Our life as part of our local community is much aided by our extraordinary Church Building and, since July 2011, by our refurbished Church Hall.
This section tracks just one month in 2011 and how the church was used
19th November 2011 ~ The Church Christmas Bazaar
Our open-hearted, wonderful congregation raises funds and support for others throughout the year. Our sister church of Santa Monica, Maputo, Mozambique is close to our hearts (over £760 was raised in a special collection just before Christmas 2011), as is the Sock Mob, various charities for which church members undertake sponsored walks or runs or climbs. We support Christian Aid and are an official Fairtrade Church through our support for TraidCraft.
Nevertheless this is the 3rd most financially deprived parish in the Diocese of London, and even with a congregation which is as lively and local as ours, we do not have a great number of professional or wealthy members, though most of us give sacrificially. We have to find well over £1200 every single week of the year, which is a lot for our members to find and so, just once every year, we focus on ourselves and raise funds for our own considerable needs through our Annual Christmas Bazaar.
We raise funds for our own needs, for sure, on this one occasion but we also make it an occasion to which the whole community is welcome. Our biggest gift in all of this is our church building which, with a bit of hard labour, transforms itself easily into a very good space for a market-place and bazaar! These are some scenes from this year's Bazaar ....
2nd December 2011 - SPBC Rules OK!
Our church young people are our future. We are especially blessed with a group of normal, lovely young people, many of whom have been coming to church since primary school days or were baptised here and most were Sunday School members. Thanks to two committed and remarkable adults, Safia and Carly, our young people are given opportunities both on Sundays and on one Friday every month to gather together and both have fun and also deal with some serious issues as well as having having a regular spiritual diet. They have chosen a name for themselves - SPBC!
On 2nd December some of them met for their Christmas and End of Year gathering with foods from many different parts of the world and each of the SPBC members making a presentation about what they had been able to discover about different places in the world.
10th December ~ Mendhi Party!
Our parish is situated in an area of majority Muslim faith. In a time of division and growing secularism it is so important for people of faith to be in solidarity with one another and not to leap onto the springboard of myth about one another, but to stand on the firm ground of a shared belief in the One-ness and sovereignty of a God who is all-loving, all-merciful and all-compassionate.
The Incumbent at St. Paul's, who has overseen the wider use of the main church building and now the increased use of the refurbished church hall, grew up in Calcutta in the violent years after the partition of India. As a child he witnessed the horrors of division based on faith, with Hindu set against Moslem and vice versa in that city. He has spent all his life since then in the East End of London where there have been, and are, many who would divide this community along the lines of race or creed. This life experience has created within him a deep commitment to honest friendship, co-operation and dialogue between people of faith. It cannot possibly be the will of God for there to be division and hate between his children and it is certainly nothing that Jesus taught or countenanced.
A feature of Maguire and Murray's amazing building is the great openness and dissimilarity to 'conventional' Gothic buildings. The vast open volume of the Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople, is glimpsed in a modest way in our church. That church, in what is now Istanbul, has since become one of the great mosques of Islam. It could be that echoes of the open, uncluttered form of all mosques make our church a familiar and un-threatening place for our Muslim neighbours.
Since 2008, Muslim neighbours have found the church or church hall to be a great place for holding a Mendhi ceremony. This is a pre-nuptial ceremony in which the females (or males) of the two families meet and bond over the sharing of food and swetmeats and the decoration of the bride's hands with henna in intricate and beautiful patterns. On 10th December we had another such Mendhi party held in the church hall by the friends of a young lady soon to go to Bangladesh to be married there.
In such small ways, through our remarkably flexible and generous building, we are able to extend our friendship and support to our Muslim neighbours.
Good Gym returns! 12th December 2011
We were delighted and grateful to receive a return visit from the 'Good Gym' a couple of days later! This excellent organisation is currently working in Tower Hamlets and pairs up individuals who go to gyms and isolated individuals. They say this in their website ..
'The Good Gym pairs runners with isolated less-mobile people in their area. Runners jog to their house, deliver something nice, have a brief chat and are on their way again.It helps people get fit by providing a good reason to go for a run and it helps the person being visited by providing them with some friendly human contact and a newspaper or piece of fruit. Timing is up to the runner and the person they’re visiting. Usually after work and weekends work best. Runners have to commit to at least one run per week.'
Good Gym runners also offer support to community organisations and helped us deal with an ever growing problem of leaf drop and some weeding and digging that was not going to get done. In July, as you can see below, they came to give a deep clean to our newly refurbished church hall ahead of its formal opening by the Bishop of Stepney (see here.) When a priest is single-handed in a parish, ebven with willing helpers, this support can be a real help and we are grateful to the good runners of the Good Gym!
Leaders in Community Christmas Party! 15th December 2011
Since we refurbished our church hall we have made a lot more friends in the community whom we support now with use of our great new community facilities! One of our major community partners is Leaders in Community (LiC).
On their website they describe themselves ... 'LiC is a youth led voluntary organisation that empowers young people in leadership and governance through creativity. We like to give young people the skills and confidence to achieve things, and have fun doing it.' LiC delivers a wide range of services in the community to people of all ages and in this their first Christmas they wanted to say 'Thank You' to those they had worked with and for.
Again, our church proved to be a great venue for a community event like this with live music, face-painting, Mendhi art, Santa's Grotto and some excellent Indian food! It was a real pleasure to offer our church for this kind of use and to deepen our partnership with LiC and those who use their services.
Christmas draws near! Church Nativity on 18th December 2011
Every year we journey through Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas, and arrive at the final Sunday before Christmas itself. Our Sunday School and SPBC (young people) work hard through Advent to make a final act of preparation on that Sunday morning to point our hearts and minds to what we will be celebrating in a the following days and weeks.
This is just a glimpse of our younger church members leading us in a musical preparation for Christmas!
School Nativity ~ 21st December 2011 ~ Christmas is nearly here!
Our Church School is very much part of our church life and community life.
St. Paul with St. Luke Primary School was founded by our church in Victorian times and after the War moved from across the other side of Burdett Rd. to a new site in Leopold Street, very near to the church. When Duncan Ross came to a much depleted church congregation in 1995 almost all the early growth came from parents with children, either at the school or an admissions list. Many of those parents are very honest now that their only reason for coming to church was to get their child's name on the list of church membership which would secure entrance to the school! However, they found a welcome from those already here and stayed and have since become churchwardens, church officers, faithful church members and one - our Lay Reader - is getting ordained in 2012!
Many of our young people came as pupils at the school and we even have one ex-pupil whose daughter now comes to our church and to her mother's old school! In 2011 just before Christmas the older children (Key Stage 2) presented a school nativity on the last day of the autumn term. The acting Head Teacher at the time (Mr. Ian Jones) and another teacher are to be seen on guitar in the views below!
And finally the Big Day itself - Christmas 2011 !
After a busy month with a lot of use of the church for so many different purposes by a wide variety of the local community, Christmas Day was finally here!
One of the Incumbent, Duncan Ross's, imports from what he did at his previous church in Hackney Wick, is to set the church 'ablaze' at this time of year - and at Easter! In our hi-tech age a simple thing like a candle flame, or even a flame in a hearth, is seldom seen. And yet a simple thing like a living flame can be a very beautiful thing when seen in profusion, especially in such a large volume of space where a familiar place is seen in a new way, when lit just by candle-light.
Features such as the great iron corona which hangs from the roof and marks out the sanctuary of the church disappears in the dark and even in the day can be lost against the background of the brick walls with its black-painted surface. However, simply marking these lines with flames of light can bring that feature alive and form a glorious halo of light around the altar and sanctuary in the dark.
In 2009, with church member and artist-in-residence, Lucy Brennan-Shiel, during Advent, church members created small shapes and patterns during a wonderful art workshop which focused us on the story of the Nativity. Lucy's genius brought this very random group of shapes and patterns into a wonderful frontal for the High Altar - the Child of Light - wrapped in the work of our hands - a blanket or cloak with an echo of the Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt, Bow Common style!
Duncan simply added a 'Shadow of Light' measured out in the the flames of candles which celebrate the Child of Light. At night the view of the church ablaze with light is something we have all enjoyed in the years in which this has been done.
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