Not so far away!

Members of the Parochial Church Council gathered for our Awayday at The Royal Foundation of St Katharine, Butcher Row on 14 June – just along The Highway, though some had never been there before. (One who had, of course, is Olive Wagstaff, our sacristan, for she lived there as a lay sister in the community that was created after the Second World War under the leadership of St John Groser, who had previously been our parish priest.) All agreed that it was an excellent venue, which helped us to relax, talk honestly and openly with each other, and begin the task of revising our parish Mission Action Plan. Lots of ideas came out of this, which we shall be following up. For instance, in the autumn we shall be involving the whole congregation in a worship audit – looking closely at what we offer on Sundays, and how this needs to develop. A successful day, which we hope will bear fruit.

Money matters... both senses! Our Parochial Church Council is concerned about our financial health, and has asked Richard our treasurer and me to draw attention to the facts and figures, which we will be doing over the next few months. The hard fact is that, although we have regular income from our tenants – both in the crypt below and the flats above – our giving as a congregation has been falling, for various reasons.

Some may feel that our money problems are 'sorted' because we now have other sources of income. Others are giving less regularly because they are attending church less regularly. And we have recently lost a number of generous, regular givers.

The reality is that:

National statistics show that regular giving per head in urban parishes with small congregations generally exceeds giving in more affluent areas with larger congregations. Having moved from one end of this spectrum to the other, I endorse this, and thank those at St George's who give sacrificially week by week. But are we all meeting the challenge?

One practical response, which we hope will help, is to provide our church members and supporters with a packet of numbered weekly envelopes for the year. This will serve two purposes:

School news

On 19 June St Paul's School held an Art Café when works which the children, and some of the staff, had created were put on sale – most of them for £1 but the star items were put into an auction. There are some talented artists around, and each class used different themes

and techniques, including pictures which mixed photography and drawing. Over £300 was raised for disaster relief for Myanmar (Burma) and China through Christian Aid and Islamic Relief. Splendid!

The staff then adjourned for an OFSTED party – to celebrate the inspectors' finding that this is indeed a good school, with many positive and outstanding features. Congratulations to Terry Bennett and his colleagues on this! The 'section 48' (Church of England) inspection will follow on 2 July.

The following week, children, parents, staff and governors and members of our congregation came together for an Education Celebration, affirming our 'partnership in the gospel' (to use the Bishop of London's phrase). This was a joyful occasion, shared by an enthusiastic group of children (who also explored St George's Gardens), and including a quiz about the history of the school. This was on the eve of their Founder's Day, which was marked by special events in school.

The school logo is a ship, because St Paul's was founded as a church for seamen (replacing an 'Episcopal Floating Church' moored by the Tower of London – would that today's bishops could float a bit more!) We will remember this in the last week of term, following Sea Sunday on 13 July, and at the Leavers' Service on the last day of term, when bibles will be given to all who are moving on to secondary education.

St Mellitus College Commissioning

A large congregation is anticipated at St Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday 2 July for the formal commissioning of staff members (including David Hilborn, the Director of NTMTC based in our crypt), and it would be good for us to support those who are involved in these latest developments in ministerial training across our diocese. A recent development, with which I have been involved, is the likely inclusion of Readers in training from the Stepney area in its programme. We continue to pray for all these exciting initiatives.

279 not out

July sees our annual celebration of the consecration of St George-in-the-East in 1729 – and the first anniversary of my arrival here as Rector! As part of my trying to get to grips with the many issues that face our parish today, I have been exploring its rich and fascinating past – for, as one of Jan's colleagues used to say, if you're to make sense of things, 'you have to know the history'.

We mark the event on Sunday 20 July, with a Festal Eucharist at 10.15am followed by a party, to which we hope everyone who looks on St George's as 'their' church will come, and bring food to share. More details in due course, including (we hope) on the.....

Parish website

We plan to launch this into cyberspace in the next few weeks. Not everyone, of course, has computer access, but for those who do it is a good way of keeping in touch – and we promise that it will be kept up-to-date, unlike some parish websites which display old notices! We also hope it will be one way of promoting our church to the many who visit the site out of curiosity, or historical or genealogical or architectural interest. It will provide something of what they are looking for, but will also remind them that worship and mission continue here, and assure them of our welcome.

The Lambeth Conference

Every ten years the bishops of the Anglican Communion – there are now over 800 of them – are invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to confer together. Because relationships are so strained, postponement was considered; but it is going ahead, though some will boycott it,

preferring a rival gathering in Jerusalem. Those who are attending, together with their spouses (who are almost but not quite all female!), arrive at Canterbury on 16 July – many of them having first spent a few days as guests of a parish, perhaps in a linked diocese. The programme runs until 3 August, interspersed with special days in London and Canterbury.

Archbishop Rowan, who is always gracious and wise, will be given a rough ride by those who can't cope with diversity in the church. He doesn't deserve this, and he and his fellow-bishops need our prayers. Please offer the Lambeth Conference Prayer:

Pour down upon us, O God, the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that those who prepare for the Lambeth Conference may be filled with wisdom and understanding. May they know at work within them that creative energy and vision which belong to our humanity, made in your image and redeemed by your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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