Canon David Meara: Maintaining St Bride’s choral traditions
The future of St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, is now certain following the success of its re-endowment appeal that raised the £3.5 million needed to continue serving journalists, printers, the media and its wider parish in the City of London.
The newspaper industry may no longer operate from Fleet Street, but it has shown, through its strong support of the appeal, that its heritage and spiritual home remains in The Street, as it has done for the last 500 years.
Canon David Meara came to St Bride’s four years ago and found that continuing the strong choral tradition of the church, maintaining the magnificent buildings and running the church in an administrative capacity was becoming impossible to afford.
He said: “We were running to a standstill. If we hadn’t launched the appeal and raised the funds we would have been forced to start cutting back on the professional choir; the staff and the church would not have been able to remain in tip-top condition. The ministry of the church would have imploded.”
It would have been tragic had the church, with such historical links to journalists, started to diminish.
England’s first printing press was brought to St Bride’s in 1500 and it was from there the printed word took off as a mass communication tool. A small museum charting the history of newspapers and Fleet Street is contained in the crypt of the church.
“The relationship between the press and St Bride’s is touching. I don’t know of any other industry that has such a strong sense of belonging to a particular church in the way that the newspaper industry and allied publishing trades has to St Bride’s,” said Canon Meara.
The spiritual link between journalists and the church is epitomised by the altar which is covered in written tributes, and surrounded by candles to journalists and media professionals, of all nationalities, who have been injured or killed when reporting, filming or just walking home.
The financial support from most national newspaper groups, and a number of regional groups, has exceeded the appeal committee’s expectations. Vyvyan Harmsworth, director of corporate affairs at Associated Newspapers, and master of the guild of St Bride’s said: “All of us in the appeal committee are absolutely delighted with the response to the appeal, particularly in the current economic climate. People have been incredibly generous, which re-iterates the importance that St Bride’s has within the community of journalists.
It is the focal point of Fleet Street and even though hardly any journalists are there any more, people feel deeply about the church.”
Canon Meara makes the point that St Bride’s is open to all, irrespective of faith or creed. Throughout the year the church sees journalists’ lives remembered and celebrated at memorial services and weddings.
This summer memorial services were held for Press Gazette ‘s sub editor, Alan Skehan, Gerry Brown, investigative reporter at the News of the World and Stewart Steven, former editor of the Mail on Sunday and of the Evening Standard . Lindsay Nicholson, editor of Good Housekeeping was married at the church this year and, recently, deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Matthew d’Ancona’s second son was christened there. The professional choir sing at these services and for the regular congregation every Sunday.
By Caitlin Pike