St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, Morden (Roman Catholic)

I could only find information of any length on the history of this church on a single webpage, which also goes into far more detail on the architecture and layout of the building than I could ever have managed from my notes. As the usual “History” and “Appearance” sections  of the review would therefore have been effectively no more than paraphrases of the information on said webpage, I thought it more appropriate to simply provide a link to it:

http://taking-stock.org.uk/Home/Dioceses/Archdiocese-of-Southwark/St-Teresa-and-the-Child-Jesus-Morden

Clergy

The service was taken by a priest in a white cassock and green stole, and a deacon dressed in a similar manner. There were about twelve or thirteen young altar servers, boys and girls, who took part in the processions at the beginning and the end of the Mass.

Congregation

The congregation was too large for me to accurately count, but I estimated there to be at least 120 people there – too many for them to all fit in the nave, with several spending the service out in the narthex.

There was a relatively even number of men and women in the congregation. A large proportion of those in the congregation were of an ethnic minority, perhaps about one half or three fifths. Although there were several elderly parishioners, most of the congregation was young or middle-aged.

Service

The church has two Sunday morning services, one at 9 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. I attended the latter, which followed (as did I assume the 9 a.m. service, there being no indication to the contrary) the Mass of Paul VI, the order of service ordinarily used, which has a basic structure of introductory prayers, Bible readings, communion, and concluding prayers. There were also some hymns sung during the service.

The Bible readings were from Amos 7:12-15, Ephesians 1:3-14, and Mark 6:7-13. Psalm 84 was also sung with responses. The sermon was given by the deacon after the gospel reading, and focused on the “unclean spirits” we should aim to cast out of our own lives; he made it clear that he understood the spirits in the gospel reading to refer to illnesses and addictions, not actual demons.

The priest made some announcements before a closing hymn, and the Mass ended with a procession to the entrance of the church. The service lasted one hour.

Afterwards

The priest and deacon stood at the entrance after the service, saying goodbye to parishioners as they left. Several stayed in the nave, praying privately or talking to friends. There were no refreshments available.

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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 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.