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Diary: Lucy Winkett

12 April 2024


Real presence

HE SORT of marched down the centre of the church — just as the evening eucharist started. We’d had half an hour of silence; so the congregation and the building were at rest. But he swung in, walked purposefully to the front of the congregation, and stood in front of the altar. Right as we were starting the confession: “I confess before you that the world is broken by the wrong I have done.” True enough.

I decided it was probably wise not to meet his eye, nor to divert him — as our security guard was obviously thinking of doing — from his apparent purpose, which was to light a candle. He’s a big guy, and very often is noisily not in the same reality as the rest of us. He’s around most days as the church building is always open; so his presence over Holy Week and Easter felt somehow talismanic since, this year, the chaos of London street life was part of the liturgy in a very visual way.


One step at a time

THE regular congregation includes individual members who are experiencing homelessness, some of whom are — to use the euphemism that makes it sound a great deal less desperate than it is — “sofa-surfing”, and some who are spending all their nights and days on the street.

On Easter Day at dawn, the assembled congregation — having spent all night in the church, renewed their baptismal vows, and sung the resurrection into the streets — walks in procession to Piccadilly Circus to leave Easter eggs around the statues. One particular man spotted the small crowd having the traditional photo taken and photo-bombed the gathering.

In some ways, the recent appearance of this man (he has given his name, but his story is, so far, unknown to us) is a totemic condemnation of a city society that doesn’t seem able to help him find peace.

For now, he, like many others, is part of the church for food and prayer; and, together, we take each day as it comes.


Best feet forward

GIVEN the amount of admin and inbox-wrangling that is necessary for an incumbent, I spend much more time than I want to at a desk. I’ve now been supplied with one that I don’t sit at, but stand.

This has been a revelation. Many have said to me with serious faces that “sitting is the new smoking”; so I now stand, like a Privy Councillor, in the presence of a range of virtual interlocutors online, or sway from side to side, stepping while I do my emails.

I used to fantasise about attaching my Fitbit to the collar of my dog so that, while he sprinted around the park, I could clock up enough steps to have chips for dinner. Now, I’m doing my steps without even leaving my study.


Joey in my heart

TALKING of the beloved dog, Joey, my cocker spaniel, came to the end of his life just before Easter. At the age of almost 14, his daily life had become a great struggle over the past couple of months, and he was clearly becoming too confused about where he was or what he should do.

Through my sobs in the surgery, I managed to say to the vet: “You’re handling me really well.” He’d taken a lot of time to talk me through Joey’s prognosis, offer options for the way forward, and help me to come to the conclusion that was, in the end, the right one.

Joey’s capacity to find utter joy in absolutely everything, from his breakfast (the same every morning) to the rancid tennis balls that he chewed, to the chasing of squirrels when he was younger, and the illegal leaping into the Serpentine, has been a delight. He’s been an irrepressible companion and teacher, showing me the resilient joy of living in the moment.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve often thought of the Book of Job — not just the Eastertide “I know that my redeemer liveth”, but “Ask the animals and they will teach you.”


Urban regeneration

IN THE way of modern ministry, I never quite know what will happen next. I find myself at our new partner church, St Pancras, Euston Road, in an office above the station, looking down at the huge and multiple building projects that surround the now-stalled HS2 works.

More than eight million people pass over the concourse in a year, and the Tube line is regularly overwhelmed. Many teams of people are putting their minds to co-ordinating, improving, adjusting, and constructing, in this area; and the jury is out on how the multiple schemes will relate to the people who live close by, or how the environmental impact will be measured and controlled.

From this vantage point, it’s astonishing to see the city laid out below, and the ceaseless movement of people and freight. From the macro to the micro, the teeming streets of London — full of life, both human and beyond-human — have woken again, this Easter, for the Church in the city to be able to say “Christ is risen indeed.”


The Revd Lucy Winkett is Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, and Priest-in-Charge of St Pancras’s Church, Euston Road, in the diocese of London.

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