A wonderful farewell
The Rector’s last service, on the evening of 19th April, was a fitting and moving occasion. The St Giles Choir, directed by Jonathan (Bunney), surpassed itself, with music from Handel’s Messiah as well as Parry’s ‘I was glad.’ Bill spoke about the church’s calling to give testimony, and of how it is constantly changing and evolving.
We are very grateful to the many people who came to share the evening, and to those who contributed to a gift from St Giles in the form of a silver bowl with gold inlay, made in a workshop not far from St Giles sometime towards the end of the 18th century – all so fitting for someone for whom the historical setting of the church has always been so important.
A specially-commissioned portrait was also unveiled. It shows Bill sitting with real gravitas before a stylised engraving of the west front of the church, with 18th century figures standing outside. In due course we are planning to hang this new painting, with the whole collection of portraits and paintings of former rectors, in the north stairwell of the church so that they can be clearly seen by all.
A word of thanks from Bill
I should like to thank everyone for my marvellous final service at St Giles on 19th April. Most especIally I should like to thank Alan Carr for arranging it, Thomas Hardin and Wil James, for masterminding everything that Alan didn’t do, especially organising the refreshments, and Jonathan Bunney and the choir for the feast of English church music, and the choir as well for providing much of the refreshments.
I am amazed by the generosity of people in contributing to the most unexpected present, with its close association with St Giles and Holborn, and which will be a long-lasting momento of my time at St Giles. Also the evening provided the occasion to unveil Yanko Tihov’s portrait, to join the ranks of portraits of rectors. I think that people thought it catches me, and that it stands well in the succession of portraits of rectors from Sir Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of John Sharp in 1697. I am very grateful to the anonymous donor who paid for it, and to Jill Hutchings for managing the commissioning.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I might be the rector of a rather traditional Central London parish, but I have loved being in such an extraordinary place as St Giles, with its marvellous mix of people. It has been challenging, exciting, and I think has played to many of my strengths, and has not exposed too many of my weaknesses. St Giles, in spite of, or perhaps because of, its rather raffish surroundings, and the area’s history of generations of poverty and deprivation, has felt a holy place, a good place to pray, and to be aware of the presence of God in the complexities of God’s world. I have felt much supported by the quiet prayerfulness of members of the congregations, and impressed by the attentiveness of people to our sermons.
Over the years I have been supported by clergy colleagues who have brought many gifts – Richard Haggis, Julian Davies, and for the past five years, especially Alan. I have also had excellent churchwardens, Peter Whitfield saw me, along with John Metcalfe, and Jill Hutchings has been a tower of strength, and James Dunlop acted as PCC Treasurer as well as churchwarden, and latterly Thomas Hardin and Wil James, with Alan Power as Treasurer. Robin Walker and, for the ten years now, Jonathan Bunney have achieved a very high standard of music as Directors of Music, with the loyal and long-serving Quartet at Sunday morning services, and the ever developing Sunday evening St Giles Choir, which has now also sung in seven cathedrals. I have also been fortunate in being supported for a long time by Mark Hodgin, as Verger, and for the past year by Debbie Westerby, as our Administrator.
I am sad to leave St Giles, but a new Rector will bring new energy and new ideas, and will refresh the vision for mission and ministry at St Giles. As my predecessor, Gordon Taylor, wrote in the Newsletter c 1964, ‘a church that doesn’t change will die’. A lot has happened in the past fifteen years, and I look forward to hearing of much more happening. With many thanks for your generosity. Bill Jacob.
With Bill now ‘gone,’ people naturally ask, ‘Who’s next?’ Please be patient – these things do take a little time (especially where bishops are concerned!) We do at least know that the parish will not have to share the role of rector with that of an archdeacon. Hopefully we may have some news about an appointment in May and we shall, of course, keep everyone informed. In the meantime Thomas (Hardin) and Wil (James), our churchwardens, will assume overall responsibility for the church’s affairs, Debbie (Westerby) will continue to run the office, and I will be here, as before, to lead worship, offer pastoral care and man the barricades.