All Saints, Tooting (Anglican)

History

Work began on the site in 1903 after an aristocratic widow left today’s equivalent of over fourteen million pounds in her will to build a church somewhere in London. Tooting at that time was a small village about to become a large housing estate, and so seemed the perfect location for a new church. While the church was being built, services were held in a tent and then an iron chapel.

During building work, a rift developed between John Stephens – the executor of the will who was to be the church’s first vicar – and the architect, Temple Moore; the former was buying furnishings for the church which the latter considered unsuitable for his vision.

The church was consecrated on 7 July 1906 as one of the largest and most well-financed Anglican churches in south London. However, inflation resulted in what was left of the original sum of money – the interest from which was used to fund the parish – losing much of its value, and in the late 1950s much of the surrounding property owned by the church was sold off.

An adjoining Parish Centre was opened by Princess Alexandra in 1983.

Appearance

Approaching from the outside, the church stands out from the surrounding houses due to its large size. The interior of the church is a mix of Italianate furniture and neo-Gothic columns and arches. Stations of the Cross are on the columns around the sides of the nave.

One’s attention is drawn to the green and gold altar, above which is a Renaissance painting of the Crucifixion. Behind the altar is the Lady Chapel, and above it are stained glass windows depicting Christ in Majesty, the Virgin Mary and St John the Apostle. Other stained glass windows depict sainted or contemporary bishops relevant to the church and to the historical parish of Tooting, but most of the church’s windows have plain glass.

At the back right of the church is a table from which refreshments were served afterwards, and notice boards next to that. Also on the back wall of the church are monuments to its first vicar and to the family that financed it.

Clergy

The service was led by two vicars, one female and one male, both in vestments. A choir of five in green choir dress led the hymns, and a male altar sever in a white carried a processional cross in the processions.

Congregation

The congregation numbered forty people, only eight of whom were men. The majority of the congregation (about two thirds) were black. Nearly all were middle-aged or older, but there were enough younger parents for a Sunday school.

Statistics aside, most of the congregation were friendly and welcoming. One gentleman in particular spoke to me afterwards in detail about the history of the church after learning I was a visitor. Two ladies at the back handed out service sheets to those arriving (unfortunately they stayed at the back after the service started and continued chatting to each other – at a volume loud enough to be distracting for those, like me, sitting near the back – until after the Sunday school had been led out!).

Service

I attended the 10am Sunday morning communion service. It followed the standard order of service for a Church of England eucharist, and was followed from laminated sheets found in the back of the chairs.

The service began with a procession, during which a hymn was sung; four other hymns were sung during the service, with the words found in hymn books also in the back of the chairs. The Bible readings were Acts 7:55-60 and John 14:1-14.

The female vicar gave the sermon, reflecting on how asking for something “in Jesus’ name” goes beyond invoking His name and involves aligning oneself with His will and example. After the sermon came the prayers leading up to communion, including the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Communion – which most, but not all, of the congregation went up to the high altar to receive – was taken by intinction, with the wafers being dipped in the wine before being received.

After communion, notices were given and a final hymn sung. Furthermore, the Sunday school came into the church and showed the congregation what they had been doing.

The service lasted roughly one hour and fifteen minutes.

Afterwards

Tea, coffee, juice, cake and biscuits were available at a table at the back of the church after the service had ended. Several members of the congregation stayed in their seats for some time to chat after getting refreshments, and a few people approached me to welcome me to their church.

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St Andrew’s, Wimbledon (Anglican)

History

The church was founded in 1883 as a daughter church of Holy Trinity Church, another in Wimbledon. The current building was built over 1908-9, and was consecrated by the Bishop of Southwark on 25 September 1909. The church became a parish in its own right the following year, and the building has remained substantially in its original form since then.

Appearance

The church building is a red-brick basilica. The windows are all plain glass with the exception of the one at the front, above the altar. This shows Christ enthroned, flanked by the four patron saints of the UK (Ss George, Andrew, Patrick and David) as well as by the four animals symbolic of the Evangelists.

There is a high altar directly underneath this window, but it was not used during the service. Instead, a more modern-looking table at the other end of the sanctuary was used, which has two thick purple candles and a carving of the Christian fish symbol. A pulpit – over which hangs a crucifix – is to the left of the table, but a modern unornamented lectern was used instead.

On the right hand wall of the church there is another crucifix, and closer towards the back is a shelf of children’s books. There is a Lady Chapel to the right of the sanctuary, and a font at the back of the church. An icon of Saint Andrew is opposite the pulpit.

Clergy

The service was taken by a friendly male vicar. This was his last Sunday at the church, having been filling in for the church’s previous vicar who had recently passed away. He wore black clothes with a clerical collar, and made sure to welcome me as I arrived and also to chat to me after the service.

A lady from the congregation gave the Bible reading, and another led the responsive prayers.

Congregation

The service I attended was on Mothering Sunday, and so the congregation was swelled somewhat by some children of a local school visiting with their parents. I counted roughly 55 adults, with 21 children.

There seemed to be a good range of ages in the congregation, from teenagers and young adults to the more elderly, and the gender balance was around equal. The congregation was primarily white, with a few people of an ethnic minority.

The congregation seemed very friendly, with several people welcoming me as I entered the church.

Service

I attended the 10am Sunday morning service. Usually this would have been a Parish Communion, but there was no communion today due to the focus being more on Mothering Sunday; one parishioner told me that not having communion was very unusual, and that it is normally every Sunday.

The service started with the vicar welcoming everybody to the church, especially the children, and going through a verse of some of the songs (the words to which were printed on the service sheet) so we would know their tune later. Two of the schoolchildren lit four candles at the front of the church, with a prayer being said as each one was lit. Then, after a first song and some prayers, a Bible reading – Colossians 3:12-17 – was read out by a lady from the congregation.

After the reading, the schoolchildren performed the first two verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful, with some of them accompanying it on recorders. The congregation then joined in for the rest of the verses.

The vicar then gave a short talk to the children on the history of Mothering Sunday, after which they went to one side of the church to make posies of flowers while the vicar gave the sermon to the adults. The sermon was on the virtues of patience and compassion, linking them both to the reading and to the theme of Mothering Sunday, with the message that the love of a parent for their children can teach us both about the love of God for humanity and the love we are meant to show to everyone.

The children returned with posies of flowers, which they presented to their mothers in the congregation. After another song, one of the children performed a piece of music on a guitar, after which there were prayers led by a lady from the congregation, concluded with the Lord’s Prayer led by the vicar. There was then a final song, and a concluding blessing.

The service lasted about 55 minutes.

Afterwards

Coffee, juices, biscuits and cake were available at the back of the church after the service. Most of the congregation stayed for some time for refreshments and to talk, and Happy Birthday was sung to three people whose birthday it was that week.

St Martin of Tours, Chelsfield (Anglican)

History

The church dates from the 12th century – from 1122 at the latest – with various additions and renovations made throughout the centuries since. The tower and side-chapel date from the 1200s, and the current pews were installed in 1886. The church founded a mission in 1890 a few miles away.

Appearance

The Grade II* listed building is in a cruciform shape, with a church hall named the Brass Crosby Room attached. A map can be found here.

The church has whitewashed walls beneath a ceiling held up with large wooden beams. On the walls are various monuments and memorial plaques, and the Ten Commandments are listed on either side of the archway between the nave and chancel.

A crucifix is behind the pulpit, and the stained glass windows above the altar (which was decorated with orange on the day I visited) display Christ surrounded by angels.

Clergy

As the church’s vicar was away at the parish’s mission church this Sunday, the service was taken by a reader, who wore a blue tippet and choir dress (the standard Anglican liturgical dress for a lay reader). There were also two ladies who helped him take the service, both dressed in black, one of whom played the organ.

Congregation

There was a rather small congregation: only nineteen people, not including myself, fourteen women and five men. Most seemed to be middle-aged, and there were two children. I don’t think anybody was of an ethnic minority.

With the congregation being so small, everyone immediately noticed me as a visitor! Everyone was very friendly, welcoming me to their church and talking to me about it. There was a real community spirit here, in a way that welcomed rather than excluded outsiders.

Service

I attended the 10:00 am Family Worship service (the schedule of services was recently changed, and can be found on the church’s website; the sign outside still gave the old times).

The service began with the reader welcoming the congregation, and with the signing of a hymn (we used Songs of Fellowship hymn books). There were then prayers of penitence, followed by the gospel reading – Matthew 4:12-23 – read by a girl who came up from the congregation.

After the reading came another hymn, and we then prayed the collect for the day. After sharing the peace with each other, the reader gave some notices, which led on to the sermon.

The sermon itself was rather “interactive”. It was on the Bible reading, wherein Jesus calls his first apostles to be fishers of men. The reader asked the congregation if they could name all twelve disciples, and we were then asked to write names of “fishers” and “fishes” (i.e., people who had strengthened our faith and people we would like to see become Christians) on paper fishes which had been given out with the hymn books as we entered. These paper fishes were then gathered up in a big net, which was placed in the chancel.

After the paper fishes had been collected up, there were more prayers, and then a hymn was sung as the offering was taken. After the offering had been blessed, the service concluded with a final hymn and a prayer for the congregation.

The service lasted just under an hour.

Despite the setting of a traditional-looking parish church with wooden pews, the service was very much of the “low church” persuasion, with mostly modern hymns and the interactive paper fish element. There was no communion in the service I attended; the church alternates each Sunday morning between a communion service and a family worship service.

Afterwards

After the service, the congregation went into the adjoining church hall for tea, coffee, biscuits and conversation.

St Mary the Virgin, Beddington (Anglican)

History and appearance

Please see this link for detailed information on the history and appearance of the church.

Clergy

The service was led by a male vicar in predominantly green vestments. He seemed very friendly, and made the congregation laugh a few times during the sermon and the notices at the end. A female reader in a white cassock with a blue stole gave some of the readings, and some altar servers carried the candles at the processions at the beginning and end of the service.

Congregation

The congregation numbered just under 50 people (although it was slightly difficult to count due to pillars obscuring some of the view from where I was sitting). There was a good range of ages, a roughly even balance between men and women, and several people of an ethnic minority. They were all very friendly; it seemed like almost all of them approached me before or after the service to say hello.

Service

I attended the 9:30 Sunday morning service.

The service began with the vicar and altar servers processing up the main aisle. It followed the standard order of an Anglican communion service, with hymns, prayers, and Bible readings. The readings were Isaiah 1:1, 10-20, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, and Luke 12:32-40. The gospel reading was read from the central aisle.

The sermon was on how we so often hate and judge others. Despite the serious subject matter, the vicar made it rather enjoyable to listen to with several jokes and wry observations, reflecting on how we often love to hate people depicted negatively on television.

Communion was taken towards the end of the service, with the members of the congregation going up to the altar for communion or a blessing. The service finished with notices read out by the vicar, after which he and the altar servers processed back down the aisle to a closing hymn. The service was very much in the High or Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Afterwards

After the service, most of the congregation went into an adjoining church hall, where tea, coffee and juice was served along with a cake which had been brought in to celebrate a wedding anniversary. The vicar and several members of the congregation approached me to welcome me to their church.

St Margaret’s, Putney (Anglican)

Photo0702History

The church was built in 1859 as a Baptist chapel, and was later used by Presbyterians. It was given to the Church of England in 1912 and dedicated to St Margaret, and was expanded in 1925 after having become a parish of its own in 1923.

Appearance

The interior of the church has whitewashed walls, with several memorial plaques on them. At the front of the church stands the altar, underneath a stained glass window depicting Christ. To the left of the sanctuary area is the pulpit, above which is a crucifix, whereas on the right of the sanctuary is a pipe organ.

A large bookshelf full of books was on the left-hand side of the church, mid-way between the sanctuary and the back (not visible on the photograph) – I did not inspect this more closely, but it looked like a small church library that may have been donated or bequeathed to the church.

It being Advent, the drapes over the altar and pulpit were purple.

Clergy

The service was led by a friendly female vicar who wore a white cassock with a purple stole. There was also a small choir of five, and three readers who wore white cassocks with blue stoles.

Congregation

The congregation, which was predominantly white, numbered roughly 45, although the vicar did mention that there had been a lower turnout than most Sundays. There were more women than men – although not disproportionately so – and most of the congregation (other than five or six young children) looked to be over thirty.

Service

I attended the 10:00 am morning service.

The service started with a prayer and an opening hymn, during which the vicar, readers and choirs walked up the central aisle to the sanctuary area. After another prayer, a candle on the Advent wreath was lit (it being the first Sunday in Advent) by a child from the congregation. He then went out with the other children to their own activities being held in the church hall.

There were then prayers of penitence, followed by the first set of readings. The Old Testament reading was Jeremiah 33:14-16, and the Epistle reading was 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. They were given from the pulpit by a man from the congregation.

After another hymn came the Gospel reading, Luke 21:25-36. This, and the sermon which followed, were given by one of the readers. The sermon was topical for the first Sunday of Advent, talking about expectations of the future and of the Second Coming.

The Nicene Creed was then read, followed by prayers of intercession. The congregation then shared the sign of peace with each other, after which O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – my favourite Advent hymn – was sung. Pre-communion prayers were then said, including the Lord’s Prayer and the Agnus Dei, after which communion was served at the front of the church while the choir sang an anthem.

After some more prayers, the vicar gave some notices, and then the children came back in from their activities, and presented the congregation with some Advent posters they had made. The service then ended with a concluding hymn.

The service lasted about an hour and ten minutes.

Afterwards

After the service, coffee and cakes were served in the church hall. There was also a stall available with various Fairtrade goods for sale.

St Michael & All Angels, Barnes (Anglican)

History

The congregation worshipping at the church can trace its history back to 1867, when a school was built at which services would be held on Sundays. A temporary iron church was built next to the school in 1878, and both buildings were replaced by the current church in 1893. The church was established as its own parish in 1919.

Appearance

The church is basilican in layout, with a red brick exterior. The interior gives several hints to the Anglo-Catholic style of the church: a crucifix is behind the pulpit, a large icon of the Archangel Michael is situated on one of the walls, and there are even Stations of the Cross on the walls. The windows are stained glass, depicting saints, many dedicated to the memories of deceased parishioners. A large font stands at the back of the church.

Clergy

The service was conducted by a female vicar, who wore green vestments. I found that she spoke rather quickly during parts of the service, making some of what she said a little difficult to understand. According to the church website and service sheet, the church is currently in an “interregnum” between vicars, with the lady who took the service standing in until a new one is appointed.

There was also a choir, which was dressed in white and red vestments and sat up in the sanctuary. One member of the choir gave the gospel reading, whereas the epistle reading was given by a lady from the congregation.

Congregation

The congregation numbered roughly 40 – I forgot to make an accurate count. The majority were over fifty, but there were several younger people as well. There was a roughly even balance between men and women.

Service

I attended the 10 am Sung Mass. This followed an order of service named St Anne’s Mass, written by James MacMillan. The service began with the vicar and choir processing around the church with incense while an opening hymn was sung. After prayers of confession came the Gloria, followed by the epistle reading, Hebrews 7:23-28.

This was followed by the choir singing Psalm 34. After this came the gospel reading, Mark 10:46-52, which was read from the centre aisle after an acclamation by the choir. The vicar then gave the sermon on the subject of the gospel reading (the healing of Bartimeus the blind beggar), which was rather concise and to the point.

The sermon was followed by the congregation reciting the Nicene Creed, after which prayers were said. An offering was then taken, during which a hymn was sung. This was followed by prayers (including the Lord’s Prayer) before communion, during which nearly all of the congregation went up to the sanctuary to receive communion. In a manner similar to Roman Catholic communion, the bread and wine was lifted up and an altar bell rang at the point of consecration.

After communion, some prayers were said, and after a final hymn and blessing the service ended.

The service was Anglo-Catholic in style, with processions at the start of the service and before the gospel reading, and incense used at various points.

The service lasted just over an hour.

Afterwards

After the service, a piece was played on the organ, which most of the congregation stayed to listen to. Teas and biscuits were then served in a small hall adjoining the church.

St Peter’s, St Helier (Anglican)

History

St Peter’s was built in 1932, as the parish church of the nearby St Helier Estate*. A church centre was opened by the Queen Mother and the Bishop of Southwark in November 1960.

Appearance

The exterior of St Peter’s is notable for a mural on the front which the church website admits is “rather garish”. I think it is meant to represent the Holy Spirit flowing through a city. The interior is rather more plain. There are white walls, with a dark red cross hanging from the ceiling. A side-chapel is on the left of the church, separated from the main nave by pillars with prayer requests stuck to them.

At the very front of the church, below two rows of three long arched windows, is a banner with the emblem “Jesus Reigns”. In front of this is the altar, on which is placed two candles and a Bible.

The church website quite accurately describes the interior as “light and airy”.

Clergy

The service was taken by a woman vicar, who came across as very warm and friendly, and spoke very well during the service despite a young child who was noisily running around next to her for much of it! The Bible reading was given by a man who came up from the congregation to read it.

Congregation

The congregation numbered just over thirty. About twenty were elderly or middle-aged, and some of the younger ones were from ethnic minorities. There were four or five young children, who stayed with their parents during the service.

Service

There are two Sunday morning services, a “reflective” and “traditional” one at 9:30 and an “informal” and “lively” one at 11:15. I attended the latter of these, which on the first Sunday of the month is a communion service.

The service started with the vicar giving notices and announcements, followed by a song (the words to which were projected onto a screen at the front, and accompanied by music played over the sound system) and a prayer. The was then an activity for the children, who came up to the front and were asked to distinguish between different sources of light: matches, a torch, and a picture of the sun. This introduced the theme of the service, light, with the vicar speaking about John 8:12, Jesus being the light of the world.

After prayers of confession, a Christian music video comparing Christ to a lighthouse was shown on the screen, after which the gospel reading was given. This was Matthew 5:14-16, which speaks about how Christians are also “the light of the world”. The sermon followed, on how we can spread the light of Christ in the world, illustrated with some Christmas lights and a diagram on a whiteboard.

After another song, there came prayers of intercession. These were followed by a third song, after which prayers for preparing for communion were said, including the Lord’s Prayer and the sharing of the peace. Communion was taken with members of the congregation approaching the front to receive the bread and wine or a blessing.

Communion was followed by another prayer, after which there was a final song and a blessing.

The service lasted an hour and fifteen minutes.

Afterwards

I had to leave soon after the service finished, and so didn’t stay for very long afterwards. However, I stayed for long enough to see some of the members of the congregation go through a door in the side of the church to a small hall, where it looked like a meal was being prepared. Furthermore, a baptism preparation session of some sort was also being held afterwards.

 

*A note on location: this church is situated on the road dividing Carshalton from Morden. Although it technically falls within the boundaries of Carshalton, it uses Morden on its postal address. However, it seems to usually be referred to as being situated in St Helier, a large housing estate which straddles the boundary between the two towns. I’ve therefore tagged this review in all three locations, while using St Helier in the title.