Dear Friends

I am thrilled to give over most of this month’s newsletter to Marion’s week in Westminster Abbey. I hope that before too long there’ll be a few photos on the website of the visit about 50 people from the parish made to the Abbey whilst Marion was there. You can read some reflections from some of those who went in this edition as well. I’m sure there will be other opportunities to read more about this wonderful week.

Below you’ll see two dates for your diary. You may already have the APCM booked in, if not please do make a note of it and try to come along; but the other date is a ‘new release’! I am delighted to say that, thanks to a member of the parish, we are welcoming Lionel Blue in April. His visit to speak about our parish values has inspired us to  create “Sunday Supplements” which is going to be a series of occasional talks, followed by tea and Evensong. As well as Lionel Blue, we shall be welcoming Munawar Karim, the head teacher of the only Muslim Montessori school in the country (which happens to be near the RBH), on Sunday 24 June. These events are open to anyone who would like to come and may well provide a good way to get friends and neighbours across the threshold of a church building for the first time in some time … it can be harder than we think to walk into a church!

Making the decision to make the journey towards that place; coming to the conclusion that this is the time, this is the moment; deciding that it has to be now; summoning up the courage to approach the place for the first time; knowing it has to be done, but not knowing what will be found; suspecting and expecting that it won’t be easy, that it will be unsettling and disturbing, and that it might even smell … thus it was for the women who approached the tomb where Jesus had been laid; who wished to do for him what was right according to custom and law; who knew they had to be in this place at this time … and they found the tomb empty and they were terrified and they said nothing to anyone!

With my very best wishes for a very happy Easter


A view from the pulpit  :  Musings of a Weekly Chaplain in Westminster Abbey

What a view it was as I looked down the aisle, through the great gates at the end of the Quire over the Knave alter and beyond to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and out through the great West Door. Six times a day for six days I climbed the steps into the ancient of pulpit  where so many famous people have preached. On the hour I welcomed the visitors to this great Abbey and impressed upon them that it wasn’t a theme park but a house of God filled with worship and prayer!

I called for silence on the hour that we might pray and the silence which followed was quite amazing, hundreds of people became still. Twice daily I took those that wanted further prayer into the most sacred sanctuary that surrounds the tomb of St Edward the Confessor. We offered all the prayer cards written the day before from people anxious for prayer for themselves, for loved ones, hundreds piled into a bowl. The Sacraments of Reconciliation (confession) and Anointing (laying on of hands) were offered also twice daily and many sought me out to go to a private chapel close by for these Sacraments. I was humbled by how many people just wanted me to bless them.

I was totally looked after by the Marshalls, the men in red, who make sure all is well in the Abbey with the visitors –no climbing on the statues! When ‘’the mob’’ from Caversham arrived on Wednesday (they were affectionately called this throughout the week) I was summoned to the West Door to meet and greet by the Marshalls ‘walkie talkies’!

Presiding at the midday Eucharist was awesome and the vergers, the men in black, assisted me seamlessly nudging me into position and helping me on with my vestments ( I could get used to that!) I robed in the room that Royalty are received in and used the Queen’s loo – so did several ladies from Caversham who had the alternative tour which included the Weekly Chaplains flat-which was very untidy! At night after Choral Evensong I walked the cloister home to my cosy flat which was VERY close to Big Ben and to begin with kept me awake all night!

Being in the Abbey at night is amazing you can hear the hum of the traffic outside but there is also a vibration inside as if the building is moving.

I met people from all over the world asking all sorts of questions-many angry Roman Catholic women angry with the Pope for thwarting their  vocation to priesthood. Some wonderful theological questions which I invited after some of the prayer sessions-and then several people who really wanted to know where Elton John’s piano was at Diana’s funeral.

What a week!

My knees will no doubt survive and I look forward to next year, or maybe sooner as I have been already invited back by the Canon responsible for pastoral care in Westminster Abbey.

Thanks again to all those who came to cheer me on it was very good to share it with you.

Marion Pyke

Visiting the Abbey

Mothers’ Union members and friends organized by Ann Deane

The invitation originally came from Marion to our Mothers’ Union and then grew to all our branches and then to everybody generally who was interested. I personally would love to acknowledge the letters and texts that I have received to say thank you and several people have suggested that more trips together as a Parish would be much appreciated. We all had a fantastic day and thank Marion for suggesting it.

Ann Deane


A lovely sunny day heralded the start of what for me was a memorable day! Inside the huge pillars draw your eyes firstly to the splendid ceilings, the windows and back to the golden gates rood screen behind which is the majestic altar.

We waited for Marion to arrive in her black robes and bright red sash. Confidently she strode in and I hoped that she knew we were praying for her and how proud we felt. The service began. Once Marion’s voice rang out a respectful hush settled over the interior.

When the time to receive Communion came people who had been standing outside the seating area, come forward and joined in the orderly queue to receive Communion even before we, who had been “specially invited by OUR MINISTER”, could get out of our seats!!

Lunch and a walk in the sunshine towards the London Eye before returning to tour the Abbey with headphones to hear more about the many interesting chapels, monuments, and history and see the ancient chair used in the Coronation- who would have thought that the “tatty ancient chair” was THE one which Elizabeth and many other royalty sat on during their coronations !

Sue McQueen

Arriving independently at the Abbey it belatedly struck me that being such a large building I might find it difficult to meet up with the Caversham coach party. One could hardly ascend a conveniently placed pulpit and shout “anybody from Caversham here?”  Luckily I recognised several familiar faces in the seated congregation in the nave awaiting the service. On the stroke of 12.30 Marion processed down the aisle in a striking russet vestment. She appeared not at all fazed by the magnificent surroundings but made the nave shrink as if it was communion within the intimate surroundings of St Peter’s south chapel.

Whilst Westminster Abbey is a major tourist attraction and at first glance a monument to royalty and the establishment it is so much more. The Abbey acts as a spur to one’s social conscious even before you enter the west door with its statutes of modern martyrs. Inside amongst the military rolls of honour stands a giant candle entwined by   barbed wire. This is an AI monument dedicated to a prisoner of conscience.  Each month details of one prisoner is displayed beside the candle and the reader is invited to pray for them. Whilst obviously not unique to this church, the smaller chapels offer a more intimate prayer space in contrast to any services in the main nave complete with choir, vergers and assorted clergy en mass.

Luckily the best way to tie together all these aspects of the building is to read the book “Pray, Love, Remember” by Michael Mayne. This book written as a Lent guide is a wonderful mixture of a guide to the building and its active religious life together with a deep spirituality enriched with a huge and sometimes surprising sources of literature from mystic poets to popular authors used as quotations to illuminate a specific points.

Francis Serjeant


An immense space, soaring upwards to intricately carved roof timbers; the beauty of stained glass windows and side chapels crammed with tombs and wall plaques; a great sense of peace and tranquillity, not disturbed by the hundreds of visitors tuned in to their audio guides; the intimacy and fragility of the shrine of Edward the Confessor, listening to Marion saying the prayers used each day at this short service; reflecting on more than a thousand years of history collected in one special place. Our church in England has seen many momentous changes, and will see more.

Jenny Wright

We left St John’s promptly at 10:00 am, picked up at Waitrose and forward to Westminster arriving at 11:45am. There, waiting for us, was Marion resplendent in her long black cassock with wide red fringed sash. Although she looked very small in that vast building, she was completely in control with the Eucharist doing it all herself except for a chalice assistant. The whole event was very awe inspiring and Marion fitted those huge surroundings so well. We had coffee in the cloisters and lunch in the Methodist Central Hall after the service, returning to the Abbey to do the tour with the aid of the excellent commentary on headphones. That took a good two hours and could easily have taken more: such an involved history and so well preserved and cared for. Then there was always the shop and lovely sunshine to enjoy.

Ann Deane

We had a great time at the Abbey.  It was a real privilege to take communion there particularly with Marion presiding.  My friend and I were able to spend the whole afternoon wandering round to our heart’s content soaking up the atmosphere and visiting area’s of the Abbey that neither of us remembered seeing before!

Sonia Higgs


What a joy to attend a Eucharist in Westminster Abbey presided over by Marion.   She was resplendent in her robes and looked very much at home in her grand surroundings.

Sue Jenkins

Jeremy’s Jotting

Last month I talked about our journeys through Lent. How have they been, I wonder? Have you managed to make some time to listen to God? It’s when we take time to do that, that we can often make some fascinating discoveries, things which perhaps we have been ignoring for years (for example, my own call to ordained ministry!). But it is as we open ourselves up to God, so we discover more of His purposes for our lives and the people He wants us to be. And whilst that can be a scary thought, it is the path to fulfilment and freedom.

As we now prepare to move into the Easter season, let’s not stop listening to God, both as individuals and indeed as churches as well as a parish. It can be tempting to confuse busyness with righteousness. But we can be doing the wrong thing. So let’s try to continue to listen to what God wants for us, and then to act upon it.

As Churches Together in Caversham, we have taken a long time over the past year trying to discern how we should respond to the opportunities presented by the Olympics this summer. It hasn’t been an easy process but things are now much clearer and beginning to fall into place. Is God calling you to be involved in some way, whether stewarding at the festival, helping at the holiday club, hosting  a visiting athlete’s family,  giving to support our activities? Whatever He might be calling you to do, we are all called as people of God to pray, and so I hope that you will join me in praying for our events.

So, in short, let’s keep listening to God and finding the fulfilment of doing what He wants.

May I encourage you to attend the monthly  More Than Gold prayer meetings at different churches beginning with the one at Caversham Baptist Church at 8pm on Wed 18th April?

Jeremy Tear