Mr Beamish

I was in church in London at the weekend. I chose to go to a parish on Sunday morning that I’d never been to before. Its not one that I’m going to name here, but its the kind of church that you might expect a wandering provost to go to in London. Clouds of puff, a good choir and the all too familiar rumble of tube trains during the service.

Now, there was a thoughtful sermon. The choir were very good indeed. (Though the only hymn singing that the congregation got was 2 verses of one hymn, which seemed a bit measly, even at Passiontide). Everything was being done in the best possible taste, and something must be going right because it was fairly full.

However, what was the thing that I remember most a couple of days later? Well, it was the person next to me who refused to shake hands with me or anyone else at the peace. That and the fact that there was neither a cheery word spoken on the way in nor on the way out.

It was a reminder that whatever a church does, it will only be perceived as friendly or otherwise by someone new based on their actual experience of the people.

I presume that I was sitting next to a Mr Beamish.

In the evening I went to church at a congregation that I used to be part of when I lived in London long ago. They didn’t speak to me there either.

In other news, birettas are worn throughout the capital, so far as I could tell from attending these two services.


  1. You obviously went to the wrong places (Diocese of London??).

    There is a place on the South Side (of the Thames) well known to you were you should have gone, where you would have recevied a warm wlecome and seen familar faces.

    I can report that in your absence St Mary’s was its usually welcoming self, with complete strangers exchanging the peace with and around me.

    PS – And a great sermon from Cedric!!!

    • Its that old south side of the river thing. You have to steel yourself to cross to the far side of the river for either opera or liturgy, don’t you think?

  2. Zebadee says

    Sadly it is not just in London that such attitudes exist. Here on the edge of the Rhubarb Triangle at an excellent service I found myself totally ignored. I just did not exist. Have not been back to that Parish Church

    • It can happen anywhere, including round here. When you experience it though, it does make you sit up and take notice. (Or take flight).

  3. Ritualist Robert says

    Fr Kelvin, I recently read some guidelines from the Diocese of Oxford about welcoming those with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in the diocese’s churches and communities (to read the report, click on the link at Before I read it I didn’t know much about the autism spectrum and all that, whereas now I suspect that the person next to you who refused to shake hands with you may well be someone ‘on that spectrum’. The report is a fascinating read (with some of those funny Dave Walker cartoons) and I guess if we are to be really serious about our churches being inclusive and welcoming places then we have to at least have a passing understanding of the autism spectrum, given how many people seem to be diagnosed with such disorders these days.

  4. Ritualist Robert says

    That said, the person may have been a plain old misanthrope!

  5. Ritualist Robert says

    Forgive me, Fr K … just realized that I’m telling you about the report you alterted us all to a few days ago!

  6. Agatha says

    The first one sounds a bit like church as performance rather than anything else which might be popular because its undemanding? And if so, you don’t expect to have to shake hands with the person sitting next to you at a concert, so why at church (may go the reasoning).

  7. I enjoyed re-reading Mother Ruth’s post on the Peace.

  8. fr dougal says

    Actually, that particular kirk was never the chummiest at the Pax – but not everyone likes it and may appreciate the freedom not to engage in the exchange. Also, who knows what was going on in the individuals mind? Sometimes we simply need to be left “in peace” to find peace.

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