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Reverend Alan Green leaves St. John on Bethnal Green church after 24 years

Reverend Green’s Christmas Day sermon will be the last he gives to the congregation he has served for nearly a quarter of a century. 

Reverend Alan Green of St. John on Bethnal Green has announced that he will be leaving St. John’s on Sunday 15 December 2022. 

Green, who is 66 years old, said that he would be very sad to leave St. John’s and that he hadn’t been thinking of leaving the Church of England parish until a ‘half-way house’ job came up in Falmer, East Sussex, that would allow him to carry on working part-time into his 70s.

Due to the Church of England’s rule that Parish clergy are not allowed to work full-time past the age of 70, if he had stayed at St. John’s Green would’ve had to retire in four years time. 

‘I’m going on my own terms and I’m very excited about what’s to come, but at the same time I don’t feel ready to leave St. John’s,’ said Green. 

Despite it being a very significant day for Green, he said that his leaving would not take the focus away from baby Jesus on Christmas Day, and that he would be doing his valedictory sermon the previous week on Sunday 18 December. 

Green admitted that another reason his new offer was ‘irresistible’ was unrelated to the church, explaining that he is a season ticket holder for Brighton and Hove Albion F.C., whose home stadium is located in Green’s new Parish. ‘The free house I get as part of the job is only 200 yards away from the stadium, so I will never miss a game,’ he laughed. 

Green said that he rarely pre-writes his sermons before delivering them and this time it would be no different: ‘I studied theology at university and when I write sermons in advanced it feels a bit like I’m writing an essay,’ Green laughed: ‘I prefer to be inventive and react to the congregation.’ 

Following the nationwide trend of declining church attendance, the congregation at St. John’s has not recovered in numbers since the pandemic, and now has about 25 regular members. 

But, as Green said: ‘I’m not too concerned about the numbers, throughout my time here I’ve striven for the church to be used partly for worship and partly for the congregation to engage with the local community. There is no clear dividing line between religious and secular use.’ 

Throughout his time at the helm, Green has encouraged many community groups and art programmes to use the church, including the Grand Union Orchestra which has hosted many of its concerts there. St. John’s has even been used for an LGBTQ+ peace rally, and as a meeting space for Extinction Rebellion. 

After Green’s departure from St. John’s there will be a gap in leadership while the local Archdeacon and parish decide on the new Reverend, but Green hopes that they will carry on his legacy of engaging with the community and continue to encourage cohesion between long-standing Bethnal Green residents and those who have moved to the area more recently. 

If you enjoyed this piece, read our article about Julian McIntosh, the architect who brought a derelict Bow church back to life. 

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