St Peter’s in Walworth
In the early Spring of 2012 I was walking from the Elephant and Castle down the Walworth Rd, heading for St Peter’s church for the start of my placement with Near Neighbour’s programme and looking at children’s activities in the area.
The place was buzzing; I wandered into East St Market, alive and colourful with stalls selling all sorts of things from materials, phones, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and lots of clothes and shoes.
Instead of walking back to Walworth Rd I came to the middle of the market and walked towards a small park. Suddenly it was quiet and peaceful; there were some tall blocks of flats, a school and the back of the church of St Peter’s.
What a gem in the middle of this busy and frenetic city. A place to sit and find some peace. I wandered over to the church and through a really pleasant garden which was the original churchyard but had been converted many years ago to provide a place for people to meet and stop for a while.
My placement was to be over four weeks and for a couple of days a week. Not long and somewhat sporadic, but it did give me a real chance to feel part of the life of the people and a time to belong to the church. The times in between meant that there was some space to think of my own way into this possible style of working.
In my curacy, I work in a very rural benefice. This is as different as it can be.
My work is very much in city areas and I feel very at home working with people in finding ways that we can help to make life better.
St Peter’s is a beautiful church and usually has about 150 people to the main Sunday service. There are services through the week and the school next door is a strong part of the group. Father Andre, Father Alan and Mother Sheila made me very welcome and it was a delight to be part of the services and to take part in a very different style of worship.
Underneath the church, there is much going on!!
The crypt had received funding to be developed some years ago and is now open as a centre, run by InSpire, offering a café, space for courses, meetings and allsorts of things. It was always busy when I was there, but I was found a space at a table and the place to make the coffee and access to wifi…. So pretty well perfect!
At the beginning and end of the days I would return here and try to write up something about the people I had met and the places I had visited. Sometime this worked and sometimes it was just a dream and I returned tired to my B& B, to share a glass of wine and a chat with a friend.
There were many places that I visited in Walworth and I will mention just some of them as this is not meant to be the final report!
Bengali Women’s Group runs from the Rockingham Centre just behind the Elephant and Castle. It is aimed at helping women from all areas who live in the area and need some support or just to get out of the flat and meet with other women. It has loads of courses and is thriving. Funds this year though are really low and with the shortage of money around there is a real fear that it may not be able to continue.
St Christopher’s church has a large amount of space and is used by many groups. I attended a lunch with London Citizens and about 30 other people looking at how to support community projects.
The mosques also run activities for children, focussing on teaching the Kuran for school age children.
There is a very large Methodist church, Walworth Methodist Church, which is the largest in London, a huge amount of activities for children happen on Sundays.
The list goes on…..
The four weeks spent in Walworth came to an end far too quickly. There is much still left to do. I would love the opportunity to do more, and hopefully that will happen.
But it has left me with a real sense of community, a real sense that the life and the buzz are uplifting, a real sense that people do care and a wonderful feeling that I have made some friends in Christ.
Sermon March 25th St Peter’s Walworth
City to country
March 25th Passion Sunday Fifth Sunday of Lent
Jeremiah 31:31- 34, John 1220 – 33, Hebrews 5:5-10
How nice it is to be back here in St Peter’s and what a friendly and warm welcome.
Very good to have the chance to talk with you today and thanks to Father Peter, Father Alan and Mother Sheila, Donna and Catherine for making this possible.
I am a curate in the Norwich diocese, and I also work freelance with developing projects for communities, children and families in inner cities. My home and parish is a long way from here in the midst of the Norfolk countryside. I serve in a benefice of five small churches, two are in villages with about 1000 people and three are in the fields in small hamlets of a few houses, the villages having gone many years ago.
The churches are all very old, built around 1300′s in stone, two have Saxon round towers and they are all steeped in medieval history to do with the lords of the manor We still have a Lord of the Manor. Life has fortunately moved on and medieval lifestyle has long gone, well at least I think so!
The countryside is very much a part of our lives and the fields are now starting to show the signs of spring, the crops of wheat bursting into green life and the lambs in the fields with their mothers. The winter is hard and very cold and the churches are freezing inside and out.
As an example at one of our carol services the traditional time for the church to be full, the stove was lit at the back of the church and I asked Bill how long it had been alight.
‘ Oh yes, I lit it two days ago and have been into to church twice a day to keep it going!’
So St Peter’s is a very warm and welcome place to be!
And Spring is very welcome.
My journey and how I come to be here today. So sit back and relax, this may take a little while, well at least 5 mins!
Do you ever wonder what it is that makes you want to get up in the morning? What will you do today that will make you smile at the least and jump for joy at the best?
Is it the thought of putting another load of washing in the washing machine?
Is it the thought of getting on the bus and going to work? The early waking up by the children as they put the TV on again far too early?
Nothing wrong with any of these, they are what life is about and what makes the world tick slowly around, without any of these daily routines we would be lost.
But in the midst of all of the daily stuff that we all do we can find that Jesus has a space for us, to find ourselves and to work for him too.
I was working as a teacher/headteacher in a church school, and then, as now went into working with children and families in developing communities in areas of need, much of this later work is in London.
I loved working in schools, the children certainly gave me the buzz to get up in the morning. I love working in amongst people, and the projects I work on in London are great and can bring a lot of benefit to children and families.
But in the midst of all of this, I felt that I was called to become a priest, that really is another long story and perhaps one day I will have the chance to tell you that too.
So I started on the journey of serving… sometimes I think God must have been getting very frustrated with my progress, seemed to take me quite while to become ordained as a priest. But I was ordained at Norwich cathedral in July 2009 and asked to serve in the benefice where we live, Gayton near King’s Lynn.
For me, the whole thing was wider than being in the church itself… I really enjoy services and worship, what a very special thing we have and coming together like this as a fellowship to worship and to praise God is a wonderful part of our life.
But as a I worked with many different people I knew that there are many who are on the edge of the whole church and Christian life. Or they believe but their lives have become so busy and full of everyday jobs that they have forgotten, or put God to one side for the time being.
And I don’t think God liked that, He can be tolerant but up to a point!
So when I wake up in the morning, after a cup of tea….I look forward to finding ways to put that right.
Working with people and developing plans for projects that will enable people to find that energy, that light, that spark which will help them to see that God does care about them.
For me my work and my faith are entwined together.
My time in Walworth is part of my curacy as a placement and I have been based here at St Peter’s for four weeks. It is through an organisation called Near Neighbours who work in the area as part of the Anglican church funding and developing local projects.
I have been looking specifically at activities for children in churches and other faith groups and some non faith groups and how those activities ensure the safety of the children and young people.
A lot of walking around Walworth Road and the areas nearby. It has been really good and I have loved the many different groups that find ways to deliver projects, some great ideas turned into action, wonderful. And here at St Peter’s the crypt below and Inspire, offering activities and space and a wonderful cafe. People come into the building, the church offering them something and then people finding themselves in a church.
It is very different to life in the country and certainly to church life.
Last week there were three people in the congregation at a delightful evening service in one of our very small churches. All that I had planned to do at the service had to be changed slightly, but we had a very nice glass of wine and chance to chat as well.
About three weeks ago I did a Lambing Service, I had started it the year before.
In the lambing barns at the farm, we had the straw bales out for seats and a wooden walkway instead of a pulpit. Nearly 100 people at that service and even more sheep… something theological there I think!
But back here in Walworth I have been thoroughly immersed in city life, I have found my way through back streets, into East St Market, behind the Elephant and Castle and into the Rockingham Estate community centre, meeting with the Bengali Women’s group and lots more places.
This week is the last week in Lent and we have Passion Sunday, from next week we move into Palm Sunday and Holy Week and then to Easter.
Lent seems to go on for a long while and it was a t the start of Lent that I was at here when Father Peter was describing how he gave up chocolate for Lent but apparently feast days didn’t count. I have to say that I didn’t realise that and was very heartened!
Lent is in many senses that period when we do have chance to stop and reflect, give ourselves some space and let God find us and set us on the way again. As we here in John, Jesus knew that the time was coming and said;
‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.’
The chance for us all to do something, to feel that like that single grain we can bear fruit.
And so on Passion Sunday…. what is it that makes you feel alive and buzzing and ready to get up and get going? What is it that makes you feel today that you can do something to make God’s world a better place? What is it that you can do that will show the light that Jesus has given to us all, the gifts that we have been given. Ready to use and ready to share.
So as the sun starts to shine and Spring really does start to appear and Easter is soon with us, let’s see the light that we are all given to be one in Christ and find what it is that can make that sparkle happen.