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From Past to Future

Standing between Past and Future - Changing Times 

2010 was a significant year for this church as we celebrated the first major landmark in its history -

29th april 2010
the Golden Jubilee of its Dedication in 1960. There were dangers in such a celebration! It was all too tempting to make this an opportunity for nostalgia, just looking back to the 'glory days' of the genesis of this building. After all, all we have is the past 50 years so it would seem justifiable just to focus on that. However, the radical modernity of that genesis meant that, while honouring the past, we felt we could not just leave it at looking back. This is not a church known for doing things the easy way!

 Thus we had two celebrations! On Thursday 29th April 2010 we completed the first 50 years of the  church's history and that was a very appropriate occasion on which to give thanks for all that has been. There was a major celebration led by the significant presence of the Bishop of London and people from every area of our life were present, including friends who had known the church in earlier times and some who had been there at the Dedication in 1960.

There was much to celebrate and a time in which to honour the faithfulness of those who had
29th april 2010
Foundation Stone
carried the torch of faith through that half-century. Two years earlier, on 20th December 2008, we had celebrated the laying of the Foundation Stone and 50 years to the very day and minute we went out of the church and re-dedicated that same Stone with people present who had been there on that day. On 30th October of that same year we had celebrated the dedication of the first St. Paul's, Bow Common and the creation of our present parish. For 150 years that torch of faith has been passed on which we now bear up, for its light to be seen and to be a source of hope for others. It was a great occasion and closed our first half-century in a very appropriate way. You can visit some images of that day on this link in our Photos collection.
dedication candle
1860 The first church

On the Anniversary date, Friday 30th April 2010, we had a much more personal celebration for the congregation. We live at a time in which, as well as having a few people still in our midst people present at the Dedication of the Church, we also have, in our young people, a generation which, with others yet to come, who may well be here for the Centenary Celebrations in their 60's, God-willing (on Saturday 30th April 2060!). Sunday be Sunday we therefore have people worshipping together, who span the whole first century of this church's life!

As our oldest members have enriched us with their faithful service and witness for more than half a century, so our younger church members are those who will take up the torch of faith and witness and hand it on to those not yet born. It was important, therefore, having turned to the past, to turn also to the future, represented by our young people. Instead of yet more words from the Vicar (the present Incumbent and successor to Fr. Kirkby since 1995, Prebendary Duncan Ross, led the celebrations) we handed over to our young people. They shared with us their vision and hope for the future and for the church which one day would receive their own leadership and ministry. It was inspirational!

A few weeks later these same young people led a celebration in the Sunday morning Eucharist of our senior church members. They had already spent time interviewing them and they
30th april 2010
shared with us the stories of our older church members and presented each of them with a 'This Is Your Life' style album! When 2060 comes and many of us today are promoted to glory, these young folk will be witnessing to people who were there when they were children, not as misty old memories but as real people with real stories. They will not just know about - but will have known and discovered - those who were there at the Dedication a whole century earlier! We are immensely grateful to Carly and Safia for their inspirational ministry and leadership with our young people.

In the rest of the service we revisited the ceremonies of that night in 1960 of Dedication and
lighting Dedication wall candles. But this time, as well as sprinkling the church walls with holy water as the Bishop of London did 50 years earlier, we also re-dedicated ourselves to Christ's service as his Body in this place. Each of the 12 new Dedication candles acknowledged the present
dedication candle
A Dedication Candle is lit
ministry of our faithful church members with a small dedication panel placed under each candle which was lit by that church member, representing all of us. Thus we honoured our youngest and oldest church members, our two churchwardens, representatives of our Sunday School and of our Young People's Group. The ministries were honoured of those who have served us long and faithfully in this church - at the altar, as Sacristan, as Lay Reader, as the faithful carer of our bodies in making refreshments for countless years, in opening our doors every Tuesday for the community to be served in our weekly Sale. Amazingly, the girl who lit all the candles on the Dedication night was here now as a woman, to light one of the candles again and have it dedicated to her! The strength of any church is its faithful people and in this very special celebration the past, present and future were all acknowledged and offered to God. Again, images of that night can be viewed on this link to our Photos section.

But what does all of this have to do with our remarkable building? Was this perhaps exactly what it was trying to avoid becoming - an act of cosy nostalgia? We hope not. What we were trying to acknowledge was that the world of 1960 is so very different to the world of 2010 in ways which could never have been conceived of 50 years ago. We cannot begin to imagine what the world and community will be like around here in 2060. But as with every church building, what witnesses throughout all these times and changes is the building itself.

It was the perhaps unwitting genius of Maguire, Murray and Kirkby that what they envisioned and created in 1960 has proved to be an extraordinary gift in our mission and ministry in such hugely different times 50 years later. Most churches are far more beautiful or ornate and suit so well the purpose for which they were built, as does ours - a superb and flexible space for worship, as you can see on other pages in this section. But in 1960 - and before - the relationship between the church and community were very different to what they are now. In those days, churches were there very specifically for one purpose, that of worship. Other things were done in other places.

Well before 1960 the question had begun to surface, and to be addressed in very different ways, of whether and how a church building might serve its community with a variety of uses beyond that of worship. One solution, for instance, was to draw screens across and hide the altar and create separate church and community spaces under the one roof.

dedication candle
1960 Model of the Church
But at St. Paul's, Bow Common this agenda was not at all a part of the equation. Maguire and Murray were invited into the very 'alternative' life of a congregation which had been bombed out of its church and was now worshipping in a church hall. Under their radical and far-seeing Vicar, there was the freedom to experiment, without the constraint or conditioning of a church building.  The spirit was honoured and Maguire and Murray consulted with them throughout the design process, bringing models of what they were proposing, for comment and revision. Fr. Kirkby, to all of us who knew him, was quite sure about his vision and what he wanted and there are major elements in the building as we have it, in which he prevailed over the wishes of the Architect and Designer! But, even so, this was not the usual way in which architects worked and it is very likely that this process had seeds within it of the flexibility and appropriatness to other purposes which we were to discover from 1998 onwards.

The story continues in the next section .. Inclusive Space.

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