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  • Chris Williams

Pastoral Letter - 17th September

Dear Friends,

On Tuesday of this week there was a Concert in church to celebrate the life of HOWARD GREENWOOD, one of the founders of the Richmond Concert Society some 60 years ago. Tomorrow, Saturday, we will be laying his ashes to rest in our Memorial Garden. We assure Monica of our ongoing prayers for her as she adapts to life without Howard and we continue to give thanks for the light and warmth, zest and passion with which Howard lived. Here is what I said at the Memorial Concert on Tuesday evening.

With all good wishes




Many of you were deprived of the opportunity of giving thanks for the life of Howard because we were, at the time of his funeral, in the midst of the awfulness and there were strict restrictions as to numbers we could admit. I mentioned at the time that I hoped there would be an opportunity later in the year, to celebrate Howard’s life and all that he meant, and will continue to mean, to us in this community, especially to those of us who love and value the role which music and friendship play in our lives.

Here tonight I see brought together the main strands of Howard’s life, the things which gave him most pleasure, meaning, comfort and inspiration: family, friends, music and this sacred space in which he sought and found the presence of God and enjoyed communion here with Him.

The thing I find myself thinking most strongly about Howard is this: that all which music seeks to do, so too did Howard.

I know that I am speaking to the converted, to those for whom music is far more than merely entertainment. It speaks to the core of who we are as human beings, helping us to make sense of who we are. Deprived as we have been of live performances for so long, a hunger raged within us, a need for an energy not available to us in recordings, brilliant as they may be.

Howard was an advocate, an ambassador for all that music does as it reaches out into the depth of who we are: where we are most vulnerable, where we need to find resolution, drawing us together and reminding us that we are not alone, offering us the vicarious experience of harmony which may elude us elsewhere in our lives.

Music enlivens, enlightens, emboldens, embraces, energizes and has also been known to heal. And I am convinced that, were Howard still to be with us, he would ask to meet up with me for a drink and would probably say in that irrepressibly passionate way of his which was one of the things we most loved about him, with arched eyebrows, bright, shining eyes and with his infectious enthusiasm: "Dear Boy, Dear Boy, people have been through absolute Hell these last 18 months. They have been isolated, they’ve been ill, they’ve been depressed, they’ve been frightened. How about if we have a series of concerts at St Mary’s to help people get back on their feet again? To remind people what it is to have fun, to have wonderful morale-boosting music. How about it? And we could serve wine before the concert, during the interval of the concert and after the concert too! It would be marvellous, wouldn’t it? What say you?"

And I would surely have had to agree!

Lady Panufnik will speak soon of Howard’s remarkable gift to this community and of his part in the formation of this extraordinarily successful music society some 60 years ago, pre-eminent as it is amongst music societies across the land.

Music matters, it is far more than entertainment, it is primal: it is to do with the essential truth of who we are as creative, thinking, feeling, making, aspirational, relational beings. And it is so powerful tonight not to be sitting in our homes turning on Radio 3 or playing a CD but coming together in person to experience the wonder and power and alchemy of music.

I have so loved the times when I have been able to join you over the years for the performances and have left those concerts feeling happier and more whole than I would otherwise have felt. I am aware that Howard’s great legacy to us, apart from his friendship and his family, is that you and I can, at so reasonable a price, enjoy, be amazed, moved, deepened, challenged and inspired by the marvelousness of music, as revealed to us through the wonder of instruments and voices.

Tonight, with you, I give thanks for the charm, warmth, sincerity, energy, passion, vision, commitment and sheer hard work of the man with the shining eyes, the raised eyebrows, the outstretched hands, who was always enthusiastic, always appreciative, always valuing and nurturing of others. So, what better way to celebrate Howard’s life and remember all that inspired him to find meaning and fulfilment, than to come together to a place which meant so much to Howard, as it continues to do to Mon, to meet once more as friends and offer ourselves anew to what music can do to heal, to shape, to renew, to resolve, to enlighten our lives and the life of this community we all love and value so deeply.

Thank you, Howard.

God bless you, my friend.



TO THOSE WHO HAVE FAITHFULLY PHONED AROUND THE CONGREGATION OVER THE PAST 18 MONTHS: Dear Friends, May I take this opportunity of thanking all of you who have been telephoning each other to keep in touch and reach out with the hand of friendship to those you knew and did not previously know before March of last year. I know how grateful we have all been to those who have been in touch with us with a friendly word and the reassurance of their prayers. I would also like to thank Betty and Emily for making arrangements for these connections. When I first realised what was happening in the early months of last year, I asked them both if they would help to organise a telephone network to help us all feel connected and in communion with each other when we were not able to meet in church in person. I am so grateful to them for the diligent and sensitive way in which they have done this, and ‘phoned so many people themselves as well. When we look back at this time in months and perhaps years to come, I hope that, like me, you will see this as a profoundly significant and deepening experience we have had as a community, where friendships have been made and have grown into the strong bonds we now enjoy. Thank you to you all for your positive, compassionate and loyal friendship to each other and to me during these challenging months. I give thanks to God for you all. With blessings and best wishes, Jeff


Collect for this Sunday, OUR HARVEST THANKSGIVING: Eternal God, You crown the year with your goodness And give us the fruit of the earth in their due season: Grant that we may use them to your glory, For the relief of those in need And for our own wellbeing; This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN

At both the 9.30am Eucharist in church and the 5pm Zoom service online, we shall be reflecting on the Gospel passage, which this week is Matthew Chapter 13 verses 1-9.

To read all our ‘Weekly Parish Notices’, simply click on the appropriate box in the ‘Welcome’ panel on the website’s home page:


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