I spent two and a half minutes today jotting down quickly twenty special points that came quickly to mind of the twenty years I have been Parish Priest at St Chrysostom’s, and for which I give thanks to God.
Here they are:
- Transitioning organist: One of the first people I met at St C’s was the then organist who was in the process of transitioning female to male. He underlined for me the acceptance and inclusivity of St C’s from my first day.
- Treasures of the church: Again from the early years a churchwarden described the children of the church as treasures of our church – picking up the words of St Laurence.
- Louise da Cocodia: her humble commitment and determination – and her hugely infectious laughter – will ever be a memory I treasure. She summed up so much of what St C’s stands for: sincere worship, inclusion, commitment to social issues and laughter.
- Committed people: in so many ways people have shown great commitment to what we stand for at St C’s. Some have only been with us a short time but made great impact; others longer.
- Students and young adults: we are so blessed as a congregation with many young adults. I appreciate their enthusiasm and fun.
- Growing: from a congregation of between 20 and 30 on a Sunday we have grown over the twenty years. We continue to, not just numerically, but in scope and style.
- Languages: It’s wonderful that week by week we usually have over 12 different first languages among us. Christmas and Easter, when we call out greetings in these different languages, are moving times, and witness to our inclusion.
- Liturgy: the rich, sensual Anglo Catholic liturgy of St Chrysostom’s is a great treasure for me. Singers, servers, altar party, everyone, all have their part in our worship.
- Welcoming the hurt: I value so much our welcome, especially of those who have been hurt or ostracised by others – including some other churches.
- Refugees and asylum seekers: our welcome extends to all, without question, and is so natural and relaxed. Our welcome is an inclusive people – recent arrivals quickly are fully part of our fellowship.
- Tenants: from the wonderfully eccentric Fr Ephrem Lash, of the Greek Church in my early days to our engaging Ethiopian friends today, from Pastor Braunston of the Metropolitan Church, to Pastor John of the Korean Church and more – I value the wonderful committed people who have shared our space at church with us, for their traditions’ worship.
- Parish Assistants: What a wonderful range of young people we have encouraged in their vocations, over the last twenty years. It is so wonderful to see many now ordained and no doubt enriched by their time with us.
- Schools: A key feature of the last twenty years is the growth of strong relationships with our parish schools. It is always lovely to welcome children to church and to work with them in the schools.
- Threshold people: I very much appreciate that at St C’s we welcome people among us who are questioning, who are not sure what they believe. They are fully accepted among us – and help us accept and say that we all question at times.
- Prayer at 5pm: Our daily prayer at 5pm is well known, even by those who have never been. It is a special marker in the day, a time of prayer, silence before God and sacrament.
- Laughter: A big feature of our church. We laugh a lot, and often at ourselves. We worship as inclusive Anglo Catholics with twinkles in our eyes! We enjoy being there. St C’s lifts the soul!
- The marginalised: Homeless people, alcoholics, the abused, the trafficked – all bring something special to our church.
- Family: Kim and I married in our time at St C’s. Dominic, Gregory and Annie were baptised here. Lucy was married here. Wonderful moments I treasure.
- Priests: We are fortunate in having differing priests come and worship with us. Our assistants like Fr Chris, Tracy when she worked here, are or have been great supports. Some priests have come into our congregation at a time of difficulty in ministry, some on retirement, some just pop in for a Sunday. Their presence affirms and encourages our ministry.
- The Mass: When I first came Kristof said to me how we were a richly diverse people united by the Mass. So true. Sunday Mass is the focus and the summit of all our life at St C’s. Thanks be to God!