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/ 6 September 2013

Historic organ blessed at St John’s Notting Hill after restoration

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, has joined the local community of St John’s Notting Hill to bless the church’s newly restored organ, marking a major milestone in the church’s three year campaign of restoration and re-ordering. The Bishop also licensed the Revd Joel Albarda as Chaplain, marking the official start of his role heading the London Filipino Chaplaincy, which is based at St John’s.

The newly restored grade II* listed organ holds a special historic value over and above its 1794 provenance as it is directly connected with William Wilberforce, the Clapham Sect and the anti-slavery movement. Its original home, before moving to St John’s in 1845, was Holy Trinity Clapham, the church where Wilberforce and his colleagues developed their political crusade to rid the world of slavery.

The organ has been fully restored by a dedicated group of organ builders in Devon and has received a modern glass-sided case which will enable it to be used for educational purposes. A number of local schools will be visiting St John’s this autumn to see the organ and learn more about how it works. Two permanent exhibitions have been created around the organ; one on the history of Notting Hill and one on the history of the organ.

The bulk of funding for the organ restoration (£373,500) was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and it forms part of the church’s three year ‘Restoring the Future’ campaign. The parish has already raised £850,000 which has been used to complete a number of projects including a new chapel and restoring and relocating the church’s font. St John’s is now entering the final year of the campaign which will involve the creation of new community rooms in the church, with work expected to start in November 2013.

The restoration campaign is just one facet of the church’s work for the community. St John’s is home to the London Filipino Chaplaincy, which the Revd Joel Albarda will now lead. The chaplaincy is ecumenical, and serves Filipinos from across London. It also offers informal socio-pastoral advice on the many issues facing Filipinos in the UK. Joel, who previously served in the office of the Chaplain in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was selected for the position for his extensive pastoral experience and expertise in interfaith and ecumenical work.

The service also saw the world premiere of a newly commissioned piece of music by Matthew Wood, ‘If I have freedom’, using words of William Wilberforce. The song is dedicated to those suffering in Syria. Two Bishops from Aleppo, John Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, were kidnapped in Syria in April of this year.

The Revd Canon Dr William Taylor, Vicar of St John’s Notting Hill, said:

"I’m delighted that Bishop Richard has blessed this work, the fruit of years of hard work and planning of the local community. St John’s is entering a new and vibrant phase in its life as a Parish Church and in serving the community."

Sue Bowers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said of the organ restoration:

"This fine musical instrument, with its many historic connections, can once more play a full and glorious part in the work of St John’s church and the life of the parish."

Photo credit: Barney McCann

Photo Caption: (L-R) Matthew Wood, composer of the ‘If I Have Freedom’ piece, The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, Wesley Kerr, Chair of London Committee, Heritage Lottery Fund, (above): The Revd Canon Dr William Taylor, Vicar of St John’s.

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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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