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News > Alumni Stories > Father Jack's Journey

Father Jack's Journey

From a 'convinced atheist' to Rector of St Giles' - how did it happen?
15 Jun 2023
Written by Will Humphries
Alumni Stories
Father Jack Noble
Father Jack Noble

When I left SGS (2008) I was a convinced atheist, off to read history at Bristol and then join the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. I had loved the CCF, and for that matter, many of the other amazing opportunities at the school. Except sport. I was the worst member of the then fledging school rugby team. We rarely managed more than 12 players, and most of the time I still wasn’t chosen to play. This, of course, didn’t prevent me putting ‘1st XV School Rugby Team’ on my CV. 1st, and only XV (and normally only XII or XIII on a good day) would have been more truthful.

Anyway, after a path-redirecting coming to Christian faith at Bristol (mainly through the study of history and a little philosophy), I came via some C of E nuns in Manchester and some monks in Yorkshire and a couple more degrees in theology back to London, to serve as a priest in churches here. Fast forward a few more years I find myself in the least ‘PC’ named parish in the land: St Giles’ without Cripplegate. My little church is one of the few medieval churches remaining in The City’s square mile, and squats beside the Roman and Medieval wall of The City. In fact I am looking at the wall, and St Giles’ Church from the Rectory as I type.

St Giles’ has been burned a few times, and we were hit by the second bomb to hit The City in WWII. But still we stand. It is an amazing reservoir of faith and life: of the human story, and our journeying with God. Shakespeare worshipped here, and wrote Othello and King Lear when lodging in the next street. John Milton is buried beneath the chancel step, Oliver Cromwell was married here, and William Blake, John Wesley, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan are all buried in the parish. Our parish, on the edge of The City (outside the so-called Cripple Gate) has always been a hotbed of dissenters, political outsiders, artists, pamphleteers and coffee-house revolutionaries. This spirit remains today in the Barbican that surrounds us - a triumph of Brutalist architecture and an artistic Mecca. We remain in every sense a Queer Church - in our history, creativity, inclusive theology and sense of self, with Jesus (who was usually to be found amongst the outsiders, after all). That said, there are quite a lot of Livery Dinners and plenty of City pomp and grandeur to enjoy too. If ever you’re up in town, it is worth exploring this corner of the City. Between the glass and steel temples of commerce, there are hidden gems in gardens and churches and old Livery Halls and artistic venues. There is some wonderful culture and life to be found; and there are even ‘real people’ who live and work here. The really special thing I have found about The City is not how much money it generates for UK plc (important as that is), but all the things that go on around that, if you care to notice and join in. I have discovered an amazing abundance of faith, community, beauty, and really rather a lot of fun.

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