Events & News

-Welcome back, St. John's Church is open

-A note from Fr Grant Wenlock-Holmes


After 10 years of renovation the church re-opened in July. The new organ is now fully installed for Sunday service and other events. A new English Library is also now open. In 2021 we hope to offer community events in the New Gibraltar Room, adjacent to the church and inside the church itself. For more information about the Sunday Service, please click HERE

'Making the most of Menton’
Last July I finally managed to take my post Easter break!  Yes, you’re right; Easter Day was 12th April, but our life in St Albans can be so hectic and so diarised that fitting in time off becomes a work of art.  Or at least long distance planning.  But we had been hoping for a some time to get to Menton.  We've friends who holiday in the area of Menton every year and they wax lyrical about it.  With such encouragement you’d need to be very dour not to be inspired to make the journey.
It was an odd journey because of the restrictions and strangenesses associated with this COVID world.  Flying to Nice from Heathrow was the quickest and cheapest way to travel.  Usually every terminal at Heathrow is literally heaving with people.  The Duty Free Shops are bustling with fashion conscious folk trying to get just the right pair of sunglasses for the beach or their favourite ’smells’ less the VAT.  You have to queue to get a table in order to have the breakfast you simply couldn’t face at the ungodly hour you had to get up at and set out for the airport.  This time the concourse was deserted, the shops were closed, and there was such as scarcity of food outlets as to put one in mind of a famine.  So we were relieved to think that at least the flight would be practically empty.  How wrong can you be?  A deserted concourse managed magically to produce a crowded departure lounge and a packed plane.  Thankfully boarding was organised in groups of four rows. (Why they haven’t done so from time immemorial I don’t know; it was much more efficient than the usual scrum down?).  'In flight food' was minimal but not reflected in any reduction in the price of the ticket.
We arrived just in time at Nice Airport to miss the bus to Menton.  But since I made a mess of finding the bus stop I’m sure, even if we had been on time, we would have missed our bus.  However, it was good to have some fresh air and a chance to spend a little bit of time not sporting a face mask.  However, when the next bus did arrive the driver wouldn’t even listen to us without immediately indicating we should don our masks again.  They were mandatory on the bus as they had been on the plane.  He was right of course, even if the passengers on the 50 seater bus numbered only three!
Menton greeted us in style - sunshine, blue sky, and the scent of the sea on the air.  Being naturally parsimonious, we didn’t get a taxi to our B&B - we walked to our destination was which was ‘La Fabrique aux Poupées’.  Our hosts were very welcoming and obliging, happy to converse in their broken English or my broken French.  They showed us to our room and within seconds I was on the balcony looking out to the sea and planning my first walk along the front.  That too greeted us with warmth; real warmth that made our English bodies relax and rejoice.  The relaxing was so effective that we didn’t bother returning to La Fabrique until we had successfully eaten an excellent meal and consumed some french wine.  All this was followed by a good night’s sleep in the full & certain knowledge that we’d made the right choice for our post Easter break.
An added attraction was that we had a friend who was already in Menton.  You might know him?  A certain Fr David Houghton!  We had first met when he was Chaplain in Paris and our paths crossed a second time when he came to Surbiton as the Vicar of St Matthews.  I was the Chaplain at Kingston Hospital and had been helping out at St Matthew’s during their interregnum.  The world can be very small.  It can be very small indeed if you also happen to be a cleric of the Church of England.  Fr David made sure that we were booked into St John’s for the Sunday morning, for which we were very grateful.
Now I wouldn’t want this to go to anyone’s head but it was a pleasure to be amongst a congregation who were clearly happy to have ‘come home’ to their own church after so many years.  There was a palpable joy about the place and sense of accomplishment in a task well done.  Yes, there were still things to be put right and work to be done.  But that was not going to detract from your pride and pleasure.  That morning in St John’s is what fed my willingness to return in November for two weeks in order to provide priestly cover for St John’s.  Sadly COVID and Monsieur Le Président put an end to that.  But now we are together digitally and I am making the most of my Menton connection.  Let’s hope that when we can travel freely once more I will be able to make good on my commitment to come to Menton as your priest for a few weeks to meet and greet you person, to pray in the place and not just for the place, to see again the beginnings of St John’s new life and future flourishing.
Yours in expectation,
Fr Grant