Father Michael's Retirement

Father Michael will be very much missed by all of us. His final service after 33 years at St Paul's, on 17 July was an emotional occasion with wonderful music from Tom Torley's brass group and the choir, and heartfelt tributes from members of the congregation including Caroline and Mike Morgan-Jones, Simon Surtees, Stephanie White and Bea Vickers. Warm words were spoken of how Michael's arrival in 1989 had felt like "a breath of fresh air" and how much good work he had done for our parish over the years. He was presented with a photo album of his time at St Paul's as well as vouchers from Trailfinders, John Lewis and M&S. After the service there were drinks in the vicarage garden. Pictures are below, as are the tributes from Caroline and Mike, Stephanie and Bea . 

A Tribute to Michael  Riley from Mike and Caroline Morgan-Jones

Our association with St Paul’s Church goes back a very long way and  we would like to mark the occasion by sending our love and very good wishes to you as you now take early retirement. Many of you  here today will not know who we are, because we went to live in the Salisbury area almost 20 years ago, but we have kept in close touch with Michael himself and indeed various members of the current congregation, and kept abreast of goings on at St Paul’s.  

 

When Michael arrived in the late 80s, it was the dawning of a new era.  Under the previous incumbent, the congregation had gradually shrunk to perhaps 10 or 12 mostly elderly and Michael was like a breath of fresh air.  He was very active, inclusive and generous, the vicarage and garden were opened up to us all and word soon got round that things were different at St Paul’s and the congregation gradually grew.  One of his skills  in the early days was finding the appropriate people to help him develop his ideas – for instance Pat Davies and I helped to launch a Parish Magazine – a total innovation for St Paul’s.  

 

Michael married  Mike and myself in October 1990 and over the years has christened four of our grandchildren /step grandchildren.  I planted the Magnolia Stellata in the garden in 1981 where my late husband’s ashes are buried, along with those of many more people whose ashes are buried in the bed, so you can see our connection with St Paul’s remains very strong.

 

Sadly the passing years have taken their toll,  as they have on all of us and a new home and way of life  beckons you.  We shall keep in touch with you and wish you all happiness and joy in your new life – and we shall also watch with great interest the developments at St Pauls! Mike and I wish you a well deserved retirement and thank you  for all you did for us and for all that you have done particularly in the early years to  transform a failing Parish to what St. Paul’s Church is today.

 

A Tribute to Michael Riley from Stephanie White
Roderick and I have been worshiping here for over fifty years! During that time, we have seen two vicars and a period of interregnum, hopefully a longer one than the one which we are facing now!

 

Last week, our gospel reading was about Martha and Mary: the contrast between a practical and a reflective faith. I am definitely a busy-bee of a Martha, but I recognise my own need to be around the Marys of this world whose faith is more profound. I have definitely found that stable faith in Father Michael’s ministry.

 

I’d like to thank him today for three things: his open church; his tolerance; and his generosity of spirit.

 

Open church means two things to me: firstly, the fact that the church itself is physically open each day; and secondly the fact Father Michael has allowed it to be used for so many things which benefit the congregation and the wider community. Think of all the wonderful concerts we have had here, the musical evenings and the personal celebrations he has allowed.  We held our fortieth wedding anniversary here!

 

It is quite a gift to be strong in your own beliefs, yet tolerant and open to other patterns of behaviour and belief. How many of us are here in this congregation today because of that tolerance? There are ex Methodists and Catholics among our regular worshippers and often visitors from another faith entirely, who find this a welcoming community. Father Michael has demonstrated the value of trying to see the best in people and show them loving  kindness rather than be too ready to pass judgement. I am personally grateful to him for the help he has given to refugee friends of mine.

 

Finally, Father Michael  has been very generous both with his own time and with his personal space. When we come to pray for the sick in church, I am reminded of his second ministry, caring for people at the Convent nursing home. When  I look through old photos, I remember how we have always been free to use the vicarage itself and the garden for church events and private celebrations. Youth group members may remember the dens they built in the shrubbery!

 

We have been very lucky in our vicar and let us hope that Father Michael will be equally lucky in the new life which awaits him.

 

A Tribute to Father Michael from Bea Vickers

I would like to say a massive thank you to you Michael, from all of us of course, but especially from me and my family for your ministry to us for these last 15 years. It seems like a wonderful co-incidence that the 150th aniverary celebrations are ending with your retirement, as it does feel as if the last six weeks have also been for you. The concerts, the Flower Festival, the Comedy Night; what a great way to end your job! 

 

It's very hard to sum up what you have meant to us all, and particuarly to me personally. There have been times when we were chatting in your kitchen when it felt like I was with an old friend. Sometimes when we were planning Youth Group together, it felt a bit as if we were colleagues. When I came to you with some very private worries  - as I know many of us have - then it felt as if you were my therapist (and for me that's quite a strange role reversal!) When you took my sons, first Sam and then three years later Joe, for their confirmation classes, teaching them the architecture of our faith, you were a wise and trusted teacher. But when you led the service and stood with me by my mum's coffin, saying the prayers for the dead, you took the role that no one else in my life over the last 15 years could ever fill - that of my priest.

 

It is a unique relationship between a vicar and his or her congregation and we have been privileged to have a vicar who is as reliable, good-humoured, wise and (as Stephanie has said) tolerant as you. You are also very modest, and I imagine you're hating this! However, I'm afraid you will have to bear us saying goodbye to you because you will leave an enormous hole here at St Paul's which I promise you no one else will quite be able to fill.

 

Time and the seasons will pass of course, both in this gorgeous church and in beautiful Grove Park. And God willing, we will find a new priest. But we will never forget you. Maybe in years to come, some words from one of your sermons will come into our minds, or maybe we'll remember just how loud your singing of a favourite hymn could sound when you forgot to turn off your microphone!

 

So, good luck Father Michael. Go well in Bromley, enjoy your new life and remember; never forget to have breakfast!

Volunteering
Volunteering is a vital part of what makes us who we are at St Paul's. Much ot the work we do is not directly connected to our Christian mission and we have many active volunteers who like to play their part in the local community, but who are not necessarily interested in coming along to church services! If that sounds like you, and you'd like to join a very friendly team, then please get in touch! You can do as much or as little as you feel able! As you can see below, whether it's working on the bar, manning a barbecue, helping out at the tea club or selling tickets; there will be something you can contribute! For any volunteering roles, please talk to:

Cecilia 020 8747 3142 ceciliathwaites@gmail.com
or Simon 020 8994 7391 simon.cv.surtees@gmail.com 

Here are some of our most regular volunteers, Jill, John, Jane and Jenny. John organises many of our musical events, and Jenny has organised the catering side of things for St Paul's for more years than she cares to remember!

Julian has put together many high profile fundraising events for the church. Here he is happily playing the stooge at one of our highly successful comedy nights!

We are so lucky to have West End Director Michael Reed as one of our most regular and longest serving volunteers on the musical side of things at St Paul's. Mike has written and directed many fabulous and memorable events at the church and also often plays the organ for us when we don't have a permanent organist!

Our Organist Tom Torley

Tom Torley joined us as our organist in 2020, as a graduate from the Royal College of Music, where he was awarded a scholarship to study both piano and tuba. We are very lucky to have him, and he has given us an uplifting variety of classical music during our services on both the organ and our grand piano, allowing us all to benefit from the spiritual solace that wonderful music can bring.  

Pat Davies
We are immensely proud of Pat Davies, one of the longest standing members of our congregation. Pat (96) has recently been awarded the Légion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit today for her work during the Second World War. Pat Davies was one of the 'Bletchley Girls', working at listening stations around the coast, eavesdropping on German naval radio transmissions and relaying the content to the code breakers at Bletchley Park. “It was interesting work – exciting and serious in equal measure. We didn’t know the significance of the messages we passed on, but we knew the work we were doing was important.”  The French Ambassador said the award was given for "her "bravery and remarkable contributions to the liberation of our country. We are forever grateful for your commitment and sacrifices". Pat has also been granted The Freedom of the Borough by Hounslow Council. This is the highest honour that a council can bestow and the tradition is maintained as a means whereby public recognition is given to the recipients as an expression of the highest esteem in which they are held by the council and people of the borough.

 

Pat was interviewed on the Jeremy Vine Show, and you can watch that interview on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thejeremyvine/videos/254952088869063/

Our Church

St Paul's Church is a vibrant part of the Grove Park community and as such is used for many different things! Have a look on the What We Do page to find the times of our church services . We also have regular concerts in the space which has wonderful acoustics and can easily seat around 300 people. As well as our organ, we have a superb grand piano in the church which can be booked for recitals. We have recently upgraded the lighting system in the church and our new multi-spot system has many different settings which can be adjusted to suit your needs. We also now have a high quality Bose sound system in place with speakers throughout the church. St Paul's is used for lunches, study groups, quiz nights, coffee mornings, school visits, community meetings and more! Please talk to our vicar michaelc.riley@virgin.net 020 8994 4387 if you would like to book the church for a concert or other event. 

Our Community Hall

The St Paul's Community Hall (also known as the Isis rooms) adjoins the church and can be accessed through the church and also from two separate outside doors. (The upstairs Isis Rooms are currently rented by a local business.) The Community Hall has recently been fully decorated and is a lovely light bright space. The floor is wooden, and there are plenty of tables and chairs. There is a serving hatch through to the hall from the kitchen, which is well equipped with a sink, oven, hob and microwave. 

The St Paul's Community Hall can be booked for any local group or meeting and the current programme really does have something for everyone, from yoga to life drawing plus lots of different excercise classes including Pilates. There is also a regular Tea Club - which is a drop-in event, and a good chance to get to know your neighbours and make some new friends!

The Community Hall is available for booking for parties on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons and is a very popular venue for birthdays and other celebrations! It leads out into a private and completely enclosed garden which contains benches and some children's play equipment making it a superb venue for a fabulous family function!

If you would like to book the Community Hall or just to have a look round then please talk to Anusha on 07515 137483  or you can email her at isisroomsw4@gmail.com

Our Garden

As well as the garden adjoining the Community Hall, we are very fortunate to have a large and lovely garden next to the church which is a rare thing in London! We often have our own parties in it and it provided a beautiful setting for the party to celebrate Meghan and Harry's wedding in 2018 as well as previously providing a gorgeous setting for a Jubilee supper, the Open Air performances by the St Michael's Players of A Misdummer Night's Dream and Salad Days and  a summer ceilidh to mark the opening of the Olympics! There is room to pitch a marquee or gazebos, and it is an ideal place for a wedding breakfast. Do talk to Michael michaelc.riley@virgin.net or 020 8994 4387  if you are planning your big day at St Paul's and would like to include the garden in your festivities or would like to book it for any other occasion!

St Paul's Church

64 Grove Park Road

Chiswick

London W4 3SB

020 8994 4387

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