FROM THE RECTORY
Goodbyes are rarely easy!
It is with great difficulty and with mixed feelings that I say 'goodbye' to St Giles' and the community of Ickenham this month. Ickenham has been part of my life since I first came to St Giles' Church in 1967. Little did I, or anyone else, realise at that time that I would become ordained into the Church of England. What a journey it has been. But what a privilege it has been to be associated with St Giles' in several different capacities in that time and perhaps especially during the last ten years as Priest-in-Charge.
Those of us who live here know and value the community philosophy which exists and which manifests itself in so many different ways. In that we are all privileged. To have been alongside so many in our community over the years in their everyday life and work, in their joys and in their sorrows has been a special privilege for me and I thank you all for every opportunity as your Parish Priest.
Being now an OAP or as the French more politely put it a 'troisième age' person, retirement beckons and I look forward to a new phase of life. I'm told by all those who have graduated into this phase of life that I shall be just as busy; in many ways I hope so but choosing what to do and when to do it has its undoubted attractions.
I hope and pray that the community of Ickenham will be as welcoming and responsive to the ministry of my successor as it has been to me. May God's blessing rest upon each one of you and may you be aware of his presence guiding and strengthening you in your own journey through life.
Greetings and peace to you all.
PHILIP ROBINSON'S RETIREMENT - AN APPRECIATION
At the 8.00 a.m. and 9.45 a.m. Services in early August, Philip quietly and unexpectedly announced that he would be retiring in October. This plain and simple statement created a palpable feeling of sadness among the pews. Few thought he had reached retirement age but he has in fact gone past and richly deserves more time to himself. Since his popular appointment as Priest-in-Charge on the retirement of Paul Kelly (1977-1994) Philip quickly stamped his authority on the new job and applied his own particular talents with enthusiasm. His predecessors had left our parish church in good shape physically and spiritually and he would do his utmost to ensure that standards were maintained and if possible, add improvements. It was the beginning of a second career to last for the next nine years. To retire twice is not common.
His earlier career was with the University of London where he had been employed in the East European and Slavonic Studies School, a part of the university in great demand for advice during the political upheavals of the late eighties leading to the overthrow of communism. A special job incurring travel was advising the education departments of Nigeria and Ghana on setting up their own examination systems. It was a fascinating and satisfying career in the heart of Academia.
By some stroke of fate the length of service at the university qualified him for an early retirement at the very time that Paul was retiring in 1994 after seventeen years as Rector. The process of finding a replacement was moving forward in accordance with the rules of our Patron, Eton College when Philip made it known that he wished to be considered. There was much speculation about a successor but the outcome of the Bishop's choice was welcomed throughout the church. Philip was to be the man.
Philip's association with St Giles' goes back to 1967 when he moved from Stanmore to a flat in South Ruislip. From his new base he had looked around the area to find a church that suited him. He chose St Giles' and within a short time met his future wife Christine who had been brought up in Ickenham and was currently Guide Captain among other things. They were married in St Giles' and when setting up home in Northwood they continued to worship at St Giles.
Philip became involved in church affairs and having long felt the call of God he trained as a lay reader. St Giles' has been particularly fortunate in having a succession of able lay readers over the years. Selection had been rigorous but Paul Kelly gave his full support and Philip was duly licensed at the end of three years hard work. A reader's licence permits the holder to conduct services, preach, assist at Communion, take funerals and generally help the priest.
Philip progressed after further part-time study to being ordained in 1991 as a deacon. Photographs at the time captured this high point in his new career with him standing with other ordinands on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral after a most memorable service. A year later, as is the custom, he was "priested" and appointed curate under Paul Kelly to whom he owed much for his training.
The term Priest-in-Charge was applied to reflect his non-stipendiary situation made possible because of his pension from previous employment. Up until that moment Philip had managed to dovetail successfully his considerable university and church workloads, an indication of his strong organising talents. It was a unique title, the forty-seven previous incumbents dating back to 1335 being listed as Rectors.
Philip began by introducing the latest technology to facilitate storage of information, planning etceteras, and instituted a regular Monday morning meeting with his aides. An answer phone system was added to assist parishioners with requests at any time. Philip and Christine prepared to move from Northwood into the Rectory after carrying out a programme of modernisation and converting the large downstairs sitting room to a place for regular church meetings.
On the very day they were to move in, the church hall had been set on fire shortly after midnight necessitating an immediate visit to the scene and meeting with the churchwardens to discuss emergency action. The blaze was fairly soon brought under control by the fire brigade but extensive damage had occurred rendering the premises totally unusable. The Robinsons went ahead with the move into the Rectory but it was to be well over a year, because of protracted insurance and planning problems, before the church hall was ready for re-occupation. The opportunity was taken to carry out improvements and prepare for the addition of two upstairs meeting rooms at a future date.
The new facilities for meetings at the Rectory became immediately available for business. The Junior Church was re-located at the Guide Headquarters in Community Close and other users had to seek alternative premises. The Bishop was clearly impressed with Philip's grasp of things in his new position and after allowing for a settling-in interval, appointed Mike Bissett as curate to undergo further training.
This made way for Philip to take on the position of Area Dean with many parishes to visit and help given where there was an interregnum. This post, which is normally held for three years, was extended to enable Mike Bissett to complete his training.
Philip's ability to train was again recognised when the Bishop assigned a new curate Adrian Guthrie after Mike Bissett became the minister for two churches in neighbouring Buckinghamshire. Ken Tombs was already in place as a non-stipendiary curate after retiring from school mastering. The strength of clergy, which includes Lay Readers David Thould and Brian Reid has enabled St Giles' to provide assistance to the URC, currently without a minister. This is an example of the Covenant at work, an agreement made between the two Ickenham churches in 1985 whereby they hold periodic combined services and share a number of annual events including the popular Junior Holiday Club in July. Philip was one of the signatories to the covenant and has remained a keen supporter.
Philip's retirement does not create a problem for the present. He would wish to thank publicly those who have helped him during his years as Priest-in-Charge: the churchwardens, assistant wardens, members of the PCC, Ickenham Church News editor, sidesmen, lesson readers, leaders of Junior Church, other committees, the Holy Mowers and other worthy helpers who have provided a happy and willing team under his direction. He had a knack of recruiting people to fill vacant posts albeit sometimes with a gentle twist of the arm.
The death of Christine from cancer in 1999 after only six months of illness was a shattering blow. Theirs was the perfect match. Both very closely involved with people, having the gift for listening sympathetically, and proffering helpful advice wherever it was needed. Christine had organised the Junior Holiday Club for several years but was too ill during that fateful July of 1999 to participate. Her last days were spent at home and she was able to see the Club carrying on in Rosemary Hodgson's capable hands. Her contribution to the Royal School of Music as a counsellor for the young students was marked by a special service at Marylebone Parish Church with some marvellous music and a moving address. The nursing care she had received was wonderful and with kindness, prayer and active support from close friends, Philip somehow managed to keep going and soon resume his normal duties.
By now it must be clear that Philip possesses great spiritual strength and a wide range of gifts which he has selflessly shared with all at St Giles' and where needed, throughout the parish. On the one hand there have been many happy marriages to celebrate and, on the other side, funerals requiring intensely personal effort notwithstanding his own tragedy. Even when unknown to him personally he has brought great comfort to the bereaved. Baptisms and confirmations have come along in a steady stream, sometimes featuring adults, and the congregations on Sunday have grown steadily with an increase in the younger generations. The extra clergy has of course played a big part in this expansion.
The Christmas Carol Services which Philip and Chris introduced are now so popular that they have to be ticket only. Philip is a man who puts himself about, attending community events, stopping for a short chat and somehow always making time for things. He was made an honorary member of Elthorne Rotary Club but has rarely had time to attend, being more likely to deliver a lunchtime or evening talk to societies, fellowships and clubs on the work of a parish priest.
With such a busy life Philip has had little time to cultivate outside interests, though music has always been close to his heart as witness the many recitals and concerts held in St Giles'. He has valued his occasional breaks in the south of France (St Giles, our Patron Saint, came from Provence), and will be spending more time at his apartment there with time to take a glass of good wine and reflect on the years of his two careers. He is permitted to take services at the local Anglican Church, and spending some of his retirement at a newly acquired flat in Uxbridge, will enable him to keep in touch. We thank him for all that he has accomplished and wish him a long, and happy, retirement.
DROP-IN FOR THE BEREAVED. Third Monday of each month. St Giles' Church Hall, 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. A friendly, informal opportunity for a chat, over a cup of tea, with other bereaved people and pastoral visitors. The next meeting is Monday 18th October (also Monday 15th November). Just come along, or ring the Rectory (622970), if you would like to talk to someone first.
ICKENHAM GOOD NEIGHBOUR SCHEME exists to serve the whole of Ickenham. We're here to assist in an emergency. If you need help, the daytime contact numbers are: 01895 633020 or 01895 235061.