Twenty years ago 'Farver' Diamond and the people of St Paul's welcomed me to Deptford. 'You must have had a splendid training as a priest here?' I was asked at Fr Diamond's funeral. But I do not recall any formal training, just endless work and an unending stream of people. This in itself was a tribute to the Rector of Deptford, for there were very few people when he arrived 23 years before, but it is now so busy that seven priests are fully occupied.
Deptford had come alive with the advent of the new priest at St Paul's 1969, though David Diamond always attributed this to God alone. There followed a great revival of community spirit and church life. There were great Masses, street parties, pensioner's outings, the Youth Club, Scouts, the Miller Hospital, the Deptford Festival. And the people of Deptford came - and so did the Queen, Princess Margaret, the archbishop, the bishop, the pearly queen, Miss Deptford, the town crier, the faithful, the curious, the wanting-to-believe.
Such was my training: long hours, a meal in the Brown Bear in the absence of a clergy-house housekeeper to cook for us; activities; administration; fund-raising; delivering leaflets; and a crowded house with kids off the street. The telephone would ring past midnight with a request for 'Farver' to pick up some kids who had missed the last bus after a disco in Lewisham.
The incarnational identification of God's Priest at work amongst God's people and becoming the instrument that God uses to bring the unbelieving unto Himself; that is what I learnt. It was supremely exemplified in the sacrificial life of 'Farver' David Diamond.