News, People

The Last Word: Gill O’Neill, Vicar of St John’s East Dulwich

My name is Gill O’Neill, and I am the Vicar of St John’s East Dulwich.

How long have you lived in the area?

I have lived in East Dulwich for just under two years, before that I lived in West Norwood and worked as Curate of All Saints, West Dulwich.

What brought you here?

I came here in 2016 as the new Vicar of St John’s. The church is just next to Goose Green, the one with the red spire near the Goose Green playground.

What do you most value about the area/street you live in?

I love that East Dulwich is a diverse place, with a history of different kinds of people making a home here over the decades, and retains something of a village feel to it. I also love the William Blake mural on the end gable of the house on Hinckley Road. It depicts Blake’s childhood vision of angels on Peckham Rye, and reminds me to look for the angelic in people.

What one thing would you change?

House prices!

What’s the one thing you couldn’t do without?

The green spaces – they make a huge difference to living in busy south London. If I need fresh air and time to think, you’ll find me walking our cocker spaniel in one of the local parks. Though she has developed a bad habit of barking at other dogs, at which point I look away and pretend I’ve absolutely no idea whose dog it is.

What is your favourite place to eat?

If it’s a Thursday, the older folks lunch club at the Goose Green Centre is fantastic. I’m always treated to delicious food and they are lovely company, everyone is made welcome. On other days, I’m rather partial to the scrumptious freshly made soups at Aneto.

Coffee or tea? Where?

Tea, milk, no sugar. Though if there is fresh coffee in the pot at the Wednesday coffee morning, I won’t say no. This is St John’s new community coffee morning on Wednesdays at 10am at St John’s. Recently it has turned into something of craft club, as we have been feverishly making bunting for our summer and Christmas fairs. We’ve got a production line going and if you come along, no doubt you’ll be given a pair of scissors or plonked behind a sewing machine. I’m enjoying the fact that crafts are a ‘thing’ again, I do think making things is good for our wellbeing.

Cafe, pub or bar?

Hmmm… I think as Vicar I am obliged to visit all the cafes, bars and pubs in the parish. It’s a hard job but somebody’s got to do it! But, and this is going to make me sound terribly old, which I am not, I do need the music to be quiet enough to have a conversation. My children are going to cringe…

The best kept secret…

St John’s Church! We’ve been here for over 150 years, a still, sacred space in contrast to the exhausting busyness of life. A place of peace and connection, and no-one’s going to grill you about what you do or don’t believe.

When I want to relax…

Simple things… a swim at Dulwich baths, a nice cup of tea, radio 4, the sun shining, a perfect poached egg on toast.

The book I’m reading at the moment…

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. It’s about how we end our lives now that medical interventions can keep our bodies going much longer than before. It sounds really bleak, to be talking about dying, but its more cheerful than that, asking how we can live a good life all the way to the end.

My secret ambition…

to yarn-bomb the trees on Goose Green. Who’s in?