St Giles Churchyard wins a prize
I NEVER THOUGHT I would write a sentence like that, but it’s true. Following the re-landscaping project in the churchyard in 2013 – a collaboration between ourselves and Camden Council, with a design by Gill Wynne Williams Associates, based in Colchester – the main contractors, Ground Control, from Essex, submitted the scheme to the British Association of Landscape Industries under the Community and Schools Development Award Category for 2015 and were selected. This category is for ‘a scheme built for a school or community area which may contain both hard and/or soft landscape.’ The virtue of our scheme lies in the fact that it was not trying to be innovative or flashy, but properly honoured the historic landscape of the churchyard and restored it to an earlier simplicity, doing away with the 1960’s and 1970’s revisions. The churchyard is now more open and less hemmed in by shrubs or cluttered by flower beds that never had any flowers in them. Our congratulations to all concerned. [Recent work to the north churchyard has been to restore some of the grass and protect it from the heavy use it gets. Another bench is also to be installed, partly to stop cars and vans cutting the corner as they come in.]
She was always only ever just ‘Dalma.’ I’ve never met anyone else with such a name; and if you knew her, you would also know that there really could only be one Dalma! It’s been a couple of years now since she was able to get to church and we have missed her. Now she has died (on the 26th September) and a crematorium service has taken place on 4th September, which family and some close friends attended at Golders Green.
Now there is to be a Memorial Service for Dalma at 1.30pm on Thursday, 5th November at St Giles. She loved singing, so we shall sing for her. All are welcome.
We’ve been having a break from our Friday lunchtime recital season for a year or more now, so we thought we would revive it and see what happens.
The problem has always been attracting a sufficient audience to make it seem worthwhile for the performers. But now Jonathan (Bunney) is drawing up a six week season, to include two organ recitals, the Tredici Choir, possibly a recital by one of the St Giles Quartet and a couple of other instrumentalists. The dates are 23rd and 30th October, and 6th, 13th, 20th (Tredici) and 27th November. Fuller details in due course.
Volunteering at St Giles
OUR PREACHING ON SUNDAY, 18th October explored the theme of vocation and calling. A priest-friend, Felicity Hendry, preached for us in the evening, and I in the morning, reminding everyone that as there is no specific reference to priests in the New Testament we are simply left with the conclusion that ‘all are called’ as the saying goes, and that each and everyone is granted gifts by God to place at the service of his church and others in ways that are true and appropriate for each – to teach, befriend, pray, sing, work and so on. In order to honour and support the time that a great many people give to St Giles, I have recently produced a small booklet which outlines the PCC’s policy towards volunteers and then describes the many roles fulfilled by you all. In due course a copy will be given or sent to everyone who helps in any way. Equally the booklet will be used to encourage people to give of their time and skills for the first time. I also hope it will enable everyone to realise how they are part of a wider collective of people working for the good of the church in the community.
NO ORGANISATION TODAY CAN afford to ignore the importance of safeguarding young children and teenagers in their midst and also the group now coyly referred to as ‘vulnerable adults.’ There are just too many disturbing stories emerging from church circles to allow any of us to take this casually. To this end the Diocese provides training for its clergy and other workers particularly in the field of child protection and also requires that every church adopts a policy for safeguarding and appoints a Safeguarding Officer. At its meeting on the 18th October the PCC appointed Suzanne, my wife, to this role. Suzanne is usually with us on Sunday mornings and has a wide professional experience in the field as a social worker. In addition the PCC re-appointed Jill Hutchings as its Children’s Champion, to look out for any issues which may particularly affect the needs of young children.
A children’s corner
WHICH BRINGS ME TO new initiative I have been led to explore by a local mother (and which the PCC has given me licence to pursue), namely to set up an area (probably somewhere at the west end of the church) where parents and their younger children can spend time together, particularly in the darker, inclement, winter months. There are quite a number of family households in our neighbourhood living in fairly cramped conditions and with no outdoor space of their own. Playgrounds such as ours in the churchyard help, but there is a need for other, set-aside space, in a warm, safe environment, and supplied with some good-quality play equipment. I hope to work on this in the coming time though, as yet, I do not know exactly what it will look like. Please be encouraging!
St Giles in the next 5 and 50 years
THIS IS THE TITLE OF an ambitious development programme that I have recently presented to the PCC: 5 years, because that is probably how long it will take to carry out, and 50 years because that is the period of time we now have in mind to enable St Giles and its ministry to flourish and grow. The programme includes some large-scale renovation projects that have been talked about in past years but which we have yet to engage with, like reroofing the church and re-decorating the church and vestry house, and some new initiatives, such as exploring other uses for the crypt, within the church itself and the creation of a new building in the churchyard to provide space for children and family work. It’s all early days as yet, but we shall be following up on these and other ideas over the winter. In this connection I can also announce that we have recently appointed a new inspecting architect to the church. The diocese has yet to confirm this, but we are hopeful they will and are looking forward to a fresh period of improvement and development.
First Sunday Giving
THANKS ARE DUE to our congregation for their generosity in supporting The Leprosy Mission to the tune of £244.83 in September (coinciding with the Patronal Festival) and The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution for the sum of £307.05 in October (coinciding with Harvest Thanksgiving). November is, liturgically, the month of remembrance, with All Souls and then Remembrance Sunday itself. On the 8th, therefore, (the 2nd Sunday), we shall give out collections once again to The Halo Trust, which works to remove land-mines from former areas of conflict. You support is always appreciated.
Pigeons! Rats! Plague!
RATS HAVE BEEN, AND remain, a major problem in the churchyard. Anyone who has, like myself, stood at the office window and watched the crows pull rubbish from the bins and then families of rats emerge when all is quiet to gather up the scraps will know just what I am talking about. From time to time our churchyard neighbours ask us what we are going to do about it (and I would do the same if I lived next door) but how you stop people leaving half-eaten sandwiches and other food debris lying around is a tough one. One contributing factor are the many pigeons that have long taken a shine to our roof and ledges and in particular one or two local people who, out of a misplaced kindness, throw down food for them which, when left, becomes supper for the rodent community. The pigeons leave food which the rats consume and then fleas hop from the rats onto passing dogs and before you know it Leptospirosis, Tularaemia and other unpronounceable diseases are passed around. Debbie in the office has recently had some success persuading one person to give up feeding our feathered friends. If you ever see anyone you have my permission to speak firmly and robustly to them. We’ve had enough!
Worship in November
I DON’T LIKE NOVEMBER. It just gets darker and darker, colder and damper, and it’s still weeks away from Christmas. ‘The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ turns our minds and hearts backwards and inwards: backwards through memory to those we have ‘lost’ and inwards through conscience to regret for what might have been. Oh well, ‘if you can’t beat them,’ so says the church, ‘then join them.’ We keep All Saints on the morning of Sunday 1st November and then a Requiem for All Souls in the evening, with the setting of Faure’s Requiem with the St Giles Choir accompanied by a string quintet and lots of candles; and in the morning of the following week, the 8th, there is the two minutes’ silence of Remembrance Sunday and, in the evening, a service around the theme of peace. The Revd. David Peebles, Rector of St Georges, Bloomsbury, is our preacher. TWO OTHER THINGS: in September Susan Moore left the St Giles Quartet after singing for us in the morning for a good 10 years. We are so grateful to her for dedicating so much time to our worship and wish her well for the future development of her career. In her place we welcome Fiona; and, from 1st November onwards, there will be some very modest changes introduced to the Sung Eucharist, first mentioned last month.
‘JUST THE WORST TIME of the year / For a journey, and such a long journey.’ I start with an appalling confusion of poetry, with Eliot describing the journey of the Magi, before moving on to my real subject, another poet, Dante Aligheri, born in Florence on 1st June 1265, and now being remembered 750 years later at a weekend conference at The Warburg Institute, a conference which concludes with an evening’s service at St Giles no less (6.30pm on 15th November). And I justify my deliberate confusion by quoting the opening words of the Divina Commedia: ‘Mid-way this way of life we’re bound upon / I found myself in a deep dark wood / Bewildered, and I knew I had lost my way’ in order to make the point that in both cases we begin with the first steps of a journey, and that (in both cases, though with far greater elaboration in Dante’s case) we proceed to unravel the journey of human life which both poets, (though Dante again in more detail), could only properly understand and explore by following the path of salvation through the landscape of scripture.
IN DARK MOMENTS OF my own I fear this vision is disappearing from our culture. For when respected cultural commentators (like Simon Jenkins in The Guardian) can advocate separating the meaning of churches from the practice of faith in order to turn them all into post offices and cafes (which they think serves ‘the community’ better), then I really do think that the barbarians are at the gates and invoke the spirit of Dante from his tomb in Ravenna (I have been there and paid passing homage) to breathe on us again the vivid, life-giving vision of God and humanity, of Christ and salvation, of journeying and arriving, of the progress of all pilgrims through the vale and sinfulness of this life towards something better. Come back, Dante Aligheri, we need you now more than ever, for we have forgotten what it is truly to believe in the darkness of hell and the blessings of heaven.