We asked people to write 175 words about St John’s for the church’s 175th birthday.
If you want to add some more, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy 175th Birthday, St John’s!
Away from the hurly burly of life in Hale
Never hostile and always
Just the place to celebrate with
Others the love of God, his Son and the Holy Spirit,
Christenings and marriages of family and friends.
Healing in times of sadness with
Understanding and support of clergy and congregation.
Revelations of God’s work through words, music and images.
Celebrations of special events; Christmas, Easter and Harvest.
Holy times throughout the year, every year.
Happy 175th Birthday, St John’s!
Always there since 1844.
Let us all embrace change in the years ahead,
Enclosed by your sheltering roof.
Alison Ridgeon, 2019
What does St John’s mean to me? It is a place of memories. Moving to Hale 80 years ago and being taken as a small child to church. Passing the church on my way to school and later work, learning about God and his love for us. Happy memories and sad, losing my father when I was 20, being supported and comforted. Happy times when I walked down the aisle to be married to my late husband John, 60 years ago. Returning 2 years later with our first daughter to be baptised.
Moving away from the parish but still holding St John’s close to my heart. Keeping in touch through my Mother until her death. The wonderful Requiem service that was held for her. With the coming of the Internet to be in touch again. Recently through this source my parent’s names have been entered in the Book of Remembrance.
Whatever the future holds for the incorporating of other uses in this beautiful building, may the presence of the Lord be always moving in St John’s
Mary Hart (née Green)
On a Sunday in September 2001 at St John’s, I led a pilgrim communion with boots underneath my robes and rucksack under the altar. After the service a few parishioners accompanied me towards the North Downs Way and the beginning of the way to Canterbury. I had always wanted to go on pilgrimage and finding myself at one end of the long-distance trail seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I stayed in parishes along the way, having made prior arrangements for accommodation, and arrived in Canterbury the following Saturday. Members of the parish travelled there to meet me and join in Evensong in the Cathedral. I invited parishioners to accompany me, both by physically walking with me for all or part of a day, or by following my daily posts on the internet. One day, making our way through Kent, one of my companions inspired me with stories of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. In 2006 I made the first of three pilgrimages there. Thank you, St John’s, for the inspiration!
My grandparents, parents, my husband and myself all married at St John’s – it holds a special place in my heart.
Every Sunday of my childhood we attended Matins at 11:00am, the service conducted by Rev. Jonathon Edwards. A pretty full congregation, each member regularly in their same pew, my Father as church warden seeing to hymn books and taking the collection. Mr. Leigh-Taylor often read the lessons, with such a clear, expressive voice. If my Father read the lesson I remember being surprised as it was the same voice I heard for a bedtime story.
Harvest Festival was a splendid event, every possible space filled with flowers, fruit vegetables and a beautifully baked sheaf of corn in front of the altar. The church smelt wonderful.
I remember the arrival of Rev. Peter Hogben for one particular reason. He preached a sermon which had us all laughing out loud – in church!!! I was shocked but secretly delighted to have this happen in the usual quiet, sombre service, in which one rarely spoke above a whisper.
The grand opening of St John’s Hale on November 8th, 1844 was well described by a reporter at the time. It was a wet day, with the ‘road thronged with carriages and other conveyances’; the Archdeacon preached an ‘elegant and impressive sermon’; the princely sum of 84 pounds, 13 shillings and sixpence was raised in the collection; and ‘in the evening the Lord Bishop entertained at dinner a large party of the clergy and gentry’!
Move the clock forward 175 years and it feels like a very different age than our own! Yet the same ‘God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ is being worshipped Sunday by Sunday, and St John’s remains at the heart of the community, with a vision to reach out further still. I was privileged to visit the church on one of my first Sundays in the diocese, and was given the warmest of welcomes; and I much look forward to returning during this anniversary year to give thanks for all that has been, that is, and is to come.
The Right Rev’d Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford
St John’s for me over the years has been a constant presence. Like many in the community, a punctuation for life events. A place for bright beginnings and soft endings. A place for celebration, solace and hope. And now St John’s is all this to my young family, too.
We as a family first attended St John’s Church for the Christmas midnight service of 1977. We were living in Army quarters in Farnborough and had found a partially built house in Hale which we were going to buy, so we thought it would be a good idea to attend the Hale Parish church.
The church was very full, but we had a nice welcome and thought it might be the one for us, so now, nearly 42 years on, I am still a member.
Yes, the congregation has altered, a lot have moved or died, but there are some members still active and enjoying the formality of the church.
So now, nearly 42 years later, the congregation is smaller, but there is always a friendly greeting on arrival.
There have been several changes of clergy. The Rev’d Michael Sellors had the job of burying my husband; yes, another very full service. He, himself, died a few year ago.
St John’s Church is a place where it is easy to pray. Sometimes I am there with no intention of praying, I’m just there to collect something, but I find myself sitting in the church, enjoying the stillness and the beauty, and more than that – the palpable sense of God. It is almost as if the walls have absorbed all the people’s prayers over the years and now when we enter the building we are enveloped in the gentle love of God, our hearts are stilled and we feel peace.
St John’s church is also under threat, though. The roof and the tower and the walls are all crumbling, costing far more than the congregation could possibly raise. But I have an immense sense that God hasn’t finished with St John’s yet, God has plans for its future and it falls to us to discern them and join in.
St John’s has been my spiritual home now for 42 years; through the good times and the sad times, the church door has always been open for me, allowing me to pray and contemplate on my life.
Initially, I mainly attended at festive times. In later years, I went to the Sunday early morning Communion service and enjoyed very much the peace and tranquillity, which helped me meditate when praying. After a spell of going to Friday services at St Marks, I have now arrived at the 9.30am Sunday service.
I really enjoy this service – singing hymns and participating in the service. There is something about saying your prayers with others. I try to pray every day at home, but in Church there’s a contentment which is difficult to describe.
St John’s is my Rock – so much so, that when I pass away (which hopefully will be a long time yet!) I would like my ashes to be buried in the cemetery at the Church. Long may St John’s flourish for the next 175 years.
Last year we filmed a 60s wedding scene in the church. The building is beautiful and charming, and helped realise our script perfectly.
When we first visited the Church the sun was shining through the windows so wonderfully, which on the day of filming helped to craft the warm and loving atmosphere we were aiming to create! The priest and volunteers were equally as warm! The Church felt untouched by time and was such a joy to work in! We filmed during the heatwave, and the building most definitely provided some cool relief (popular with the cast and crew!). Filming in such an impressive building made our jobs easy, as the visuals were already stunning. I remember the sunshine pouring through the stain glass windows, which looked glorious (and even better on 16mm film!)
We’re very lucky and grateful to have been given the opportunity to film in such a beautiful and historical building.
A special thanks to Winston, Sylvie, and Alan, without whom The Bride in the Black Veil would not have been possible!
A warm welcome – my first and abiding memory of St John’s. In 2001 I turned up to the Wednesday morning Holy Communion, prior to an interview for the post of full-time curate.
I was a stranger. I was greeted at the door by Diana, with a smile and friendly greeting. Afterwards, many people said “hello”. For someone whose future ministry may lie in this place, it was immensely reassuring.
I became curate at Hale with Badshot Lea, as it was then, that summer. Another precious memory is of the first Holy Communion I celebrated, in 2002. Jane Virji and I had been through our diaconate and priesting together so it was decided that we should ‘co-celebrate’ at St John’s.
It was an unusual arrangement, but the parish took it in its stride. Rector Paul Smith moved on very soon afterwards, leaving two inexperienced priests running the Hale end of things. With the love and patience of many people, we survived.
Something at St John’s which mystified me was a sound which seemed like the muffled cry of a child. After many months I discovered that it was a creaking floorboard near the vestry door!
Rev’d Deborah Scott-Bromley
My memories are of running down Upper Hale Road on a Saturday afternoon in the 1960’s cassock, surplice and ruff in hand, with my younger brother David to sing in St John’s choir during the wedding season. We were paid 1/2 crown per wedding and it was very exciting to have two or three weddings during one afternoon.
Although we belonged to St Mark’s choir the weddings were always at St Johns and members of St Marks were always encouraged to help provide a full choir especially during the summer holidays, when numbers were low! We always enjoyed the weddings. The church was beautifully decorated, the congregation were happy and excited and sang loudly to the well known family hymns. It sent shivers down my spine when the organ struck the first notes of the bridal march and once the bride was handed to the groom we could see the nervous couple and were proud to be part of their special day. St John’s is a beautiful church full of history and happy family memories.
150th anniversary of St John’s building and consecration was a high point of my period as Incumbent of Hale with Badshot Lea. We celebrated with a catalogue of events through a week in November, including welcoming a former parishioner who had subsequently become a bishop to preside and preach, wearing a new set of Eucharistic vestments that had been especially commissioned and made for the occasion. At the end of the week there was a celebratory dinner in Farnham Castle (home, of course, of Charles Sumner, our founder and benefactor) at which the guest speaker was the comic actor Derek Nimmo, who had made a specialism in his career of creating clerical characters on stage and screen.
In the introduction to the 150th Anniversary History of St John’s I wrote: “A building, even a Church building, is hallowed not so much by its appearance or proportion as by the faith that it represents and the community in which that faith is celebrated.” May that continue to be true in Hale for decades to come!
Vicar of Hale/Team Rector of Hale with Badshot Lea 1992-1999