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London churches come to St Paul’s for Patron Saint celebration

31 January 2013

Worshippers from across the Diocese of London have gathered in St Paul’s for a special Eucharist to celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul.

Congregations came together under the Dome to mark the second of two major services to celebrate the Patronal Feast with hymns, prayers, specially devised dramatic readings and a procession of banners, on Saturday 25 January.

The story of Paul’s conversion – a divine revelation involving a terrifying explosion which left him temporarily blind – is celebrated every year and famously involves the procession of a giant phoenix, designed and made by the pupils of the St Paul’s Cathedral School. Like the mythical bird, Paul arose from the ashes in ‘new and glorious plumage’, making the phoenix an important and powerful image for the celebration.

This year’s event, which adopted as its theme ‘1 Corinthians 13 – Love and Service’, was tied in with St Paul’s Schools and Families Department’s Patronal Festival Activity Day, which earlier brought school children together for an afternoon of art and craft activities, storytelling and banner making.

Over 200 families with children of all ages took part in the art and craft activities, and the Cathedral's south transept was transformed into a fun, activity area. Groups of children enjoyed hearing stories of ship wreck, letter writing and martyrdom told by Schools & Families Department Assistant, Stephen Spencer. Also in the side aisles were actors portraying Sir Christopher Wren and Florence Nightingale, who has a memorial here in the Cathedral crypt.

Children also created three colourful, giant banners that were later carried in the opening procession of the Eucharist, and pupils from St Paul’s CE School, Whitechapel, also presented a piece of drama based on St Paul’s famous letter to the Corinthians about the meaning of love.

Janet Marshall, Head of Schools & Families at St Paul’s, said: "It was a fantastic day - a massive team effort thanks to the hard work of our team and volunteers. This occasion is a great way to celebrate both our faith and the missionary zeal of the saint who gives us our name and our amazing Cathedral. It was also a chance for parishes from the Diocese to take over and enjoy their Cathedral for the day."

The Bishop of Edmonton, Peter Wheatley, who attended the event, added: "It was a wonderful event involving children from schools dedicated to St Paul and gathered together a wide spectrum of the Diocesan family, from the Deaf Church to those campaigning for Fairtrade.”
The giant phoenix used in the service

The giant phoenix used in the service   Enlarge

School children with their banners

School children with their banners   Enlarge