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.

Prayer morning at Gumley House

Stephen Perry is a regular at St Mary’s. Last Saturday he joined about a dozen people from St John’s and St Mary’s who went to the prayer morning organised by the sisters at Gumley House.

Have you ever been to a Gumley House prayer morning before?

To be honest, I haven’t. I have read a little about Christian meditation, I wanted to find out more. Also, I have lived in this part of London for a while but have never been inside Gumley – and I was curious to have a poke around. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought the Catholic sisters would be wearing habits, but they weren’t! I also thought their chapel would be old-fashioned, but it wasn’t really. It was a nice, spacious room.

Did you find the morning useful?

I did. We focused a bit on Jesus in the wilderness – a story we often think about at the time of lent. I have been studying Genesis for myself and I found it helpful that one of the sisters explained that the story of Adam and Eve shows how humans had to leave God’s presence because badness entered the world, but the story of Jesus shows us God coming out to find us, goodness entering the world.

Was it helpful for you to have some time to pray?

It was a great morning – and a chance to slow down and reflect. The sisters showed us how prayer can be helped by lighting a candle or using music or hymns to provide a focus for prayer. Sometimes silence is the best context for praying. We were guided in these things. I am learning a little and will try them out myself.

Would you recommend the morning to others?

Yes – we were made to feel welcome. I would definitely go back if we did this again. The atmosphere was lovely and relaxed. We felt very supported. The only reminder of the city was the occasional sound of the airplanes.

If you would like to give contemplative prayer a go, please join us at St Mary’s, on Wednesday evenings from 7:45pm throughout lent. 

God is Stranger – by Krish Kandiah

Several people at church have read and enjoyed Krish Kandiah’s book God is Stranger (with a foreword by Archbishop Justin Welby). 
If you’re looking for some spiritual reflection this Lent, this could be a good book for you. It’s available to buy online or from local Christian bookshops, although we would happily lend a copy if people would prefer (just email stjohnsstmarysisleworth@gmail.com).

God is Stranger. This enigmatic title invites the reader to explore how throughout the Bible God turns up in unexpected ways, and how we need to be ready to meet him through our encounters with others.

Each chapter deals with characters from the Bible, such as Abraham, Jacob, David, Ruth and Mary and their encounters with a God who always challenges what we think we know of him. God’s appearance in the Scripture can be majestic and mighty or in the form of a humble baby, born to live as a refugee child in a foreign land. Krish Kandiah asks us to reconsider our view on who is the stranger in each of these stories, and he links this to his own experiences in welcoming the stranger into his own home through refugee work and through fostering or adopting children.

As we venture through the book it becomes apparent that in each situation when God appears, he is teaching us to obey his call to neighbourliness, hospitality and welcome. We often have a fear of the stranger and ‘otherness’ but this is exactly who God calls us to love. Jesus made this very clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Lent is a time when people think about fasting. This week I have been struck by the Isaiah 58 reading a few times where God says that the real kind of fasting he looks for is to share food with the hungry, to provide the wanderer with shelter and to clothe the naked. Throughout this book you can almost hear God’s voice asking people to listen to Jesus’s demand for radical hospitality and to put our fears aside so that we can welcome in the stranger who may even be God himself. I hope this becomes our story more and more at St John’s with St Mary’s.

Rachel Burnell

Maureen Pike – One life lived, many lives touched

Maureen Pike’s funeral was held at St Mary’s last Monday, organised by Alan Howell her closest friend and next of kin. The funeral was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience.

Things began with Maureen’s coffin arriving at St Mary’s the night before the funeral. The church bell rung repeatedly as Dave Maclure welcomed Maureen into the church for the last time. Many of us were close to Maureen she was dearly loved by many. We were dreading the funeral. We didn’t know what to expect on Sunday night. However Dave Maclure’s comforting words that Sunday evening softened the pain of the following day. It was peaceful.

Maureen suffered a stroke in November. She lost her ability to speak and to move her right side. She still managed to grin, smile and squeeze the hands of her friends. She was an amazing woman. She led the prayer ministry at St Mary’s and she served in several ways and many years at Holy Trinity, Hounslow. She counselled and prayed for many people, effortlessly gave of her time and energy. Maureen also became a trusted confidant of gay Christians who struggled with sexuality and acceptance.

The funeral the next day was packed. One couple flew in from Ghana especially to pay their respects. Revs Stewart Shaw and Oliver Ross joined Dave in conducting the funeral. There were heartfelt tributes. The eulogy, written by Rev Regan O’Callaghan, who is currently abroad, was played on a CD. Later, some of Maureen’s own prayers and poems were also read out, showing her deep trust in God and honesty in her faith.

The music and hymns were incredibly uplifting. We didn’t feel sad. It was truly a celebration of Maureen’s life and chance to give thanks to God for the hope we have as Christians that death is not the end.

One detail worth mentioning. The coffin was outstanding! It was turquoise blue with pictures from her life all over the coffin. We all unashamedly took photos, and instead of being put off by the coffin, many approached and walked around and laughed at the reminders of places Maureen had been.

After the funeral a few of us had dinner at the Richmond hotel. We then went to the river and let off lanterns in her honour. Maureen had done the same over the years for the people she lost. As I let go of my lantern I wondered what Maureen would have thought of her own funeral. Maureen would have been extremely touched by all of the efforts made. More importantly Maureen would have been overjoyed by the display of love on her special day because love is what Maureen was all about.

Gayle Farrell

You wouldn’t think it, but I loved every minute

David and Gill Young’s daughter Lily-Mae is in her A level year. She is considering become a Paramedic and with this in mind completed two weeks of experience last year in a hospital in the Dominican Republic.

How did you end up in the Dominican Republic?

I went out with an organisation called Gap Medics who have a project there. They picked us up from the airport (3 others were also with me) and we stayed in a big house about 10 minutes away from the hospital. We were in a city called La Romana, and we were also not too far away from the beach!

What was it like spending your days in the hospital there?

You wouldn’t think it, but I loved every minute! Although we were there to mainly observe we were also able to help a little with basic medical procedures. In the Emergency department we saw all sorts of things – cuts, bruises, breaks and vomit – and worse! A highlight for me was also that I cut the umbilical cord on a newborn baby! I found the whole experience really valuable and it has not put me off wanting to be a Paramedic. The drive to and from the hospital was also eye-opening as we were confronted with a lot of poverty.

Did you meet any interesting people there?

Our translator Jessica was an inspiration. She came from Haiti. She was about 22 years old, working with us all day, then studying at night for her degree before doing another job in a bakery – all to make ends meet and try and secure a better future for herself. It made me realise how little money some people in other parts of the world have, and how fortunate we are. I am also grateful in a new way for our own National Health System which serves so many and is free for us to use.

Lily-Mae Young