Crowds flock to see Prince Charles visit Camden churches
PUBLISHED: 19:03 06 February 2012
Crowds welcomed Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to Camden to celebrate the transformative work of churches in the community last Thursday (February 2).
Accompanied by Bishop of London Richard Chartres, the Prince of Wales visited St Silas Church in Kentish Town and St Mary’s Church in Somers Town to learn about their transformation in recent years.
The prince caused ripples of excitement as he walked between visits and he was later joined by the Duchess of Cornwall at a Candlemas service at St Michael’s Church in Camden Town.
At St Silas Catholic Church the heir to the throne met Father Graeme Rowlands, who has built the church’s congregation from four to more than 100 since he arrived in 1989.
Father Rowlands said: “A lot of the people I visit regularly never come to church. The church recreates a community that doesn’t exist in any other way. In London, a lot of the community that was has disappeared.”
He said the royal visit was a wonderful occasion to celebrate the church’s centenary this year.
The Bishop of London said: “Ten years ago places like this felt a great deal of demoralisation and used to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Prince’s visit recognises how much has been achieved.”
Prince Charles listened to hymns sung by the choir of Holy Trinity & St Silas School in Hartland Road, Kentish Town, where Father Rowlands also teaches music.
He also met volunteers from the church’s Sunday School and shared tea and biscuits with a 99-year-old parishioner at her home nearby in Kentish Town.
The prince later met people benefiting from community projects supported by St Michael’s Anglican Church in Camden Road, Camden Town.
Reverend Philip North, of St Michael’s, said the prince was “amazingly adept” and equally at home meeting school children, the elderly and the homeless.
In recent years the church, which a decade ago was almost derelict with pools of water on the floor, has become renowned for its work helping homeless people in Camden.
It has worked with the scheme C4WS, which helps people off the streets, as well as in partnership with Jobs In Mind, a charity that helps mentally ill people back into work.
“It’s so important in London because of the huge wealth divide and the large number of people living very vulnerable lives,” said Rev North. “We’ve got to be out and about otherwise we’re living a lie.”
The church was packed for Candlemas, as people tried to catch a glimpse of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who wore a silk spot dress by Marylebone-based designer Anna Valentine, with a chocolate-brown wool coat and hat.
“The congregation loved it,” said Rev North. “A visit like that gives people so much encouragement and self-confidence.”
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