A bishop, a mayor, an archdeacon and clergy and church members old and new joined the celebratory service for the 175th birthday of St John’s on Sunday, November 24.
St John’s was consecrated in November 1844 and the service on Sunday – which was led by the Bishop of Guildford and attended by the Mayor of Farnham, Cllr Pat Evans – marked the climax of several months of birthday celebrations which have included a flower festival, an arts and crafts festival, talks, concerts, a lot of reminiscing and, of course, cake.
St John’s was also delighted to welcome the Archdeacon of Surrey – the Venerable Paul Davies – as deacon, and former St John’s clergy the Rev’ds Paul Smith and Jennifer Paterson. Paul Smith led the intercessions while Jennifer read the New Testament lesson – Acts 2:37-47 which shows the church in action 2,000 years ago, sharing the same gospel of Jesus Christ that is shared today.
The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev’d Andrew Watson, preached at the service about the many changes that had gone on in the past 175 years, including the fact that traffic on Castle Street could sometimes be slower now than it was when local resident and inventor John Henry Knight was the first man fined for speeding in a car – in 1895, travelling at nine miles per hour. The Bishop also spoke about the future and the sense he had of God’s plans for the church in Hale.
There are plans underway to use St John’s not just for services but as a hub, responding to needs in the community. Rev’d Lesley Crawley is working on a long-term project to develop the church and has been talking to local residents, groups, charities, schools, businesses and other organisations, to discover what is most needed in the area. She said: “Our 175th birthday has been a wonderful reason to celebrate this beautiful church and we have loved welcoming friends old and new to St John’s. It has also been an opportunity to focus our minds on the future and what we believe God is calling us to do here in Hale. I am very excited as I look forward to seeing the church grow and develop. Here’s to the next 175 years!”
Afterwards there were snacks and Prosecco and the Bishop and Lesley Crawley cut the birthday cake made by parishioner and member of the choir June Jasper.
There is a communion service at St John’s every Sunday at 9.30am, and on the first and third Sunday there is also a ‘Taizé service at 6pm, using liturgy featuring prayer chants and silence and based on the Taizé monastic community in France.
This Christmas there will also be a carol service on Sunday, December 15 at 4pm; a ‘Longest Night’ service – for people who find Christmas difficult – on Wednesday, December 18, at 7.30pm; a Crib Service on December 24 at 3pm; Midnight Mass on December 24 at 11pm; and a Christmas Day service at 9.30am. St John’s will also be the meeting point for the Christmas event, ‘a Journey to Bethlehem’, on Friday, December 20, when two groups will walk to the church from Badshot Lea and from Upper Hale and arrive for a short service attended by the Mayor.