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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Making a family out of strangers

At the invitation of John Garbutt, Alderman for Walbrook Ward, I attended last night's Limborough Lecture which was held at St Stephen Walbrook and was followed by supper at The Mansion House in the presence of the Lord Mayor of London.

The annual Limborough Lecture is a part of the Company Year for the Worshipful Company of Weavers, the oldest recorded Livery Company, and stems from a legacy provided by James Limborough, a prosperous member of the Court of Assistants in the eighteenth century, to fund a series of lectures "to promote useful religious knowledge and real wholeness of heart and life".

This year's lecture was given by The Ven. Paul Taylor, Archdeacon of Sherborne, and was entitled 'Making a family out of strangers'. This title is the strapline for St Michael's Camden Town, a church which has been brought back from the brink of closure through its open door policy. Archdeacon Paul began by telling the story of St Michael's revival before using it as a paradigm for the openness to the other - those who are different from ourselves - which he argued is desperately needed locally, nationally and globally today. 

In doing so, he also referred those present to the recent pastoral letter from the Bishops of the Church of England which is entitled 'Who is my neighbour?' There the Bishops state that the starting point for the Church of England’s engagement with society, the nation and the world is that: "Followers of Jesus Christ believe that every human being is created in the image of God. But we are not made in isolation. We belong together in a creation which should be cherished and not simply used and consumed." The hope of the Bishops is, "that others, who may not profess church allegiance, will nevertheless join in the conversation and engage with the ideas" shared in this letter.

St Michael's Camden Town is also the location for a colossal art installation entitled HS by Maciej Urbanek, measuring over 60 square metres and covering the entire west wall of the huge Victorian Church, which could be one of the world’s largest photographic works. This installation, which covers badly damaged plasterwork in a church still in need of a great deal of restoration, appears to the viewer to be a vast explosion of fabulous silvery light. However it is made from the most humble of materials – dustbin bags which the artist has arranged, lit and photographed such that a mundane material is transformed into a grand, majestic artwork. While not referred to in the lecture, this artwork relates to Archdeacon Paul's theme because, as Fr. Philip North, then Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras and now Bishop of Burnley, has explained: "For us as Christians, the fact that ordinary dustbin bags have been used to create something so overwhelmingly beautiful is a metaphor for God’s work in taking ordinary human lives and making them extraordinary."

Paul Taylor has been Archdeacon of Sherborne since 2004. Prior to coming to the Diocese of Salisbury, Paul had spent his entire ministry in the Diocese of London. He was ordained in 1984 and served his curacy in Bush Hill Park, near Enfield. He was Vicar of St. Andrew’s, Southgate for nearly ten years and then for the following seven years, Vicar of St. Mary’s and Christ Church, Hendon. Paul was also Director of Post Ordination Training in the Edmonton Area of London Diocese and Area Dean of West Barnet. Beyond his work in the Archdeaconry Paul is particularly involved in developing the Salisbury clergy Wellbeing programme and also chairs the Salisbury – Evreux link.


Paul Mealor - Love's As Warm As Tears.  

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