Saint James



The Parish of

St. Peter,

Bushey Heath

November 2017


From the vicar

‘Why Wakes?’ someone asked me recently. What is the origin of the activity and why do we do it? 

There have been two types of wake in England over the centuries. The first is a vigil which takes place before burial and has its origins in the Celtic pagan religions. It is possible that there was a superstitious fear of evil spirits molesting the corpse in some way and so family and friends would keep watch until the time appointed for burial. This custom was developed to include festivities in some places. The corpse was placed under a table with a plate of salt on its breast (to ward off evil spirits) whilst liquor for the watchers was placed on top. With the arrival of Christianity prayer was added for the departed, although since the Reformation such practice has largely disappeared except in places where there is a large Catholic population. The wake would have been quite natural as the corpse was kept at home awaiting burial, a practice which has persisted well into living memory and until the advent of funeral parlours. Sometimes the corpse is brought home still so that family and friends can say ‘farewell’ and where this occurs it can be an aid in the process of grieving.

The second type of wake is the celebration associated with the dedication of a parish church. From Anglo-Saxon times the wake was an all-night vigil before the feast of the patron saint which was celebrated as a holiday with the patronal mass and attendant festivities. As years went by the event tended to degenerate into a fair. These sometimes became occasions for debauchery and in 1445 an attempt was made by Henry VI to suppress them 

Some parishes still hold wakes today, although the religious element may have almost disappeared. Rural communities sometimes hold fairs which are vestiges of the old wake transferred to the nearest Saturday or a Bank Holiday Monday. It may still be a time when family members who have moved away return to join in the festivities and renew acquaintances. 

Sometimes wakes or vigils are held for other reasons too. A vigil is commonly held on Maundy Thursday in memory of Jesus’ command to his disciples that they wait and watch with him and sometimes a vigil is held on Easter Eve as it is today at St. Peter’s. Away from special times in the calendar a vigil can be arranged as a time of preparation and prayer for any purpose or event, as a useful time of peace with God for prayer and reflection.

There have been some changes over the years, but the wake can still be a useful reminder of God’s presence in our everyday lives and a reason to celebrate his goodness. It is especially appropriate during the month of November with its several services of remembrance whether joyful or solemn. 



Join us in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who is God with us, during this wonderful season.

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Pray for the organisations supported by St. Peter’s especially those engaged in evangelism:

Church Army, Barnabas Fund and Mission Aviation Fellowship.


From the diary

Wednesday 1st November, 10.00am     Mass for All Saints’ Day


Requiem for All Souls 

Thursday 2nd November at 8.00pm

Names to be remembered may be added to the list at the back of church or hand your list to one of the churchwardens.


Wednesday 15th November, 8.00pm    Parochial Church Council in the Parish Hall

Wednesday 22nd November, 7.30pm   Bushey Inter-Faith Forum (details on the pew sheet)

Wednesday 29th November, 10.00am  Mass for the Missionary Work of the Church


From the registers –


19th October                 Graham Homan Smith


‘Thank you’ from Father Andrew

As I prepare to begin a phased return to my duties following my recent surgery, I would like to express my sincere thanks for all the support the people at St. Peter’s have given me. I have very much appreciated the many cards, gifts and visits I have received and, of course, the prayers of the faithful which have sustained me in recent days. I am very much looking forward to being with you all again.

Statement about the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey

(Published at the request of the Diocese of St. Albans)

The Church of England has been supporting the police on an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert (Victor) Whitsey. The allegations date from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese.

Bishop Whitsey also served as Bishop of Hertford in St Albans Diocese from 1971 to 1974.

Anyone affected by this news should call the CCPAS helpline on 0303 003 11 11 who can offer help and signpost to church-related support and information or alternatively call the NSPCC 0808 800 5000. Anyone with further information on the case should go direct to the police on 101.    

Any allegations or information will be listened to and treated seriously.

Alternatively, if you have any information or concerns please call Jez Hirst, Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser on 01727 818107  Mob: 07867 350886 or

Advent Study Booklet

The Additional Curates Society has produced a study booklet for Advent. Written by Joan Whyman it is entitled ‘Awakening to Wonder’ and costs £2-00. It provides an opportunity to reflect upon the joys anticipated during the season of Advent. Fr. Andrew has copies for those who would like one.


People not Borders


I am Me: The Exhibition

A creative mixed-media exploration of what it means to be a refugee

Bushey and Oxhey Methodist Church

7th to 9th November, 2.30pm to 4.30pm


Contact details:

Vicar: Fr. Andrew Burton SSC, a priest of the Society. (020 8950 1424). Usual day off Monday.

Churchwardens: Mr. Peter Mould (020 8428 8307); Mrs. Anne Swerling (020 8950 8923). 

Text a prayer request to our Prayer Line on 07939 379018. Private prayer will be offered for 2 weeks.