In his General Synod speech on the current economic situation, Bishop Richard – having paid tribute to Fiona Stewart-Darling's work in Docklands – said It is difficult to know whether to sympathise more with those who have lost their jobs or those who are left carrying even greater loads with higher targets and fewer colleagues.

Some found this an odd comment, if applied to those who have little prospect of other work and may risk losing their homes. But he was thinking of those who have been living and working under intolerable and inhumane pressures (which can nevertheless become addictive), who when they lose their jobs may at least have the chance of reviewing and simplifying their lives – and he mentioned various church-based schemes which could help them.

Lent is a time for all of us to do this, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, as this poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674) shows. Please make worship a priority during Lent.

With my prayers and good wishes                                                                                                               Michael

Is this a Fast, to keep
     The larder lean,
           And clean,
From fat of  Veales and Sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
     Of Flesh, yet still
          To fill
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an houre,
     Or ragg'd to go
          Or show
A downcast look, and sowre?

No; 'tis a Fast, to dole
     Thy sheaf of wheat
          And meat,
Unto the hungry Soule.

It is to fast from strife,    
     From old debate,
           And hate;
To circumcise thy life.

 To show a heart grief-rent;
     To starve thy sin,
          Not Bin;
And that's to keep thy Lent.

'You decide!'
Tower Hamlets is holding public consultations as part of the 'participatory budget' process to give local people a voice in how money is spent on services in the community. The one for our Local Area Partnership (LAP 4 – the Rector is a member of the Steering Group) is on Thursday19 March from 6pm to 9pm at Mulberry School. They are hoping at least 100 residents will attend. You can register in advance on 7364 4562, or just turn up. More details nearer the time in East End Life.

The next meeting of Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum is on Tuesday 17 March (venue to be confirmed) at 6pm. The     Forum, ably and enthusiastically chaired by Alan Green, our area dean, brings together members of faith communities, and works closely with the Council and the police on a range     of issues. Meetings are deliberately open to all.

Behind the scenes a huge amount of work goes on, with consultation on equalities policy and other initiatives, and in a borough like ours it's vital that there should be an effective and representative voice. For example, we are exploring the possibility of English Heritage funding for an inter-faith buildings support officer for places of worship in the borough.

Do visit the recently-relaunched website <> to find out more. You can download an interfaith religious calendar – or take a poster-sized copy from church. (We also have large numbers of free copies of an attractive, if a bit inaccurate, faith map of Tower Hamlets produced by Buildings Exploratory.)

Since our parish is in the diocese's 'top twenty' by percentage of people of other faiths, we will be invited to send one member to the launch on 1 June of the Greater London Presence and Engagement Network (PEN) – our region's response to a national report calling for action – by the bishops of London, Chelmsford, Southwark and Rochester, with the Archbishop of Canterbury preaching.

Developments on site
Returfing the Churchwardens' Garden (by Green Gables) will be done on 7-8 March, and we hope that before long the security gate to the north passage (for which we have some funding from the Tower Hamlets churchyards security budget) will be installed.
Lighting and CCTV (again, funded by Green Gables) remains under discussion. Lindsay, the Gardens Ranger, is now installed in the former 'jumble room'.
We are going ahead with some vinyl banners to advertise our presence on the railings along The Highway.
Discussions about the longer-term use of our space continue.
Meanwhile, the table in the panelled room is being restored (by the film company who damaged it), and Susan achieved £120 for the old lampshades on eBay. Oscar, who bought them, is an artist and 'retro-buff', keen on artifacts of the 1950s and 60s, and is delighted with his purchase. Well done, Susan!

Elspeth and others are planning a short series of concerts, to show off our newly-restored piano. The first will be a recital of well-known operatic arias, the second will be by Christopher White's string trio, and the third will have a baroque theme. We may also have a recital by a professional pianist who has just moved into the area from the USA and has been practising in church while he awaits the shipping of his own piano.

Sottyen Sen School of Performing Arts
The young people and adults who rehearse in church on Saturdays regularly perform around Tower Hamlets and beyond. They are a secular, multi-faith group committed to the rich traditions of Bengali folksong, dance and drama. On Independence Day (28 March) their rehearsal will conclude with a performance in church, at about 3.30pm, for parents, friends and others, and they would very much like some members of the congregation to be present as well, to get some idea of what they do. The school is named after a famous Bengali novelist (1907-81).
Alex Nelson enjoyed her extended re-visit to Bangladesh last year and has encountered these traditions in their local setting. She is full of ideas to share with our children's group from the churches she visited.

to Andrew Peck and Lorna Thorpe, who were married at St George-in-the-East on 7 February. It was a joyful affair, with a medieval theme, as well as many contemporary touches – the Rector spoke about marriage then, now and in the future! The reception was held at the Care House, Bigland Street. We wish them, and their children Brandon, Abigail and Kaedon, every happiness. We have four other weddings booked for 2009 – and hope there will be more.

....and our prayers
for those who have been ill and in hospital – among them Patrick Davey, Jackie Saward and Janet White. We continue to remember Bishop Stephen's wife Hilary and Diane Webb, facing (further) chemotherapy, and Archdeacon Lyle Dennan recovering well from a hip operation; and also Kim Ali, as she continues to give wonderful support to her brother's family following Ashlie's death.

The Annual Parochial Church Meeting

will be held immediately after church (no sermon that day!) on Sunday 19 April. This is not an ideal date as it is at the end of Easter week, but the following Sunday – the last date on which it could legally be held – is the Marathon (more details about this next month). So please put the date in your diary NOW and make every effort to attend, to have your say and to show your support for those who have served us over the past year.

This means that the church Electoral Roll will close for revision on Mothering Sunday, 22 March, and no new names can be added between that date and the APCM; so if you are not on the roll and should be, please get a form from church as soon as possible. Or you can download a .pdf version from the 'Giving' page on the parish website <> to print and return. The revised roll will be displayed for checking from 5 April.

Lent Appeal
Last year in Lent we supported WaterAid – because we regard this as a vital world issue, and welcome the way they tackle the issues, using local and appropriate technology – and (at our bishop's request) the ALMA appeal for our link dioceses in Angola and Mozambique, which focused on building schools (work which is progressing well). This year the ALMA appeal is 'Living Water', supporting water and sanitation projects, a vital prerequisite in reaching the Millennium Development Goals. Information, and Gift Aid, envelopes for this will be available in church, and you can find out more from <>

More books!
Before Christmas The News of the World kindly gave us some books to sell – and most have now gone, raising a good amount for church funds.  A fresh consignment is on the way.....

Olivet to Calvary

London's Transport Choir are performing J.H. Maunder's Passiontide cantata at All Saints Poplar on Saturday 14 March at 7pm – free admission.

The Church of England monthly news bulletin

contains full details of many current issues, including General Synod reports, and can be viewed on <>

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