they were.
Bill told us a story about his stage star monkey. It was bought as a prop for the Hampstead Players production of 'Inherit the Wind' - the play about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It was used by the peanut vendor played by Angela Bates who during the play met one of the stars of the show, David Gardner, and romance blossomed. Soon after the play David bought another monkey to remember their meeting which he still has.
During Lent, and just before lockdown, the artist JP Flintoff did drawings of members of the congregations. The drawings took place all over the church, wherever the sitter chose. The drawings symbolise us as a community of God's people, connected to this holy place and bound together as the Body of Christ. JP has created a beautiful poster combining all of the portraits and expressing the diversity and uniqueness of each person. It is on display on the notice boards next to the Lady Chapel with some of the individual images. Through them we are seeing each other in a new way.
In the poster the artist has also left spaces. These spaces can be seen as symbolic. They can represent spaces for God. Spaces for silence. They can also represent people who aren't or who can't be with us. People who have died recently, or in years gone, and are still deeply missed. People who would love to be in church but can't come because they are unwell or are self-isolating; or people who can't cope with being with other people right now. The spaces also reflect those who suffer from loneliness or isolation and need to feel the love and closeness of God.
JP has produced a limited edition of the images and posters. If you would like to see the poster and all the images or would like to find out how to buy the poster or one of the images, go to https://flintoff.org/art/portraits-of-a-parish/ 15% of the profit will be donated to Caris Camden which supports the C4WS Winter Night Shelter
I often think of this and that,
Thoughts that benefit a Vicar's cat.
They saw the colour of my fur
And said "Jet's just the name for her!"
I thought it was a charming touch,
And so I love them very much.
I really have no need to roam,
I live in such a cosy home.
Now it's the Vicar's special day,
The congregation shouts "hooray!"
And as he hears our happy cheers,
We hope that he will stay for years!
Wednesday 22nd July 2020
I was all set up to do a week of research in June in preparation for my next project. The six dancers and studio had been booked when Covid19 struck. I decided not to cancel or postpone but rather to do it via zoom, skype, facetime and anything else on offer. I felt that we all needed to exercise our creative muscles because they too like other muscles lose tone if left unused.
The dancers probably were a bit surprised when I rang to ask them who they were living with and whether they had bikes. As I suspected some of them shared a house with dancers who might be persuaded to do some partnering? We used parks, back gardens, bedrooms and kitchens and any partners available, to generate and study movement. Although I probably would have got further in a studio in terms of my research most of my aims for an R&D were met . However the most enduring aspect was that we became a family like unit since together we had to find solutions and build our own infrastructure - provide our own studios, film ourselves and find seemingly remote ways of being surprisingly intimate.
Performance arts needs an audience to complete it. Covid19 with its closure of all venues brought a sudden invisibility. I decided to look at our archives and wondered if we could keep dance alive virtually. With universal screen fatigue in mind I decided to create a series of short films drawn from our stage productions. Social media platforms are refreshingly free of the cost and hierarchy of theatres and so it was possible to show as well curate the seemingly opaque grammar of contemporary dance sitting on my stairs at home!
I mostly choreograph freelance dancers whose working life is patterned by short term contracts. It's a life style choice that needs resilience, optimism, ingenuity and amazing self management.Life in the arts (specially in contemporary dance) had always felt like swimming upstream against the current. So in some ways when the whole country had to adapt to a lack of security in March this year life seemed suddenly more equitable.
The photos show two dancers in rehearsal and my home studio
Friday 17th July 2020
2020 will be remembered, I'm sure, as a year that tested our resilience: the pandemic has impacted each of us, old and young, in very many ways. But it has also been a time of innovation and creativity - and nowhere more, I feel, than at Hampstead Parochial School. When it became evident that we were in lockdown for a significant period, that the SATs exams were cancelled, and that learning would need to continue online for some time to come, I wondered how we might recognise and celebrate with our Year 6 children that important transition as they leave primary school and prepare for secondary school in September.
In previous years, Year 6 children have staged a drama production for the school community, there would be Sports Day to enjoy and a School Disco, school shirts would be signed as a keepsake, and there would be the Leavers' Service at Hampstead Parish Church (attended by all the school and with barely a dry eye in the house).
Not so this year.
However, what we have seen is a wonderful demonstration of creativity and inclusion. A small group of parents have worked hard to compile a Year Book with photos and memories, to pull together a video of all the children, and to organise 2020 Leavers hoodies for the children to wear proudly.
And today, we were able to join a moving Leavers' Service in the school hall via the Hampstead Parish Church Facebook page. We dialled in from nearby (some parents watched on their phones in the Additional Burial Ground), from our homes, and one family even joined from South Korea! There were shared memories, singing (accompanied by Mr McLean on guitar), prayers and a message from Father Jeremy (in deepest Wales). Mother Ayla spoke about the school's values of forgiveness, responsibility, koinonia, friendship, compassion and respect - which have been very much in evidence through our Year 6 children - and she presented a Bible to each child. And there was a wonderful video of the children dancing through the decades - from the Charlston to the jive, 'YMCA', 'Gangnam Style' and 'Swish Swish' - all masterfully put together by their teacher Mr Williams.
A huge thank you to Mr McLean, Mr Williams, Miss Ohene-Kodua and all the Hampstead Parochial School staff team for making this end of school year special for our children. And thank you to Mother Ayla for leading the worship for us all to enjoy - and then taking the time to hand deliver Alice's Bible to her at home.
Happy summer holidays, everyone!
Wednesday 15th July 2020
Shortly after the choir last sang in church on Sunday 15th March, performance cancellations started to come thick and fast. The lead up to Easter is always a busy time for singers, both in churches and on concert platforms, but in the space of a few days it became clear that this year would be very different. By the time we reached Easter Sunday, not only had the flurry of musical activity associated with Holy Week - in and out of church - completely dissipated, but all of my upcoming performances for the next six months and beyond had been cancelled. Scores for imminent new operatic productions found themselves back on shelves, concert shirts remained un-ironed, and frantic attempts were made to get refunds for flights and train tickets that had been booked for performances, with Ryanair in particular doing their very best to fill the now vacant hours of one particular Tuesday morning - and afternoon.
So, what now? Well, after running out of refunds to chase up, and having had a go at baking some bread, the thing that I think we were all missing most was singing, and singing together. This maybe seems obvious, but I don't think it was to me at the time. Sure, I missed the music, the act of singing itself, and the sense of purpose and professional identity from being able to carry out my work, but our job is also inherently interactive; communication is a vital component of good performance, both among performers and between them and an audience. In fact, in many ways it's the whole point of performance, and so in a life suddenly without singing there was a real sense of social loss, a break in the circle, and a feeling of having lost the ability to communicate.
The choir's weekly hymns were initially conceived as a way of keeping the choir in touch with the congregation at Hampstead, and the hope was that in gathering together to sing familiar music at home, we might feel connected even though forced apart. For me, the weekly task of preparing these hymns has not only provided direct and meaningful contact with my wonderful friends and colleagues in the choir, but has also afforded me the opportunity to stay in touch with my own communicative capabilities as a musician and as a social being.
The photos show the set up I use to record the hymns (trumpets, microphone, laptop, keyboard etc), one of the complete audio files for the most recent hymn, and one of a little drawing of a slightly disconnected circle ..!
Tuesday 14th July 2020
Lockdown and the Covid pandemic has affected us all in many different ways. For many people it has been a sad, difficult and uncertain time. For others the uncertainty has also been a time of reflection.
Earlier this year members of the congregation were invited to think about where they found God in this pandemic and to create a square to reflect this. Margaret Pritchard Houston has put these squares together and created a beautiful altar cloth for the Lady Chapel. In this creative way members of the congregation have placed their reflections before God, in a space that is important to them.
The background is green, the colour of Ordinary Time and it will stay in the Lady Chapel for the rest of Ordinary Time this year. Around the edge Margaret has put squares from the fabric she has been using to create face masks. Through the centre is the Cross.
Please do come and look at it when the church is open.
Sunday 12th July 2020
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.
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.
Friday 10th July 2020
Surely one cannot say
Yes! to just one,
Many compete, which
Bring problems galore
Oh! such decisions I decide to ignore -
Leave it to others to
Single out one.
Of course, Hope sings from trees, from
Flowers and leaves - though amongst much more,
Humour as well has its place for me
Offering distraction from doom and gloom
Perhaps sowing seeds for a simple joke, where
Each line of verse grows from
SYMBOLS OF HOPE!
Monday 6th July 2020
More than seventy members of our wider congregation took part in Sunday's Intergenerational Service, including from places outside London, and as far away as Nigeria and Germany! The theme for the service was from Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest..for my yoke is easy and my burden light.."
In her sermon Ayla invited everyone to choose a physical burden of equal weight for each hand, to feel its weight and then to think about how our hands felt when we put the burden down. There were some interesting burdens including bottles of wine, books, cans of juice, jam, actual weights, grapefruits and mustard and a banana! We were also encouraged to see this gesture of our hands with our palms held up without the heavy weights as a gesture of both giving as well as receiving.
This beautiful service included a reading from Christina Zandstra, a prayer from Peter Diracles and prayers from the Gardner family which included prayers of rememberance for those who died or who were injured in London on 7th July 2005.
"Peace be with you" was exchanged in sign language (one of the photos shows Jeremy demonstrating this)
And there was lots of lovely music. Jeremy on his guitar invited us all to sing two songs popular with Holy Hamsters and Hampstead Parochial School. Then It was very special in our own homes to sing "Holy, holy, holy" with the choir and Malachy's trumpet accompaniment. The choir treated us to another amazing online anthem "His yoke is easy and his burden is light", from Handel's Messiah. As Margaret Willmer said in the chat box commenting on the anthem and the images of the different singers appearing as their voices joined in "I am in awe of the mathematics of putting this together"!
Zoom has its frustrations but it does enable us to be together and to share God's love with each other.
Tomorrow will be the 15th anniversary of the 7/7 London Bombings when three tubes (at 8.50am) and a diverted bus (at 9.47am) were targeted by suicide bombers. I was one of those caught up on his way to work, lucky to survive in an Edgware Road carriage where seven had died.
When I got home from hospital mid-August, I thanked fellow tube travellers, the emergency services, the police, the NHS, friends and family, including my extraordinary wife Angela.
I always maintained I saw more love than hate that day.
Every year since then we have marked the day. Angela and I (with Matthew and Alice, if a weekend) take the tube to Edgware Road, joining others on the platform for 8.50am. We stand and remember the 52 victims and those who responded so bravely, from fellow travellers to paramedics. And we pay our respects at St. Mary's Hospital.
Some years have been marked by official events such as the unveiling of the Memorial in Hyde Park and a service at St. Paul's marking the 10th anniversary.
However, a group of us survivors also get together for a Greek dinner with physiotherapists, prosthetists, police and others who helped us that day and have become part of our lives. Last year there were four of us who got together (with four legs between us) and our long-suffering wonderful wives. We were planning a bigger commemoration this time but, like much these days, it will have to be postponed.
I've only missed two of these reunion dinners, including the very first, which coincided with a performance of The Hampstead Players' Julius Caesar production (which had been due to be staged a week after 7/7) - and turned out to be a very memorable night at Hampstead Parish Church with a couple of my saviours in the audience.
Angela and I intend to drive early tomorrow to Edgware Road, and there are also some events online.
I always remember and, in the depths of other crises and tragedies, I cling to the hope that there will be more love than hate.
Saturday 4th July 2020
Nowadays if we want to make any alteration to the church we go through a faculty process - plans are submitted to the Diocesan Advisory Committee, notices are posted on the church and people are given a set period to register any concern.
It wasn't like that in 1874. When the Trustees wanted more space for a growing congregation the chosen architect, F P Cockerell, suggested pulling down the church and starting again rather than adding an extension. A petition was got up and signed by some 270 people. Not that many, you may think, to effectively prevent the church's destruction, until you look at some of the names:
W Holman Hunt
George du Maurier
Ford Madox Brown
Edward Burne Jones
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
It would have been a brave Trustee who advocated going ahead anyway. So they didn't.
Although there are variations and changes throughout Christian history, the main colours for textiles in the Christian year are green, purple, red, and white (or gold). Sometimes you see blue for Advent (following the medieval Sarum tradition) and we also have our 'Lenten Array', which is plain canvas with a subtle grey motif symbolising the crucifixion.
Monday 29th June 2020
The congregation and a number of friends of the parish, including writers, artists, and clergy, were invited to make 3-minute videos reflecting on something that was, or has been, a symbol of hope for them during the pandemic. Everyone chose one thing and made a short film describing its significance for them. A symbol of hope might be a favourite picture, a flower in a person's garden, or something at home which holds a special meaning. Objects chosen ranged from a holiday souvenir to a valuable piece of sculpture; from a blank piece of paper to a precious piece of embroidery; from a holy object to church building; from a bunch of keys to a valuable painting. The videos are thoughtful, personal and moving and show in times of crisis what is precious to us and helps to encourage and sustain us. These videos can be viewed on the Hampstead Parish Church page on YouTube
Below are a couple of written reflections. Sarah Phipps has chosen a painting by El Greco and writes "This is my object of hope. I pray with it every day. Jesus is at Calvary surrounded by Roman soldiers and people. They do not know now, but in three days the risen Christ will come. Christ is my hope, and he will be my hope always."
Caroline Barron writes "My objects of hope would be my two large flower pots filled with seedlings which I have grown for the first time: calendulas, marigolds and cornflowers. I rarely plant seeds and have never planted out seedlings with such careful attention. Lockdown gives one a chance to notice things - and appreciate them. Perhaps when the lockdown ends we will emerge better at noticing and cherishing not only seedlings but also each other."
Saturday 27th June 2020
In a conversation recently Monther (a member of our Community Sponsorship family) told me how much he likes bike riding and so Jeremy generously offered to repair his Purple Townsend bike to give to Monther. A few days ago I cycled over to the bike shop in Archway where Monther and I met to pick up the bike. We bought him a helmet and a good lock and rode off down parkland walk - which was much longer than I remembered! He looked as if he was really enjoying himself and talked about riding with his father. I left him on 7 Sisters Rd. He has a great sense of direction and was very confident that he knew the way home.
Then on Friday I had a WhatsApp video call from Monther - he said he was at the Victoria Embankment by the Thames. And sure enough there was his bike against the railings with the London Eye behind. He looked as pleased as Punch. He pointed out all the other cyclists riding past. He said he was cycling round London.
It was a great moment.
Friday 26th June 2020
A couple of weeks ago I took apart a mid-nineteenth century book to rebind. The spine lining was some printer's waste. It looked like a Law Report and the interesting thing for me was the reference to Admiralty, salvage and collisions which many of you will know was John's law speciality. The photograph shows the spine lining of the book I took apart yesterday, also mid-nineteenth century. There isn't any sense to it but some of the words stand out!
Tuesday 23rd June 2020
Some of you will know that many homeless people were found accommodation in the otherwise empty hotels when the lockdown was imposed in March. The following is taken from Nikki Barnett's report to the Caris Camden trustees on 10th June. Nikki is manager of the C4WS shelter project.
Post Shelter & Guests we are still Supporting:
• 7 guests were accommodated by Camden Council when we had to close the shelter at the end of March.
• 2 have been rehoused in more permanent accommodation.
• 1 left London to work on a farm.
• 3 remain in The Britannia Hotel in Primrose Hill. This hotel was arranged by the council specifically for those who needed to 'Covid Shield,'
• Of these, 2 are able to make housing applications as they now have ID and are in receipt of benefits. They are working with their referral agencies on these and have a clear move on plan.
• 1 is No Recourse to Public Funds and their move on plan remains unclear. It would usually be into a hosting scheme, but understandably these are all currently on hold. We are exploring the possibility of HO accommodation for him with the help of his solicitor. If this is not forthcoming, we will need to think of how C4WS can provide ongoing accommodation for him when the hotels close (currently the date is the end of June)
• 1 has a local connection to Camden and is being supported by their team either into their hostel pathway or into Hope Worldwide PRS.
• We have continued to support former C4WS guests who moved into other shelters and are being housed by the GLA. 2 are EEA migrants who are now eligible for benefits. Both have secured accommodation which is covered by housing benefit. C4WS has supported 1 with a hardship loan.
More widely across Camden:
• The majority of those who Camden Council had been working with who had been placed in random hotels when the crisis hit, have either been moved into their hostel pathway or alternative GLA provision (also hotels).
• The official occupancy for The Britannia Hotel where C4WS guests who were identified as needing to COVID shield and are currently housed is meant to finish at the end of June. However, Camden have a contract with the hotel which could mean they can negotiate an extension of up to 3 months. This is currently unconfirmed.
• For those who are eligible, Camden are working towards a housing first option with significant support, and they are providing 20/30 more properties for this purpose.
However, for the C4WS guests who have recourse, their housing is being managed by their original referral agencies.
• There are two council commissioned shelters which were talked about being reopened, Chalk Farm (but this sounds more like a day centre/drop in), for EEAs and one in Holloway whose management falls under Islington Council.
• The issue here will be is capacity/social distancing. The information about how these will work hasn't been released (it sounds as though it's not ready yet).
• Chalk Farm is likely to be limited in capacity, with reduced accommodation and will focus on the team getting their referrals into work and other accommodation, rather than operating as a shelter.
• DePaul Night Stop (a hosting scheme for young people) is running, but it's gone from 30 hosts a night to 3 across the whole of London.
• The issue with sustaining all the above is funding. Camden has a large budget for tackling homelessness, but the hotel model is not sustainable long-term.
• There is also a large transient homeless population, which is not being housed in the hotels. This is made up of those who were offered places initially, but for whatever reason could not sustain them plus new arrivals in the borough made up of those who were in precarious work before the crisis hit and have lost their accommodation and are not eligible for benefits.
• We know there is still a large street homeless population, as those drop ins who remain in operations have reported large numbers, such as the American Church who are feeding around 150 people a day, and Streets Kitchen around 60 people a session.
For the future, there are challenging times ahead for C4WS and all Cold Weather Shelters. We are waiting for guidance from Housing Justice but it is very unlikely that a rolling shelter (one night each week in 7 different churches) will be possible and we will explore ways of running a more static shelter while involving as many of our volunteers as we can. I'll write more about our plans when they are clearer.
In the meantime these are a few reminder photos of the 2019/2020 Night Shelter at Hampstead Parish Church
Thursday 18th June 2020
I love the big trees outside my window, even on a rainy and cloudy day like today. They really are a symbol of hope, reliability and patience. If I'm lucky, I can sometimes see a flock of parakeets flying above and listen to their very noisy cheerfulness.
When we ventured out to the Heath on Easter Sunday after spending long weeks inside our flat since the beginning of lockdown, I was dumbfounded that spring had arrived in all its glory. I was clad in winter clothes, because to me everything seemed like we were still in the middle of a dark winter. But Mother Nature doesn't care about the pandemic or our problems and rightly so! For far too long we have treated nature as an afterthought. A friend texted me to say that she thinks the pandemic is nature's way to pressing the reset button. Scientists have already warned that zoonotic pandemics will happen more
frequently in the future if we press ahead with the destruction of the natural habitat of animals and plants. I worry very much about what this means for my children. I want them to have a green and sustainable future that they can look forward to. Luckily, it isn't too late to make changes and it really starts with me to make more careful and responsible choices every day.
Wednesday 17th June 2020
In December the parish hosted a study day about Evelyn Underhill with talks by experts including Revd Professor Jane Shaw, Revd Dr Julie Gittoes, Revd Dr Earl Collins, and Prof Anne Loades. You can listen to them and learn more about Underhill here.
God, who dwells invisible in the heavens and yet for the salvation of humanity does manifest Your power on earth, pour down upon this place the light of Your countenance: that all who come hither to seek Your face may truly find You. Amen.
Tuesday 16th June 2020
Sunday 14th June was the third anniversary of the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower. Our church bells rang out 72 times at 6 O'clock in the evening to remember the 72 people who died in that dreadful fire, then there was a pause for reflection, followed 3 rings to remember that it was 3 years ago.
Lucy, who was a volunteer the morning after the fire, created this tribute at the church door with 72 night lights to remember each person who died.
In Lucy's words "It was an incredible privilege to be invited in by a community so utterly shocked and devastated. I went to the community centre which was the support hub. I was one of the few white people there and of course many of the victims were from the BAME community. It was the first time I had experienced a situation where those directing everyone's efforts were not white. It really reaonates in the context of the current BLM campaign. The memory that has never left me is the number of people taking "selfie" photos against the background of a smouldering, blackened block. The most terrible personification of our instagram culture. The love and dignity I witnessed at the community centre on that day was in stark contrast."
Jeremy reflected that "It was incredibly humbling to ring the bell 72 times, to keep silence, and to ring three times for the years since the fire. Lighting the candles brought home the value of each human life, and the need to ensure that our systems and processes are just, fair, and safe for all. That's a call for the church to hear, as we remember, and as we act."
"There are gates in heaven that cannot be opened except by melody and song"
from an 18th century description of the purpose of Eastern European Jewish Nigun singing
Saturday 13 June would have been the Women's Retreat at St Katharine's. We couldn't go this year, and so Barbara Alden and Ayla led a group of 16 women on zoom in a beautiful meditative hour and half of of music, poetry and prayer. Barbara sang Jewish Nigun songs and a range of Native American chants. Sometimes we joined in, and sometimes we just listened. We reflected on this image as we sang "Halleluia"
The music was interspersed with images, poetry and prayer and Ayla led a short meditation on the Magnifcat from the Gospel of Luke and the Song of Hannah from the first book of the Samuel.
Some of the feedback..."a blessing"; "taking time out and being still"; "I hadn't realised how much I needed this quiet time"; "the time flew by"; "lovely and peaceful"; "Hannah and Mary, two strong female voices bound by the arc of the universe"...
Monday 15th June 2020
On Saturday 13 June Junior Church met for another action packed zoom family service, this time based on the 'Feeding of the 5,000'.
Jess Mathur told the story, aided by some very inventive props, and Maureen showed everyone how to make an origami boat. Jeremy then led the children in some lively action songs, with everyone being encouraged to join in
The service encouraged children to think about those who do not have enough, as well as the need to share what we have; inspired by the boy who handed over his meagre amount of food to Jesus.
The prayers were written and read by children in the group.
The session ended with the blessing and what has now become a zoom custom - the children’s Wind Up Amen!
The service was another lovely way for junior church families to stay in touch and feel engaged in our lively community.
(The photos show some of the boats complete with fish, sharks and random starfish and the Sea of Galilee; and Maureen’s snack of fish and chips!)
Sunday 14th June 2020
This is the view from my upstairs window. It is also the view from my Cross Trainer; that's not something I thought I would ever say three months ago. I would normally use the Cross Trainer once a week at my gym, because my back prevents me from running, but seeing Lockdown looming, I decided to buy one for myself to keep on top of aerobic exercise, particularly if the Spring weather proved bad. During the Pandemic use has in fact been sporadic, varying from once a week to every other day and I have found it very cathartic.
We have also been surrounded by scaffolding since March 16th. It's the same throughout the house, making it dark and bringing a whole new meaning to the word 'Lockdown'. We do literally feel that we are in lockdown here - access to the garden has been compromised, and it feels oppressive. I can't wait to fling open the French windows downstairs on a sunny day. Now that the decorators are back privacy is compromised too.
But beyond the scaffolding is our garden which has been a great blessing; a symbol of life beyond the Pandemic, of growth, exploration and creativity. Praise God that he is with us in all things; here's to the removal of the scaffolding and to happier days!
On Sunday 14 June, after our bell rang 72 times for the lives lost in the Grenfell Tower fire 3 years ago, we had a parish conversation about racism, the Church, and transformation.
I compiled some quotations and resources to help frame and stimulate our discussion and they're below, together with film, book, and podcast recommendations.
I'm especially inspired by what James Baldwin, the black gay American writer, has to say about change:
'Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.'
The photograph was taken at the recent London protests. Change is possible. Good conversations are possible. Growth and transformation are possible, as we strive for justice and liberation together.
Marika’s approach is accessible, clear, and inspiring. By reading biblical passages closely, these women’s determination and wisdom, as well as their trust in God, are revealed in new ways.
Tamar: Genesis 38
Rahab: Joshua 2
Ruth: Ruth (it's a short book, read the whole thing!)
Bathsheba: 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 1-2
Mary: all four Gospels explore the life and importance of Mary in different ways. Highlights to read:
Matthew: Chapters 1 and 2; 12:46-50; 13:53-58
Luke: Chapters 1 and 2
John: Chapters 2 and 19
Wednesday 10th June 2020
As we've seen in Bristol and elsewhere, as statues of those who bought and sold enslaved people are coming down, it is time for real change. Not just words, but action that resonates with a promise of repentance and a commitment to work for liberation.
Sunday 7th June 2020
At the end of the day, at 5pm Bill and I have been attending Evening Prayer on Zoom. I enjoy the rhythm of this recurring time of prayer, and it helps to give us a structure to our lives. However, on Thursdays following Evening Prayer, we are treated to a half hour of 'Arts and Faith' reflections. These are led by our clergy and readers, and each one chooses a poem or painting to talk about for a few minutes, drawing out points and meanings we might well have missed. The poem or picture is shown to us on screen, and we are invited to ask questions or make comments. We are encouraged to look and really engage with the painting or poem which can have surprising results.
An extraordinary poem, presented by Ayla, that stands out in my mind is a mystical prayer/poem written by St. Teresa of Avila. It is called 'Seeking God' and it portrays God speaking in the first person directly to St. Teresa's Soul. It begins
Soul, you must seek yourself in Me,
And in yourself seek me.
With such skill soul,
Love could portray you in Me
That a painter well gifted
Could never show
So finely that image. . . .
The painting that left the deepest impression on me was 'The Water seller of Seville' by Velazquez, presented by Handley. The water seller, an older man in a torn leather jerkin seemed so human I felt I knew him. But what was extraordinary was the way the two water pots were painted, so perfectly that you could 'feel' the pottery. The pottery of the large pot is so round and perfect and seems to come out of the painting presenting itself to us, offering us water. The colours are muted, dark and true. I had never seen it and it feels like a special Thursday gift. These sessions are proving to be an enriching time.
Saturday 6th June 2020
"A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot" (Thomas Edward Brown 1830-1897)
So surely a churchyard must be even lovelier - and certainly ours has a rugged charm, even at this time of year when the wildflowers are going over into seed and it may be thought to be somewhat lacking in tlc. Actually the gardening group, who met today, have only missed two sessions but hasn't it been a lovely spring, and hasn't everything grown! The churchyards are designed as Nature Conservation Areas which means we have to be gentle with our gardening at any time so this is the year of the bug, the beetle, the caterpillar and the bee. They must be very grateful to be left alone. But nature needs a helping hand from time to time and we were glad to get back to work - to do some weeding, pruning, sweeping and watering (and it rained as it often does when we plan a gardening morning). Not that the graveyard's been entirely neglected: wer'e grateful to the work Jeremy has done clearing a way for the Infant School returnees to get to their classrooms, to Camden for cutting the paths so they could see where they're going, and to Andrew and Joe for clearing the gutters on the Columbarium - not a nice job. I still remember holding the ladder while the then vicar, Philip Buckler, scraped maggots and beetles out of the drain onto my head. Some memories just don't fade.
Brown finished his poem
"Not God? In gardens? When the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
"Tis very sure God walks in mine."
Monday 1st June 2020
It has been sad to see the Church closed as I walk my dog every morning. I so enjoyed doing the flowers at sunrise on Easter morning with Kim and Adrian from Hampstead Players ( we met in the Tesco queue ) -So Pentecost was another opportunity to decorate the outside of the church and show that although the doors were locked the people were still there.
Jayne Gill and I, aided by Sheena, gathered flowers and grasses from the graveyard and wove red ribbon around the railings. We thought grasses were good for wind. Sheena did the Holy Spirit bouquet at the top of gate!
We had lots of fabulous conversations while doing it . Somebody asked if it was for a wedding , Jayne asked "why were they planning one? "Girl ( I now know to be Hannah ) said "he hasn't asked me yet". They then sat for 3 hours by the vestry steps. Then Mohammed (the chap) asked her and she said " yes!" He took great joy in telling us ... So maybe we will decorate the railings for their wedding too!
Then a young family came by and asked what we were doing I explained Pentecost as best I could and mentioned speaking in tongues-I asked if they spoke any other language - they were Iranian.- so I asked whether they would write a poem in Farsi and tie it to railing. The children said they would love too.
Then a Jewish family chatted about Shavuot and a festival of flowers. So all in all we were well nourished in the human spirit.
Aided by Sheena's wine and Erika and a Maurits delicious chocolate ginger biscuits we were having lots of fun until way after dark.
On Sunday 31st May at 10.30 am we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost like we have never celebrated it before. About 120 members of the congregation got together on Zoom. The screen was a sea of red outfits. Ayla led the service, Jeremy played his guitar while we all sang 'Shine Jesus Shine'. John Willmer who celebrated his 90th birthday the day before did a moving New Testament reading. Junior Church, in wonderful homemade flame headbands, creative 'pentecostumes' and colourful streamers, told the story of Pentecost, led by Maureen. That was just the beginning! We had dancing, waving and bubbles, a lovely sermon and more music. We sang the glorious hymn 'Come down O Love Divine', the Junior Choir sang a beautiful 'Alleluia' chorus and we saw the choir on our screens singing a heavenly Thomas Tallis anthem. Technology can be a wonderful thing! It truly was a joyeous celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit
Sunday 31st May 2020
The Gardners and others sang Happy Birthday to John from across the road. A huge thank you from John to the Gardners for making a splendid banner. In addition to those in the photo passing folk and cars joined in.
Following on from the Lent groups studying the Eucharist we decided to continue our meetings on Saturday mornings in order to study other books. Currently we are looking at That all shall be saved by David Bentley Hart, a Christian writer of the eastern orthodox persuasion. He goes through in detail the arguments for universal salvation and how a god of love could not condemn people to an eternal hell. He writes in a rather self-opinionated and pretentious style, but after struggling through that we have all learned a great deal from it and it has certainly challenged opinions we have held, often deriving from our diverse Christian pasts. About a dozen people take part and you do not have to be super intellectual. You are free to contribute to the discussion or not as you feel led. So far the sessions have been expertly led by Ayla. We are nearly at the end of our current book and are discussing what we shall do next. I for one have found the sessions valuable and it has given me opportunity to get to know people better. We should love to have more participants so don't be scared! It is really very enjoyable.
Saturday 30th May 2020
Thursday 28th May 2020
The idea came from Dorothy Welsford who said she missed Kew but it was hard for her to get there. Diana Raymond and Nina Mitchell said they would like to go as well. So on a lovely sunny September day with Sarah Knight, Audrey Stocker and Peter we all went to Kew and afterwards Diana Raymond wrote me a beautiful poem which I came across in 'lockdown sorting'
September 13th, 2005
Leave the shadows behind
Shadows are for a dull day.
Go with the sun on a September morning
Go with the friends who will take you there.
Take you where? Why, to Kew, of course
Wide lakes of grass and the scent of old summers,
This summer dying now, but still alive with colour
Sunflower and cyclamen and the fading splendour of old rose.
Travel by chair - with a close friend behind
The chair rides smoothly as if it had wings
But of course it has no wings, only the faithful friend
Who give you time to 'stand and stare'
To see the long green distances,
Avenues that ride between the tall trees into the mists of the sun.
Into the Palm House where the air is darkened by leaves,
Where the tropic warmth and the moist air
Touch you with a different wonder,
And in the shadow of the jungle trees you find strange constructions
Glass imaginings like a wizard's twisted dream,
Shapes of every colour, strident as the playground of a child.
The day glides on - already it is afternoon
The fountain has turned silver and the water sleek with shadow
Not long before evening when the great spaces will lie empty,
Lotus and water lily bloom unseen,
And the gates will close.
I am not - alas! Andrew Marvell, but will borrow from his Garden:
"Meanwhile the mind from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness...
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade."
Tuesday 26th May 2020
Our pre-lockdown panic buy was chickens. I had wanted chickens in our garden for years, but my husband had always objected. Then, when lockdown became imminent, he mused that if eggs were going to become scarce, perhaps chickens were worth thinking about. That was enough for me and within days we had acquired a coop and run, yards and yards of chicken wire and 4 young hens.
The hens were named by the children -- Marianna, Etheldreda, Wilhelmina and Roasmunde. They seem happy in our garden, especially the more untidy corners where they find slugs and woodlice to feast on. They get very excited when I turn a log over or pick up a flowerpot to reveal hundreds of creepy-crawlies, and a pecking frenzy ensues.
The chickens lay about 20 eggs a week, and because each hen lays different coloured eggs, we know whose egg we are eating for breakfast. They are also wonderfully therapeutic. I have started taking my tea into the garden, and sit and watch as they wander round, and listen to their clucking noises.
The children have set up an Instagram account for the chickens, and they (and more recently I) have posted photos and videos of our chickens pecking round our garden, with some guest appearances by our tortoise, Percy. It turns out that other people like watching our chickens, too. Follow them at @chickpics72
Knowing that I was a stitcher, Sheena forwarded me the Royal Free volunteers' newsletter, in which there was an appeal for volunteers to help with making disposable PPE gowns for doctors and nurses at the Royal Free Hospital.
There was a similar group of volunteers set up by the head of a small Art and Fashion college in or near the Brompton Road. (Thank you to Ursula Clements of U3A in London for this info via their newsletter). The college head had a daughter working as a doctor at the RFH so she put together another group of volunteers, many of whom are students of fashion, in the Town Hall here in NW3. There are 350 volunteers working on this sewing project for the RFH with about 50 at any one time.
There are several teams: one cuts pattern pieces from large sheets of 'hospital drapes' (a fabric which resembles paper towelling bonded to a thin plastic layer); then the stitchers sew together the fronts, backs and sleeves, with another group - of which I am one - finishing the garments by stitching on the neck ties/neck binding and waist ties. Finally, another group inspects and packs them up in boxes, ready for delivery to the hospital.
Currently we are producing about 600 gowns per day, seven days a week. It is quite intense, and I have to keep stopping to exercise my shoulders, but I am glad to put in two shifts a week to help out in this way.
Friday 22nd May 2020
Monday 18th May 2020
This is 'my' grave.
In 2014 when we were researching the graves and memorials of WW1 it was clear from the Camden History Society survey in the 1970s that there was a Naval Chaplain recorded on grave A104 in the ABG. His was listed as Edward Gleadall Uphill (which is what is on the grave) and the grave survey page said that he went down with HMS Aboukir in September 1914. We couldn't find him on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list as Uphill nor could we find the inscription on the grave. This was later found to be buried beneath more than 6 inches of earth. A bit of research on a Chaplains website found that his name was Edward Gleadall Uphill Robson and so his story was found.
Following yesterday's suggestion of a Green Gym we went to clear the grave. I have been tidying it on and off for the last few years. The inscription had been buried again so I've dug down 6 inches.
Before and after shots
More information about Edward Robson here
On Saturday evening, 16 May, an enthusiastic group of junior church families logged onto zoom to join a special children's service based on Daniel in the Lion's Den. Our children's worker, Maureen, led us through the story then taught everyone how to make a really simple and fun lion mask. If you want to watch the story or make a lion puppet watch these two YouTube videos
Maureen tells the story:
Making a lion puppet:
Many children responded in amazingly creative ways to the story of Daniel and the Lions. Here's a couple of beautiful examples!
Ayla explained how the story of Daniel still rings true today- and how we need to have faith even when times are tough. Jeremy led us in song, mixing some old favourites with a great new song based on the story. We finished up with a loud "Amen" after some of the children led us in prayer.
This latest instalment of the zoom children's services was a great hit, and is helping to keep the families involved and engaged in junior church.
Thursday 14th May 2020
These unusual times mean that we must find inventive ways of continuing our normal activities which is why we are now holding our weekly choir sessions on-line using Zoom. Although it cannot replace the joy of singing together in the Choir Vestry, we are nonetheless enjoying singing a few pieces per week from our Community Choir song backlist with Aidan accompanying us on the piano. In addition to singing, each week we have a musical 'book club' where members of the choir are invited to share their favourite pieces of choral music along with the memories they evoke. We welcome anyone who would like to join us on a Thursday evening at 6.30pm. Contact Chris Money via the Vestry and be part of our virtual choir.
The Show must go on!
A month ago, the Church was asked if it could help fund the material required for a team from SewMuchFun to make 36 scrubs for Camden GPs and the Royal Free. Donations came in and the team led by Roz Hunter produced 100 scrubs and matching bags. At the request of Jane Padkin, some bespoke scrubs were made as surprise, surprise not all doctors are the same size.
Lots of happy medics.
Tuesday 12th May 2020
On May 8th, the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, Jon Siddall reached the summit of Everest, or at least the top of his roof by climbing an extended ladder for the 2,500th time! It was a marathon achievement which he started on 4th May and the distance travelled over 5 days equates to reaching the summit of Everest. The start of this idea goes back to July 2018 when Jon registered to run the 2019 London Marathon in support of Alzheimer's Research UK to remember a close friend who had recently lost a long and brave battle with dementia. The following month he was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer which meant instead of starting training for the marathon the start of a different journey.
At the start of April this year, Jon was declared 'cancer free'! His climb was to thank all those who have supported his battle against cancer, to remember those who served in the Second World War and importantly to raise money for charity. Jon decided to focus his fund raising on five charities "beyond the hospital door". Two of the charities provide care to those in need, two support carers, and the other is committed to defeating the enemy that is dementia, thereby lessening the burden on those who endure it and those who care for them.
Jon's initial target was to raise £7,500. By the time he had reached the summit this target was well exceeded. If you would like to know more or support Jon's challenge please contact him.
We are grateful to Philip Wolmuth for allowing us to use his super photographs
The Almasri family are well and happy. At the beginning of April Aseel celebrated her 6th birthday in lockdown. Lucy Dennett cycled over the M&S to buy her a caterpillar birthday cake and some other birthday goodies then cycled over to their flat to leave them at their front door. You can see from the photo that Aseel was clearly pleased with her birthday cake.
The family are lucky that they live just across the road from Coram Fields which is a big open space to walk and play in. Baby Yousef is growing rapidly and Rahaf is very busy looking after him. Here is a recent photo of him with his father Monther and his sister and brother, Aseel and Mohammad.
Keeping up with English
Lockdown means that the adults can't attend their English classes. John Barker is finding creative ways to help Monther keep up with his English during the lockdown, using WhatsApp video.
"I sent Monther a pack of 45 high frequency words. We are using 13 to practise reading. It was too complicated to give him instructions, so I've made my own words to demonstrate what I want him to do and to test him and make little sentences. It's amazing how many sentences you can make with I, see, went, like, you, mum, dad, we, me, she, to ,and, yes. Sometimes I think I can hear someone whispering answers, and I realise Mohammad or Rahaf or Aseel are listening in!
Monther answers the phone I get a cheery 'Ramadan Kareem'. Ramadan is a fruitful topic of conversation. We discuss the date, and how many days until Eid - which he says will be on 24th May. Then the time - and how long till Iftar, when he and Rahaf can break their fast.(it's about 8.40 ) If we get onto favourite food, he will go into the kitchen, where there are always pots on the stove, a salad, a yoghurt dish. Aubergine is his favourite."
Have a look at the other lovely Church Chat below describing how John is doing bedtime stories with Aseel to help her to keep up with her English.
Accessing health and benefits during lockdown
Getting baby Yousef registered with a GP and updating Universal Credit to get Child Benefit for him during lockdown was a bit of a challenge. All the forms are in English and have to be filled in and signed by the Rahaf. Our two interpreters, Lily Garty and Suzy Cartledge were incredibly helpful in sorting this out
Moving on after September
The family will need to move from their current accomodation at the end of September when their tenancy expires. We still haven't been able to find them somewhere suitable to move to. If anyone has any idea please let Sheena know via the vestry. email@example.com
Monday 11th May 2020
8th April - An appeal was made for people to help to make scrubs for local GP's. Sew Much Fun, a local sewing shop, agreed to order fabric and Hampstead Parish Church agreed to pay for the fabric. Sew Much Fun agreed to put sewing kits together. I was anxious to get ahead and I found a free digital pattern to print out.
To make the pattern I hoisted the big roll of pattern paper onto the cutting board on the table, assembled the pattern using masking tape, traced around the lines for the size I wanted with the perforated tracing wheel and cut out on the marks. Some people have snazzy pattern weights to hold things in place. I have a Zimbabwean tortoise and a commemorative plaque for one of my heroes, Jean Moulin. I ordered 25 metres of material said to be suitable.
15th April - My material arrived and I was ready to start
22nd April - SewMuch Fun's kits arrived with sufficient to make 3 kits. I decided to sew in batches. One of the photographs shows three necklines ready to go.
28th April - Four sets with their washable bags were complete and sent to the GP hub
I've got enough fabric for about three more, and I'm told they can be used, so I'm going ahead. This has proved to be a good way to keep positively busy. I'm happy to share my pattern, and method if that would help anyone.
Keeping up with school work is a challenge for lots of families. It is a particular challenge for the Almasris, the Syrian family that HPC supports, because Monther and Rahaf, the aprents of Aseel and Hamoudi, don't speak English. John Barker has been thinking of ways to help the children keep up with their English.
"At 6pm each evening I Whatsapp the Almasri family to give a bedtime story to Aseel, who is 6. Monther greets me with "Ramadan Kareem". I read a new book to Aseel each day, and then she chooses one or 2 favourites to share again. Today she wanted this story in the photo about 3 witches who have turned the king and his family into frogs. Her favourite stories seem to be ones with a bit of action and humour. Last week it was one where a little boy had his tooth knocked out by a swing, which always makes her roar with laughter. Aseel has lost her front tooth so she could identify with him. We end up with a bit of singing -'Old MacDonald' is a favourite -and quite often Aseel makes up her own song based on one of the stories."
Sunday 10th May 2020
I think of this poem when I look out on my garden
'The Kiss of Sun for Pardon
The song of the Birds for Mirth
You are nearer to God in a Garden
Than anywhere else on earth.'
Friday 8th May 2020
National plans for the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 2020 have had to be scaled down due to the global Pandemic of Corona Virus. Nevertheless, with a forecast of fine sunny weather some are still using the day to mark the remembrance of the end of the Second World War in Europe and especially all those who fought for freedom, and also to pay tribute to all those currently fighting the deadly virus on the front line. Inevitably comparisons have been made between the two, but a marked difference is the requirement at present to 'socially distance' and 'stay at home'.
I thought it would be interesting to collect the memories of some our senior members of our congregation at HPC. It seems that for those under the age of 10 at the time, who lived outside London, the event almost passed them by. Sheila Christie Murray, away at boarding school in Worthing, remembers little. Her older brother Martin was sent home from his boarding school and he remembers going into London on his own. He says he had never seen so many people in one place before; it was fantastic. He was literally swept off his feet and carried along by the crowd.
Derek Bunn remembers VE Day as a happening, but with no clear picture of what he was doing. He lived in a village 7 miles from his school in Wisbech. Jenny Bunn was 8 years old, and remembers a street party, with tables down the road and bunting.
Jean Hathorn recalls: On VE Day we were staying in Beaconsfield. I was 11 years old. I recall there was a wonderful feeling of relief and jubilation, knowing that there would be no more nights spent in air-raid shelters and we would be finally returning to our London home in Weymouth Street after such a long absence. There were church bells ringing and the skies were illuminated with exploding fireworks.'
Roger Corley was twelve by VE Day and living in Hull. He remembers the day as 'a day of sombre relief rather than a day of jubilation. In the evening people gathered in the central Queen's Gardens. My brother, then sixteen, persuaded my parents that the three of us could join in and, disappointed that fireworks were not available, decided to take and let off a firework of his own making. I think it was a rocket which he stuck in the ground. Luckily, no-one was hurt when it exploded, but the next morning we went to inspect the crater in the grass - from unreliable memory I would say it was inches deep and about a foot across!" Fireworks were clearly popular; Leon Rathbone recalls that he was living just outside Preston on VE Day, aged 15. 'There was a large field at the bottom of our garden and lots of people gathered around a bonfire there. People brought fireworks that they put in a box, but a sparkler fell into it and the whole lot went off at once! The rockets were flying horizontally into the crowd and a few people were injured as a result!
Patrick Garland was 15 rising 16 on VE Day and living in a small Norfolk village. 'My school extended the Easter holidays, so I was at home. Father was away in the Army. We had suffered from V1 flying bombs and the V2 rockets (a neighbouring farmer was blown across a field by one) which you couldn't hear coming until after they had arrived), so the relief was enormous. We rang the church bells, had a huge impromptu bonfire, left the lights on (no blackout), fired guns in the air and let off ex Home Guard Thunder-flashes. There was a tinge of not going OTT as the war in the Far East was far from over and one battalion of the Royal Norfolks had been taken prisoner in Singapore. Then it was back to school and even stricter rationing as the Allies had to feed a starving Europe.'
Marguerite Morton and her parents were also living in Norfolk at the time. She says: I don't have any memories of VE Day but I think it must have had a great impact on my parents as many friends were in the East Anglian regiment, captured in Singapore, so, for them the war was not over.
My father was a farmer, and much of the land he farmed was requisitioned for an American aerodrome until May 1945. They got to know many of the men well. My parents hardly slept on the nights the Hurricanes went out on bombing missions - they listened for the sound of the aircraft coming home - often they could hear the aeroplanes limping home on one engine; they prayed they would make it, but I know one crashed when very nearly home. Many did not get back across the Channel.'
John Willmer was away at school at Winchester College, aged just short of fifteen. 'My recollection is that the housemaster came into breakfast (a meal which he usually took in his own part of the house) and told us that Germany had surrendered, so it was now peace in Europe (although the war against Japan continued in the Far East). Consequently, the Headmaster had decided that the day should be a special leave out day'. John decided, over ambitiously, to go off on a bike ride to see Corfe Castle. He never made it but did have a lovely day out!
Peter Loyd was a 22 yr old Captain in the Royal Marines on VE Day and Adjutant of 42 Commando. He was living in the State of Belgaum, India, where his unit was training to fight in the jungle. 'We had news from the other side of the world of VE Day, but the war continued where we were.'
Some folk were living abroad at the time. Pamela Lloyd-Hart has a memory of her father Evan on the day putting an enormous Union Jack on the front of their house in Cape Town. She learnt only later that the flag was a political statement as well as a mark of celebration. Evan could not associate what he perceived as an Afrikaner emblem with the triumph of VE day, and opted for the Union Jack; this despite the fact that dissident Afrikaners under Jan Smuts procured the overthrow of Herzog in 1939 and brought South Africa into the war.
Monique Parsons was living with her mother and sister in St Germaine-en-Laye, in occupied France. They heard on the radio that the Americans were on their way to liberate Paris. St Germaine-en-Laye was set on a hill, and Monique rode out to a vantage point on her bicycle to see the first tanks rolling towards the city. 'The Americans were throwing chocolate and chewing gum out of the tanks to us. I then biked back home and my mother had hung flags out.'
Meg Weston-Smith was evacuated to America for five years. 'On 8 May 1945 I was in California, aged 12. On the West coast all eyes were on the war in the Pacific, and Europe seemed remote. I went to a school largely attended by children of scientists at the California Institute of Technology. My American host was an astronomer and friendly with Walter Baade, another astronomer, who was put under restrictions because he was German. I recall sympathy for him. They were wonderful years.'
Sheila Broadway, and her brother and sister were also evacuated across the Atlantic to Canada during the war. 'We came back to our parents just before the end of the war - I remember doodlebugs - and I also remember an enormous bonfire and loads of people getting together on VE Day. I was 10 at the time'.
David Gardner's mother Pat, recently deceased, was out in South Africa having left Belsize Park in 1940 to join her mother out there. She joined the South African Army and became a 'Waasie', stationed in Durban, that is a member of the Women's Auxiliary Army Services. By the time VE Day came round she was 21 and romantically involved with a South Africa pilot, David Gardner (Senior) and the rest, as they say, is history…
Back in London, Bill Risebero was living in Enfield, aged 6 on VE Day. 'The crowds in the Mall after Mr Churchill's broadcast rather passed me by. I can just about remember my parents' relief at the news, and them hanging a Union Jack from our window. I had lived all my conscious life through the War, so air raids and explosions were 'normal' to me, and I don't think the concept of peace meant a lot. I do however remember the VE Day Celebrations in June the following year and seeing the King and Queen and the two princesses in procession through London. That left a big impression.
For Anne Stevens, then aged 2½, VE Day is her earliest memory. She remembers standing with her twin on a balcony at their home in in Notting Hill Gate watching the RAF flypast and wearing a hair ribbon in a braided red white and blue pattern! 'And then the union flags on the lampposts in the Mall when we were taken to see the decorations a few days later'.
On VE Day Charles Perrin was 5 and living with his parents in a flat at 20B Ellerdale Road, Hampstead. He doesn't remember VE Day, but like Bill does remember the Victory Parade a year later on 8th June 1946. His father, who was a significant figure in the war effort, had been given tickets for a stand to watch the parade. His mother had prepared a picnic lunch which in the excitement to get to the parade they forgot to take!
He remembers the bombing and being pushed under the kitchen table when there was an air raid. On one occasion a bomb dropped so close to the house that their windows were blown in. He also remembers a trip to London Zoo when an air raid started and people diving into the London Zoo tunnel which goes under the road.
Charles' father kept a diary in which there is an entry which shows that at 8pm he visited 'the Parish Church'. Charles is reasonably confident that this reference would have been to Hampstead Parish Church, so it would seem a service was held in church that evening. For more information on Charles' father, buried in the Additional Burial Ground see http://tombwithaview.org.uk/abg-people/michael-perrin/
According to the Westminster Abbey website on VE day they held services of thanksgiving every hour from 9.00 am to 10.00pm. See https://www.westminster-abbey.org/media/4109/ve-day-1945.pdf. The main service seems to have been at 3.00 pm when the Lord Chancellor and House of Lords attended.
A few have no memory of the day, among them Jenny MacDonald Hay, Stephen Clarke, Derek Bunn, John and Angela Read who were all living away from London. Space prevents further elaboration, but if you want to know more, then do ask contributors when we are next able to be together again in our beloved Church.
Thank you to everyone - I have found it fascinating listening to your stories. In the meanwhile, stay safe everyone - 'I know we'll meet again some sunny day'.
Wednesday 6th May 2020
I bought these 2 orange Kalanchoes last September for my Harvest Festival arrangement and as there was nowhere for them in church afterwards - they looked silly on their own - I brought them home. So something of that lovely time is still blossoming, where in a sense the church remains open!.
Tuesday 5th May 2020
On Saturday 2 May, at 6.30 pm, 37 junior church children from 13 different households gathered together for a special children's service on Zoom. The theme was Noah- a fantastic way to weave into the service the images of rainbows that are currently festooning so many windows, as well as God's promise that he will always help us through adversity.
In advance of the service, the children were asked to collect together a "few animals". Judging by the evidence on zoom, most people had taken this task very seriously indeed:
The service started in an atmosphere of great excitement. Many of the children hadn't seen each other since the start of the lockdown, or since the Junior Church Passion Play on zoom on Palm Sunday. Lots of children were in costume or animal masks, or were surrounded by toys.
Once the hubbub calmed down a bit, Jeremy guided us through the story of Noah and some prayers, and led the singing of some of junior church's favourite songs. The service had been devised by Maureen (our children's worker), who was wearing an animal headdress. The story of Noah was read out by children from several families, and children also wrote and led the prayer.
Although all the families were physically apart, there was a real sense of togetherness and community. The experience was exhilarating and uplifting. Miranda (age 8) said it was "awesome". Benedict (age 7) described it as "amazing". The only trouble was persuading the children down from their high, and into bed, after the service ended.
Junior church plan to meet again in this way in a few weeks' time, and the children continue to light candles and display them in their windows as a sign of hope at 8pm every Sunday.
Friday 1st May 2020
The Junior Church have been making cards for the residents of Spring Grove to cheer them up during lockdown. Every child was given the name of a resident so that the card would be personal and when they had finished the cards were posted or dropped off at Spring Grove. Every resident received a card. Here are some of the really beautiful cards that were made
Thursday 30th April 2020
Wednesday 29th April 2020
Tuesday is food distribution day at the Caris Haringey Food Bank. The photo was taken on a very wet Tuesday. It is an unrecognisable Jane Young, the office manager, protecting herself against both the rain and the virus with her creative homemade PPE.
We are pleased to be able to support Caris Haringey. They support the most vulnerable people, like those living in temporary accomodation or people who have been given the right to stay but no right to access benefits. They regular provide a full weeks food and essential toiletries to 35 families, plus they deliver to families who aren't able to get out because they are isolating or have other health problems
My ceonothus Cynthia Postan, my pride and joy.
Monday 27th April 2020
Health trusts have been asking volunteers to make uniform bags for staff. Chris Weatherhead and a group of 8 friends have been making bags for the North and East London hospitals which include the Royal Free, Whittington, North Middlesex and UCLH hospitals.
What are the bags used for?
The uniforms are keyworkers are potentially contaminated with coronavirus. Having a bag means that at the end of a shift they can change their clothes and put all their work clothes into a bag to take home to wash. This reduces the danger of infection to their families
What sort of fabric is used?
A patterned fabric (so staff can easily identify their bag), that is a close weave, robust and washable at 60 degrees C. If you would like to help make bags but don't have any suitable fabric, fabric can be provided.
This photo shows Chris with some of the bags. So far the group have made 62 bags!
If you want more details of how to make the bags, or need fabric, or to deliver bags please contact Chris via the office firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as providing food for food parcels, the staff at Age UK have asked for cakes to share with residents who come down to see them wanting a bit of reassurance and a cuppa. If this is something you can help with, please do. Donations of cakes and biscuits can be left at the entrance to Henderson Court on Prince Arthur Road anytime during the week 9.00 - 5.00. Here's Brian, one of the residents, enjoying his cake!
Judy East has been making Twiddlemuffs for dementia patients at the Royal Free after receiving a request from Jane Padkin, a physiotherapist at the hospital. What is a twiddlemuff? It is a woollen tube with buttons and ribbons attached. Patients can put their hands into it and twiddle with the buttons and things. They are especially needed now because patients aren't getting visitors. The photo shows what they look like and how to make one. Judy has been making them for years and says they are good for using up odds and ends of wool - the brighter the better. Because you can't go up to the wards at the moment Judy delivered hers to the A&E department labelled 'twiddlemuffs' and they found they way to the ward where Jane said they were gratefully received. Why not make one for someone you know who might like one
Monday 20th April 2020
Members of our congregation are involved in so many ways in providing medical support, either through the NHS, or other organisations, both in the UK or abroad. One family deeply involved is the Bunn Family. Derek and Jenny's eldest son James is in Sierra Leone, working for WHO, and his wife Mary is a palliative care doctor. Matt is a GP in Hemel Hempstead, and Alex is Lead GP at Wandsworth Prison. He is also working 3 days a week at the Nightingale Hospital. Sophie is their eldest granddaughter, qualified last summer, and is working on a respiratory ward at Coventry Hospital.
Jenny said 'We feel very blessed to have a family working in the caring professions, especially James and Mary, who have a very uncomfortable and difficult life, but like Alex , look upon it as part of their Christian commitment.
is a worrying time for us all, but we are looking forward to the rainbow , as a sign that all is well with the world again'. This is a photo of Derek and Jenny's front door covered in spring blossom which they see as a sign of hope.
Just before Easter a call came in to HPC from Jess Mather, a GP and member of the congregation to say that scrubs were urgently needed for Camden GPs who are working in a COVID Hub, for face to face meetings with patients. Was there anyone in the congregation who could set to with a sewing machine? Only a day later, four congregation members had been enrolled into the project to make 50 sets of scrubs, spearheaded by Sew Much Fun, of Primrose Hill, where one member attends sewing lessons. The plan is to make up packs complete with fabric, thread and elastic, in a bag which can be used for laundering, and to distribute them this week for making up. Hampstead Parish Church has been happy to fund the project, so it's all systems go! Here is a photo of Jess and a colleague outside the Camden Covid Response Unit which launched last week. Jess is wearing scrubs made up by one member of the congregation ahead of the game. The other photo is Jane Hinde another member of the congregation at her sewing machine making scrubs.
GPs can also do home visits if necessary, but it is a very controlled procedure, so Jess practiced by visiting her husband Tarun at home!
Thanks to all concerned - a fabulous effort, and prayers for protection for the GPs and support staff working to keep us all safe and well.
Sunday 19th April 2020
My 4 tulips with 4 more about to open were all bought at church last year and I look out at them many times every day; although they are so few, they have brought me much joy.
Saturday 18th April 2020
Thursday 16th April 2020
In the parish office at Hampstead Parish Church, there are usually some delicious baked goods around. Doughnut Thursdays became a delicious fixture in the church calendar. We may not be able to share doughnuts together, but here's a fantastic recipe. Made some at home today. So good.
Sunday 12th April 2020
Saturday 4th April 2020
As Holy Week begins, we are not where we should be. We should be in processions waving palms, we should be gathering for the Eucharist, we should be together. We are not. But physical distance cannot separate us from one another in spirit and in love, and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.
No matter where you are, or how you're feeling, there is a chance across these days to build up the Body of Christ by placing all we are into God's hands. By reaching out to each other and making best use of the communication tools we've got. Our shared ministry, lay and ordained, is interwoven with YouTube clips, Zoom passwords, online Passion plays, Communion celebrated quietly at kitchen tables and in the corners of our homes. We yearn for togetherness and we know we're together no matter what. It is not oppression or violence, anything like what Jesus and his first followers had to endure, that keeps us from gathering. It is the need to preserve life, and not to destroy it or threaten it, that is keeping us all physically apart. It is right not to gather. It is wrong not to gather. We have to hold both in tension as best we can, walking the way of the cross within the familiar yet strange environments of our own homes. Wave your palms, listen to the Passion Gospel, ask for God's grace to be poured out into your hearts. You will find God waiting for you there.
Here are the medieval words of Hadewijch of Antwerp:
You who want knowledge,
seek the Oneness
There you will find
the clear mirror
During the Palm Sunday service, our soprano Christine Buras and our alto Jess Dandy sang music and words by another medieval theologian and composer Hildgedard of Bingen. Here is one of the responsories, which began our Palm Sunday service:
O bloody red, that flowed from up the height
divinity has touched: a bloom you are
that winter with the serpent's blast
has never marred.
Tuesday 31st March 2020
"I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope
Saturday 28th March 2020
Two very exciting things have happened today in the online life of Hampstead Parish Church. This morning we had our first Lent Group meeting since lockdown. It was on Zoom, and being able to see and hear each other was a real joy. The topic for this Lent is the Eucharist, and so, painful as it is that we can't gather for Communion, we stuck with it. The yearning for the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar is profoundly deep. The sense of being the Body of Christ together, yet dispersed, is deeply evident too. There will be another session next Saturday at 11am and everyone is welcome. This image, from the earliest days of the church, struck a chord with us:
'As this broken bread once scattered over the mountains has been gathered together to make a single loaf, so Lord gather your church together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.'
The second exciting thing is a YouTube video of our choir singing an achingly beautiful Lenten anthem by William Byrd, Afflicti pro peccatis nostris. Byrd's composition, using text from Isaiah, is rooted in the traditions of the medieval Sarum rite, bridging the centuries and bringing his own time of precarity and vulnerability near to our own this Passiontide. This is another way of being connected through hearing one another's voices, and this recording is to be treasured in a unique way because we are currently prevented from worship in which choral music infuses our Eucharistic liturgy.
In these days there is also new longing in the idea of simply popping round to someone's home for a cup of tea, shaking hands, embracing someone, or being together in ways that are not just familiar but truly necessary for comfort and for empathy. We can resist, knowing it's essential to refrain, but we hope it's not for long. This is certainly what's expressed in this drawing by Charlie Mackesy, 'One Day'.
Hampstead Parish Church's Be Drawn project, led by John-Paul Flintoff, has brought life into inboxes too in recent days. You can sign up for daily Be Drawn emails, revealing one of his portraits alongside Sheena Ginnings' photographs of the process underway. These portraits were meant to be exhibited in church from Passion Sunday onwards; we'll have an online exhibition instead in the coming days. Here's is the one he made of Aidan and the Junior Choir rehearsing. None of us had any idea, only two weeks ago, that this would be their last rehearsal and their last service in church for a long time.
As the Covid-19 crisis continues to keep us physically distant, as we stay home to save lives and support the NHS, we can light candles in windows, watch and pray, and connect with each other as best we can. There is new poignancy to the prayer often used in Compline,
'Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, sustain the dying, calm the suffering, and pity the distressed; all for your love's sake, O Christ our Redeemer.' Let us be sure that no matter what tomorrow or the day after tomorrow will bring, the God of love sustains us all.
Thursday 26th March 2020
Saturday 21st March 2020
The Sacred Space app offers a daily reflection on a Bible passage which opens and closes with short prayers. Their prayer for today includes this focus on freedom:
In all these ways we can grow closer to God and participate in a community founded on Christ's love. As we look towards Mothering Sunday tomorrow, and walk the path of preparation and peace this Lent, we ask God to 'strengthen us in our daily living' in the Collect for Sunday 22 March:
Wednesday 18th March 2020
Events have moved so rapidly this week that it will soon be hard to remember what a normal Sunday looks like. Denied the opportunity to gather together, what will we miss? I have often said that my favourite place to be is at the altar, looking at a church with established members and some new faces, coming to celebrate Communion together. This Sunday the clergy will celebrate Communion on everybody's behalf, but on our own. The pews will be virtually occupied, but I will miss seeing and hearing and greeting you all. The physical makes it real.
We will learn all sorts of ways of making our community real in other ways in these next days and weeks. Our Mission Action Plan from 2018 talks about being creative with video and audio technology, in order to communicate more widely. We have the most powerful stimulus to do that now, and apps have been downloaded, and live streaming experimented with. We will speak to each other by phone, on Facetime, WhatsApp, and Zoom. We will share words and images by email, and by actual letter. We will check up on each other more, and value or conversations all the more deeply because we are looking out for each other.
And we will demonstrate community by finding out each other's needs and meeting them, by approaching those we don't know who live around us and checking they are OK, by being proactive in calling and texting and writing, but offering a cheery word and a profound prayer. What we will miss by not gathering together we will make real in new ways. I pray that we will discover what it is to be the church without walls, so that we will grow closer together and grow stronger in acts of service despite, even because of, our being apart.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians:
"Always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5. 15 - 18)
Know that you are prayed for. May God bless you, as you bring that blessing to others in word and action in these difficult days.