Chris Rose writes about leaving our home of nine years, St Clement’s Eastcheap, in the City of London.
Leaving St Clement’s
After nine years, we are leaving St Clement’s Eastcheap this week.
In early 2012 the Bishop of London’s office asked that we move out of our then-home, All Hallows On The Wall, into another church, St Clement’s Eastcheap. At that time, St Clement’s was a very traditional church that badly needed modernising, decorating and a significant makeover. The overhaul eventually agreed on was more radical than was initially anticipated (and more costly) but was intended to provide a home for Amos for 20 years, giving a new lease of life to a building with very limited use for the best part of 100 years.
When we finally moved in April 2014, legal complexities propelled me into becoming Priest in Charge. It became a key part of the ongoing changes occurring within Amos. We ran ‘Words of Hope’ each Tuesday — an informal reflection time, initially intending to invite people from the area but then realising it was providing us with the chance to stop, contemplate and remember the work and the people we were engaged with. It has led to two books of reflections and poems, a weekly online gathering, and further development of the spirituality that underpins us.
The overhaul eventually agreed on was more radical than was initially anticipated (and more costly) but was intended to provide a home for Amos for 20 years.
The other vision we had for St Clement’s was to create a space that reflected the hospitality we experienced from our partners around the world and from the numerous communities and families we have visited over the years.
We were joined in the office by Watering Can Media, with whom we’d worked closely on the Street Child World Cups in 2010 and 2014, and Marlborough Books, an antique bookseller who made a home in the former vestry. In time Child Rescue Nepal would join us, as well as several other people who would come and hot desk every so often. We are deeply grateful for the friendships we established at St Clement’s and the willingness of all those in the office to host the many people who called in.
Half of the space was given over to a meeting area which we would provide free of charge to any groups that shared our aims. This meant it was well used throughout the week — in the evenings we hosted choirs and the fantastic Hawiya Women Dabka Dance crew, to which we were delighted to offer rehearsal space. We also had an open-door policy which meant that people could visit the church at any stage when we were in. So it was not uncommon to find a stranger looking over your shoulder as you worked or to realise that the rant, after some deeply frustrating phone call, was being heard by a group of visitors.
We are proud that we took a church with a very troubled past and not only transformed it physically but, far more importantly, into a place that ‘feels’ and has warmth (although not always literal) and hospitality to it.
Before the lockdown, it became harder and more expensive for our team to come in each week and after March 2020, the use completely changed. Since then, the building has hosted a handful of meetings and the office space has had 1-2 people in a day as opposed to 10-15. Furthermore, the demands of running a 17th-century Grade 1 listed building became more and more time-consuming the less that we used it.
In 2019 we merged St Clement’s with two neighbouring parishes to form the new Lombard parish. It became clear that the Aspire congregation’s use of the other church buildings was such that they could easily run a full programme of activities from St Clement’s, and we decided that it was the right time to leave.
We will take with us so many happy memories. We are proud that we took a church with a very troubled past and not only transformed it physically but, far more importantly, into a place that ‘feels’ and has warmth (although not always literal) and hospitality to it. I will miss the look on people’s faces when they walked in and looked around our stunning office space and how within 5 minutes of arriving, the kettle was on.
We are grateful to the Diocese of London for their support throughout this period. We hope that those moving in will come to treasure this remarkable Christopher Wren church named after the only Pope who was enslaved and which has a nursery rhyme named after it. It will be one of the few hand-overs where we will literally be saying where the bones are buried as we reinterred so many during the renovations.