Sutton Baptist Church

History

The Baptists in Sutton worshipped in a meeting room from 1862 until 1883, when a church was built in the town’s high street. This was used until being demolished in 1934, upon which the congregation moved to the current building (that only took six months to build), which opened in September 1934.

Appearance

The church was designed by Nugent Cachemaille-Day (1896-1976). Although the architecture is modern, it has some noticeably Gothic influences, for example in the high pointed windows.

The interior is more richly decorated than other Baptist churches I’ve been to. Two of the windows – the one at the front, and one at the side with a plaque dedicating it to members of the church who died in the Second World War – have stained glass with images of Christ, angels and saints.

Underneath the front window is a bas-relief depicting the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). There is no altar where one would usually expect to find one, although there is a table at the front of the church that was used for communion. Instead, right at the far end of the sanctuary is a large font for baptisms.

A large pulpit is on the left-hand-side at the front of the church, but was not used during the service that I attended. A wooden cross hangs down over the sanctuary, and there was also a display of flowers at the front.

Clergy

The service was taken by a male minister in a suit and tie. He spoke very well during the sermon, and introduced himself to me after the service. The Bible readings were given by a man from the congregation.

Congregation

There were roughly forty people in the congregation when I visited (although, being August, there may usually be slightly more). There were slightly more females than males, and roughly a quarter of the congregation were of an ethnic minority. In terms of age, most of the congregation were middle-aged or young adults, although there were several children and elderly people. They were all very friendly, many of them approaching me to welcome me.

Service

The service began at 10:30, with the congregation standing as the Bible was brought into the sanctuary from a back room.  After a welcome and a moment of silence, there was a responsorial call to worship, followed by the first hymn. The words were printed on the service sheet.

After prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, the minister gave a talk on the subject of picnics, leading on to the subject of the feeding of the 5000. After another hymn came the Bible readings, John 6:1-15 (the feeding of the 5000) and 2 Kings 4:42-44 (a similar event in the ministry of Elisha). The Bible readings were given by a gentleman who came up from the congregation, and were followed by the sermon.

I found that the minister’s sermon was very good, speaking about the feeding of the five thousand (although he did seem to conflate it with the later feeding of the 4000) and talking about how those who seek to explain it away through rational means do not understand the message of how God can always provide for us in ways that we cannot.

After the sermon came a hymn and prayers of intercession, followed by the sharing of the peace. After another hymn came communion, with the bread and wine being taken around the congregation and given to those who wished to partake. The bread was eaten upon being received whereas the wine was drunk collectively, as was the case at West Croydon.

After communion came a final hymn, and the service ended with the Grace (II Corinthians 13:14) being said.

The service lasted roughly an hour (I regrettably forgot to accurately time it).

Afterwards

Tea, coffee, fruit squash and biscuits were served at the back of the church while members of the congregation chatted with each other. Many approached me to welcome me to their church.

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Crown Road Baptist Church, Sutton

History

The church was founded in 1883 as a mission to the local community, housed in a tin structure. This was upgraded to the present brick building in the late 1930s. On its website, the church describes itself as “self-governing over its ministry, finance, membership and leadership, while remaining part of [the nearby] Sutton Baptist Church.” Originally administered by the Shaftesbury Society, responsibility for Crown Road was later transferred to Sutton Baptist Church, but I was unable to find out when this took place.

Appearance

The exterior of the church is not, in all honesty, very impressive. A plain rectangular brick building, one would not be able to tell it was a church if it did not have a noticeboard and a large “Crown Road Baptist Church” sign on the outside.

While the interior is a little bland in some respects, I personally found it very charming. There is no religious imagery, no real decoration, just a stage with a cross and some flowers on it and the hymn numbers on a wall next to it, and yet for some reason I – being one who usually appreciates decoration in churches – did not find it too plain for my liking. The words “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) are positioned above the stage, and a piano is next to it. On one side of the church is a table with some toys and some pictures drawn by a recent Girls’ Brigade event, and on the other is a table on which teas and coffees were served after the service.

One of the most striking aspects was the size. The church is very small, giving it a rather cosy feel – it may have been this which made me somewhat appreciate the lack of decoration, as much more may actually have made it look crowded.

Clergy

The service was led by a male preacher in a shirt and tie, and the piano was played by a lady who also helped to lead the prayers. The psalm was read by a lady from the congregation.

Congregation

The congregation was the smallest of any church I’ve yet visited; including myself and the two at the front, there were only twenty one people in the room. The majority of the congregation was female – not including the preacher there were only six males – and I would guess that most were between the ages of thirty and eighty. In regards to the ethnic make-up of the congregation, I did not count, but I would say that there was roughly a 3:1 white/black ratio. Due to the small size of the congregation, there was a real sense of community – one may even say a sense of family – amongst them. They were very friendly and welcoming, and I was warmly greeted by several of them both before and after the service.

Service

After the preacher introduced himself, we sang a hymn the words of which were projected on a screen which came down over the stage. After this came prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer. The preacher then showed us a short video on the projector screen which had the message of not giving up and being able to make a difference, and gave a short talk on those subjects. This was followed by a second hymn, after which the lady playing the piano gave some notices before an offering was taken.

The preacher then gave the gospel reading, Matthew 25:19-25, part of the parable of the talents. Focusing on the third servant’s perception of his master, there was then a talk on our perceptions of God. After another hymn, Psalm 139 was read, and the preacher then spoke about God’s omnipresence and His work in our lives. After prayers of intercession for the world and for members of the congregation, the congregation was dismissed with a blessing following a final hymn.

The service lasted an hour and ten minutes.

Afterwards

After the service, tea and coffee were served at a table on one side of the room. Biscuits and slices of cake were also available. The members of the congregation chatted with each other, and several of them approached and engaged me in conversation before I had to go.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Sutton (Roman Catholic)

History

The church was founded in 1883 as a temporary iron building, with a new and permanent building opening in 1892. The church was enlarged in 1912, and further alterations were made 20 years later.

Appearance

There is a contrast inside the church between the relatively simple nave area, and the resplendent sanctuary area. The front of the church is in white marble, with a large mosaic of the crucifixion and smaller mosaics of Mary, St. John, and four seraphim representing the Evangelists. A Bible and two candles stand on the altar, which is flanked by a pulpit and font, all in the same white marble as the front wall. At the front left of the church (hidden behind the pillars of the archways which demarcate the aisles in the picture to the right) is a beautiful mosaic of Christ, in front of which burn lots of small candles lit by members of the congregation. Likewise, at the front right of the church is a mosaic of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in a similar style, although with no candles.

Pictures of the stations of the cross are situated around the sides of the church, and there are also three statues at the front – one is named as a St. Anthony, but I couldn’t find anything which said who the other two were; one was of a bishop (possibly St. Augustine) and the other was of a woman (possibly the Virgin Mary). At the back of the church is a gallery from which the choir sung and on which the organ is situated, and over the door at the back hangs a copy of da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Clergy

The service was led by a priest in green vestments, helped by several young children as altar-servers who carried candles, incense thuribles, etc. There was also a choir which sung from the gallery at the back, but I was unable to see how many people were in it, and the first Bible reading (see below) was read by a woman from the congregation.

Congregation

The congregation was very large considering the size of the church. I was unable to make a precise count, but there must have been at least 100 people there. There was a mixture of ages, a roughly equal number of males and females, and a relatively large – probably just under half the congregation – number of ethnic minorities.

Service

The service was very similar to the one which I attended last month at Sacred Heart in Wimbledon – I now realise that most if not all Roman Catholic services I attend will be following the Pauline Mass order of service, just as the Orthodox churches I have visited were following the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

The service started with the altar servers processing up the main aisle to the altar with a cross on a pole, after which a hymn was sung. After prayers, the Gloria was sung by the choir, mostly in English but with the first few lines in Latin as a refrain – I must note here that I found this to be sung very beautifully. The first Bible reading – Ecclesiasticus 15:15-20 – was then read by a lady who came up from the congregation. This was followed by a song from the choir, after which the priest gave the second reading, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10. After a short anthem from the choir came the gospel reading, Matthew 5:17-37, after which the priest gave the sermon, on the subject of the law of God. The Roman Catholic version of the Nicene Creed was then said by the congregation, after which there were various prayers and anthems during which the elements for communion were brought up to the altar and the offering was taken.

The congregation then knelt down in prayer during which the priest lifted up the wafer and wine to be used for communion, with a bell being rung several times. After the Lord’s Prayer and the sharing of the peace, most of the congregation went up to the altar to receive communion.

After communion, the priest gave some brief notices, and a final hymn was sung before the dismissal.

Afterwards

Similar to at Sacred Heart, there were no refreshments or the like after the service, but some members of the congregation stayed behind to pray in the emptying church.

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.