The Patronal Festival of the parish of St Peter and St Paul, Clapham, London

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Seven years ago the late Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) blessed the establishment of this community in South London around Father Alexander Fostiropoulos, which became the parish of St Peter and St Paul in 2006. Currently worshipping in Clapham in an Anglican church, a building of a pure Victorian style, the parish celebrated its Patronal Festival this year during the weekend of 26th to 27th of June 2010.

Their twin-parish, the Holy Trinity parish in Paris (« la crypte » which worships in the lower church on the Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky in rue Daru), delegated me to visit them. Father Alexander’s wife, Patsy, welcomed me at St Pancras International Station and on we went to the church talking about the parish.

Before each service, the community « deploys » the Church which is shared with the local Anglican parish of St Peter. Services are celebrated and sung in English, with a few litanies and prayers in Church Slavonic and Greek (and, on the occasion of my visit, in French!) reflecting the « cosmopolitan » background of the parishioners. The singing is according to the Slavonic tradition and the musical settings slightly adapted to the English language.

Supported by a gorgeous group of singers, located among pews, the congregation was lead in prayer by Father Alexander and Father Ian from the parish of St Peter and St Paul, Father Patrick Hodson from the parish of St John the Theologian in Norwich, Father Constantine of the Community of the Holy Trinity in Guildford, myself and by deacon Alexander from the parish of the Dormition in Holborn, London.  I discovered that four of the six members of the clergy were ordained less than two years ago, proving how dynamic local communities are.

In his sermon Father Alexander reminded us that we share the double heritage of the lives of St Peter and Saint Paul and that knowing better their extraordinary stories would be of great benefit to us in our faith journey.

I was invited by Father Alexander to present the Cross at the end of the Liturgy which enabled me to meet personally, at least briefly, every parishioner before the picnic lunch on Clapham Common nearby. This proved to be wise, since a few people had to leave after the service, an “epidemic” spread by the coincidence of a world cup football match  with the England team playing that same afternoon. Thanks be to God, this “exodus” was mitigated by our wise hosts who brought a small radio set to the picnic. How, strange, we share the same “disease” in France!

Then on a “so British” clean cut lawn, all generations gathered to share a festive meal and so conclude this joyful, sunny weekend.

Gathering with this dynamic and welcoming parish, with its vision, questions and aspirations, I met a living community who, though does not own stones, is made out of “living stones” as one of their patron Saints, the Apostle Peter, invites us all to become!

Father Daniel Cabagnols
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