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.