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!

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

Why not try contemplative prayer this Lent?

Prayer is a joy… Prayer is boring… Prayer is a source of blessing…Prayer is a struggle…

Whatever our experience of prayer so far, I expect many of us can relate to some or perhaps all of those statements.

As we read the gospels, we find that Jesus often withdrew from the demands of daily life to a solitary place to pray, and he instructed his disciples to do the same. For Jesus prayer was something at the centre of his life which energised and directed his ministry and enabled him to remain close to his heavenly Father.

This lent, during the forty days leading up to Easter, there will be a number of opportunities to join with others in developing our experience of prayer. There will be a special focus on the kind of prayer that goes beyond words and images and enables us to draw closer to God by simply being present to Him in stillness and silence. Sometimes called contemplative prayer, this can be a great source of solace and strength amid the frantic busyness and noise of life.

On Saturday Feb 17th we will be led by the sisters of Gumley House Convent, who are offering a Lenten themed morning of prayer and reflection. Then there will be a series of four sessions on Wednesday evenings at St Mary’s (Feb 21 – March 14) to continue to learn about and practice contemplative prayer. In this we will be guided by the parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-8) and the symbols which Jesus uses in this story to illustrate the themes of receptiveness and spiritual growth.

If you would like to feel more comfortable praying in this way, do consider coming along if you can. There will be plenty of guidance and encouragement, and I’m sure we will have some fun as well!

I do hope you can join us.

Rachel Michael