On Thursday 8th December the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, led the Friends of City the Churches Carol Service at St Mary Abchurch and gave an inspiring sermon on the importance of hope during dark times.
The Friends of the City Churches is an architectural heritage charity dedicated to preserving the beautiful and unique churches found within the square mile of the City of London, with any City Church able to apply for funding. Their principal aim is to endeavour to keep the churches open and to that end they provide volunteer watchers in fourteen of the City Churches. At the Bishop’s request, they took over responsibility for St Mary Abchurch when it was barely used and in much need of repair and upkeep. Now the FCC have their office there and have brought the church back to life with activities, services and visitors all week long every week. All their funds are derived from the subscriptions, donations and legacies of their members and from the events the FCC runs throughout the year.
Bishop Richard gave a moving and encouraging sermon in which he highlighted that although dark events and situations seem to be overwhelming forces in our country and the world, there is a light and hope for us and that light came with the birth of Jesus who will always continue to provide us with that light if we choose to believe and trust in Him.
Bishop Richard was assisted by Fr David Goodburn, currently Acting Chaplain but soon to be confirmed official Chaplain, of St Mary Abchurch, also an enthusiastic supporter of the Friends of the City Churches. Revd Sally Muggeridge attended as did John Warner, Renter Warden of the Fruiterers. The Lord Mayor was disappointed not to be able to attend due to his commitments and sent his best wishes as did Revd Oliver Ross and Revd David Parrott along with several other City clergy who all keenly support the work of the charity but were tied up with their own services. The Vocal Consort of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College led the singing as they have done for the Friends for eleven years.
After the service Bishop Richard prayed a blessing over the Mothers’ Union banner which The Friends have had beautifully repaired. Their chairman, Oliver Leigh-Wood then made a presentation to the Bishop with a citation handwritten as a scroll, which read: “The Friends of the City Churches send good wishes for a long and happy retirement to Bishop Richard. His help and encouragement as Patron of the Friends reflects his delight in the survival of so many of the City’s ancient places of worship, his obvious love for contemporary London and his belief that the City churches’ diversity reflects the breadth of Christian love in the community which he has so encouraged. The Friends have appreciated enormously his immense and enthusiastic support for the part that we have played to keep the City churches open.”
The Bishop was also presented with an imitation ‘blue plaque’ to commemorate his long involvement with the Friends of the City Churches. He was very amused and said that he now feels “well and truly listed”!
Nancy Branson, a trustee of the Friends of City Churches and responsible for organising the service, said: “We have been so very fortunate with the exceptional support and encouragement that Bishop Richard has given us, along with our members and many friends, and we shall continue to go from strength to strength with that underpinning our determination to continue our work with and for the City Churches. We send him our warm and best wishes in every way.”