St Mary's Church vicar Simon Harvey on life, loss and why he turned down meeting with burglar
PUBLISHED: 17:28 31 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:01 01 June 2017
As vicar of St Mary's Church, Rev Simon Harvey is one of our leading community figures. He speaks to James Morris about his role in the borough.
Some people move to Islington because of its desirable location. For others, it may be work. For Rev Simon Harvey, it was a bit of both – with an added “calling from God.”
Simon has been vicar at St Mary’s Church in Upper Street – “the heart of Islington” – since 2010.
Until then, he had lived and worked in the Midlands for his entire life. His last church was in Oadby, Leicestershire.
But when Simon, who was ordained 17 years ago, saw an opening at St Mary’s, he knew it was time to move on.
“I had never worked in London before and was looking for a new opportunity. I saw the post for St Mary’s and didn’t expect to get anywhere. I thought: ‘There’s no way they are going to go for someone like me!’
“But when I read a description of the parish, and what its needs are, I felt like God was calling me to Islington. I applied, and to my amazement I was selected. It was a real proud moment of my life.”
Simon, who turns 54 on Friday, has helped make the church more accessible for all – as the Gazette found, when it was an enthusiastic host for our Islington South and Finsbury hustings.
“We are a church for Islington, so our doors are open every day. Islington has an incredible population, so St Mary’s is a neighbourhood building.
“Our Sunday community has also grown by 20 per cent [typical attendance is about 175] but we like to encourage people to live out their faith from Monday to Saturday, as well.”
One year ago, Simon was in the news after catching a burglar stealing the jewellery of his late wife, Jennifer. A few weeks later, James Casey was caught. Simon told the Gazette at the time he wanted to meet him. Did it ever happen?
“I had it scheduled, but then I had to take a funeral. Once that had cut across, I thought: ‘You know what? I don’t really want to meet him any more.’
“I never recovered the jewellery, but compared to losing Jennifer, it was a tiny thing. It was like the knife being twisted. We had been together since we were at school and had a family together.”
He adds: “What helped me was the church community at St Mary’s and people of Islington. The spirit and kindness they offered me was fabulous and I emerged with renewed faith in God.”