Interviews 

Here are some interviews about people who work with us here at St Thomas'.

Reverend Pauline Nashashibi

Pauline says “I am delighted that I will be with you until a new vicar is appointed. I look forward to getting to know you better”.

We asked Pauline some questions on your behalf.

What was your career before you were ordained? Did it have a bearing on your calling to be ordained? 

I was in adult education for most of my career and had a particular interest in developing progression routes into higher education for mature students. For the last 8 years I was a national advisor for post 16 learning.I think it does relate to my calling in that it is people centred work and I had the opportunity to work with people at times of change in their lives.I think in the last years when I was working on national programmes, I began to want to work more closely within a local community.

                                                       

How did that decision to be ordained affect your life and family?

Well I started training for ordination when I got my pension. My family were supportive generally although my son said he had thought I would join a gym and get fit and have an easier life!It was a big undertaking and I can be a bit of a square peg but I was ordained deacon in June 2011. It was a wonderful moment in St Paul’s cathedral and Stephen was there to welcome me.

When you arrived at St Thomas’s in 2012 as our assistant priest how different was it from your home church?

Oh, completely different from any church I had ever belonged to. I am from Belfast and the Church of Ireland I attended as a child when I was growing up was ‘on the ground’ compared with the high church worship at St Thomas’s. I don’t think there were any images. It was quite a shock to the system for both Stephen and me when the then bishop suggested it, but we had a shared commitment and when I began to know roughly where I should be standing at any given moment, I came to love the rich and varied liturgy at St Thomas’s and wouldn’t wish to have been trained anywhere else. Stephen and I shared a great interest in interfaith work.

 

What do you most enjoy about living and working around Finsbury Park? What differences have you seen in your time here?

I love the lively and mixed community here and being at the centre of the transport hub.People are friendly. And more so now than when I first came and there was a bit of extra sensitivity after the London bombings. I particularly value the interfaith activity with our brothers and sisters at Finsbury Park Mosque and the Muslim Welfare House and that has been a constant since I was ordained.

 

What other work have you been doing since leaving St Thomas’s after your curacy?

While I was in my first posting after St Thomas I got asked to go and help in a church where the vicar had retired suddenly on health grounds. I was there nearly a year before a new priest was appointed and the bishop said, ‘That went rather well. Would you like to do another?’ That’s how I began a series of postings during interregnums and I have enjoyed them all.They are long enough to get to know a community and I find that, as well as helping keep things going which is the main thing, something particular usually emerges that I can do and I think, maybe that’s why God brought me here.

 

You are our interim priest at the moment – how different is it from being the incumbent of a church?

It’s a lot different.There are areas that I can leave to others – like dealing with the money and buildings – and at my time of life that’s good.There is the challenge of working with people in a collegiate way and I like that. There is a bit of a wrench when the time comes to move on but that has always been the plan.I only work in walking distance so I have ongoing contacts that I value.

 

What do you enjoy doing on days off or on holiday?

I enjoy family time and walking. I did a stretch of the Camino last year and I would like to do more of that. And I enjoy reading and crosswords.

 

Do you have a favourite Bible passage that helps your faith?

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path.

 

Psalm 119.105

Reverend Stephen Coles

Stephen retired at Easter 2020 after being the parish vicar for 31 years. 

 

Some of our Sunday School interviewed him about his life at St Thomas'.  Here's what they found out:  

Why did you become a vicar?

 

I wanted a job that involved helping other people; that allowed me to have close relationships with people at very important points in their lives in a way that I hoped would be careful and helpful.

How long have you been the vicar at St Thomas'?

 

I’m seventy, and I came here thirty years ago. I had just passed my fortieth birthday. I’d celebrated my birthday, and part of my celebrations was to come here.


What was your first day at St Thomas' like?

 

It was very hot! It was the 21 July, 1989, and it was very hot and the church was very full. There were lots of people and we had a big party in the hall afterwards. Some of my old students from Cambridge came and took lots and lots of photographs, which I still have.


What kind of wine do we drink at communion?

 

It’s called fortified wine. We drink that because it lasts better than ordinary wine, so we don’t have to finish it when we open it.


What is your favourite hymn?

 

I have two. One is ‘Love Divine All Loves Excelling’, and the other one is ‘There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy’.

 

Where did you go on holiday?

 

I went to Barcelona and Bilbao, which are both in Spain.


What has been your favourite moment about being a priest at St Thomas'?

 

 [….very long pause....] So it doesn’t have to be in the building? Then the best moment for me was the moment when the Muslims asked me to go and talk to them at Friday prayers, because I felt that there had been a breakthrough between us, and we didn’t have to regard ourselves as separate.

 

What do you do in your leisure time?

 

Answer: I like relaxing. I like reading, proper books with covers on them. I like going on holiday, and I like going to the local theatre, so I don’t have to get on a tube.


What's your favourite biscuit?

 

My mother used to make amazing biscuits that were treacly and gingery, and they’re the ones I really like. They were a kind of oatcake so they were very crunchy to eat. She used to make them on special occasions and, I have to tell you, they didn’t last very long.

 

What is your favourite message in the Bible?

 

My favourite message from the Bible would be, ‘I no longer call you servants, I call you friends,’ which Jesus said at the Last Supper to his disciples.

....and to read other interesting local interviews with Stephen, please see

 

Highbury Community Association’s News, July 2020

Islington Faces, July 2013

St Thomas's Road 

London, N4 2QP

 

Charity Number 1179777

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