St Giles' Monthly Newsletter

St Giles' January Newsletter (updated 16 January 2021)


Dear Everyone,


Happy New Year and may we manage this final lockdown to emerge in a few weeks into the new life of spring.


Here’s some news, some of it accurate and some of it a bit more random. Thank you for the wit and variety of your contributions.


The church is open every weekday 11.00am – 4.00pm


As we are now in a national lockdown and with a NHS emergency in London there will be no services in church for the time being, but we will be broadcasting a service at 10am on Sundays via our YouTube page here  


Sunday Club meets on Zoom details from Dave Archer


Join the Virtual Coffee morning at 11am   

Click here to join.

Morning Prayer Monday – Thursday 8.30am


Diary dates

Private Prayer Thursday 7 January 1-1.30pm

New benches – scheduled delivery date 15 January

PCC Monday 25 January 6.30pm


Seasonal Section

The season of Christmas continues till Candlemas on 2 February

Dear Friends,


When I was banished to a remote northern outpost, I had not foreseen that I would find myself in a staging post for sleighs and reindeer making their way south from northern climes. No sooner had I arrived, in the absence of other medical personnel, I was asked to run the ‘Father Christmas Clinic’. I prepared myself for an influx of bearded elderly men but much to my surprise beneath the layers of detachable facial fluff and pillows stuffed under red overcoats, I discovered a workforce of every age, race and gender orientation imaginable, happily working together with shared beliefs and understanding that was a joy to encounter. It was, in a sense, an ‘epiphany’ for me, and a reminder of how my prejudices and assumptions had been repeatedly challenged over my years in practice.


Sadly, they brought with them disturbing tales of melting ice caps and environmental changes that make not only their task but their very survival increasingly difficult. Equally distressing was the state they returned in after their journey south. Not only had some succumbed to the temptations of mince pies and other offerings left on hearths and doorsteps, but the toxic fumes that now pollute our towns and cities had taken their toll.


I do my best and offer advice on sensible diet, more vegetables, less meat, alcohol in moderation, and encourage regular exercise, but am aware that the very survival of ‘Father Christmas’ demands more than this. Let us hope, pray and campaign for, to paraphrase the Marx Brothers and others, an environmental ‘sanity clause’ addressing the needs of our planet and its people, in the political legislation of the year and decade to come.


I wish you all a healthy and increasingly joyful 2021.


Dr Lauderdale Spratt etc (failed).


The tradition of Plygain

Mike and Amanda helpfully write in English for those among us who do not speak Welsh.

Amongst the many things which have been cancelled under current restrictions is the Plygain service at Jewin Chapel which was due to be held on 10 January, and which members of the St Giles congregation normally attend each year.  So, in the absence of the service itself, a little bit of explanation.  Plygain (pronounced like “plug”, then the “ine” sound of “fine”) is an ancient carol service tradition from the Welsh speaking parts of rural Wales, with its heartland in North Montgomeryshire.  Plygain services generally take place around the time of Epiphany.  The services were originally held at dawn, but over recent years have come to take place in the evenings.  The carols sing both of the birth of Jesus, and of the Resurrection.  Groups of amateur singers (some from individual families, others from small groups specially formed) take it in turns to sing a carol.  Some carols have been passed down in individual families for generations.


Anybody wanting to know more about the tradition should watch a programme first broadcast on S4C on New Year’s Day, and now available on BBC iPlayer: “Plygain Go Wahanol” (which means “A rather different Plygain”).  It shows Plygain singing adapted for the pandemic, and also a lot about the singing tradition and the beautiful countryside in which it continues to thrive.  Subtitles are available!


Homage to a tree from our south London correspondent

I’m sad to lose our Christmas tree. It’s not the lights, the baubles or the small souvenirs of decades of past travel, it’s the tree itself. It is quite perfect, nice and symmetrical with a good full skirt and somehow full of life. I know it’s been cut down, but its soul is still there. I’m not sure if the vibe is Prince Charles or Judi Dench.


Ever since I saw her programme “My Passion for Trees”, I’ve felt my own passion vindicated. It started walking to work and passing the London Plane, one tree after another. At eye-level, it was the ‘combat’ bark, and then the trunk, so solid, and some would say huggable; at foot level, there is the evidence of a tussle, the roots versus the asphalt.  I love the way the tree wins, and the huge slabs of pavement tilt to allow the root to push through. I give a silent cheer. These trees have years on me and will probably outlast me decades on.


They are forces of nature. They give some of their secrets away. If you’re prepared to place a stethoscope on the trunk, you can hear the rush of xylem on its upward journey. A real pulse of life hydrating the tree and contributing to the starch carried down in the phloem. And of course, there are the rings of the cut down tree that give away the secret of their age.


What’s not to love?


Poetry corner by our local laureate 

The Brexit Wind Doth Blow


Brexit granted our wish,

That we catch our own fish,

And what will the French do then, Poor things?

They’ll sit in a port,

Feeling très très sold short,

And plot mass blockades, Poor things!


Brexit brings quotas

But not of Toyotas.

And what will the Germans do then, Poor things?

Oh do you not know

Sales will be slow

Of Audis and Mercs and Beemers, Poor things!


Brexit hath spoken

And old tastes are broken,

And what will the Spanish do then, Poor things?

Jerez will pine

As its exports decline

While English plonks flourish, Poor things!


Brexit stiffened our spine

And we will consume our own swine,

And what will the Danish do then, Poor things?

Their ham and their bacon

Completely forsaken

For the Empress of Blandings, Poor things!


Brexit hath decided,

That foreign can’t be abided

And what will the Dutch do then, Poor things?

Their Bols and Geneva

Will offend any leaver

And they are sure to go bankrupt, Poor things!


Brexit hath deranged,

So tastes are much changed

And what will Italians do then, Poor things?

Prosecco, prosciutto

All got the boot, Oh

Their bankruptcy looms, Poor things!


Brexit concluded

Aliens must be excluded

And what will the EU do then, Poor things?

With no more carte blanche

And fog in la manche

They’ll be thoroughly isolated, Poor things!


New Enterprises: St Giles Gin


Congratulations to the St Giles’ Gin Committee in coming up with a really nice label and a pretty good gin.

Get out those spurtles!

This month Essa enthuses on the gentrification of porridge – “a topic chosen wildly and near the deadline, in case that’s not obvious” and she is set to write 20,000 words on food gentrification for her dissertation. Ideas please on the gentrification of alphabet spaghetti and elderly turnips.


To note -

Traditionally, porridge in Scotland was cooked in a heavy saucepan with water and a little salt, and stirred with a wooden spurtle. This paste was then cooled and stored in a wooden porridge drawer and eaten over several days. When cold, it could be cut into thick slices and eaten for lunch or fried for breakfast. Delicious.


The parish porridge drawers



and the Rector’s secret supply

Essa continues

As you may know I’m currently in Aberdeen doing an MLitt in Folklore & Ethnology at the Elphinstone Institute, and much to my surprise I found myself choosing the topic of food gentrification - porridge in particular - for my academic lecture last term. I didn’t think much of these now gentrified foodstuffs growing up, particularly kale. (In fact I still loathe kale, largely due to the memory of eating homemade kale soup as a youngster and suddenly realising that all the black bits slowly floating to the surface as I ate were in fact dead insects that my mother hadn’t noticed before putting the vegetables into the pot - my screams could probably be heard in Dundee!*) But despite my own personal suspicion, “boring” food like kale and, yes, porridge, are getting something of a renaissance in this new shining age of superfoods.


Porridge in particular is now really getting the hipster treatment with new porridge cafes popping up all across London and Edinburgh in the last half decade. Their bowls are full of acaï berries, bee pollen, organic jam and goji berries alongside the boring old oats and, naturally, cost upwards of £6 - I found quite a few Scottish newspaper articles complaining about London making yet another thing unnecessarily posh and expensive!


Whether you think that this new age of kale smoothies, banana-flavoured chia seed pots and high-end porridge is ridiculous, fun (or in the case of English companies pitching porridge bars with the claim that they will “transport you to the wild and woolly Highlands”, even mildly offensive) this zeitgeist of reimagining ‘plain’ food is here to stay…and arguably might be an entertaining way to pass the time as we all languish in Tier 4. Looking forward to seeing all your goji berry porridge experimentations on the St Giles twitter feed…!


*a distance of 10 miles


Much love from the frozen North, Essa



...the floorboards?


There are great goings on at St Giles’.


Excitement mounts as the floorboards are replaced, but what could those hidden depths beneath the church floor reveal? It’s anyone’s guess? Could there be yet more bones?

Work continues on the new floor and is due to be completed by weekending 22 January. 

Congratulations to our organ scholar, Emma van Setten, who has won a place to study music at St Hilda’s, Oxford, starting Autumn 2021.


Call in Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby - RSC actor, John Nettles, not the other one. Midsomer will just have to give up murdering for a bit.


Could there perhaps be sackfuls of swag - Pieces of Eight secreted by one of Frobisher’s crew? Frobisher, knighted for his services in helping to repel the Spanish Armada, died in 1594.  His heart and entrails were removed and buried in St Andrew’s Church, Plymouth. St Giles’ heartlessly, got the rest.


Or Lancelot Andrewes’s, vicar from 1588 to 1605. His tomb is in Southwark Cathedral but, as was seemingly then the fashion, perhaps his heart and entrails lie separately under our floorboards. Will Barnaby need to call in Hathaway who, with his degree in theology, might comprehend the significance of the Anglican divine? 


There will be a special alert for lost wedding rings - all that nervous fumbling in pockets on the big day. As Oliver went to put the ring on Elizabeth’s finger that hot day in August 1620, it slipped and fell. Mr Buckeridge, the vicar, resourcefully substituted a hoola-hoop. The ring was never found.

Scholars speculate that the lost manuscript of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy ‘Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter’, the play that completes the quartet of Othello, Measure for Measure and King Lear has to be beneath the floorboards. Whilst the plaque on Shakespeare’s tomb in Holy Trinity, Stratford upon Avon curses anyone who tries to move his bones; forget the bones, we would be more than content finally to find the play. Shakespeare was thought to have absent-mindedly left it in church after his nephews’ baptism. “The play’s the thing” (Hamlet Act 2). Forget the Bard of Stratford upon Avon, let’s have the Bard of the Barbican! Film contracts, souvenir biros, fame and prosperity will be ours, and Barnaby can return in modest triumph to Causton.

Local walks

With Mo and Christopher

Tessa Hunkin’s beautiful mosaics add great interest to local walks. We have found them in Pitfield Street, in the churchyard of St Leonard’s Shoreditch, in Haggerston, and in Shepherdess Walk Park

There’s a beautiful garden path in Stoke Newington, but there are many more, including at Westminster Cathedral and London Zoo.


More art forms for the casual explorer


Anyone else stumbled across this?


Or this?





Distant walks

Daniel writes

Last month I had the enormous privilege - all the more so in these extraordinary times - of spending a week trekking across one of the most remote parts of Kenya.  I was in great company - a close friend, two guides, 15 other locals and, last but not least, 10 camels to transport our whole camp every day.


The camels inevitably perhaps, given the time of year, made me think of the Magi and their great journey to their Epiphany in finding the infant Jesus.


Whilst our trek didn’t take the 12 days it took the Magi and their camels to reach Bethlehem from Jerusalem (let alone their months on the road before then) it did require determination, sweat and a little blood, if not quite tears. It was also more beautiful than I can express - the scenery on climbing to the top of yet another peak, the flora and fauna all around us, the company and, more than anything, the feeling of freedom and being so close to God’s creation.


The camels too seemed to both love and hate it. Sometimes they complained - and sometimes they simply refused to move. But at other times they ate contentedly, played with each other and were even quite affectionate with us.


A journey of ups and downs then - something familiar to both the Magi and for us... 

For the Magi, the extraordinary Epiphany of Christ, but an Epiphany followed by what TS Eliot describes as their agony in living a new life with doubt amongst an alien people clutching their own gods.  And for Christians more generally the journeys we all take in faith - the dark times when we feel uncertain, low or just stuck and the times of great joy or maybe great clarity too. 


As we go into a new year with uncertainty all around us, I take great comfort from being part of the community at St Giles. It is one of true friendship and fellowship - recognising that we each have different ups and downs at different times and.  And I pray that God helps us to maintain and grow what we have - not least in the decisions we make about a new priest to follow on from our amazing Katharine, as she leaves us for her much-deserved retirement after Easter.


Asking the people

The churchwardens are putting together the Parish Profile and Person Specification. They want to know your thoughts.


There are many churches to choose from in the neighbourhood, why do you choose to come to St Giles’?


How do you think others perceive us? a) in the community and b) on the wider stage i.e. BBC recording/broadcasting; musicians and their audiences; organ teaching which has a national and international profile; our neighbouring churches


What would we you like to see us do more of in the community? How could we increase our profile?


If we could change one thing about being at church what would it be? (Please consider pre and post Covid)


What do you value most in a Rector? 


Other comments and thoughts.


Responses to, 

Gail Beer                                      Lorraine Mullins and                            Tim Middleton


Keep safe everyone, keep well and keep going.


May the God of love protect us


Love from



St Giles' Parish Office

Tel.: (020) 7638 1997 


St Giles’ Church

Fore Street, Barbican

London, EC2Y 8DA

Where to visit us:-

St Giles' Cripplegate Church
Fore Street
London EC2Y 8DA


Registered Charity               Number 1138077

As we are now in a national lockdown and with a NHS emergency in London there will be no services in church for the time being, but we will be broadcasting a service at 10am on Sundays via our YouTube page here  


Sunday 17 January Epiphany 2

Details of Music and Readings here

Please click here if you would like to make a donation.

Join the Virtual Coffee morning at 11am   

Click here to join.

Weekday Services

08.30 Morning Prayer (Monday to Thursday in the Chancel)


18-25 January - Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 

Ecumenical Service from Wesley’s Chapel

Click here to join



27 January 2021                    Home Prayer Group - Lectio Divina 19.30 via Zoom. To join contact Suzanne Royce


The church is open for private prayer

The church iremains open from 11.00-16.00 Monday-Friday for private prayer. Please observe social distancing and any other instructions required when visiting the church.


Private Prayer and Reflection on first Thursday of the month 

You are invited to join others in church on Thursday 7 January  Please bring the monthly prayer sheet  here. If you are not able to join us, we hope you will continue to pray with us wherever you are.

Dates for 2021 

4 February, 4 March, 1 April, 6 May, 3 June, 1 July, not in August, 2 September, 7 October, 4 November, 2 December. 


Cleaning Angels

The monthly sessions on the first Thursday of the month from 13.30-15.30 including tea and cake.- with the current lockdown 

Cleaning Angels is suspended until further notice. 
Dates in 2021

4 February, 4 March, 1 April, 6 May, 3 June, 1 July, not in August, 2 September, 7 October, 4 November, 2 December. 


2021 Dates of PCC meetings in church at 19.30 

25 January
16 February – Shrove Tuesday Supper*
23 March
w/b 3-May Supper*
22 June

* in the Rectory at 7.30pm


APCM Sunday 25th. April 2020 incl. PCC Meeting 


Parish Office Opening Hours

Mon-Fri 11.00-16.00

Tel: 020 7638 1997

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