London, September 1 to 6, 2014
I promised friends that I would keep posts coming on this log even when I left St Clement’s so that we could keep in touch. So here is the first report from my retirement.
I got to London on Monday, September 1, and have been staying at the hospitable home of two very old friends. I went to school with both of them, though it was two different schools. They have a house in London, just off Clapham Common, and a house in Palm Springs, California, and spend six months a year in each. Luckily I have caught them while they are in London.
On Tuesday, I visited my old office of the Diocese in Europe in Church House, Westminster. It was from here that I exercised my ministry as Vicar-General of that diocese for five years before going to be Dean of its Cathedral in Gibraltar. The Diocesan Secretary and I had lunch in the solarium bit of the new restaurant in Westminster Abbey’s cloisters, a fine new facility for visitors. We caught up on the goings-on in the Diocese, which has now expanded to about 300 chaplaincies all over Europe. Then Bishop David Hamid, our Suffragan Bishop, invited me to his club, the Army & Navy in Pall Mall and we drank a bottle of champagne and reminisced about the past of the Diocese and speculated about its future. Later, I had dinner in the Carlton Club with another very old friend, Prebendary Bill Scott, the Sub-Dean of the Chapels Royal and Domestic Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen. As you may imagine, we also had much churchy-type news to exchange. Fr Bill lives in an apartment at St James’s Palace, just down the hill from the Carlton Club, so it was easy to walk from the one to the other.
The weather in London has been pleasant, around 70%, so I have enjoyed walking around. I hear I have just missed an outbreak of tropical heat and its associated thunder storms in Philadelphia, and I’m glad of that. No need for air-conditioning here. Yesterday all I did was go to Harrods and get one of their tiny pocket diaries for 2015 and then get my I-phone equipped with a new chip so that I can use it for the coming month here in the UK.
This evening I went to St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, in Earls Court. It is one of the finest churches of the Oxford Movement and has just received a new Vicar, Fr Paul Bagott, formerly Vicar of Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, where one of my predecessors at St Clement’s, Fr Peter Laister, was also Vicar. Fr Paul has wisely decided to make the feast of the Translation of the Relics of St Cuthbert the chief feast at Philbeach Gardens, since St Cuthbert’s other feast is March 20 and is always in Lent (not to mention London’s March weather!). He seems to be right, since there was a very good attendance this evening, with quite a few clergy there as well as many lay people. It was a Pontifical High Mass, the celebrant and preacher being Bishop Ladds. He preached a very fine sermon on St Cuthbert’s great influence in the North of England. and southern Scotland.
So you can see I haven’t given up religion entirely since leaving St Clement’s! In fact, I will be preaching in the Roslin Chapel next Sunday. I’ve known the Chapel all my life, but was surprised when it shot to prominence as the climax of Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code”. I doubt if I should mention this in my sermon: the normal congregation must be heartily fed-up on that subject.