Pictured above: Hannah Gouldstone
Published: 27 April, 2012
by WILLIAM MCLENNAN
ON Sunday morning, when many teenagers were still lying in their beds, 17-year-old Hannah Gouldstone was in Upper Street, Islington, being elected to St Mary’s Church council.
While many of her peers at St Marylebone sixth-form are bogged down with the weight of looming exams, Hannah, who lives in Highbury, has taken on this extra commitment with enthusiasm.
She thought she would be able to bring a fresh perspective to the council, and the congregation showed they agreed when they overwhelmingly supported her in last week’s elections.
“I thought I’d be a different type of person to the people who are normally on the council,” she said. “What I support may be slightly different from the other people on the church. As a young person I might be involved in certain aspects that the older people might not be so interested in.”
So far, Hannah has received mixed reactions from her friends at college.
“Most of my friends don’t really know what it is, but the ones that do were like ‘Wow!’ They were a bit more taken aback and surprised that I’d decided to join the council”
Hannah, who has been going to the church since she was a child, said it was central to her life and she wanted to do something that reflected that. “I love this church and I’d like to give back in a slightly different way,” she said. “I’ve been coming to this church my whole life. I used to help my mum serve meals to welcome new people and I was in the church band.”
The council, which is predominantly middle aged, was quick to congratulate Hannah on her success.
Simon Harvey, vicar at St Mary’s, said: “It’s a vote of confidence to young people generally that the church elected a 17-year-old to the council.
“There’s a stereotype that churches are run by old people with grey hair, but I don’t think there is another teenager on a PCC anywhere else in London.”
With AS-level exams starting next month, Hannah – who studies economics, maths, politics and psychology – will be busy juggling her time between college and church.
“For the next few months all my friends will be working and worrying about exams, but I thought it would be quite fun and I’d learn a lot. Being on the council means you get more things done the way you want,” she said.
Hannah wants to encourage more young people to get involved with the church but thinks it is difficult to encourage teenagers to come for the first time.
“It’s quite difficult to be a Christian and come to church, especially in London,” she said. “There’s still quite a stigma about Christianity and what it means to be a Christian and all religions, especially for young people.”