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London parish priest Niall Weir
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a London parish priest

By
Danielle Goldstein
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…according to The Rev Niall Weir, 60.

The church has got London covered

‘Every inch of the UK has its own parish church and I think that’s rather wonderful. Being a parish priest has taught me the value of longevity. St Paul’s West Hackney has been here since 1824: five years before the first London bobby appeared on the beat, before the NHS, before state schools, and we intend to stay!’

Priests aren’t all po-faced

‘I appeared in drag on a calendar one year that was made by some local sex workers. Each one of them appeared as a female icon and I dressed up as Dame Edna. I think I scrub up rather well, but my children were very embarrassed.’

Priests don’t get paid (but they do get free housing)

‘I have the shortest commute in London: just downstairs and across the hall a wee bit. As well as free accommodation I get a stipend, which is not like a salary: it’s effectively enough to do my job and feed my family. You certainly don’t get into this for the money!’

Church isn’t the only place you’ll find the clergy

‘I’m chaplain to Hackney borough police – every borough has one – and I’m honorary chaplain to Duckie, the organisation that runs a night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. They host a wonderful cabaret afternoon in my church for the over-60s.’

London’s different religions have a lot to learn from each other

‘We work with the local mosque on a night shelter project. I admire their commitment to regular prayer and the way they sit shoulder to shoulder. They could probably come over and teach our churchgoers to snuggle up a bit.’

Now discover the things you only know if you’re a London bartender.

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