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/ 31 October 2023

Bishop of London visits Friern Barnet church to pay tribute to long-serving headteacher and 30th anniversary of Parish Centre

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Parishioners at St John’s Friern Barnet welcomed the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, on Sunday as part of a celebratory service of thanksgiving for Bible Sunday.

Tributes were made to Graham Gunn, Headteacher at St. John’s Primary School, who after 44 years of teaching is retiring from the profession in December. He has taught in Barnet schools since the 1980s, and been Headteacher of St John’s since 2003, and was awarded the St Mellitus Medal for his lifelong service. In his remarks, Graham reflected on the many changes in the world of education throughout his career and praised the countless dedicated staff, governors and clergy for their continued support. He added that it had been the greatest privilege to work with and care for the children he has taught and been responsible for, and that he will cherish these wonderful memories throughout his retirement.

The service also marked 30 years of St John’s Parish Centre, which was opened by the then-Bishop of London, the Rt Revd David Hope, on 23rd September, 1993. Prior to its construction, churchgoers would use the old Victorian vicarage, which had become draughty and dated, with just a single outdoor latrine. There was no kitchen, and washing up was accommodated by local parishioners who lived nearby and could cart everything home to wash, dry and prepare for the next service. Over the past 30 years, the Centre has been a warm, welcoming focal point for the community, and has become home to a huge variety of activity groups, ranging from Parish Play Group to Slimming World to dance classes and Junior Church.

 The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, said:

 “It was a great joy to visit St John’s for Bible Sunday, and to witness God’s work being carried out in Friern Barnet. They are truly blessed to have had Graham at the helm for the past 20 years and I wish him all the best for his well-deserved retirement. As we approach winter, the importance in providing, warmth, shelter and community of places like St John’s Parish Centre cannot be overstated, and I applaud the work of the parish in creating such a valuable and welcoming space.”

 Revd Dagmar Wilkinson, Rector of St John the Evangelist, said:

“We were delighted to welcome Bishop Sarah to celebrate with us. I am really pleased to see the parish bouncing back after the pandemic, while continuing to serve God and our community and bringing people together. We are a genuinely welcoming and inclusive community where everybody is included and nobody is excluded.”

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The diocesan communications team provides support to the network of clergy, churches, parishes and other worshipping communities that comprises the Diocese of London, as well as to the staff teams of the London Diocesan Fund.

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