Living life to the full through knowing Jesus

Over the past few weeks, the Bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin has led the LIveLife Lent Mission into West London’s Church of England Secondary Schools. Rachel Burnell writes about her involvement…

We were joined by a team of youth workers and clergy who were assigned to go into the schools and share the gospel message of John 10:10 on living life to the full through knowing Jesus. This required a huge amount of organisation by the wonderful Mary Kok, the Kensington Area’s Youth and Schools chaplain, who timetabled us to go into lessons, hold assemblies or run the prayer space.

I spent a week at the Green School and thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the girls in a number of ways. On my first day I taught an RE lesson on Happiness and how we can only truly find this through knowing God and through serving others. I also joined in with lessons such as English, Maths and PSHE where the young people were encouraged to consider how they are so precious to God and how He wants us all to find fullness of life because of this.

This last week I also had the opportunity of working with sixth formers at Bishop Wand and discussing how they could find space to reflect and slow down, as well as hearing them put some challenging questions to Bishop Graham and other members of the team during a Q&A panel. My favourite thing I took away from the experience, however, was the chapel prayer space where we had a chance to read the worries young people have (which they shared as written prayers) as well as a deep desire from many of them to find out more about God. Many of the girls at The Green School said that the ‘Be Still’ corner was a welcome escape from usual busy, noisy school life. As a result of this I’ve been inspired to create a similar corner at the back of St. John’s for people to utilise over the Easter weekend and to be able to use their senses to pray in a variety of ways.

Rachel Burnell is our Youth and Children’s Team Leader. Please visit the prayer space corner she has prepared at St John’s if you get a chance. For more details of the Bishop’s Live Life Lent Mission please visit

To be a Pilgrim!

Several members of St John’s with St Mary’s went up to Nottingham to see Tom Gillum, our previous vicar, installed as vicar of St Mary’s, Pavement in Nottingham. Dave Maclure writes…

On Sunday 18th March at 4pm, we joined a large crowd in a vast church (basically, a cathedral!) in the Lace Market area of central Nottingham to see Tom installed as vicar. A robed, processing choir sang beautiful songs in the service and the congregation finished with a rousing rendition of “To be a Pilgrim.”

Tom joins a list of incumbents at the church stretching back to the 11th Century. Robin Hood is rumoured to have once been caught by the Sheriff while trying to receive mass at St Mary’s. The church is the main civic church in Nottingham and so Tom’s team will host a number of important public events such as Remembrance Day services, schools events or significant funerals etc. The church is also close to the student quarter, and Tom hopes the church’s ministry can open up in creative ways to young people in the city.

After the service and the plentiful supplies of tea and cake, some of us were able to see Tom and Jo’s new home not far from the church. There they generously hosted us for a supper and plenty of great time catching up.

Getting back to London did not prove to be so much fun for some of us. Due to the snowy weather, some had been unable to travel to Nottingham at all. Those of us who made it up found ourselves competing in a “slow race” home back to London. Gareth and Nicole Hanekom sensibly stayed the night in Nottingham and came back by coach the next day. David and Rachel Michael got stuck on a train for an hour and missed their connection, arriving at their destination in the early hours of Monday morning. I, in my car, along with Mary Manthey, Gayle Farrell and Henrietta Manserray had a flat tire (fixed), followed immediately by another on the southbound M1. Once we were off the road on the hard shoulder, the car’s battery promptly died. The ladies were in good spirits, however, with plenty of stories, laughs, wisdom, prayer and even a rendition of “To be a Pilgrim!” to get us through the freezing wait. The roadside rescue got us home for 3.30am. It made for a sleepy, exhausting start to the week – but it was well worth it.

Living with gods?

Hannah Boulton is our church PCC secretary and works at the British Museum. Here she discusses some of the issues raised by a recent exhibition about religious belief.

There is no known culture in the world or in history without religious beliefs. But is there a connection between believing and belonging?  It is a question explored by a current exhibition at the British Museum which looks at – through objects – the practice and expression of religious beliefs in the lives of communities around the world and through time.

Scientists and Archaeologists believe that for the last forty thousand years – for as long as human beings have had the same sort of brain as we do – it seems that groups of people living together have tried to find patterns underlying the natural world on which they depend. All groups appear to come to a shared story, which seeks to explain their community’s place in the world, and to reconcile the transience of an individual life with the enduring existence of the group. They also develop rituals and festivals which reinforce the belief in that story. These shared stories and the rituals together powerfully help us forge a shared identity. They are something that bind us, even if we don’t always acknowledge it. For us as Christians, our faith, our meeting together at church and our prayers are part of this.

The exhibition is full of objects that reference these shared stories or are used in such rituals, from the everyday to the spectacular; from the celebrated Ice Age sculpture of the ‘Lion Man’ to posters relating to Soviet atheism, to an 18th century replica of a Hindu ceremonial chariot and the deeply moving Lampedusa Cross (pictured) – a cross made from pieces of wood recovered from a capsized boat which had been carrying refugees. These objects show that believing and belonging appear, everywhere in the world, as definers of community.

The exhibition runs until 8th April at the British Museum and the accompanying BBC Radio 4 series is still available to download via the BBC website.

Hannah Boulton

Who supplies your wisdom?

In our services throughout Lent we’ve been looking at the “Freedoms of Jesus” – his habits and disciplines that gave him the freedom to love God more and love others better. Last week we looked at the Freedom of Study and Stories. Here are 10 ways we can follow Jesus by turning up the wisdom of the Bible in our own lives… Please contact Dave ( for any more info on any of these.

1 Quiet Time. Some people enjoy spending time alone each day reading the Bible sometimes with reading notes or books to help.

2 Small Groups. Studying with others in an open and accepting environment is perhaps the best way to get to grips with the Bible. We have several Bible study groups at St John’s and St Mary’s – why not consider joining one?

3 Podcasts. While walking the dog, or on your commute, you could listen to some Bible discussion. WordLive, Richard Rohr, Tim Keller sermons, Godpod or even BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the day” are good ones.

4 Audio Bibles. Many people prefer listening to the Bible being read – rather than actually listening to it. Some apps will do this for you, and the website contains audio versions of the Bible in English for free. These can be downloaded as mp3s.

5 Apps. The Bible App will give you a new verse for each day on your phone home screen – a good way to look at just one verse at a time and maybe consider how that verse impacts your life.

6 Query the Bible. Read – and ask questions. Ask the vicar!

7 Read a different version. For example, the “Message” version which is a translation of the Bible in modern, contemporary language.

8 Action Bible. A version of the Bible drawn as a comic strip – illustrated by a Marvel comics artist who converted into the faith. Great for all ages.

9 Online. has many English versions available for free.

10 Come to church and hear the sermons. The sermons are often recorded so if you missed one you can always catch it later.

Florence Baker – 100 Years and still going strong

Florrie Baker has been a regular of St John’s for many years and lives very near the church on St John’s Road. On the 26th February she celebrated her 100th birthday with her family and friends at a small party held in her honour at her home.

Are you from Isleworth, Florrie?

No, I’m not – I’ve “only” been in Isleworth 59 years. I used to live in Waterloo. But since I’ve been here I’ve been involved at the church – I’ve helped welcome people, and with the chalice, the women’s fellowship and fundraising and many other things! We’ve seen a lot of changes at church over the years. I’ve seen quite a few vicars come and go.

What are some of the things you’ve done in life, Florrie?

I left school quite early and trained in dress-making, and did my apprenticeship at Marshall and Snelgrove on Oxford Street. We sometimes had to fix dresses for royalty! I had to stop after I got married – those were the rules back then. During the war, I worked in a factory making shells and military equipment. In the evenings, at 6pm we would have to make our way to the bomb shelter, which for us was under the arches at Waterloo. I have kept my needlework over the years, I’ve always enjoyed that.

My husband served in the war for a while. He lived until he was 98 years old and died just a few years ago. We raised our two daughters, and I have a granddaughter.

Did you get your card from the Queen?

Yes, I did. It was organised through the pension. It says, “I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion.” I also got a letter from Esther McVey the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

What’s your secret to living to a good age and remaining so sharp?

Work hard. I’ve always had things to do and kept myself busy.

Picture above: Florrie with her card from the Queen, and the vicar!