It's been said that ‘The Church is the Fifth Gospel’ and in our services at St Luke's we sometimes feature an additional Gospel reading – from the Gospel of this Church.
This past Sunday we heard a reading from the Gospel of St Luke’s West Holloway, according to Sam Murphy.
'I’d say I’ve been part of this church since about 1980, so that would be more than thirty years. I started coming along after I moved to the Clocktower Estate and never really stopped.
It was nearly 20 years before that, in 1962, when I came across to London from Ireland. I grew up in County Carlow but I’d been working as a gardener in Bray and then in Dublin. I was getting about £3 a week. You can get that much for an hour these days. A relative introduced me to this posh Irish man who had a landscape gardening firm in London. I met him on the Friday and I was on the boat on the Monday. The money was better, £9 a week, and better still when I got a job in Regents Park. That was £13 a week and I worked there for four years, looking after the rose gardens.
I’ve always loved the gardening but there was so little money in it and eventually I got some classes to learn to be an electrician and that’s how I ended up working for the Post Office, all over the City of London.
My Gran was a real Bible reader, who prayed a lot, but for me it wasn’t until my twenties that faith came to mean something deeper, when I understood about Jesus dying and about how we’re forgiven.
When I first came to St Luke’s, there was a Deaconess, Patsy, living in the vicarage while Tim, the vicar, lived up near me in the flat above St Francis on North Road. Then there was only a handful of us in services, we used to start the hymns with a tape-recorder.
Tim organized a day to work in the garden and I said that I’d do this area over by the front wall. He looked at me with a smile and said, ‘You can do more if you like!’ I did end up doing more. I’ve been doing it ever since. I just like looking after the gardens, I enjoy it. To me, being close to nature, can be like being close to God, like in the best gardens you have this serene state, this peaceful state. I remember when I first when to Iona, I heard it described as a thin place, where the distance between earth and heaven is not much. A few times I’ve been in the garden of St Luke’s and felt it is also a thin place.
Sometimes people want to pray in the church: one woman, who couldn’t speak English, would only go as far as the doorway, no further – she just stood there. And I asked God to grant her whatever she was praying for.
We used to have a Bible Study and we had home groups. Why they petered out I don’t know.We used to sit and debate, although that got a bit iffy sometimes if you ask me.
If this church wasn’t here I’d miss it. It’s like someone who’s been married for thirty years, you might have some arguments but if they were gone you’d miss them.
I like being with the earth and watching God send the sun and the rain and then seeing how everything grows. Sometimes I just like to look at the roses and marvel at them.’
The Gospel According to Sam is one of 12 stories collected in The Gospel According to Everyone by Martin Wroe.