23 Sep 2018

Friends of the Diocese in Europe Annual Service & Lunch

From John-Henry Bowden (former Chaplain here and there in Europe, and Committee member) on the Friends Service & Lunch:

"For the first time the Annual Service for the Friends of the Diocese in Europe took place on a Saturday in September. Normally the Service is planned to coincide with The Bishop’s Staff and Council Meetings, but this year the meetings will be in Brussels, rather too far for most Friends to travel. The disadvantage was missing Bishop David, the Archdeacons and the Council members, but the great advantage was freeing us to experiment with a different time and place.

So about 45 of us gathered at noon on Saturday 15th September, St. Cyprian’s day, in St Mark’s Church on the edge of Regent's Park, London. It is sometimes known as the “Zoo Church” as the Zoo is close by, and an enlightened Vicar, Hugh Stuckey, in 1928 decided to raise church funds by offering afternoon tea on August bank holidays to weary families. The Vicar of St Mark’s today is Fr. William Gulliford, who combines his ministry there with that of Director of Ordinands in our Diocese.

St Mark’s Church was founded in 1848 and consecrated in 1853 at a time when London was expanding rapidly. The then Vicar of St Pancras, concerned about the moral health of communities without churches, initiated the building of new churches. Built in a Gothic style the original church was built at a cost of £6,546! By the late Nineteenth century the Sunday congregation could reach 1,000. In September 1940 it was hit by two bombs and badly destroyed, although one parishioner said the clock continued to strike. It was the first London church to be completely re-built and eventually re-consecrated in 1957. Further damage occurred in November 1994 when an arsonist set light to the church on the eve of Remembrance Sunday - but the service took place notwithstanding the acrid smell and black river running down the nave.

Today it is magnificently restored and a large and beautiful space in which to meet, pray, worship, and party! (as you can see from the photos). And we did all those, to the enrichment of everyone with whom I spoke: Bishop Robert celebrated the Eucharist for us. The good people of St. Mark’s parish welcomed us and provided servers, thurifer and churchwardens (to guard the Bishop). William Gulliford preached. He cleverly, and amusingly, wove together the themes of St.Cyprian, witness, martyrdom and his own work with the ordinands and postulants of our Diocese. Our singing was full-throated and movingly led by a voluntary choir led by Fr.Peter McGeary, who sang the Byrd four-part Mass; and to conclude the service Archdeacon Meurig had chosen Bishop Geoffrey’s hymn, “Lord, we give you praise and glory”, sung to the European anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. The Organ was fittingly played to its splendid potential by Michael Bowden, St.Mark’s regular organist. Together we offered an enthusiastic and memorable act of thanksgiving, prayer and worship.

Afterwards we all enjoyed a glass of wine and a most generous and tasty lunch provided by our experienced caterer Pearl Ali. During lunch Bishop Robert spoke to us, giving us his perspective from Brussels of the progress of the negotiations for UK to leave the EU. “Progress?” you may ask – but yes, that was Bishop Robert’s encouraging view from Brussels of subtle changes taking place in the discussions backstage, and even in public pronouncements of each side."

The Committee of the Friends will welcome your feedback on the changes of date, time and place, when we next meet in February 2019 to plan our next Annual Service. Please send your comments via our hard-working Secretary and firm friend, Jeanne French, at