Passiontide and Holy Week were overshadowed for me by the attack on 5 March, followed a week later by a short spell in hospital. Sadly, far worse attacks happen every day, and I am more or less back to normal, but because it happened on church premises it was labelled a ‘faith hate’ incident and attracted much press attention, which is some ways was harder to bear than the attack itself! The most accurate account was the one in the East London Advertiser (most of which was reprinted in Church Times), since I wrote this myself and they printed it word-for-word. If anyone wants a copy of this, I can provide it.

Arrests have been made, but it will probably be several months before a trial – when there will no doubt be another flurry of press interest! It will be good for everyone to know that the culprits have been brought to justice, though I hope the ‘faith dimension’ will not be overplayed. Meanwhile, I want to apologise to everyone at St George’s, and in the local community, for the disturbance and distress the incident has caused, and also – more importantly – to thank everyone for their support. We have been overwhelmed with flowers, gifts, cards, letters and other messages, both from local individuals and community groups and from further afield – including friends from years back with whom we had lost contact, and also complete strangers. We have been sent pamphlets and books, some of them (from the USA) very odd indeed! This, on the whole, has been very affirming, particularly the assurance of prayers, and we are deeply grateful.

As a church, we were pleased and encouraged to welcome leaders and representatives of the East London Mosque at the end of our Easter Day service, to bring a message of solidarity (reported in the local press). That same evening (when we remember how the disciples met behind locked doors because of the racial and religious tensions) the Rector joined the group which rehearses in church, Sottyen Sen School of Performing Arts, for part of their Independence Day programme at the Brady Arts Centre. Our area dean, Fr Alan Green, has been working hard to ensure that some good comes out of all this, and a number of further meetings are planned, both for inter-faith leaders, and on safety and security issues (the Advertiser is running a campaign about churchyards). And we hope that the publicity St George-in-the-East has received will feed into the re-opening of St George’s Gardens, at a date yet to be announced, and will give some impetus to the project for restoring the Nature Study Centre.

St George’s Day, 23 April

Cllr Ann Jackson, the outgoing Mayor of Tower Hamlets, has been keen for some time to arrange a borough-wide event for St George’s Day, bringing together as many groups as possible, as she puts it “to commemorate both the freedom from oppression aspect of the story of St George, and the ending of another year of democracy in our very special borough”. In the event, we have not been able to plan this in time for 23 April, but hope it will go ahead on Saturday 17 May (but watch this space!)

We shall therefore be keeping our patronal festival as we have done in previous years, with a Festal Eucharist on Wednesday 23 April at 7.30pm to which other churches in the deanery, and in Churches Together in Stepney and Wapping, will be invited. Please put the date in your diary, and make sure you are there for this celebration! Members of the congregation are asked to bring food to share with each other and our guests.

WaterAid, and Bishop’s Lent Appeal

A final reminder to bring in money you collected during Lent in WaterAid jars, and your Gift Aid envelope, or other donation, for the Bishop’s Lent Appeal for ALMA (the Angola – London – Mozambique Association), to build three new schools in our link dioceses.

Annual Vestry and Parochial Church Meeting, 27 April

Two meetings for the price of one! The Vestry Meeting, held solely for the appointment of churchwardens for the coming year, and open to anyone who lives in the parish or worships here, an ancient institution. We have some blow-by-blow accounts of hotly-contested Vestry Meetings at St George’s in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nowadays it lasts only a couple of minutes, and fisticuffs are not anticipated – but it does give us chance to give thanks for the sterling service of Edith and Allan over the past year, and to appoint – well, who, for the coming year? Nominations must be in writing, in advance of the meeting.

From this we shall segue seamlessly into the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, an institution which is less than a century old, from the time when accountable synodical government, and with it Parochial Church Councils (PCCs), were introduced into the Church of England. This meeting is for all members of the Church Electoral Roll, and it receives various annual reports and accounts, as well as electing the new PCC.

Immediately after the morning service, at which there will be no sermon (for our response to God’s Word on this day is to conduct the church’s business prayerfully and responsibly), we shall adjourn to the crypt for refreshments, and then hold the meetings – which we hope will take no more than an hour. By meeting downstairs, we can make provision for toddlers and children.

Marathon Sunday, 13 April

So that we can come and go without getting caught up in the traffic, our morning service on this date will be at 9am. We shall also be singing Evensong that day, at 6pm.

Oli Douglas-Pennant

It has been good to have Oli and his family worshipping with us from time to time in recent months. They are members of St Paul’s Shadwell, and Oli – who works for the police – has been on an informal ‘placement’ with us to help him clarify his vocation to ordained ministry. This involves both ‘doing’ – including preaching a sermon, and leading a school assembly – and ‘reflecting’ – spending some time with the Rector testing out what he has observed. and asking awkward questions! We hold him in our prayers as he prepares to go to a selection conference in a few months’ time.

The College of St Mellitus

Recent months have seen many developments around the diocese in terms of the provision of ministerial training (both lay and ordained). The College is spearheading these: it is a kind of umbrella body for the various providers, of which one is the North Thames Ministerial Training Course, which is housed in our crypt. The Rector has enjoyed getting involved with NTMTC, particularly on Tuesday nights when they meet for a shared meal, worship and teaching sessions. He has also been drawn into discussions about future patterns of Reader training in the Stepney Area.

The official commissioning of College of St Mellitus staff takes place on 2 July at St Paul’s Cathedral. (Will they, we wonder, sing Michael Saward’s hymn about St Mellitus, to the fine tune written by a former Vicar Choral?) But before then the Bishop of London will be visiting St George’s on Tuesday 15 April to preach at the NTMTC Evensong at 7.15pm. There should be space for members of our congregation as well! 

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