If anyone had told me back in March of this year that I would still be writing a weekly letter to you in October, because the congregation was not able to meet for worship, I would neither have believed them nor set myself the challenging task of doing so! But today I am grateful for this opportunity of writing to you in this way, because I have the poignant privilege of paying tribute to my fellow priest, Piotr, who leaves us on Sunday for pastures new. These pastures are in fact Brunel University, where he will serve as Chaplain. He will be moving from a church which was founded over 700 years ago, to join a college which was founded 55 years ago. In so doing he will be moving once again into an environment which suits him as a man of study and as a man of spirituality. We wish him well for this transition and assure him of our heartfelt prayers. Piotr joined us at our Patronal Festival at St Mary’s, where he was Licensed by the Archdeacon, on behalf of the Bishop, to serve as Assistant Priest for three years. He has in fact stayed for seven and we have all been the happier for his extended stay. He, Sarah his wife and Anna and Thomas their children, were taken to our hearts in no time at all. Piotr has exceptional gifts as a human being and as a priest, which it is my pleasure to pay tribute to today. There are many things I might say about Piotr, praise of him is not in short supply, but I shall take the letters of his name if I may, as a basis for my comments: P I O T R. P For P, I could take Polish, for that is his home country. I could write about his work at our Primary school, but that I shall do later. I might mention his Punctuality: for invariably he will turn up with a just a minute to spare and leave as soon as something is over, such is his punctilious practice in relation to time. We will all remember his sermons opening with the promise: "I will speak for three minutes.............." But I have another P in mind about which to write, and that is Passion. Piotr is passionate about the thing he most loves, communicating ideas about the things which interest him. To see him stand before hundreds of children is to see him enthuse about some aspect of the Christian Faith found in the Scriptures which he finds fuels his life with purpose and hope. He then successfully communicates not just his ideas to those who hear, but also the passion which lays behind his enthusiasm. Piotr is also passionate about Politics: social justice, the European Community, and has been seen protesting at marches with his children in central London, such is his passion in standing up for the things in which he believes. Piotr is profoundly passionate about Patristics, and also about St John’s Gospel, and many of us will long remember his passion in speaking of it. I Next we have I, so may I write here of Inspiration. It neatly follows passion. Piotr has been an inspiration to many of us who have listened to him over the years as he expounds Biblical teaching and explains doctrinal truths. He has inspired a whole generation of our young people whom, with parents and other helpers, he has helped prepare for Confirmation and First Communion. He is one of those intellectuals who is able to communicate enthusiasm for his subject, and not just information about it, insight, not just facts. O For O I would like to comment on Piotr’s Optimism. However bad things seem, however dire international events, however vexed the question of effective political leadership, however acute the divisions over Brexit, Piotr’s cup was always half full and not half empty. Again, for many of us, the vitality of his optimism was contagious. Whenever he spoke to us about the scriptures, he always gave us a positive interpretation, for Gospel hope is forever at his motivating heart. Together with Mother Julian of Norwich, he too sought to assure us that "All will be well and all manner of things shall be well." His belief in God’s pre-eminence, stretching even into the confounding events of contemporary experience, is strong and others have gained much inspiration from that strength of faith, for which we thank him. T Well obviously Teaching. This is Piotr’s reason for living. This is why he gets up in the morning, to lead others more deeply toward the truth which sets us free. (John 8 v 32) And, like anyone who is serious about teaching, he is fundamentally a person who seeks first to learn. How can one ever hope to lead others to water unless one first recognises the fundamental thirst which is within oneself and has located a place of real refreshment? Piotr is never happier than in a learning environment, there to teach. He breathes the chalk dust of Academe. He enjoys the discipline of learning, the structure of teaching, the process of intellectual development, the stimulation of pedagogical exchange. I know that his role as Chaplain at our Church School has been widely and warmly appreciated, for the way in which he has sharpened his ideas on the rocks of children’s questions, for the way in which he has explained complex truths, for the way in which he has helped make the Christian faith exciting. Teaching, he loves it and we love the way he has taught us too. R The last letter in Piotr’s name is of course R and for this I would simply like to say: Piotr, we will long Remember you. You are now forever woven into the fabric of our lives. Your ministry forms a distinguished part of the ministry and mission of this ancient Parish Church. We will remember your Puck-like presence, your Poirot-style speech, your energy for evangelism, your swift sermons. I also know that Christ’s command to "Do this in Remembrance of (Him)" at the Altar Sunday by Sunday in the making real of Christ in His Eucharist, is at the very heart of your life as a man and as a priest. We remember and pay tribute to your fascination for Scripture, your reverence for the Sacrament, your commitment to the Christ whom you seek to serve. Thank you for sharing seven years of your life so generously with us. We are the richer and the happier for your being with us. Please send Sarah, Anna and Thomas the assurance of our friendship and our prayers and prayers also for you, dear friend, as you explore new ideas, open minds to fresh truths, celebrate the sacraments and continue your particularly enthusiastic form of evangelism, which makes Christian discipleship so compelling. We, your friends at St Mary’s, ask that the Lord richly blesses you. With gratitude for the past seven years and with all good wishes for the years ahead. Jeff and all those at St Mary’s Twickenham.
PRAYER FOR ST MARY’S SCHOOL. We give thanks for the hundred, thousands, Of lives that have been part of the Life of St Mary’s School down the centuries. For the hundred, thousands of families Which have been part of the family of St Mary’s. For the vision of its Founders, For the dedication of its staff, For all who have served as Governors and as Trustees. As we face the challenges and opportunities Of our own day, we pray For an always constructive relationship Between teachers, parents, pupils, Governing Body, Trustees and Local Authority. That together we may play our part In knowing the unique wonder, of Nurturing the creative potential of Each and every child entrusted to us. That together we may help prepare them To live full and fulfilling lives, To the best of our ability, And to do so, not in our own strength alone, But in the strength of the Holy Spirit. That we may reassure each child, each adult, Of God’s presence with them, purpose for them, Belief in them, love for them. That each of us may say to Him, As did Mary our Patron: "Lord, Be it unto us, according to your Word." This we ask, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.
Please join us on Zoom this Sunday at 9.30am (details of how to join are below) We will at that service be bidding farewell to Fr. Piotr.
Our readings are: Colossians Chapter 3 verses 15-17 and Luke Chapter 17 verses 7-10. COLLECT: Almighty and eternal God, Increase in us your gift of faith That, forsaking what lies behind And reaching out to what lays ahead, We may run the way of your commandments And win the crown of eternal joy. This we ask through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. AMEN. PCC: Please remember in your prayers: Judy Britton and Barbara Williams who were re-elected last Sunday to serve as Church Wardens; Shobha Sajan, Liz Webborn, Clarinda Chan, Rosemary Fulljames and Peter Mence who join us for the first time on the PCC and Karen Kiddle, Mark Wilson, Francis Drasar and Frazer Bell who have been re-elected. Also all those who continue to serve the church in this important way on the PCC. Thank you. JHW