Once upon a time it was a simple affair: a heartfelt thanksgiving for God's faithfulness in bringing the crops to maturity, marked with displays of local produce (often with a giant marrow at the centre) - a celebration with its roots in Hebrew customs, though Judaism was always much more than an agricultural religion. The note of joy and wonder remains, but nowadays is overlaid with more complex themes - our care (or not) for the planet, our global interdependence and the exploitation that lies behind what's on our supermarket shelves, the challenge to create a more just and sustainable world order.

St Paul's School bring their harvest gifts to church on Friday 2 October (all welcome at their 9.30am service). On the Saturday we have our harvest social - a bring and share meal in the crypt at 7pm, with a quiz and other activities for all ages. On Sunday we draw it all together in our All-age Eucharist, to which you are asked to bring produce and/or a contribution (for which Gift Aid envelopes will be available) for Christian Aid, who work tirelessly with partner organisations around the world, and help us to tackle the issues that seem so huge that we can be left feeling powerless. Their current advertising campaign (including posters in tube stations) reminds us that we have tackled huge issues in the past, and can do so in the future.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will be at St Andrew Holborn on Wednesday 7 October at 7pm, to reflect on the 'harvest of the City' and to dedicate a new icon of the Resurrection, depicting Christ's harrowing of hell - the ultimate symbol of re-creation when all seems lost. All are welcome. And note that the Archbishop will be at our church on Wednesday 20 January next year (see the next item), so put the date in your diary now and tell your friends!

Ritualism Riots

Publicity is going out shortly for the special event on Friday 6 November at 7pm to mark the day, 150 years ago, when the singing of the Litany was violently interrupted by a huge and motley mob. We shall sing the Litany again (led by the Lambeth Singers) - this time without interruptions, we hope! - and then have a session with a panel of speakers helping us to understand why this all happened, and what are the lessons for us today, and will end the evening with refreshments. We hope that the 'home team' will be present in force to welcome visitors for whom this anniversary is significant.
And we are also beginning to plan for the Archbishop's visit, mentioned above, on 20 January 2010, as part of this programme - a MUST for everyone!

To learn more, go to the updated page on the Riots on our parish website  <>

Olive Wagstaff, sixty years as a Licensed Lay Worker
In the latter part of the 19th, and throughout the 20th, century 'women workers' were the unsung heroines of many East End parishes and communities, giving lifelong and devoted service. Their names are seldom recorded on boards in church like those of the clergy whom they saw come and go. Often their theological training was equally thorough, and their practical, pastoral training rather better. But they were frequently taken for granted and excluded from leadership because they were not ordained, as many of them nowadays would undoubtedly have been.

It is now, astonishingly, sixty years since Olive Wagstaff was licensed as a lay worker, having received excellent training at Selly Oak in Birmingham (her home city) and at Ranyard House in Bloomsbury. Her ministry began at St Dunstan Stepney, after which she returned to a Birmingham parish before joining the new lay community at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, which led into many years of work with the elderly throughout Tower Hamlets. She has sharp memories of so much that has happened in our deanery and beyond, and keeps in touch with many folk with whom she worked. You can see it all from the upper floors of Shearsmith House.

So it was a great joy to celebrate this anniversary with her, and to honour the contribution that she and others have made - and in her case continues to make, not only at St George-in-the-East, but through various hospital and community activities. Congratulations, Olive, and keep it up!

At the Sunday service on 11 October we shall be finding out about another form of licensed lay ministry when Paul Tomlinson from Church Army is our preacher. Church Army is involved in many imaginative mission projects, some of which are termed 'fresh expressions', as well as in more traditional parochial ministry.

God has received you by baptism into his church....

Matthew Joseph & Emilia Lorrin Ramanoop (13 September)
Andrys Freddy John Lehmann (20 September)
- both were marvellous occasions. The first featured the Lord's Prayer in Lithuanian (with some of the children's mother Edita's family present, and
extended partying; the second had a hymn which some sung in French, and a family member, the Revd Steven Evans (a non-stipendiary priest from Blackburn diocese) preached and baptized.

Faith festivals
Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, fell on a Sunday this year, and on the following Thursday St Paul's School had a day of special activities and an after-school party, with hand and face painting and splendid food for all. This year Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) fell on the same weekend, 18-20 September, with Yom Kippur following ten days later.

The church in the market place

On 3 October the Rector will be helping to staff the ecumenical stand at a big wedding show at Earl's Court - something he did for several years in Manchester, where the diocese pioneered the idea of a church presence at these events, alongside the bridalware and catering providers, the hire cars, the chocolate fountains and various more off-the-wall exhibitors. It's big business - and some of it doesn't immediately seem to have much to do with what it really means to get, and to be, married! But the other exhibitors, after initial surprise, are generally very positive about the church being there.  

The days are long gone when most people turned instinctively to the church for their wedding, and knew (vaguely) how to go about arranging it.  So the challenge is to present this option to couples, and help guide them through the process - where they can marry (with the aid of websites to identify their local church, though the law is now more flexible about marriage in other churches where they have a 'qualifying connection' giving them a legal right to marry there), how they can have a say in shaping the service, and so on. Unfortunately, some couples report disinterest, or even hostility, from their local clergy, who quite illegally set up barriers and lay down requirements which deter them from crossing the threshold.

Paul and Hannah, who are planning their wedding here in November, are an example of why the church needs to rise to this challenge. They are highly-organised, and have clear ideas about what they want on the day, which we will help them to achieve. They have made strong friendships within our congregation, of which they have become valued members.

In Manchester, alongside lots of literature we gave couples a sachet of sugared almonds to represent the five F's of marriage. Unfortunately I can't quite remember what these were, though I think fidelity and fecundity were among them!      

World Mental Health Day: 10 October
Last year Carly Bond, from the Social Action for Health project based at the Brady Centre, came with a colleague to speak to us, and we recognised that there are mental health issues affecting members of our congregation as well as within the wider community. We have nothing special planned for this day, but we should be holding these concerns in our prayers.

North Thames Ministerial Training Course
The new term, with Tuesday evening sessions, is under way. Just to remind you: students gather for a meal at 6.30pm (in 'our' part of the nursery), come into church for worship at 7.15pm, and then have their teaching sessions. This year the Rector will be involved each week, teaching an optional New Testament Greek course prior to the main session. There is also an 'access course', for those who need help with study skills and/or English as a second language.

There have been various staff changes, and on 14 October the course will say farewell (with a party at London Colney Pastoral Centre, where their residential sessions are held) to Mary Smith, who has been with NTMTC for over ten years, as personal assistant to the Principals and as course administrator.  Mary has been our primary point of contact with the course, and we wish her well.

Luke the Evangelist

This year St Luke's Day falls on a Sunday, so this will be a good opportunity to reflect on the church's healing ministry, which is the traditional theme of St Lukestide. Whether or not he was a doctor, the gospel that bears his name certainly has a particular interest and emphasis on medical matters, especially as they affect women and the marginalised. Locally, the pioneering work of the Royal London Hospital and of other medical and social institutions working amidst deprived communities, is something we should celebrate. 

Our recent concert series was successful, thanks to the hard work of Elspeth, Canon Geoffrey White and others, and we are now proposing more. The plan is to have a series over the next twelve months, with a wider variety of musical styles (but maintaining the excellent standard of performers to date), and reduced rates for advance bookings.

The first concert in the next series will be a piano recital on Sunday 18 October at 5pm - details of this, and future concerts, to follow.

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