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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 email@example.com
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.'
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
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.
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
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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.