The Rev Melanie Toogood with Islington’s deputy mayor Kat Fletcher at Hillrise Summer Festival on Saturday
Published: 21 August, 2015
by REVEREND MELANIE TOOGOOD
IT is a gift and a call to be a vicar in the Church of England, as in many ways we are treading the pathways of those who have gone before in the faith and given so much to the communities they served. At St George’s Tufnell Park, we try to be a living experience of God’s freedom, hope and power; to be true to the intentions of those who have gone before us and to use the resources we have to serve and support our community.
The original St George’s church goes back to its roots in 1853 when the Earls of Tufnell gave the land and money to have it built. Well, times changed and the old Victorian Grade II-listed building was sold in the 1970s to a Shakespearean theatre company and then to our neighbours, Church on the Rock. Meanwhile, the spiritual kernel of St George’s lived on – so much more than bricks and mortar – in our current building, one which has served us well but is at the end of its useful life, where laying down the burden of maintaining it would allow us to do so much more.
So, there is nothing new in a church changing with the times, except that now St George’s is embracing something radical. We are taking our land and starting from scratch. Instead of a draughty, energy-guzzling church; new community facilities and office spaces for local charities. Instead of a vicarage garden; social and affordable housing. Green spaces for the whole community; for children and play as well as prayer and reflection. St George’s (and I) will remain at the heart in an eco-friendly church and carbon neutral vicarage, extending a radical Christian invitation to include all who come in need.
I am excited at the capacity that our plans will give us to welcome the community in ways that just are not possible at the moment. Theatre, dance, community parties, counselling and support services, and a crèche are just part of what we want to offer alongside a small amount of housing, as much of it truly affordable and socially rented as possible.
The original ideals of those who built the old church here were carried on to another generation. We can now do that again, armed with more insight into how we can best provide for our local community. This is a one-off opportunity to make proper use of the site so as to offer to all in the local neighbourhood a beautiful church with a sustainable centre of community life of which to be proud.
It is a new way forward for the Christian ethos to love our neighbours. The vision is for an invigorated St George’s; at the beating heart of the community more than ever.
I invite all our neighbours to find out more about our plans at our website www.stgeorges.moonfruit.com/#/development-project/4584032607
• The Reverend Melanie Toogood is vicar of St George and All Saints church, Tufnell Park.