St Paul Old Ford annual report 2022

Welcome to the St Paul Old Ford annual report for 2022. We’re doing the report this year as a digital-first report, because it’s more accessible and it saves on paper and printing. But hard copies will be available in church at the annual parochial church meeting (APCM) on Sunday 23 April 2023, and will be available in church afterwards, for anybody who would prefer that.

So without further ado, here’s the report.

Vicar’s report: Rev Darius

2022 rung more changes at St Paul Old Ford. Unfortunately, following some functional issues, we had to say goodbye to Genesis, the barge that St Columba used to meet on every week. St Columba continue to meet at St Paul every week. We also said goodbye to Rev Dave, who is now Rector of The Western Lake District churches. Baby Ayah was born to our youth pastor Jessica, who has since been on maternity leave. Late in the year we also saw Christine move on after 13 years, and consequently put a pause on the church café while we work out what the space’s new iteration might look like.

Some of the highlights of the year include celebrating Rev April’s 70th birthday. Rev April oversaw our hosting an amazing celebration of the late Queen Elizabeth’s platinum Jubilee, which welcomed over 400 local residents into our space to celebrate together. The end of the year saw a visit from our mission partners, the Quails, who we continue to support as they serve in Nicaragua.

The clergy and pastoral team continued to offer pastoral care for the parish, including weddings and funerals. Other highlights include our annual pancake party, and annual offices such as All Souls, which was well attended.

Our Monday night youth club Rise has continued, and we have added new members to our team that meets weekly with local youth.

We also continue to meet every Sunday morning in person, and on livestream, for our communion services. It has been an encouragement that many congregants have felt able to rejoin us for worship in the church building.

The summer saw us launch a new initiative during Ordinary Time, where the clergy departed from the lectionary to preach through some sermon series including ‘Luke-Acts’ and focusing on how to deepen our relationship with the liturgy.

In 2022 we also made the decision to only serve non-alcoholic communion wine. As small a detail as this may seem, it aligns itself to my desire for us to have a more open communion table.

As well as our midweek prayer meetings and Bible studies, we launched Saturday morning prayer which is a small group who meet on Zoom specifically to share morning prayer every Saturday.

Last Christmas we had our first ever Big Christmas Dinner where we invited about 70 local residents to share a home cooked Christmas day meal together. The event was run by a team that was a mixture of St Paul’s congregation members and local community members. It was funded by ticket sales and donations from residents in our parish. We also had lots of presents donated and wrapped by congregation members. The event was such a success that we hope to run another one on Christmas Day 2024. The event was a beautiful experience that brought together a team who served selflessly and were a credit to St Paul Old Ford. A special shoutout to Dan Redman-Hubley who headed up the cooking team and made a superb roast dinner that had everyone coming back for seconds!

During 2022, we’ve faced the challenges of the movements within our clergy and staff team. We’ve also struggled to find a replacement for our long-serving PCC treasurer, Mike, who stood down last May. The PCC also functioned without a secretary during 2022. We are determined to fill both roles in the coming months.

The clergy, staff and PCC continue to meet the requirement to follow guidance issued by the House of Bishops on matters relating to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Safeguarding continues to be a standing item on every agenda of the PCC meetings.

We continue to seek to create a safer space at St Paul’s, and in 2022 the PCC agreed to implement a safeguarding tool (MyConcern) to help us to report and record safeguarding information more efficiently. MyConcern works by gathering and collating safeguarding data to enable us to have a detailed overview of our safeguarding situation and produce reports.

There was a lot to be thankful for in 2022. In many ways it felt like another year of transition, and yet it also became a year of possibilities. I continue to be deeply grateful for the beautiful place St Paul is, and all the incredible people who make up our extended church community. Working alongside the PCC, church wardens, April, Billy, Anne, Kay, Divya and her team, and many others has been deeply enjoyable. We ended 2022 in a strong position, and I look forward to what God has in store for us in 2023 and beyond.

Unsung heroes

I wanted to take a few words to shout out the people who do so much behind the scenes at St Paul. It humbles me just how much goes into making St Paul Old Ford the place it is, and how many people give so much of their time and energy while asking for nothing in return. As I attempt to offer my gratitude, I won’t be able to thank everyone. Even if you’re not named, know that you are a part of what makes St Paul’s, St Paul’s.

Firstly, I’m grateful for the support that Divya and her team offer, and for the way they keep this place so pristine and running so smoothly. I also want to offer a special thanks to Trevor, who does a million things around the church to keep it running and our users well looked after. Kay, my PA, is the person who keeps me sane (and organised) at times! The tasks Kay does, release me to spend more time vicaring, and less time with my head buried in paperwork.

Anne and Chris work tirelessly behind the scenes, visiting our parishioners, praying for them and offering pastoral care. Their ministry is essential to the life of St Paul Old Ford.

Since my time at St Paul, Tim has been a constant source of encouragement and support. The amount of time and energy Tim gives to making sure things in Church run well, including staying behind after services to help tidy up, is simply incredible! Tim and Rob (and sometimes Isobel and Oliver) have also ensured that our livestream has continued throughout 2022.

Thanks also to Ceri, who this year took on the task of administrating our Sunday volunteer and Sunday school teams. To the welcome, ushering, and Sunday school leaders: a huge thank you! A lot of time goes into this essential work behind the scenes, for which I am deeply grateful.

Another thanks to Mark, Dan, Fiona and Richard who bless us with their musical talents every time we gather to worship. To Janet, Doris and Joan who faithfully ensure we have altar flowers, so we look and smell as beautiful as we sound. To

Jean, Doris and Mike who are our chalice bearers, linen cleaners, and offering counters! Last, but certainly not least, a huge thank you to Jackie and Dom who serve refreshments after church every Sunday, continuing that great St Paul Old Ford tradition of good hospitality.

Associate priest’s report: Rev April

For me, the last year has been one of a new level of trust in God’s future for the church as well as myself.

I am still thankful for a wonderful Palm Sunday birthday surprise Shola and others offered to us at St Paul’s, and those from our St Barnabas Palm Sunday partners, last April.

At the last AGM, I was in the midst of organising and replying to endless emails to Tower Hamlets council about a Jubilee party for 4 June. The event saw nearly 500 people pass through our doors. 25 volunteers helped make it happen, along with Raymond’s Parties which contributed so much more than we asked. Crown-making materials ran out early, but Ray filled the gap with balloon animals. Others helped with hours of glitter tattoos and great games, and the bouncy castle kept families coming. Inside the building, food was wonderfully served. And when we ran out, diligent and thoughtful church volunteers bought food to fill the gap. Commonwealth flag, royal family and rhyming slang quizzes kept many people busy inside the building. A life-size cut-out Queen and a surprise visit from Mickey Mouse also made the day a delight, along with a gallery of Old Ford Primary’s 150 drawings of the queen on our walls. It was truly a multi-age, multi-cultural community fun day. Tremendous thanks to the church and staff volunteers

I have been so thankful to have worked with Darius, Dave and Billy in regular rhythm of Sunday presiding and preaching. I also volunteered for Sunday groups once a term, all of which is a privilege and a joy. With Anne, a regular Wednesday Bible study group keeps me on my theological toes, punctuated in August by a good but cab-frustrating seaside trip.

Regular other ministries are the weekly memory café and monthly death cafes. As well as the monthly pastoral contact with EMI mission partners the Quails and organising their December visit.

Funeral visits and services continue to help community members know that God is with them. I am honoured to be with people at these life changing times, as well as at weddings and baptisms.

There were special memorials and prayers for the death of Queen Elizabeth. And visits from Bishop Vincente’s from Mozambique, and a visit from 30 Dutch pastors visit helped keep a wider understanding of church and its relationship with the world.

Beyond St Paul Old Ford, I am a pastoral and teaching tutor for St Mellitus Beginning Theology course and St Edmund’s lay ministry students.  I have taken Level 2 trauma training at the British Psychological Institute, and with Darius the leadership training for the Being With course.

The quiet mainstay of my ministry is the pastoral prayer, conversation and counselling with St Paul’s folks as well as others who seek me out week in and week out.

All of this has continued to open my eyes to the ongoing miracle of God’s love and mercy.  I am thankful to Darius, Anne, Billy, Divya and all who help St Paul’s be a place and people of healing and light.

Church wardens’ report

2022 was more of a return to normal business for the church wardens, after the extraordinary previous year. With a new vicar at the helm, the church wardens resumed their role supporting the vicar, and helping to make decisions and provide leadership to the church through the standing committee and the PCC.

At St Paul’s, we have less to do in the traditional church wardens’ role of being responsible for the church buildings, because we have our amazing building team, led by our building manager Divya. We want to give her special praise for the way that she keeps everything running so smoothly, especially in the last year when she’s been down a team member. We also want to give a shoutout to the volunteers who kept the café going when Christine was here, and to the bank staff, who do so much around the building, from repairs and painting, to locking up at night after evening bookings.

We had a lot less building work done on the church in 2022, but it’s a Victorian building and there’s always something that needs to be done (let’s not talk about the drains!). Last year, the main work that happened was:

  • a re-paint of the cafe
  • the garden room getting a refresh and re-paint
  • a system upgrade in the lift for emergencies

In 2022 we also had the first post-pandemic church wardens’ swearing-in service, which took place in July at St Paul’s Shadwell, along with church wardens from across Tower Hamlets.

Our church wardens: Tim Murray and Corinne Louis.

Deanery synod report

The deanery synod is a forum where clergy and lay reps from churches across Tower Hamlets meet every 3 or 4 months to discuss and work together on various issues that we have in common. In early 2022, the deanery synod spent a few weeks looking at the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith course, looking at identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.

The group saw a change in leadership in 2022. Rev Jane Hodges who was the area dean (and rector of All Saints Poplar) moved on to a new post as chaplain at Pentonville prison. Since spring 2002, the area dean has been Rev Phil Williams of St Paul Shadwell.

The deanery synod meetings usually take place at St Paul Shadwell, starting with food and then then the meeting.

Deanery synod reps: Tim Murray and Tracey Yewman

Finance update

We presented the Finances to the PCC and have set the budget going forward. All of our current Financial figures are provisional. As we do not have a Treasurer in post, we do not have the expertise to present it in this report. But it will be available separately as soon as we have it, in order to satisfy the legal requirements.

Pastoral team report


Our pastoral work is shared between the clergy, Rev Darius and Rev April, together with the pastoral team who are Anne, Chris, Joy and Doris. We meet as a team to share news and prayers. Between us, we visit about 10, mainly elderly, members of the church and community. Three of those are over 90 years old and are no longer able to attend services on Sundays, or even leave home at all. We also visit people if they are in hospital, unwell or bereaved, from time to time. We hear lots of reminiscences and always offer prayer and sometimes holy communion.

Weekday groups

April leads a Memory Cafe on Wednesday afternoons at 3pm, with chats, lots of games and activities, laughter and always lashings of tea and cake.

Joy and Beryl lead a ‘Knit and Natter’ group on Friday mornings in the church cafe at 11am. Lots of nattering and cups of tea.

April leads regular Death cafes, usually on Sunday afternoons at 3pm. People from our congregation are joined by others from our community and further afield. People usually come when they have experienced the death of a loved one, and others come with questions. It has been helpful to many people going through bereavement. Always lots of tea and cake and tissues.

Prayer groups

We have 2 prayer meetings every week:

• Wednesdays at 12pm in the prayer corner of church.
• Saturdays at 10:30am on Zoom

Our Bible studies are also followed by prayer.

Now that the pandemic and lockdowns are hopefully behind us, it is wonderful to be able to return to face-to-face groups again, but having found how useful technology has been, we continue with some online groups.

Anne Zakiewicz, pastoral assistant

Small groups and Bible studies

Church Bible studies

We currently have 2 Wednesday Bible studies in church.
• One 12.30 in the cafe, looking at the 2 Bible readings coming up in the following Sunday service
• Another at 7.30 in the church cafe, preceded by tea and biscuits at 7.15pm

Bible in the pub

The Bible in the pub group meets at the Eleanor Arms on Old Ford Road at 8pm every Wednesday. We usually read and discuss at the previous Sunday service’s readings and try to get to grips with what the texts are teaching us.
We have a good time together, in the relaxed atmosphere of the pub, with its friendly landlords Frankie and Lesley. It’s friendly and social, but we also love to see what God is teaching us. We’re a small group, but it was great to have some new people along last year, and we’re always keen to welcome more.

Christmas carols

At Christmas 2022, we were very pleased to see the return of our community carol singing at Donnybrook care home and the Eleanor Arms pub.

Men’s breakfast

The men’s breakfast is coordinated by Andrew, our licensed lay minister. The group meets once a month on a Saturday morning between 9:30 and 11am. There is often a visiting speaker or one of the group will talk about their passion and their Christian life while we all munch a bacon and egg butty. We’ll have a discussion, share our own stories, and end in prayer. The group is currently doing a study on Ephesians.

St Paul’s venue hire

2022 saw a steady rise in bookings as we continued to host regular hirers and welcome many new ones. After a slow and quieter than usual two years due to Covid, I’m pleased to say that the revenue taken from bookings last year approached similar numbers to what we had pre-Covid.

Honestly speaking, this progress hasn’t always been straightforward and requires us working in constant partnership with hirers, supporting them to establish their classes here and providing a place that is both flexible and accommodating, so that they can deliver their services in the best possible way.

Some of our regular hirers that continue to use the space include Strong Mamas, Sing & Sign, Kidslingo, School of Noise and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. All these classes intrigue people who walk into church during the week. They are always surprised at just how much goes on here and how people from many walks of life are brought together under one roof for different purposes.

In the upcoming year we hope to build on all of this and more, especially with a new welcome and hospitality coordinator joining our venue hire team. So, watch this space (no pun intended)!

Divya Beharry, venue manager

Black History Month celebration

In October, St Paul’s hosted a hugely successful Black History Month celebration event. It was a free community event organised by Anita, Hettie, Susan, and others from the Lady Lane Market which is London’s first women-led street market.

The aim of the event was to celebrate the occasion and bring people together to create fun memories and improve wellbeing. The day consisted of craft tables and workshops, an exciting open mic session, two guest speakers and karaoke and music. The event was made possible with the support of a Tower Hamlets Council grant from the Arts and Culture department. There was a great turn out too!

New altar frontal

On the first Sunday of Advent, we didn’t change the altar frontal to the traditional purple for the season. Instead, we unveiled our new altar frontal, specially designed and made for us by students at the Royal School of Needlework.

Each student brought their particular skills and creativity to produce an incredible altar frontal which is a very unique representation of St Paul’s. Not just in what it symbolises. Even some of the fabrics woven into it were contributed by people in the congregation, reflecting the different cultures we have in our church.

The new altar frontal was made possible by a legacy from Lil Delieu who was part of St Paul’s for many years. We thank her for something that will be a lasting and obvious part of our worship and life together.



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