280th Anniversary

We were delighted to welcome Bishop Stephen to lead our anniversary celebrations. He preached about shepherding (demonstrating the use of his pastoral staff by hauling Edith back to safety by the scruff of her neck), and also mentioned our 150th anniversary of the Ritualism Riots. Whatever else they were about, he said, it showed the determination of the church at that time to reclaim authority over its own life and worship, and engage seriously with the local community it served.

The sun was shining weakly, but it was windy and rain had been forecast, so we compromised by having the parish lunch, not in the Rectory garden, but in the church forecourt. As usual, members of the congregation provided a fine array of food to share. Ann's seasoned chicken legs and Michael's spinach tart were particularly enjoyed! We were not quite 5,000, but the same gospel principles of sharing were at work.

Parish barbecue

Our barbecue equipment has been well-used for various functions, but we decided to postpone the parish barbecue planned for 26 July, because it was so close to our Anniversary; this is now re-scheduled for Sunday 6 September, after the morning service, to launch our autumn activities.

From near and far

We regularly welcome visitors from around the world who once were involved in the life of the parish. The Revd Perry Kingman, who was a Winant/TocH volunteer for several months in 1965, came recently - he and his wife Donna (who is a 'vocational', in other words a permanent, deacon) now live in Worcester, Massachusetts. And from rather nearer at hand - just across the diocesan border - came Elwin and Susan Cockett, who were married here as teenagers by Fr Solomon (he forgot to sign their certificate); Elwin ran a youth choir for a time. He was later ordained, and is now Archdeacon of West Ham. Edith, Olive and the Rector have a trip planned to visit Mrs Solomon.

Many others with historic links - such as ancestors' weddings here in the 18th and 19th centuries! - sign the visitors' book.

We recently bid farewell to Jean-Pierre and Geneviève from Paris, who have worshipped with us regularly when staying with their son round the corner. His contract is now finished, so they won't come so often. They are a most charming couple, and have enjoyed their contacts with us.

Swine Flu pandemic: don't panic!

Tower Hamlets finds itself at the centre of the swine flu pandemic in this country, with nearly twice as many reported cases as anywhere else - one recent figure was, 792 per 100,000 population. The situation is monitored

daily, and it is possible that we may be reaching a peak of infections earlier than elsewhere because of the make-up of the borough: we have a young population, a high density of population and poor levels of health.

The churches locally have been closely involved in drawing up responses, both positive and negative. Various dioceses have issued guidance about the precautions we need to take when we meet together, including modifying our behaviour on a temporary basis. Because there has been conflicting advice, the Archbishops have now issued national guidance (which our Archdeacon has circulated to all churches, together with a note of his own). Following advice from the Department of Health about not using common vessels for food or drink, the Archbishops are now recommending that the chalice - the common cup - should not be offered to the congregation during the current wave of infection.

There are therefore two options for receiving holy communion. People can receive in one kind only (the consecrated bread). This, it should be stressed, is for practical not theological motives (it's nothing to do with Roman Catholic practice, for instance). It has long been the teaching of the church that (in Archdeacon Lyle's words) one receives Jesus Christ sacramentally, fully and efficaciously in either the bread or the wine.

The other option, which we shall be following, is what's called 'personal intinction': the presiding priest puts a drop of consecrated wine onto each wafer at the altar, or before putting it into each communicant's hand. This preserves the symbolism of receiving in both kinds - bread and wine, even though in an attenuated form.

We shall be observing other hygiene recommendations, about handwashing, cleaning surfaces, and the disposal of tissues. Alcoholic gel is available for any who wish to use it. The guidance also advises restraint in sharing the Peace - a handshake, or a smile or a bow of the head, but not hugging or kissing! This is not such an issue for us as it is for churches which have a ten-minute free-for-all at this point in the service. It's also worth remembering that the point of the Peace is not to share human fellowship (that comes after the service), but to express the peace of Christ that binds us together.

On a practical note: we have been asked to draw up a list of people who can offer to be 'flu friends' and collect anti-viral drugs from the distribution centre, for those who have no-one else to go for them, on a postcode basis.

Those who volunteer would be accredited on the basis of the clergy's recommendation. They may not be needed in this current wave, or at all, but it will be useful to create such a list anyway. Please let the Rector or wardens know if you are willing to be on this list. And also talk to us if you have concerns about any of the above.

General Synod, July 2009

A short summary of the recent sessions of General Synod, held at York, is available in church.

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