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Archbishop opens community centre at St Andrew's Fulham Fields

Thursday 22nd March 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has joined Baroness Margaret Eaton and over 200 members of the congregation and community at St Andrew's Fulham Fields, to open a £3 million project to renew the church and create a new community facility, the St Andrew's Star Centre.

The opening of the new Centre and the renewal of the church's facilities marks a milestone in the life of this iconic church and provides community halls, a cafe area, a church office and new toilet facilities.

The new facilities enable St Andrew's to continue and extend its contribution to supporting the homeless, supporting children's education and offering healthy living activities such as yoga, zumba and street dance.

The church's many community programmes include a Mums' and Toddlers' Group of about 50, a fruit and vegetable co-op and a homelessness project which feeds and clothes around 100 people each Saturday. From Easter there will also be a fully equipped nursery, The Little School.

The Star Centre will be open to the whole community and ensure that these groups, which local people have come to rely on, have a permanent home. The Centre received funding from sources including North Fulham New Deal for Communities and Communitybuilders with Charity Bank providing financing for the construction of ten apartments, now for sale, adjacent to the church. The architect is Gary Thompson of Crowther Architectural Associates and the main contractor, Farnrise Construction Ltd.

Archbishop at the IntoUniversity openingThe opening also marked the launch of a new centre run by award-winning education charity IntoUniversity. IntoUniversity operates nine centres which motivate and support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to attain a university place. The new Hammersmith IntoUniversity Centre will offer 850 students each year a combination of academic support, mentoring and aspiration-building activities.

The Archbishop also unveiled a major new artwork created for the church by well-known artist Guido de' Costanzo. Commissioned by Mr Spencer Cooper, a member of the congregation, the work, known as the Kite, is an interpretation of the Crucifixion of Christ made by dropping molten silver on to a canvas covered with sheets of gold leaf and lapis lazuli. An exhibition of de Costanzo's works was also hosted at the church for attendees to experience, while music for the event was provided by the Villiers Quartet.

Attendees at the opening included local dignitaries such as Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said:

"What I've seen at the Star Centre is people being encouraged, from the word go, to hope for the best-– for themselves, and not just for themselves but for one another. When you see the co-operative kind of work that goes on among children on the top floor, sitting around sharing their ideas, sharing their work, that's as important a feature of what's happening as anything else.

"I like to think that a good working church is like the TARDIS in Dr Who - it's much bigger on the inside than on the outside. You go to a place like the Star Centre and you have no idea from the outside just how much is going on here to enlarge people's horizons, to broaden their hopes, and deepen their hearts and their minds."

The Archbishop delivers a Homily at St Andrew's Fulham FieldsThe Archbishop delivered a Homily in which he referred frequently to Guido de' Costanzo's artpiece: 'The crucified and risen Christ, there in the centre of this kite image is a sign of our defiance of the force of gravity'.  

A transcript of the Homily is below:

G.K.Chesterton, I think it was, said Satan fell by the force of gravity. Taking yourself seriously is what brings you down into the depths of things and we need something radical, deep beyond us and within us, to change things so that we are not imprisoned by the force of gravity.

The crucified and risen Christ, there in the centre of this kite image is a sign of our defiance of the force of gravity. We may suffer, we may struggle and yet something obstinately rises up within us and refuses to allow us to be trapped by the force of gravity, refuses to allow us to be bowed down, our eyes upon the earth.  No, we are encouraged to defy gravity, to lift our eyes and look one another in the face and to lift our eyes further to God’s heaven and the endless possibilities for the love that made the heaven and moves the stars. 

An image then of connection and also of surprise, an image that reminds us of the wind and the spirit and the defiance of gravity that comes with it, an image that lifts us, not by consoling us, not by making us feel comfortable but by driving us right into the molten heart of things and from there the heat , the light, the overflowing wellspring of infinite love can come. That’s what we see there. An image which providentially  is not only the image of the crucified but also of course if you look at it in a certain light, an image of the dove descending, wings spread, ‘breaking the air with flaming incandescent terror’  as the poet put it.  Not comfortable, not cosy but my goodness hopeful, transfiguring, joyful. 

So, let it be a real icon not only of our Lord and his Spirit but an icon of the church itself, what we are here for, what makes us live, what lifts us up, what lifts us up carrying our neighbours with us because we are none of us healed, restored and transfigured alone.  May God’s Spirit draw out of our depths a  hope that we can share, a  hope that will allow the whole world to see the trees bending, the grass flapping,  as the wind and the Spirit blows over  it,  the face of the earth is renewed.  

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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