Faith in the community

Architecturally, The St Barnabas Church (built in 1996) and Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift at Dulwich (built in 1616) appear to inhabit different worlds. But John Watson, who has been vicar of both since September 2014, sees strong links between these two popular local landmarks, both of which play an important part in the lives of the community offering weekly worship as well as christenings, marriages and funerals.

"I work with people of all ages. As well as my work with the foundation schools, and our parish school, Dulwich Village Infants, I visit Dulwich Hamlet and I’m establishing links with the new Charter School East Dulwich. The parish runs a variety of groups including Wednesday Friends for the older generation. I’m also involved in visiting the lonely.

"It’s good to engage with people of other faiths or none. Every so often we put on community seminars and invite people from different backgrounds to speak on a social issue and join the debate. Last time we discussed how schools should shape young people’s values. The church was packed.

“I hope that St Barnabas is a church that anyone can come in to and feel welcome. We try to engage with the community in a real way and be approachable, kind and accepting.”

"Supporting charities is important to us. We have a strong link with Christian Aid and support Link Age Southwark and homeless charities. A lot of our income goes into Southwark’s central Parish Support Fund which supports less affluent parishes.

"There’s a huge amount of flexibility in what you can do in this role. I’ve recently been forging links with a Latin American congregation at St Matthew’s in Elephant & Castle. By twinning with them, St Barnabas’ has expanded our vision as a parish.

"The church is still very relevant, but we need communicate that. The need for love and acceptance, the need to grieve and to celebrate plus the need to gather for a sense of community – they’re all relevant. And that’s what the church does every week!"

For information about services, events and venue hire at St Barnabas and Christ’s Chapel visit www.stbarnabasdulwich.org