We’re a people formed by tradition. ‘Traditio’ from the Latin, means ‘I hand on…‘
From time to time, every community goes through a phase of thinking, “this is it; this is ‘us’; we define this place.” But it isn’t so. A wise elderly Canon once said of his future grave in the North Quire Aisle of an historic chapel that when his time came he planned to have a large question mark engraved on the stone. And the word “Who.” That, he noted, is what tourists said when they stopped to look at the graves of those who’d gone before: “who?!” People come and go.
St Paul’s is a community in constant flux. In central London we’re used to losing up to 1/3rd of our congregation every year because of the churn rate. And clergy and lay officers come and go too. The current Vicar is the twelfth since the church’s foundation in 1843, and during that time there have been generations of churchwardens, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of faithful souls who have passed through the church’s doors.
What is constant though is the faithful handing on of a cherished tradition, re-shaped, of course, by every generation. And the faithfulness of God, even in a changing world. We know that those who first came to St Paul’s in the 1840s would applaud much of what they’d experience in the present age, even if some of our modern ways would leave them perplexed! It would be true if we could travel back to their day.
A community is hard to define for all sorts of reasons, not least because it is always changing. The best way to find out who we are is to come along and to worship with us. Experience what we have received. Notice what we are doing with it. Even better, come along and – sensing what the inheritance of the place is – shape it yourself.
You will be welcome.