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An open letter to The Venerable David Meara, Archdeacon of London and Rector of St Bride's on his forthcoming retirement, from Edward Bevin, journalist, PR man and St Bride's worshipper for more than 40 years.
By the time you read this, your departure from St Bride's will be that much closer and I have no doubt that the large congregation you have splendidly built up since you joined us in 2000, will be saddened as a result.
Swapping Bridewell for Burford or that traffic cauldron, Ludgate Circus for leafy Leafield, where from the top of the church spire of St Michael's in that hill-top Oxfordshire village, one can almost see the Shard, is, of course, going to be quite a wrench for you and Rosemary. However, you are returning to your roots, after all, and it's always nice to be back home, isn't it? It's rather like slipping into soft shoes and putting your feet up before a log fire, a glass of whisky in the one hand and a copy of the Church Times in the other, after a gruelling trip perhaps, to the Eternal City or the Holy Land.
Now journalists like me continue to have a nose for a scoop. A few months ago, when I approached you to agree to the Friends of Cathedral Music organising a special service in 2016 to celebrate the 60th diamond jubilee of its founding by the late Canon Ronald Sibthorpe at St Bride's in 1956, you hesitated, surprisingly, and then hinted that final approval might have to be taken by your successor. I could have filed a Meara retirement story to the Press Association that minute, but then, out of respect, I thought it better if you revealed the news yourself! Dream of a Fleet Street scoop shattered!
You will leave our famous Wren church, surely a gift from God, in even better shape than when you inherited it. Since your arrival, you must hold the world record for presiding at memorial services for the great and the good of the media world and beyond, not to mention the almost weekly baptisms, numerous weddings, other special services and the daily Eucharist. And then there were your many connections with the Livery companies in the City of London. During all of this time, you demonstrated, without wanting to, what a gifted priest you are, with not a glimmer of faux grandiloquence either in meeting parishioners, or delivering your fascinating and often inspiring sermons. I always felt, and many others agree, that your mission in life is admirably suited to your calling.
I was terribly impressed when you led the team to organise the Queen's visit to St Bride's in 2007 - which was almost 50 years to the day after she was in the church for its rededication. During the run up to that historical and wonderful event, it was almost as if you swapped your dog collar for a white shirt and a Guild tie, becoming Mr Unflappable without the slightest hint of panic in your voice or body language, riding us over problems as if they didn't exist!
It came as no surprise when the Bishop of London appointed you to be his right hand man, which promoted you from Canon to Archdeacon. Now historically in the Church of England, Archdeacons have a bit of a reputation for being pompous, aloof or sometimes, bon viveurs. But not you, David, you carried on preaching the Gospel as if nothing had happened, although we all knew that so much was happening in your ecclesiastical workload, but your beloved St Bride's went from strength to strength.
To be leaving St Bride's at such a great festival which is Easter, is expert timing, because it is a triumphant and historical chapter, demonstrated by the Resurrection and the hope of new life. I wish you both Godspeed in every day of your retirement.