The first fortnight of November is a sober but important moment in the year when we allow ourselves to dwell just for a while on the subject of death. On Remembrance Sunday (10 Nov) we mourn those who have lost their lives in war, remembering especially those who chose to give their lives for the sake of others. On the previous Sunday (3 Nov) our 4 pm afternoon service of Commemoration was a chance to remember and give thanks for those we have loved and lost. Their names were read out as we commend them to God: we came forward and lit a candle as an act of prayer. We offer this quiet, meditative service especially to local residents and again welcomed residents from Inkerman House, which provides sheltered housing in Nevern Square. As in recent years, Inkerman generously provided food and drink after the service.
At the Harvest Festival service we donated food to The Upper Room. But what is this charity and how does it use the food it receives? More importantly, are there items other than food that we could donate in future?
The Upper Room was founded in 1990 by John Wheeler in response to people knocking on his door, asking for food. He set up the organisation with the help of his parishioners to support vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people in West London.
The majority are homeless people sleeping rough, but the charity also works with ex-offenders and economic migrants. Recent years have seen an increase in people from Poland and, more recently, Bulgaria and Romania.
“Most of the food we prepare is donated by members of our community and from places like Whole Foods, Charlie Bigham’s and other supermarkets,” says Amanuel Woldesus, Operations Director. “Our chef is able to produce really excellent meals for less than 10p per head – it’s a remarkable achievement.”
For several years the congregation of St Philip’s has donated to their annual Harvest Appeal. During this period The Upper Room collects an immense quantity of tinned food and other goods from schools and churches. They sort these and store them in a 20ft container located in church yard for use throughout the year. This both keeps costs down and helps make people aware of the work that they do.
In addition to food with a long shelf-life and clothing for men, the charity needs Toiletries, including disposable razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and shampoo (travel size), stick deodorants and pocket-size packets of tissues, and bedding like sleeping bags and blankets.
If you would like to learn more about the Upper Room, or get involved in its work, visit their website http://www.theupperroom.org.uk/.
Did you see our awesome Harvest festival decorations? The scheme was designed by Zoe Schieppati-Emery and produced with Anne Steele and her 30 helpers. Winter, spring, summer or winter – which is your favourite?
Following the Harvest Thanksgiving service, Felisha Romain and her friends and family served up a delicious West Indian harvest lunch. Simone Bynoe cooked curry goat, plain rice and potato salad and Felisha made fried chicken, stewed chicken, fried plantain and vegetable curry. Felisha’s mother, Doreen Wilson, provided coconut rice with peas as well as a rum cake for pudding, while her sister, Simone Romain, brought apple crumble. We had lots to give thanks for with these exotic and spicy Caribbean flavours.
As we celebrate – with the help of our Archdeacon – the new glass screens separating the lower hall and the main body of the church, it’s a good time to ask some rather bigger questions about how our building helps us in our ministry and mission.
Two goals adopted by the Church Council a couple of years ago are to make our building a better environment for worship and meeting and to make the building more accessible to the local community. At the same time we adopted two more specific objectives:
- To create more independently useable spaces within the building, including an informal meeting room;
- To reduce the impact of traffic noise inside the building.
Our Fabric Team, headed by Jacquie Sands, is now considering some options for the Church Council to consider. It is looking forward ten years and asking what specific improvements we could make to the building during that time to realise the Church Council’s goals.
We continue to have separate parts of the building which can’t be used at the same time. Noise from the street often interrupts our worship. During our services, up to half the church is unused, largely because of the position of the organ, which cuts off key sightlines. The upper hall remains inaccessible to some people. The only exit from the balcony when the upper hall is being used is down a stone spiral staircase, hard for some to manage. We have no small meeting rooms, where for instance a couple could meet in privacy with a priest. Our administrator is hidden away upstairs in a room designed as a storage cupboard. For most of the week the main west door of the church remains closed and it’s not possible for bypassers to even see inside. So there are plenty of issues to address.
And yet it’s a splendid building, which surprises and lifts people when they first come inside. We want our local community to feel it’s their building, one they can come into and use during the week. So it’s worth asking these big questions now. When the Church Council has specific ideas about possible ways forward, we will of course talk to the wider congregation, as well as other users of the building and our neighbours. Our aim is to fulfil our vision for the church, to be a visible sign of God’s kingdom on the Earl’s Court Road.