wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                       Occasional pieces for St Johns  HOME   


Lines written in honour of John and Deborah Chapman

on their departure from St Johns Church in March 2005, after the manner of Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Poet and Tragedian

I come with heavy heart to bring you my lament,
Which is delivered with most grave intent
On the 13th day of March in the year Two Thousand and Five
Which will long be remembered by all who remain alive
And probably also by their wive(s). 

In the Parish of St John in the leafy borough of Ealing,
Which many local estate agents do find most appealing,
The Reverends John and Deborah Chapman did take their leave
Of the congregation of St Johns, which thereby did most grievously grieve. 

Now to reach Ealing John had come very far
From the Paradise that is known as Caledonia
Or Scotland as some men say
Who are English and therefore not educated in any proper way.
John had become a pharmacist, to be sure
But found drug dealing eventually lost its allure
And he thought that to God’s service he would gladly give his life
And in doing so he found himself a wife.
Now John and Deborah’s was no match made in Heaven
But at London Bible College around 1977
When both were studying with efforts most Trojan
To see if at least one them could become a theologian,
And John found Deborah a distraction most sharp
From his intensive studies of the early church fathers such as Polycarp
And he knew that she was more than just a flirt
The day that Deborah put a frog down the back of his shirt.
And so they were married without delay
And went to South America, which is a very long way away
But they liked it so they decided to stay
And Deborah’s first language was Spanish anyway
So that was OK
And along the way some children became due
And the first was a boy called Matthew
And then Kirstin soon followed after Matt
But this is a family service so we’ll say no more about all that
Except that they have been children most upstanding and fine
To continue the Chapman family line
Even if Kirstin’s mobile phone bill won’t be paid off until 2009.

But after some years leading Latin Link
John began to think
These free church people were all fine and well
But they haven’t got many bishops, he could tell
And they were a wee bit short of good liturgy
And didn’t seem to have any concept of a PCC
So he thought it was time to join the C of E
And become a real member of the clergy
Where they had archdeacons and could make a proper cup of tea.

And so they sent him to Ealing to learn and teach
Where he has been one of the finest that we have ever heard preach,
And Deborah has sung with the voice of angel, it is said quite rightly
and John has sung as well, but quietly
(I think he has found somewhere in his research
that there are times when it is fitting that a man should not be heard in church).

Though for a man so culturally sensitive all the same
I am surprised that he has not changed his name.
Because “chap” and “man”, if I may be so direct
Are both words that are not very politically correct
And it would have been a much better version
If he had changed his name to John Personperson
(Or better still something really Scottish like McPherson).

Now among the staff John has made his mark
(Though sometimes about what he is talking they are left in the dark)
And one can be sure whatever the matter under discussion
That he will have written a paper on it, which Deborah will probably have translated into Portuguese or Russian,
And when in a meeting temperatures are rising
John can always be counted on to say something surprising
Such as “I really like going for walks in a cemetery!”
Or “I don't like New Wine but I love HTB!”
And he will pour troubled water on the matter in hand
By saying “its not Either/Or but probably Both/And”.

But this is not to say that he is of a temper always mild,
For certain things will drive this righteous man almost wild
As when he was ordained it did cause him deeply to frown
That he had to pledge allegiance to the English Crown,
(And as integrity is something that he does not lack
I suspect he did it with his fingers crossed behind his back).

Now many of his friends have said it:
That his habit of thriftiness is very much to his credit
But that John Chapman is tight-fisted let it never be said!
(Even if the 5 note in his wallet does bear the picture of King George the Sixth’s head)
And in all other respects John is just like any one of us
Who might like to spend his quiet day travelling on top of a double-decker bus. 

And yet there is sadness about this man
Who has now become an Anglican
And it is a terrible thing to see
For he is the clergyman who doesn’t like drinking tea!
And when he hears the dread question “more tea vicar?”
He will make his exit all the quicker.
So if he ever comes to minister to you
Have a heart and give him some Barr’s Irn Bru. 

Now between John and Deborah it must never be said that in their marital condition
There is any sense of competition
But one does not need to be a diligent scholar
To see that Deborah started eyeing up John’s dog collar,
And not to be outdone by her beloved husband
Deborah also decided to become a minister of religion, which had not been previously planned,
And just to demonstrate that women should not be considered last
She did it twice as fast,
And if the current pace is maintained it is plain to be seen
That soon Deborah as the first woman Bishop of the Anglican church will enthroned have been
and quite possibly shortly afterwards as Queen.
But first she is going to the church of Saint Mellitus
Which is a prospect which should not at all affright us
But rather delight us,
For she a real impact there will make
And will certainly keep John Hereward Awake
(And having made that pun I realise it was probably a mistake).

But I have left the best to the last
And now before my lament is past
The finest feature of his ministry I must relate
For which John Chapman will be known as great:
For it will be remembered for the longest while
How he has blessed us with his never-fading smile.
Whatever may befall you, if the sky has fallen in,
John will be there to greet you with a cheery grin.
In weddings, baptisms and communions its permanent place it takes
(Though it can be something of an embarrassment at funerals and wakes)
And like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland’s domain
long after he has gone from us, his enigmatic smile will remain:
John Chapman, the Mona Lisa of Mattock Lane.

So know I draw my tribute to an end
as out of St Johns, John and Deborah, you we will send.
And as you go to St Mellitus and St Hugh
We will never forget you
And so I ask the congregation to join with me once again
And sing with me a stirring Scots’ refrain:

The smile of John Chapman
(Mournfully, to the tune of Loch Lomond)

By yon Walpole Park and in yon Mattock Lane
where the traffic wardens are so unfeeling,
where we and our curate will never meet again
in St John (with St James) in West Ealing.

Oh I’ll take the back way and you’ll take the Broadway
and I’ll be in Northolt before ye,
but here in West Ealing we’ll never bask again
in the fixed, beaming smile of John Chapman! 

‘Twas there that he pastored, in yon refurbished lounge,
with the catering laid on by Brenda.
He prayed with compassion for all who came around
and the coffee coming out of the blender.

Oh I’ll go to Lima and you to Sao Paolo
and eat enchiladas for breakfast
but here all the Jaffa Cakes will never meet again
with the teeth of the smile of John Chapman! 

The poor pray-ers pray and the sweet singers sing
with songs from Iona and Taize
and prayers from Barbados and blessed Celtic saints
John is driving the Anglicans craize.

So I’ll swing the incense and you talk the nonsense
and I’ll be in the Vatican before ye
but a Matt Redman chorus will ne’er be sung again
wi’ a smile (out of tune) by John Chapman!

Oh I’ll take the back way and you’ll take the Broadway
and I’ll be in Northolt before ye
But here in West Ealing we’ll never bask again
in the fixed, beaming smile of John Chapman!


Performed after a morning service at St Johns, West Ealing in March 2005. John had been curate at St Johns.