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In London

August 26, 2012

London 25th August 20112

I have today started to look around some London churches. Will there be differences in how they minister to visitors than the predominantly rural churches I have visited so far? Read on to find out.

St. Augustine’s, Kilburn

St. Augustine’s, Kilburn

One of my favourite London churches. Simon Jenkin’s describes it thus, ‘It is as if the sanctuary were a casket of stone inside a shell of brick.’ It is a stunning building and is now, fortunately, open more often than it ever has been in recent years. This is reflected in the visitors book which had 129 entries in it for the last month. The sign outside doesn’t give opening times. There is a lovely welcome notice in the porch which explains clearly that this is a house of prayer and worship rather than just a beautiful old building. It is both. Inside, there is a small bookstall, with new and some secondhand theological books. You can also purchaser cards, tea towels, mugs ( a lot of churches seem to stock these) and a few other souvenirs, as well as guide books of various sorts. In the back of the guide are details of how to donate to St. Augstine’s through sending a text message. Children’s books are also for sale. There is a prayer request book and a couple of votive stands to use as well, along with votive cards. A very friendly man was on duty as a steward who put lights on so that I could take better pictures and offered any help he could. The website can be found at http://www.saugustinekilburn.org.uk and gives details of the opening times.

St Augustine’s exterior

I rate this church as good and highly recommend a visit.

St. George the Martyr, Borough

St. George the Martyr, Borough

St. George’s is open Saturday mornings, but you have to look at the website to see this as the signs outside do not mention it. It is a prominent and distinctive, Georgian church. It is well worth a visit. There was much activity on my visit as the church was having a good clean. The smell of polish denotes a church which is both well loved and well cared for. There appeared to be no guides or leaflets on the Christian faith There is a postcard which gives the website of the St George’s festival held each year. The church website is http://www.stgeorge-themartyr.co.uk/site/ . The visitors book showed 12 visitors in the last month. A votive stand and prayer area were available to use. Under my rating scheme this church would get an Okay.

St. George the Martyr interior

St. Mary the Virgin, Rotherhithe

This church was open – with the door being left open to welcome visitors. There is a glass screen across the back of the church and this was locked as the church has suffered some recent break ins which caused quite a bit of damage. This should be only a temporary arrangement as new security is to be shortly installed. Fortunately, the Vicar, Fr Mark Nicholls was around and he gave me a guided tour. He is enthusiastic about this Georgian church, as well as knowledgeable about it’s history. It is an interesting church to visit. I found some guides (free), and even a children’s guide. On the locked side of the glass screen there is a prayer book for visitors to enter prayers into as well as some sheets to guide prayer.

Rotherhithe

There were some secondhand books for sale. In the church itself there is a votive stand to use. The website can be found on http://www.stmaryrotherhithe.org/ and this gives much information about the church.

I rate St. Mary’s as very good.

St. Margaret’s, Westminster

St. Margaret’s, Westminster

There was a long queue of tourists waiting to get into Westminster Abbey. There were many people wandering in and out of St. Margaret’s as well. Several people were using it for a sleep also!

St. Margaret’s is open every day and the signs outside make this very clear as well as giving a good welcome to the visitor. This is a historic church, not least because of it’s links with the Houses of Parliament next door. There is a pew for the Speaker of the House. Some interesting memorials are here, as well as an interesting contemporary art display. I found a guide book but there is no visitors book, the large numbers of people who come through the doors would probably make this impractical anyway. There is a votive stand in the Chapel of Christ, Intercessor which was being well used on my visit. There was a family, plainly upset, who were seeking some quiet after having lit a candle there. The number of people wandering about were making this peace difficult to find. This is the problem with St. Margaret’s. It is a lovely church but is so well visited that this does detract from it’s essential purpose. I rate this church as good.

Chapel of Christ Intercessor at St. Margaret’s, Westminster

St. Matthew’s Westminster

A coy St. Matthew’s, Westminster

This church is advertised as being open every day but wasn’t on the day I called. There was a sign outside on the pavement which said open. Perhaps I need to call in another time. I have not rated this church.

The website is http://www.stmw.org/index.html

St. James’s, Piccadilly

St. Jame’s Piccadilly from Jermyn Street

Another church in another bustling part of London. The door was open to welcome inside the many visitors that this church receives. The sign outside gives a very clear welcome from Jermyn Street. There is another entrance on the other side of the building. A small market is held in the churchyard here every day. Inside, I found some welcome leaflets, some in different languages, as well as a guide book. One rather nice idea is some postcards which have been printed up with a painting of the church on one side and an advert for the 11am Eucharist each Sunday. Also there were some of the Diocese of London’s ‘Faith Walks’ leaflets which give short walking tours around some notable churches. There is a votive stand to use here and a Prayer Tree which was very well used on my visit. The visitors book showed at least 150 visitors in the last month but there must be many more than this. Overall I rate St. James’s as good. It would have been good to have seen some suitable material about the Christian faith here, especially given the churches stated aim of ‘to create a space where people of any faith or none can question and discover the sacred life through openness, struggle, laughter and prayer.’ The church website is on http://www.st-james-piccadilly.org/ This has some interesting material on it.

St. James’s interior

St. Bartholomew the Less, Smithfield

St. Bartholomew the Less

This lovely little church is rather overshadowed by it’s neighbour, St Bartholomew the Great, but is well worth consideration in it’s own right. It is tucked away behind the wall of Barts Hospital and serves as both a parish church and hospital chapel. It is open every day and the signs outside are very good making for a clear welcome for the visitor. Inside, I found a few books for sale, a simple guide and some postcards. One thing that did catch my eye was a series of leaflets of prayers. ‘Prayers for use by a sick person’, contains some prayers for trust in God, pain, sleep and one entitled ‘In the Morning.’ ‘Words of consolation and hope’ has a selection of suitable Bible verses. ‘Prayers for those who are sick’ is designed for visitors who wish to pray for a sick person. These are very good and well thought out. In the church there is also an intercession book in which to write prayers. This is a delightful little church and I rate it as good.

Inside St. Bartholomew the Less

St. Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield

St. Bartholomew the Great

This wonderful church is tucked down an alleyway, which partially serves to hide the wonders that lie inside. There is an entrance charge of £4, plus £1 to take photographs. It is open every day. The signs outside make this all very clear. I really don’t mind paying to enter such a church as this. It really is very special indeed with a real sense of peace, prayerfulness and holiness. It is the sort of church which reduces conversation to a whisper. This atmosphere is aided by the relative gloom of the interior and the way that the flicker of candles is the most intense form of light within. The visitor can select a variety of guides, including one on the history of St. Bartholomew. I was given a short guide which features a plan of the church with the main features annotatted. Prayer cards, cards and varieties of incense are available as well. Also, a book ‘Sixty Five years of Weddings’ which features the stories of some of the many couples who have married here.The Holy Icon Chapel is set aside for quiet prayer and is itself a wonderfully atmospheric space. There is an open Lectionary here, open on the pages for the feast of St. Bartholomew. In the main church there is a prayer board to use as well as two votive stands. In the Lady Chapel a DVD of the life and history of the church is played. This is worth

St. Bartholmew the Great

spending some time over. There is a good modern painting of the Madonna here. In the Cloister a cafe is run and there are some history display boards. I like this church very much, as I know many others do too. I give it a rating of very good from the point of view of this study. Recommended. The website of the church is http://www.greatstbarts.com/

St. Mary Abbots, Kensington

The altar at St. Mary Abbots

This is a church I have not visited before. It features London’s tallest spire. It is open every day and a large vinyl banner welcomes the visitor in. There are some multi lingual welcome leaflets as well as leaflets about the bells, the interior and one or two others. I picked up an interesting leaflet, ”It is meet and right so to do’ an exploration of The Holy Eucharist’. This gives a good explanation of what happens during this service, from the vestments that the priest wears, through to a commentary on the liturgy itself. A very good teaching aid that deserves to be seen more in churches. There are two votive stands here and a quiet chapel for prayer before the reserved sacrament. 85 visitors in the book in the last month. On the way out there is a good blessing notice. Overall I rate this church as good.

Blessing at St. Mary Abbots

Holy Trinity, Sloane Square

Holy Trinity, Sloane Square

Another magnificent building in a nice part of London. It is a good example of the Arts and Craft Movement of the end of the nineteenth century. The interior is simply fabulous. It is open every day. I didn’t count up the visitors book for some reason but I do not doubt that this church receives many. The signs outside just give details of services and clergy. Inside I found some more of the ‘Faith Walks’ leaflets and there is a good guide book (book rather than booklet) at £5. There are two votive stands to use and some rather nice prayer cards to take away. The website gives more information on http://www.holytrinitysloanesquare.co.uk . One good section on this contains the regular ‘Pause for Thought’ that the Vicar, The Revd Rob Gillion gives on BBC Radio 2.

Interior at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square

I rate this church as good from the point of this study.

St. Mary’s, Bourne Street

St. Mary’s, Bourne Street

Yet another church tucked down an alleyway! But what you find at the end is a fine example of an anglo catholic church. The sign outside gives details of services and clergy only. There is an entrance porch with locked glass doors into the church itself. You can easily see in. The interior is open sometimes. The churches website is on http://www.stmarysbournest.com/

It doesn’t tell you when it is open for visitors but does have some useful, and very interesting, resources on it. There was a rack of leaflets and booklets available, including a guide, some gospels and ‘Confessing our Sins’, ‘A Festival of Vestments and Flowers’ , ‘All about Advent’ and one of the gospel imprint publications on ‘Christian Prayer’. This is obviously a church worth getting to know. I rate it as good.

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