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Greetings from London

by The Reverend Peter Thompson on September 08, 2023

I write today from London, where I arrived a week ago. Here, in addition to sightseeing and enjoying the city, I’m spending time with our friends at St. James’s Piccadilly, seeing their ministry up close and learning from it. You may remember that we have established a link with St. James’s as part of an initiative that pairs parishes in the Diocese of New York with parishes in the Diocese of London. Representatives from St. James’s were supposed to join us in person last September, but then Queen Elizabeth II died. Instead, their clergy joined us virtually for The Forum.

St. James’s has a lot of similarities to St. Bart’s. Like us, they occupy a building that is significant architecturally and is located at a prominent address in the center of the city. Like us, they have historical ties to the established elite but also have a strong commitment to welcoming all. Like us, they are intellectually inclined, appreciate the arts, and care deeply for those in need.

The Rector of St. James’s, The Reverend Lucy Winkett, has been kind and generous to me. So far, I’ve had a chance to meet with staff and lay leaders and hear about their experiences of the parish. I enjoyed an all day retreat on the psalms and attended their innovative Tuesday evening service. Last Sunday morning, I preached at their Sunday morning Eucharist, paying tribute in my reflections to our own Jeannie Kippax. This coming Sunday, I will be introducing the congregation of St. James’s to St. Bart’s through a PowerPoint presentation after the service.

Before arriving in London, I traveled in Sweden, Germany, and France. Sadly, I contracted COVID, so my trip was delayed for a few days. But I still got to every stop on my itinerary!

First, I visited my friend Robert Bennesh and his husband Rickard in Malmö, Sweden. Robert is the organist of the cathedral in the nearby city of Lund and it was fascinating to hear about the life of a church that remains culturally significant even as it operates within a society that is somewhat more secular than ours. Robert took my partner Matthew and I to a number of the churches in southern Sweden and chatted about their various ministries. Robert’s own cathedral is in the midst of its 900th anniversary year!

I next visited my friend Chris Washnock in Cologne, Germany. Chris, a classmate from Yale Divinity School, has just started a fellowship there and is learning the language. We had lots of interesting conversations about the differences between American and German culture. I most appreciated the chance to explore Cologne Cathedral and experience High Mass in all its pageantry. The assigned Gospel lesson for the day was the passage in which Jesus tells Peter he is the rock on which the Church will be built—a particularly appropriate passage since the cathedral is dedicated to St. Peter.

After Germany, I headed to Nice, France where I joined Matthew for some vacation time. Together, we lounged on the beach, sauntered through picturesque squares, and consumed delicious food. Even in Nice, however, I had the chance to study the life of the Church a bit. One of our tour guides told us about Bethel, a bar set up in the courtyard of a church by the tourism ministry of the local diocese. It was interesting to see the parallels with our own set up on Park Avenue and how the offering of food and hospitality can be even more integrated with the Church’s effort to attract others and spread the word of God’s love.

I have another week in London before Matthew and I head back to the U.S. on a cruise. I look forward to writing more about my London trip in the next update.

I hope this weekend’s St. Bart’s Day festivities go well! Know that I am praying for you from across an ocean and that we are celebrating St. Bart’s in London, too.


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