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.

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.

St Saviour’s, Raynes Park (Anglican)

History

The church was built in the early twentieth century, with the foundation stone being laid on 22 July 1905 and the church being consecrated by the Bishop of Southwark on 14 July 1906. St Saviour’s became the parish church of Raynes Park in May 1907, and significant expansion and refurbishment of the church buldings took place in 1989.

Appearance

Although Anglican, this church contains some features which one would usually expect to see in a Roman Catholic church. Pictures of the stations of the cross are around the walls, a small font of holy water is situated by the entrance for people to bless themselves with upon entering, and there is a statue of the Virgin Mary is at the back of the church. Speaking to a member of the congregation after the service, I was told that many members of the parish consider themselves to be Anglo-Catholic.

A large mauve crucifix with a silver Christ hangs down from the ceiling between the nave and the sanctuary area. The altar and lectern were both decorated with purple and gold, which may have been due to it being Advent, purple being the liturgical colour for such in most western liturgical traditions. The altar had a cross placed on it, with three lit candles on either side.

Behind the altar is a stained glass window depicting Christ enthroned in heaven, surrounded by angels and saints. Large organ pipes jut out from the left-hand side of the sanctuary area, and due to the time of year there was a Christmas tree placed in the front-right corner of the nave and an advent wreath (somewhat hidden behind a pillar from my point of view) in the front-left corner.

Clergy

The service was taken by two priests, one of whom (the presiding one) was wearing a rose-coloured chasuble. The second gave the gospel reading. There were two men in white cassocks as deacons or altar-servers, and an organist and a (small) choir of two spent the service with them in the sanctuary area.

Congregation

The congregation, including myself, numbered 22, or 30 if counting the eight children, who spent most of the service in their own junior church in the halls. I was one of only six men in the congregation, the great majority of which was comprised of people who would most likely have been over 50. There was also a Barbadian family there who were younger than most of the rest of the congregation, relatives (so I was told – apologies if this is completely false!) of one of the two priests.

I found the members of the congregation to be very friendly, with some of those sitting next to me frequently pointing me to where we were on the service sheet, which, while very kind of them, was rather unnecessary. I spoke with some of them after the service.

Service

I attended the 9:30 communion service. It followed an order of service found in a booklet handed out upon entry, with readings in a printed service sheet and hymn numbers displayed on the wall.

The service started with a hymn, during which those I listed in the “clergy” section processed up the central isle to the sanctuary area. Being the third Sunday in Advent, one of the children then lit three candles on the advent wreath, and the children then left for their junior church, after which there were prayers of confession. The Bible readings followed – Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, and John 1:6-8, 19-28.

After the Bible readings came the sermon, delivered by the priest in the rose-coloured chasuble. He spoke about liturgical vestments and on the need to rejoice that Christ has come. Intercessory prayers for the world followed, given by a lady from the congregation and finished by the priest, who included a prayer to the Virgin Mary; this was the first time that I have heard her directly prayed to (as opposed to simply mentioning her interceding in heaven) in an Anglican service.

After a second hymn (during which the junior church re-entered the service), communion was taken. After prayers (including the Lord’s Prayer) and a recital of the Nicene Creed (the filioque was included, but italicised in the order of service), the congregation went up to the front to receive communion. They knelt on cushions before a communion rail and received either the bread and wine or a blessing.

Two more hymns and some more prayers were said after communion, and the presiding priest then made some announcements. This was followed by the children telling the congregation what they had been doing in church (activities related to the concept of preparing for Christ’s coming), and after a blessing the service came to an end.

The service lasted roughly an hour and five minutes.

Afterwards

Tea, coffee and biscuits were served in a church hall after the service. I spent a long time talking with several of the friendly congregation members, who told me a lot about the church.

Christ Church, Wimbledon (Anglican)

History

The church was built over two years, designed by Samuel Teulon and opening in August 1859. The church hall was opened in 1936 and the current organ was bought in 1954 (but contains the pipes of the original). The church gained parochial status in 1961.

Appearance

The interior of the church has whitewashed walls, sandstone pillars separating the aisles from the nave, and a pastel-red ceiling. The cushioned pews face towards the stained-glass window at the front, beneath which is the high altar, decorated with a Chi-Ro and with a cross and flowers on top.

There is a choir stall on each side of the sanctuary, and at the front of the nave is the main altar, with a pulpit and lectern on either side of it. Altar, lectern and pulpit all had red decorative drapes over them.

At the front left of the church is a smaller altar, and at the front right the area into which the junior church went during the service. The font is in the aisle to the left of the nave, and a small crèche-like area is at the back.

Clergy

The service was led by a vicar in a white cassock with a red stole, who was helped by four altar-servers in white cassocks. There was also a choir of eight or so.

Congregation

The congregation numbered roughly ninety, although that number was probably somewhat more than usual due to there being a christening. There was a wide range of ages, with a lot of children and younger adults. There were a few from an ethnic minority, and the gender balance was about equal.

Service

The service I attended was the 10:00 am Parish Eucharist, the main Sunday service. After notices and a welcome, the service opened with a hymn. We followed an order of service which was handed to us along with a hymn book and a notice sheet. The first half of the service revolved around the christening that was taking place that morning.

Before the christening came hymns, prayers, and the readings: Ephesians 1:15-23 and Matthew 25:31-46. After these came the sermon, which reflected on the similarities and differences between the Baptism of Christ and the baptism about to take place, and spoke about entering into a life in the church. The christening itself followed the standard Anglican formula, with the young child being baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit by having water splashed onto his head from the font after his parents and godparents made promises to commit him and themselves to Christ.

After the christening, the second half of the service revolved around communion. This took place after more hymns (during one of which the offering was taken) and prayers (including a modernised version of the Lord’s Prayer). Communion itself was taken with stewards going to each pew in turn and inviting those there to go up to the front, where they received the bread and wine from the vicar.

After communion, the newly-baptised child was presented with a candle, and after a final hymn and a blessing the service came to an end.

A junior church was held during the service; just before the first reading, the younger children went into a room adjoining the nave at the front-right corner and stayed there until just before the blessing, when they came back into the main church.

Afterwards

Coffees and biscuits were served after the service from a table near the font. I was introduced to the vicar by one of the stewards, who welcomed me to the church.

Holy Trinity, Roehampton (Anglican)

History
The church was built over two years, completed and opening in 1898, and replaced an earlier church built in 1842. It has held a strong ecumenical link with the nearby Roehampton Methodist Church in the form of the “Roehampton Ecumenical Parish” for over thirty years.

Appearance
The 230-foot tall spire of the church is a local landmark and a well-known feature of Roehampton. The church is large, and the height of the building gives the impression to one inside that the church is even larger than it actually is.

The inside is softly lit, but not dim, creating a calming atmosphere. The interior is well-decorated, with stained-glass windows depicting saints lining the walls, and mosaics of the Annunciation and Nativity at the back. Above the ornate altar are two mosaics, one of the Crucifixion and another of the Last Supper. These are beneath a stained glass window, and the whole sanctuary area is separated from the nave by two tall thin stone pillars. Large pillars also line the aisles either side of the nave.

Near the front is a large marble pulpit, in front of which were lots of items of tinned and packaged food, presumably from a recent harvest festival. A large font is situated in a richly decorated baptisty in a back corner of the church.

Clergy
The service was led by a male vicar dressed in green, gold and red vestments, who wore his hand-held microphone in a manner that reminded me somewhat of a pectoral cross. He spoke with me afterwards and I found him to be very friendly. The minister of the Methodist congregation that this church has close ties with was there at the start of the service and gave the opening notices before having to leave for his own church, and another vicar in white vestments with a green stole gave the sermon and gospel reading. A choir of nine people in white robes spent most of the service in the sanctuary, coming out to take part in the processions, and a man from the congregation gave the Old Testament and Epistle readings.

Congregation
The congregation numbered somewhere between sixty and seventy, although the lady sitting next to me told me that most Sundays it was more like forty. The Mayor of Wandsworth and the MP for Putney were both in attendance due to today being United Nations Sunday, a day celebrated by some churches on the Sunday closest to 24 October (the UN foundation date) in support of the objectives of the UN in attempting to bring about worldwide peace and co-operation.

The majority of the congregation would have been in their forties or older; I only saw five people who I would say were younger than thirty. There was a roughly equal proportion of male to female, and just under a dozen people of an ethnic minority.

Service
The service I attended was the weekly 10am parish eucharist. As I entered I was given an order of service, a booklet with the Bible readings, and a Hymns and Psalms hymn book. The service began with an announcement from the visiting Methodist minister concerning a church away-weekend next year, and we then sung the first hymn as the vicar and choir processed around the church with a large gold cross. Prayers were said, including prayers of confession and the Gloria, after which the Old Testament and Epistle readings were given by a member of the congregation – Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 and 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 – the latter immediately following on from the former.

After the second hymn, it was time for the gospel reading. Some of the members of the choir again processed out of the sanctuary, holding candles, and a young boy from the congregation was handed a gospel book and joined them. They then stood in the middle of the nave and the vicar with the green stole gave the reading from the gospel book, Matthew 22:34-46. After this, he gave the sermon from the pulpit, focusing on fixing things when they break and finding ample opportunity to tie this topic in with the Sunday’s theme of the United Nations. After the sermon, the congregation said the Western version of the Nicene Creed, followed by prayers of intercession for the world.

We then shared the peace and sung another hymn before eucharistic prayers (including the Lord’s Prayer) were said, followed by most of the congregation going up to the front to recieve communion. Some final notices were then given, and after a blessing the closing hymn was sung, during which the choir processed out of a side-door.

I regret to say that I failed to take note of when the service finished, but I can say that it was between one hour and an hour and a half.

Afterwards
Tea, coffee, orange squash and biscuits were served at the back of the church after the service. In celebration of a parishioner’s 90th birthday, slices of cake and even some small glasses of wine were also available. Most of the congregation stayed for the refreshments, and several of them – including the presiding vicar – engaged me in conversation before I had to leave.

St Nicholas, Sutton (Anglican)

History

The present church, designed by Edwin Nash, was consecrated in 1864. It replaced a much earlier church that had stood since before 1087 and which had to be expanded due to a growing local population. During the Blitz, a bomb fell in the churchyard and blew out all the windows on the northern side of the church, which were replaced with plain glass.

Appearance

The church is surrounded by a large wooded graveyard, and has a tall tower that peaks out from the top of the trees that otherwise shield it somewhat from view.

At the back of the church is a large stone font from the original pre-1864 church, inscribed with Ephesians 4:5 – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”. Nearby, on the walls, are black boards with gold lettering which record charitable gifts to the church in the 18th and 19th centuries, some of which still provide a small amount for the needy of the parish.

The altar at the front is behind a relatively simple rood screen, with a few crosses and crucifixes dotted around. Most of the windows are stained glass – many of these are in memory of former parishioners, as are several monuments and plaques found on the walls.

To the right of the altar is a small prayer chapel, more ornate than the rest of the church. It contains a small statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus, a Greek icon of St Nicholas, some banners and several candles.

Clergy

The service was taken by a woman vicar, dressed in a white cassock with a green stole. At the beginning and end of the service, a man in a plain white hooded cassock stood behind her holding a pole with a cross on top.

Congregation

The congregation numbered roughly 45 people. The majority were in their fifties or older, and over half (perhaps about two-thirds) were female, with only three or four people of ethnic minority. Several of the congregation spoke to me before the service, asking if I was visiting and welcoming me to the church.

Service

The service began with prayers and a hymn, after which there was a reading from Jeremiah 18:1-6, in which a potter and his clay is used as a metaphor for God and His people, after which there were prayers of confession. This was the only reading in the service – unlike others I have been to, there was no New Testament reading.

After this, tying in with the theme of clay, the congregation were invited to take a piece of modelling clay from a plate which was handed around the pews and to form a model of something they wished to pray about. More prayers and a hymn followed, after which wet-wipes were handed around for those who had touched the clay before the congregation shook hands during a sharing of the peace.

Communion followed another hymn, after which notices about the church and parish were read out by the vicar. After a final hymn, a blessing was given and the service, which had lasted roughly an hour and ten minutes, ended.

Afterwards

Teas, coffees, and orange squash was served at the back of the church after the service together with some biscuits. The vicar mingled with the congregation, talking with several of them as they had refreshments.

St Lawrence, Morden (Anglican)

History

The first stone and brick church on the current site would have been built soon after the Norman Conquest, although it is possible that there was an earlier wooden Anglo-Saxon church. The nearby Merton Abbey was closed down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the estate sold, being acquired by the Garth family. By the 1630s, the Garths were Puritans, and had the church rebuilt in a more Protestant style, i.e. no places for icons or reservation of bread and wine.

Appearance

The church has a brick outer wall, with a cross on one side of the church and a bell-tower on the other. An English flag often flies from the tower, but was not there on the day I visited.

The inside of the church features plain white walls lined with memorials to various notable figures from the parish’s history. One which stands out in particular is a large coat of arms of Queen Anne on the south wall, with the words “Fear God and Honour the Queen” written above it. The church’s website suggests this may have been installed due to Anne establishing the Church Commissioners, who until recently paid Anglican clergy.

The windows are stained glass, featuring saints such as Saint Thomas Becket and the eponymous Saint Lawrence. The stained glass windows at the front of the church have inscribed into them the Ten Commandments, together with depictions of Moses and Aaron, and are flanked on one side by a large plaque with the Lord’s Prayer written onto it and on the other side by one with the Apostle’s Creed.

An interesting feature is that the ceiling is lined with hatchments, coats of arms of the families of some of the (presumably more well-off) people who had their funerals at the church in the 1700s.

Clergy

As explained on a notice given out with the service sheet, the church is (at time of writing) in an “interregnum” between rectors, with the previous one having recently retired after more than 20 years. The service was therefore taken by (whom I presume was) a layman, who from the front of the church directed the hymns and prayers and gave the sermon. Music for the hymns, and for a piece played before the service while people arrived, was provided by a drummer and a lady on a piano.

Congregation

The congregation was made up of roughly 35 people, filling less than half of the available places in the pews. This would appear to have been less than usual from a comment made by the man who welcomed me – evidently used to seeing more people in attendance – who joked that “they must all be sunbathing” (the weather being particularly hot that day). There was a good variety of different ages and balance between genders, with several people of ethnic minority as well.

Service

The service started with a hymn, followed by prayers. After another hymn, there were two Bible readings – Galatians 6:7-16 and Luke 10:1-11 and 16-20 – followed after another hymn by the sermon. The readings were taken from the same books as those at the service at Hackbridge All Saints last month, and the semon was on the same topic of faith and works, leading me to assume that said subject is in Anglican lectionaries for this time of year. The sermon was followed by notices and another hymn, and the service ended with more prayers and a final hymn.

The words to hymns were projected onto a slide hanging from the ceiling, and were accompanied by music from a drum kit – some of the congregation even clapped in time to the beat with one of the hymns. This contrasted with the impression given by the sombre memorials and aloof hatchments of the church building to give the service itself a very lively, modern feel.

Afterwards

I had to leave soon after the service finished due to prior arrangements, but I saw most of the members of the congregation leave through a door at the back of the church towards a parish hall, where I had been told coffees would be served after the service.

All Saints, Hackbridge (Anglican)

History

A temporary church was founded nearby or on the current site in 1893. The current church, designed by architect H.P. Burke-Downing, was completed and consecrated in 1931.

Appearance

The main front window has a large plastic board over it for insulation, and much of the grass in the church grounds is very long – this gave the unfortunate first impression that the bulding was boarded up! I later found out that the unkempt grass is deliberate, with the intention to create a small meadow-like area for wildlife by the church in the middle of an urban area.

The inside of the church is rather sparsely decorated, with white walls and mostly plain windows. A crucifix is behind the lectern, and a small icon of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem hangs at the back of the church, near a font. At the very front of the church is an altar in front of a golden curtain, with a cross and two candles placed on top of it. A smaller table stands in front of this with a Bible on.

The most richly decorated part of the church is the Lady Chapel, to the left of the chancel. This has stained glass windows, a statue of Mary, and various banners leaning up against the wall.

Clergy

The service was led by a very friendly vicar named Andrew. He wore green vestments with a golden cross on it during the service, and a shirt with clerical collar before and afterwards. Noting that I had not been to the church before, he put a lot of greatly appreciated effort into making me feel welcome, inviting me to sit nearer the front and talking to me after the service.

Congregation

The congregation was about thirty people strong, not counting five children who went out during the service to do their own supervised activities (more on that later). There was a good mix of age, gender and ethnicity, as well as a real sense of  community. The congregation was very friendly and welcoming, just as the vicar was.

Service

As I entered the church I was handed a hymn book, a pamphlet with the order of service for communion, and a sheet of paper with the readings and some of the prayers printed on it. The service started with a hymn, followed by prayers, a recital of Psalm 32, and a few short songs, during one of which some of the children went out to another room.

The first reading was from Galatians (2:15-21), and the second was from Luke (7:36-8:3). The sermon reflected these readings, being on the topics of faith, works and forgiveness. The sermon must have been at least fifteen minutes long, but was not boring thanks to the engaging way in which the vicar gave it, including interesting information about Judean social life and anecdotes about hairstyles.

Prayers followed the sermon, including a recital of the Apostles’ Creed, after which communion was held with the congregation going up to kneel at the front of the church to recieve communion or a blessing. After communion, the “Young Church” – five children who had gone out of the service earlier with some supervising adults – came back in. They showed the congregation what they had been doing to a round of applause; they had been discussing baptism and made a large poster of the baptism of Jesus.  The service finished with announcements and a final hymn.

My previous review having been at the relatively “high” service at Carshalton All Saint’s, I was expecting something similar with sung prayers and people crossing themselves. However, this is a comparatively “low” church – the prayers were all spoken, and I only saw one man cross himself (a grand total of two times).

The service lasted roughly an hour.

Afterwards

Teas, coffees, fruit squash and biscuits were served at the back of the church after the service ended. The majority of the congregation stayed behind for quite some time talking to one another, demonstrating that sense of friendly community I had come to get a sense for from this congregation.

All Saints, Carshalton (Anglican)

History

There was a church at the present site when the Domesday Book was compiled (1086) – how long it had been there before that is unknown. The tower of the church is the oldest surviving part, and may be Saxon in origin.The current church contains 12th century work but has been much extended over the centuries; most dramatically in 1891 when a new nave and north aisle were added.

Appearance

The exterior of the church – mostly Victorian flint from the approached north side – does not give many hints of what is within. The interior is richly decorated; the walls are adorned with memorial plaques, paintings, a large monument to a local knight, even a Byzantine-style icon of Mary with Christ.

At the front of the church is a chancel separated from the nave by a rood screen. The chancel contains an ornate altar – I did not get close enough to get a good look at this, but from where I was sitting I could see it decorated with pictures of who I presume were various saints. Above the screen is a large crucifix, one of several dotted around the church, although by far the largest. There is also one above the pulpit, behind the lectern, and on a wall opposite a smaller altar to the left of the pulpit which had some Bibles on top.

There are also a few statues dotted around the church, most notably a large depiction of what I assume is meant to be either God the Father or Christ in Majesty, which is above the main crucifix.

On the opposite end of the church to the chancel is a baptistry with a large ornate font. The baptistry is behind a huge organ gallery, brightly decorated with blue and gold and inscribed with names of feast days (“PENTECOSTES”, “ASSVMPTION”, “CORP XPI” etc) and a royal standard indicating that it was built during the reign of George V.

As well as all the man-made ornaments, nature helped to decorate the church as well – beams of sunlight streamed down through the clouds of insence to create a very beautiful sight.

Clergy

I had been expecting a single vicar, perhaps aided by a few altar servers. There were, in fact, nine people helping to conduct the service. Three people in vestments, two men and a woman, led the prayers and processions, with one of the men having slightly more elaborate vestments than the others. One man in a black cassock gave the sermon, and another in a black cassock played the organ and gave some announcments at the end – both looked like clergy themselves, but their involvement in the service was rather minimal. Three children carried candles during processions, and an older boy swung an incense thurible back and forth during many of the prayers.

Congregation

The congregation was smaller than I had expected, with the church perhaps at about a third of a comfortable capacity at what was just under 40 people. However, there had been an earlier service in the day, and there was an evening service to come, so I presume that many who weren’t at the service I was attending had either already been that day or would do so later.There was a good balance between men and women, and a few ethnic minorities, but I noticed an imbalance in age. Other than the four altar servers, there was nobody who appeared to be younger than their early thirties (or, at best, late twenties) other than two young children who had been brought along with their parents.

Service

I was handed an order of service when I entered the church, which contained the prayers and hymns so that no books were required. After hymns and some prayers, there was a reading from Proverbs (8:1-4, 22-31), more prayers, and then a procession as the lady in the vestments took a Bible to the middle of the main aisle accompanied by the candle-holders and a face-full of incense, after which she gave the Gospel reading from John (16:12-15).

After the Gospel reading came the sermon. It being Trinity Sunday in the Anglican church, the sermon was on the three Persons of the Trinity and their relationship with humanity. The man giving the sermon, intentionally or not, had the rather useful habit of banging his hand on the pulpit every so often to emphasise a point, which probably jolted the eyes back to the pulpit of anyone who had not been paying attention.

There followed the western version of the Nicene Creed, prayers, and a hymn which was paused halfway through for an initial communion prayer. After this came more prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, and then communion. A prayer followed communion, after which notices were announced concerning a church trip and uncollected raffle prizes, and the service finished with a hymn.

Many of the prayers were sung or chanted by the priest and congregation. Several of the congregation crossed themselves during prayers as well, with the times when they should do so marked on the order of service, although less people seemed to do this as the service progressed.

The service lasted roughly an hour and ten minutes.

Afterwards

Teas and coffees were served – free, although there was a bowl for donations to which most gave some loose change – at the back of the church in a corner of the nave, together with cartons of fruit juice and a good range of rather nice biscuits. Most of the congregation left straight after the service, but a reasonable number, mingling with the clergy, stayed behind for these refreshments.