Fond farewell to parish vicar

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Fond farewell to parish vicar Fond farewell to parish vicar

I was at the very special farewell packed service at St John the Baptist Leytonstone, to mark the remarkable achievements of Rev Raymond Draper, whom was leaving after 13 years personal commitment to his parishioners.

All congregants and special visitors present will remember and treasure in their hearts for life the singing of the children`s Lantern Choir.

The Rev Draper was so inspired with his appeal to young people, both in special sermons, when he often presented a glove puppet `One Check' to talk to them directly and had also formed A Place for Me group in his quest and mission to help the young unemployed in the local community to restore hope and a future for each individual. He also formed `The Cheeky Monkeys' play school in the Church Hall that thrived amongst young parents and their progeny.

The Rev Raymond Draper had led a number of successful campaigns on behalf of his indomitable beliefs in his `Faith in Action' approach to his ministry.

The St John`s Church Roof and Bell Tower Appeal raised £250,000 over 10 years, largely from local donations from local individuals and small businesses : secured with match funding the physical security of the church for the coming generation churchgoers.This incredible amount was only possible with the total team commitment of vicar and congregation and was also done during a period of recession.

The Rev Draper organised coach trips to many historical places, like the Royal Greenwich Naval Museums, St Alfege and `Cutty Sark',Thames Barrier, St Margaret's Church and Kings College, Cambridge and The London City Mission.All coach trips were brimming over with pleasure from St John`s travellers and sights resonated on minds and eyes from these glorious away days : and often tea and prayer services were part of the itinerary before returning. The Rev Draper laid the `Nature Trail' out in the St John`s Churchyard that contains the tombs of the former Liberal MP Thoma Fowell Buxton descendants from the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 days and all trail signs and flora and wildlife explained in detail for adult and children alike.

Perhaps, Rev Draper`s finest hour amongst so many was,when he co- founded the Leyton and Leytonstone Local History Society (2007) and he led many local history walks to remember `The Blitz' in 1940 and researched schools and local homes, where bombs had fell on local residents and families still grieve their loss.

In 2007 to mark the bi-centennial of the abolition of the transportation of slavery (passing of the Slave Act 1807) Rev. Raymond Draper held a tribute film and church and community hall exhibition to inform about the anti-slavers, including Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.

The Rev Draper will be missed by all who shared his path for human and practical help for all people that was integral in everything that he did whilst at St John`s Church.

My own final tribute is that he handed out the famous address of Dr Martin Luther -King at his valedictory service.

`When we all allow freedom to ring,when we let it ring from every village and hamlet,from every State and City,we will be able to speed up that day when all God`s children--black men and white men,Jews and Gentiles,Catholics and Protestants--will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,``Free at last,free at last:thank God Almighty,we are free at last"

Patrick C Smith, Higham Hill, Liberal Democrat Focus

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