‘Birthday’ celebrations for St Mary’s, Harrow on the Hill
The Bishop of London joined the congregation and community at St Mary’s, Harrow on the Hill for the celebration of the Epiphany and the annual “Birthday Service” marking the church’s Feast of Dedication. He was assisted in the service by Fr James Power, Vicar of St Mary’s and by the Revd Michael Selby, assistant curate of St Peter’s, Ealing, who was a former lay reader at St Mary’s.
The Mayor of Harrow, Cllr Rekha Shah, and the Deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex, Mr John Purnell, were among the attendees. St Mary’s plays a significant role in civic life as the Borough Church and a committed supporter of the Harrow Inter-faith Council. Vicar, Fr James Power is among the five chaplains serving Mayor Shah, reflecting the fact that Harrow is the most interfaith borough in the country.
During the visit, the Bishop dedicated a newly commissioned icon of St Anselm for the church’s Anselm Chapel, by well-known icon writer Helen McIldowie-Jenkins. Anselm was the Archbishop who dedicated the church building on 3 January 1094, of which the lower section of the tower remains. The building was started in 1087 by Archbishop Lanfranc, despite being in the Diocese of London, as in Mediaeval times what is now the London Borough of Harrow was hunting grounds belonging to the Archdiocese of Canterbury.
Fr James Power, Vicar of St Mary’s commented:
“We were very privileged to have had the Bishop of London joining us for this celebration in his final weeks before retirement as we were to have the Mayor and Deputy Lieutenant taking part in the service. St Mary’s was adopted as the “borough badge” for London 2012 and its spire is visible from almost all parts of Harrow. It remains a much loved symbol of God’s presence for people from all faiths and traditions. Our motto, “A House of Peace and Prayer for all people” seeks to reflect its universal appeal and significance. The addition of an icon of St Anselm will enhance the building in its ministry as a place of prayer and reflection as well as celebrating its long and, at times, eventful history.”
Attendees to the service were treated to the music of the church’s robed choir under the direction of Tim Smith. One of the choristers, Lucy Evans, was a finalist in the BBC Chorister of the Year Competition. Following the service, attendees enjoyed a birthday cake and refreshments provided the Friends of St Mary’s, who work to raise funds for the fabric of the building.
The Friends and the team at St Mary’s are currently fundraising for the re-roofing of the building to protect a 15th Century hammer beam roof carved with angels, musicians and scholars and the medieval roof of the parvise chapel above the South Door entrance. St Mary’s is half-way to its target of £450,000 to complete the work.
As well as being an iconic local building and centre of community life in Harrow, St Mary’s plays an important role in the support of the local night shelter run by the Harrow based Christian charity Firm Foundation with members of the congregations assisting each winter.