Unpacking Wanstead


Revd James Gilder is the new Priest-in-Charge of Wanstead Parish. Now that he’s finished unpacking at his new home, the Norfolk boy takes a moment to introduce himself and his thoughts on Wanstead

If you have wandered down Wanstead Place recently, you might have noticed there are new curtains up at the Rectory and possibly quite a few removal boxes outside. As this magazine’s publication date marks the end of my first couple of months as the new rector, and as you may have seen me through the window of the study, I thought I would introduce myself!

My name is James (some people call me Father, Rev, or possibly far worse, but I tend to respond to most things). Although everyone also calls me the rector, my official role for now is actually ‘Priest-in-Charge’ – hopefully, I will be bumped up to the true title next year (sadly, it doesn’t come with any increase in pay, and yes, I did ask).

I’m delighted to be in Wanstead, which is just down the road from Chingford where I used to minister, and from Walthamstow where I lived for several years when I was a primary school teacher. In the dim and distant past, I also practised as a solicitor. However, I am very much hoping that becoming a member of the clergy will be my last-ever career change and, God-willing, that I can stay in Wanstead for a good length of time and make lifelong friends here. I was originally a Norfolk boy and I love sailing as well as making music and a good pint of real ale, so I’m glad we retain here a quality selection of pubs!

Wanstead is undoubtedly a beautiful part of London and I count myself very blessed to live here. But what makes it truly special are all the fantastic people that live in our community. I’m constantly amazed, not only by the sheer level and variety of talent Wanstead people have, but also at their care for each other and their dedication to building a community here where people of all ages have a sense of creative fun. It’s great still to be able to live somewhere where you can walk down the street and bump into people you know; where there are lots of events going on and where young people can grow up in safety and security. 

We all have a part to play in building and maintaining this community, which is passed on to each generation. St Mary’s and Christ Church have been at the heart of so much of life here for centuries, and I’m hoping that during my tenure here, we can continue to build a loving and caring community of faith in the heart of Wanstead, with lots of opportunities for people of all ages to make friends, have fun, find spiritual comfort and even, occasionally, the odd challenge the Christian faith (and life, generally) presents us with.

Please be assured of my prayers, whatever your own situation is this Christmas, and I am very much looking forward to meeting you as we progress into 2023.

To contact Father James Gilder, call 020 8530 8743 or visit wnstd.com/parish