About us ~ and about St George

All details about the clergy, the churchwardens, the congregation, and day-to-day administration of the parish can be found here

Left: church, with Rectory on the left, as depicted by Sarah McMenemy for platform 2 of Shadwell Underground Station on the East London Line, which re-opened on 27 April 2010 as part of London Overground

Church drawn in 1963 by John Piper CH (1903-92), 21" x 13½" displayed as one of 39 goaches and watercolours at the Hamet Gallery, London in 1969, when Terence Mullaly wrote'the romantic undertones recalling a stage backdrop are strong'

St George - our patron saint
georgeflag St George supplanted Edward the Confessor as the patron saint of England in 1351, at the time of the Crusades. Many churches bear his name. The choice here was probably an assertion of the authority of the established national church - though since the area as well as the church took his name, there were St George's Churches of other denominations (eg the German Lutheran and Methodist churches).

Who was he? Legends - perhaps about more than one person - abound, making it hard to establish the facts. But we do know that from the 4th century, in the Palestinian city of Lydda, they began to venerate a Syrian soldier who had been a member of emperor Diocletian's guard and had died for his faith under the emperor's persecutions. In the 6th century someone wrote that he was a good man whose deeds are known only to God. He came to be more widely honoured, as a soldier-saint, and the legends began to develop - particularly, of course, that he slew a dragon.

So to treat him as an emblem of a particular kind of English nationalism, as some political and other groups do, is fundamentally misguided. He was not English, and is a patron saint all around the world (in Russian Georgia, for instance, there are 365 churches bearing his name).

Here are some images from various places - Russian and Greek icons, a European painting, Donatello's 15th-century marble statue in Florence, a bronze statue in Prague, an Ethiopian image and a wooden statue from Latin America. See here for the 17th century Orthodox Church of St George at Puthupally, Kottayam in Kerala.

Furthermore, there is a long tradition in the middle East of veneration by Christians, Jews and Muslims together. He is therefore an inclusive rather than an exclusive figure, and recent years have seen attempts to recover this emphasis - especially relevant for a multi-ethnic, multi-faith area such as that of St George-in-the-East.

One example is the painting by Scott Norwood Witts, St George and Dead Soldier, which was displayed here in 2010 - pictured left; for more details, see here.

Another is the Redcrosse project, taking its cue from Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, and linking the cult of St George to the four elements of air, earth, fire and water in a spiritual exploration of 'Englishness'. As part of the project, Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, and others have produced a 'civic liturgy' for St George, asserting his inclusive nature. This was presented at St George's Windsor and Manchester Cathedral (whose dedication includes St George) around St George's Day 2011 (service booklet here, pages in 'folding' order), with specially-composed music, and it is hoped that some of the material will be more widely used; we have incorporated some of it into our own patronal festivals. The 'merrie England' and 'four elements' notes link with the original version of the rousing 'Hymn for St George and for Justice', a Christian Socialist favourite whose original version began Dear patron saint of England, St George, our Lady's Knight, we ask your prayers and blessings to aid us in our fight, with the chorus Uplift St George's banner and let the ancient cry 'St George for Merrie England' re-echo to the sky (full text, in 'modernised' form, here). See here for its use in Fr Groser's time, here for an 1895 sermon by a predecessor on the revival of the cult of 'Merrie England', and here for the 'Thaxted tradition' that inspired Fr Groser and other clergy of our parish - and comments on flying various flags...

Finally, do you remember the children's hymn When a knight won his spurs, by Jan Struther, still worth singing on St George's Day? We still have dragons to fight....

The Ramanoop family
One of the key families in our congregation are the Ramanoops: ten brothers and sisters and their extended families, most of whom live in East London, though even those who live abroad worship here from time to time! Allan is one of our churchwardens, and Annadale a PCC member and flower organiser. All but the youngest came with their parents Joseph and Sarah from Trinidad in the 1960s - they know how to grow and pick coffee beans! - and settled in the area. Joe and Sarah are commemorated with a tree in the churchyard. Joe [pictured], a Hindu but happy to attend events at the family's church, was a Labour Councillor for St Katharine's and Holy Trinity wards from 1974 until 1998 and Mayor of Tower Hamlets from 1997-98, when he was made a freeman of the City of London; he met various members of the royal family. He fought passionately against racism until his death in 2003, and was vice-president of the local Race Equality Council. In his latter years, he was a well-known figure at the Providence Row day centre. After his death, he was nominated for a Trinity Cross in Trinidad in recognition of his services to the community.

Samuel Doodnath, a relative in Trinidad (headteacher and licensed Reader) wrote several books about the family's background: A short history of the early Presbyterian Church and the Indian Immigrant in Trinidad 1845-1945 (1983), A short history of the East Indian progress in Trinidad and lives of famous Indians 1845-1984 (1985), From India to Trinidad (1987), Reminiscences of India and early Trinidad by an immigrant family (1995), plus Indian Prince and Chinese Princess in Love (1995).

The Parish Clerk
geoffreytattersallNowadays this is an honorary office. In the past, as you can see from various history pages on this site (for example, here and here) the clerk - another ancient office - was a key, and hard-working, administrator. These days have gone, but in London the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks (founded in 1635/6) survives, with a distinguished history, and we are one of the 150 or so parishes - though not one of those on the original list - entitled to nominate a member. Ronald Guy Ellen A London Steeplechase (City Press 1972, out of print) details all the parishes. [Our current clerk is Geoffrey Tattersall QC [pictured], a barrister, judge and diocesan Chancellor who worships with us whenever he is in London.]

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