Editor of Parkside Post, Juliet Childs, spoke to Revd Susan Bolen in February 2020, just as she completed a hugely busy first year as Priest-in-Charge at St Pauls Wimbledon Parkside. In the interview, Revd Susan gives her impressions of her new incumbency, of the church building and of life in the parish, and describes her vision for the church and our community.
Juliet: What do you think of the church building itself?
Susan: From the outside, the appearance is quite typical of the Victorian period. What is quite remarkable, however, is the beauty found within. The Kemp windows, the reredos, the elegant high ceilings, the wonderful acoustics and other features make it a beautiful setting.
But there is something even more attractive and compelling, something intangible that I can only call ‘Presence’. And it is that which drew me here from the beginning. It is something I feel every time I enter St Paul’s. But one must enter through those big wooden doors to experience it for oneself.
Juliet: How have you found getting to know the people at St Paul’s?
Susan: The people of St Paul’s have been a primary part of what drew me here initially. They are warm, welcoming, very inclusive and generous of themselves. They are both thoughtful and thought-provoking. There are very many remarkable people with amazing stories at St Paul’s. The more I get to know them, the more impressed I am. They are a real blessing, for which I am deeply grateful.
Juliet: What are your impressions of the Wimbledon Parkside area?
Susan: This is a beautiful area. I am not a city girl, so it often comes as a bit of a surprise to me to realise I live in London! But the beauty of this area, with its green spaces and especially the Common, makes all the difference. And I like the diversity found here; the real mix of people and various faiths, and the fact that there are so many young people.
I find a certain openness here and enjoy being able to pop my head in at the local shops just to say hello. I appreciate that most people respond if I smile and greet them as I walk down the road with Ella, my golden retriever.
Juliet: It must have been difficult, starting as Priest-in-Charge living outside the parish. What’s it been like, moving into the vicarage at last?
Susan: The vicarage is fundamentally a lovely house. It has a history and is a special place to live, particularly since it has been refurbished. My family and I are very pleased to be here. Being next door to St Paul’s has made an enormous difference to daily life and to my availability to spend time more fruitfully. I hope that it will help enable the doors of St Paul’s to be open much more as well!
Juliet: What are your hopes for the life of the church and the parish, looking to the future?
Susan: It is my hope, my vision, to be a church – a Christian presence – for this community. To be a place of welcome where people can come to reflect, pray, find peace, grow spiritually, meet friends and discover community. St Paul’s is very well situated – where people live – and I would love for us to grow to be something of a community hub where a sense of love, belonging and sharing can be experienced by all.
Juliet: We look forward to realising that special vision with you, Susan. Welcome!