Please note that the below was an intended and usual list of Services that would have taken place, had the UK not gone in to COVID Lockdown.  Stephen had prepared his Farewell in advance. If you missed him before the Lockdown, we will at some point in the future be able to wish him "Farewell" in true 'St Thomas' style. 





10.30am: Procession of Palms and Parish Eucharist

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week there are services of Morning Prayer at 8.15am and Holy Communion at 7pm


At 7.30pm Sung Eucharist followed by Vigil of Prayer until midnight.


At 12 Noon – Stations of the Cross for Children, (about 45 minutes).

At 2pm – Liturgy of the Passion of Christ



Vigil and First Eucharist of Easter.



Procession and Parish Eucharist, followed by our Parish Easter Lunch


This is the most important time of the year in the Christian calendar. If it were not for what happened to Jesus on Good Friday and at Easter, we would not be worshipping in Finsbury Park very nearly 2000 years later.


My final service is the one on Easter Day at 10.30am. I hope you will be able to join us so we can bid each other a mutual goodbye. I know a lot of people go away over that weekend as it is the first public holiday of the year. If you already have plans to do so, I’ll take this opportunity to express my thanks for your contribution to the past 30 years.  I will be moving around for about 10 days after Easter to complete the process of moving and trimming down our lives from a terraced house to an apartment, but if I don’t see you to speak to then ‘Farewell’. 



Looking Back

I’ve been your neighbour for more than 30 years, but I’m retiring as your vicar at Easter and moving away from Finsbury Park.

Much has changed during the time I’ve lived here. Finsbury Park Station is even busier than it was in 1989. We must be one of the most connected places in London. No wonder so many people stay rather than move away. 


There has also been a marked increase in the density of the population, even within the parish.  This circular now goes to more than 4000 homes, considerably more than the 2500 which received the first edition. No space is left on which to build and we certainly need to protect the open space that we have. Gillespie Park was only created in the mid -1980’s. The only way is up, which can be seen all too obtrusively beside the station itself. 


The only other religious building in this parish apart from the small Christadelphian Hall off Blackstock Road, is Finsbury Park Mosque, which was being completed when I arrived at the other end of St Thomas’s Road from the church. I’ve had a close relationship with the people who run the mosque since soon after I came, and, although there have been challenging times, the situation since the mosque was reopened in 2005 is much healthier than it was before. 


Arsenal has also moved although not far.  Although their postal address is in the parish, geographically, the stadium is now in a neighbouring one. We are still affected on match days, not least because matches can now be played on Sundays. Fortunately, Islington Council recognises that St Thomas’ was built 25 years before Arsenal moved into their old stadium from Woolwich in 1913, so we are granted a few parking waivers.


The development of Highbury Stadium Square represents another change. The socio- economic profile of the parish has been transformed because of London property prices. It’s almost impossible to believe that in 1989 this parish was included as an urban priority area, high on the index of deprivation. That hasn’t gone away, but it is perhaps more hidden and ignored.  The parish remains very mixed but feels less of a community.



The process of choosing my successor cannot begin until I have gone.

There are good reasons for this.  It prevents me influencing the choice, allows St Thomas’ to discover what it is without me and discourages the temptation to react when making the appointment. Taking some time also gives the Diocese of London the chance to consider to if any changes to the way parishes are organised in this area might be beneficial. We’re already ‘grouped’ with St John Brownswood Park, which is just across Blackstock Road.  It is still in Finsbury Park, if in another borough.


In the meantime St Thomas’ will be functioning as usual with regular services on Sundays at 10.30am and Wednesdays at 7pm. It’s hoped that there will also be some continuity of priests presiding at these. The drop-in via the gate in Monsell Road on Thursdays will continue between 2 and 4 pm for any of you who happen to be around. The church building itself will be open on Tuesday between 10am and 1pm and on Fridays from 2pm until 5 pm. Please look at the website, the notice board on the corner and the porch when it is open to find out anything else that is happening.

I hope and pray that Finsbury Park remains a distinct place with a strong sense of identity. This is something that doesn’t happen automatically. With so much occurring online and on smart phones, neighbours are often less connected with each other now than in previous generations. The sheer scale of London can compound this tendency, but I don’t think it’s healthy for neighbourhoods to be fragmented. The current problems challenging us require co-ordinated, co-operative and collective action.  This can be much more powerful when generated from below rather than exhorted or commanded by politicians from above.


The genius of the Church of England is our commitment to the parish system. I am more convinced than ever that one touches what is universal through the depth with which one inhabits the local. That’s why I’ve been happy to remain here for so many years. My partner and I will be moving to a smaller town and I’m looking forward to getting to know a new place. I shall certainly try out the three local Anglican churches there. A congregation can be an invaluable shortcut to starting to feel at home.


Rev’d Prebendary Stephen Coles

Facebook: St Thomas the Apostle Finsbury Park

Charity Number 1179777


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