Weekly Email – Advent 3 | All Saints Margaret Street All Saints Margaret Street | Weekly Email – Advent 3

Weekly Email – Advent 3

Friday 15 December 2023 at 13:45


Dear friends,

I was very pleased earlier on this week to be able to see the new exhibition at The British Library entitled “Fantasy – Realms of Imagination.” It is a really superb presentation and a fascinating exploration of the way in which fantasy, fable and fairy story have contributed to our corporate imagination.

I was very grateful indeed to Rachel Foss for giving me an introduction to the exhibition and showing me around. She is a regular parishioner of All Saints’ and works at The British Library. Indeed, she is one of the curators of the exhibition – the sections she has created are particularly interesting. She is to be congratulated on a really first rate achievement.

Our parish is organising a trip to see the exhibition on Tuesday 23rd January at 6.00 pm. The visit to the British Library is then followed by supper for those who wish to attend at the Pizza Express on the Euston Road. To book a place, please email the parish office.

[Rachel Foss and Fr Peter at the entrance to the exhibition.]

The exhibition itself explores fantasy literature through a series of key themes: fairy and folk tales; epic journeys and quests; the weird and the uncanny; and portals to other worlds. It reveals how rich, intricate and sophisticated this realm of literary expression is, and just how many complex adult themes are explored through what can often seem simple or “childish” narratives.

There are some really fascinating “show stopper” artefacts: such as Galdalf’s staff and pipe used by Ian McKellen in the most recent film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings; handwritten manuscripts by Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien; outfits worn by Nureyev and Fonteyn for the 1968 Royal Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty; and theatrical costumes from the Musical Wicked.

[Left: Margot Fonteyn’s and Rudolf Nureyev’s costumes from the 1968 Royal Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty. Right: The staff and pipe used by Ian McKellen whilst playing Gandalf in the 2001 film, “The Fellowship of the Ring.”]

As I made my way around the exhibition, it struck me just how universal many of the basic narratives revealed to us by the items on display were as ways of explaining the human condition. Indeed, many of them have a very close synergy with some of the most important insights of Christian theology: the conviction that there is more to our existence than just the physical; the knowledge that forces other than those we can see influence our lives; and seeing life as a journey or pilgrimage to a goal in which we learn and grow.

It was interesting to discover that some of the earliest anthropological studies of “faerie” myths and supernatural stories were undertaken by clergy. A good example is the Revd Robert Kirk who documented fairy beliefs amongst his parishioners in the 17th century, in a book displayed in the exhibition entitled, “The Secret Commonwealth of Fairies.” He seeks to record objectively the range of fantastical beliefs he finds, but also clearly detects a hazy overlap between Christian faith, the realm the supernatural, and the role of the imaginary and delusional.

[A work by parishioner of All Saints’, Christina Rosetti, entitled, Goblin Market. Far from being a superficial children’s story, it explores themes of temptation, sacrifice and redemption through the experience of two sisters plagued by sinister goblins. Christina’s sister, Maria, joined the community of the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor, here in Margaret Street.]

It was fascinating to see the influence that the Christian imagination has had on fantasy writing and the way in which Christian writers have used this genre as a way of reflecting upon the world we live in and the society we have constructed in the light of the Gospel.

Thomas More’s Utopia is a good example of this. An astonishing first edition is on display – I hadn’t realised that it is this edition that invents the idea of having a map at the beginning of a fantasy story to enable you to understand the text. In a similar vein, the many permutations of medieval Arthurian legend are attempts to explore through fantasy what a Christian hero looks like, and the kind of virtue and bravery those who lead politically need to exhibit.

[A very early 1516 edition of Utopia by Thomas More: this edition establishes the practice copied by many subsequent fantasy writers of having a map of the book’s imaginary world at the front of the text along with a key to its made-up fantastical language.]

As well as reflecting on the human condition, Christian writers also use the mode of fantasy writing apologetically, as a way of proposing the Christian faith.

Most famous amongst these writers are 20th Century Oxford luminaries such at Lewis and Tolkein. For them, fantasy isn’t merely a secular mode of childish entertainment, but rather a means whereby the sacrament of our imagination can communicate, explore and indwell the truth of the Gospel.

Rachel’s essay in the book accompanying the exhibition is excellent at exploring this question, and the way in which Tolkein saw the artistic creation of fantasy as a form of “sub-creation,” echoing God’s creative impulse. Fairy tales are not just children’s stories, but are also fundamentally needful for adults. For Tolkein, they actively contribute to human wellbeing and our integration into the creation God has placed us in through the escape, recovery and consolation they provide.

[Handwritten manuscripts by C.S. Lewis: on the left a map of Narnia, suggested by him for inclusion in Prince Caspian; on the right, his first sketched out plan for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.]

A further overlap with Christian theological discourse is that way I constantly found myself comparing what I saw in the exhibition with the way in which apocalyptic and visionary texts in the Scriptures function. One good example is a fascinating room that explores the architecture of the cities and realms created by fantasy authors. These extraordinary locations are embellished by fantastical buildings that speak symbolically of what the city represents, or the role of those who live there. My mind went immediately to the very “architectural” language used to describe the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22 in which a similar impulse can surely be detected – a presentation of a perfect re-created society in which God and man dwell together in harmony.

[An original poster for the 1939 film version of the Wizard of Oz; and a costume from the musical stage spin-off, Wicked.]

One of the most fascinating rooms is the last. It explores the phenomenon of “Fandom” – the way in which fans of certain books or film franchises meet up to explore the world their heroes inhabit. They often gather for conventions, and dress as the figures from the books they enjoy.

One might at first sight regard some of these people as overly obsessed crackpots. However, the more I pondered the comments of those interviewed in this section, the more I felt their hobby had what one might call a “liturgical” character: they gather in community in order to remove themselves from the quotidian expectations of the world they live in; they dress in such a way that shows their allegiance is to a narrative completely different from that espoused in “normal” world; they re-enact the shared stories that lie at the heart of their community in drama and song; and they find this community allows them to be their “true” selves in a way the “outside” world doesn’t. Maybe we who gather each week in community to celebrate the rites of the New Covenant have more in common – at least on an anthropological level – with these “crackpots” than we like to recognise!! It was a very thought-provoking last room with which to finish a first-rate show.

I heartily recommend this exhibition, and encourage you to come on our parish visit in January. It promises to be a most interesting and rewarding evening – and I am very grateful to Rachel for agreeing to talk to us and introduce us to what is a fascinating topic!

Fr Peter



Christmas Confessions

Priests will be available from 5.30 pm onwards at the following times in the week before Christmas for you to make your confession, or seek spiritual counsel and advice:

Monday 18th December – Fr Alan Rimmer & Fr Graeme Rowlands
Tuesday 19th December – Fr Peter Anthony & Fr Alan Rimmer
Wednesday 20th December – Fr Peter Anthony & Fr Graeme Rowlands
Thursday 21st December – Fr Peter Anthony & Fr Alan Rimmer
Friday 22nd December – Fr Peter Anthony


What a joy it was to welcome Keble College, Oxford, to All Saints’ on Wednesday for their first ever London Carol Service. It was so good to meet their alumni and students, and to hear the college choir in such good voice. The College Chaplain, Fr Max Kramer, declared everyone was feeling very much at home, worshipping in a Butterfield church!


New Christmas Eve service

We are going to experiment with a slight change to the services we offer on Christmas Eve this year in order to allow as many people as possible to attend the liturgy in that holy night.

In addition to the usual 11.00 pm Midnight High Mass, there will also be a First High Mass of Christmas celebrated at 6.00 pm (as Christmas Eve this year is a Sunday, this will be in place of Evensong and the 5.15 pm Low Mass). This liturgy is intended for those who have voiced a concern that it can be difficult to get to All Saints’ and back home again on Christmas Eve once the Tube has stopped running early.


What a splendid evening we have had in our parish bar after Evensong and Benediction last Sunday. Our Buddhist neighbours visited us from the Fo Guang Shan Temple in Margaret Street to wish us Happy Christmas and brought us a beautiful hamper of goodies and a special gift of Chinese tea. We are grateful for their kindness and friendship!


Christmas Services at All Saints’

Parish Christmas Carol Service – 9 Lessons and Carols
Sunday 17th December 2023
Nine Lessons and Carols | 6.00 pm

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sunday 24th December 2023
High Mass | 11.00 am

Christmas Eve
Sunday 24th December 2023
First High Mass of Christmas | 6.00 pm
Midnight High Mass | 11.00 pm

Christmas Day
Monday 25th December 2023
Said Mass of the Dawn | 9.00 am
High Mass of Christmas Day | 11.00 am

Please note that from Tuesday 26th December until Saturday 30th December, there will only be one Mass each day at 12 noon. 

Feast of the Holy Family
Sunday 31st December 2023
High Mass | 11.00 am
Please note that there will be no 5.15 pm Said Mass or Evensong on Sunday 31st December.

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
Sunday 7th January 2023
High Mass | 11.00 am
Said Mass | 5.15 pm
Epiphany Carol Service | 6.00 pm

Full details of all music through the whole Christmas period can be found here.


We were so pleased to celebrate several birthdays after the High Mass on Sunday. Drinks were held in honour of of Janet Drake, who has had a significant birthday this week – many happy returns, Janet, and thank you for all you do to support our parish. When we sang Happy Birthday, we were also able to congratulate Aiden Hargreaves-Smith, who was also celebrating a birthday!


Frances O’Neil

Frances O’Neil’s funeral will take place at All Saints’ on Thursday 4th January at 10.30 am. There will then be a committal at Islington Crematorium in East Finchley at 11.00 am the next day, Friday 5th January.  Please keep Frances’ family and friends in your prayers.


The music at last Sunday’s High Mass for Advent 2 included Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi munera and Francisco Guerrero’s Canite Tuba. You can watch the High Mass again on our parish YouTube Channel here.


Shrove Tuesday Crêpes Suzette dinner

To celebrate Shrove Tuesday, we will be hosting a special Crêpes Suzette dinner at Le Beaujolais restaurant on Litchfield Street in Soho. The cost will be £50 for three courses. Instead of the usual cheese trolley, you are welcome to choose, as a special treat for Pancake Day, the restaurant’s famous Crêpes Suzette as a way of finishing Ordinary Time and preparing for Lent. To book a place, please email the parish office.


We were very happy indeed to welcome a group from Christ Church, St Leonards on Sea, to Evensong and Benediction last Sunday. We were able to chat with them over a drink in our parish bar and hear all about the life of their parish.


Confirmation classes

Anyone interested in being baptized, and/or confirmed should be in touch with Fr Peter or Fr Alan. Confirmation classes will begin in the New Year. Our confirmation next year will take place on Pentecost Sunday, 19th May 2024, when we will be joined by the Bishop of Fulham to administer the sacraments of initiation.


Fr Peter preached at the High Mass on Sunday on the the figure of John the Baptist and his message. John lives as one pointing to Christ. We can echo and follow this example by living as Christians with penitence at the heart of our discipleship, so that we live with Christ at the centre of our existence and not our own ego. You can watch the sermon again here.


Lent Theatre Trip – Dead Poets Live: Gerard Manley Hopkins

There will be a parish trip to the theatre at Wilton’s Music Hall on Wednesday 6th March for Lent to see a fascinating show presenting the poetry and life story of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Tickets are £26 each and the play begins at 7.30 pm.

The blurb for this performance says the following: “Dead Poets Live return to Wilton’s for three nights to tell the story of Hopkins’s relationship with poetry, and poetry’s relationship with Hopkins: how his extraordinary spiritual life led him to write – and then not to write – as he did, how his poems were destroyed, how they survived, how they were misunderstood, and how, ultimately, their influence triumphed. It is the story of a radical and passionate style and the radical, passionate spirit that it continues to communicate.”

To book a place, please email the parish office.


What a beautiful celebration of the Immaculate Conception we had on Friday 8th December. Many thanks indeed to the Bishop of Fulham for being with us, and to Fr Simon Morris for his excellent sermon. The music was wonderful and included: C. V. Stanford, Communion Service in C and F; and Edward Elgar, Ave Maria. You can watch the liturgy again here via our parish YouTube Channel here, and see the sermon again here.


Mary Rowe

The funeral rites of Mary Rowe will take place at  at 2.00pm on Thursday 21 December 2023 at St John’s Wood Church, Prince Albert Road, London NW8 7NE.


Drinks in our parish bar after Evensong last Sunday. Don’t forget that our parish bar is open each Sunday evening to welcome all who worship with us – and also usually after the High Mass in the morning too. We are so grateful to all who volunteer in the bar for all they contribute to the ministry of welcome in our parish.


Attendance last Sunday


A splendid Carol Service was offered by Magdalen College, Oxford, at All Saints’ on Tuesday night. The Clerks and Consort were on excellent form, and it was very good indeed to welcome so many alumni of the college.


Prayer List

The Friends of All Saints’ Margaret Street:

December 17th – Kirill Dashkovskiy, Christopher Davies, Robert Davies, Peter Dennis, Laura Denton, Joshua Dolphin, Suzanna Eaton
18th – Linda Edwards, Pamela Edwards, John Eldridge, Terrence Ellsworth, Sue Enoch, Carolyn Farrar, Martin Faulkner
19th – Sue Feakin, Adrian Felaar, Daniel Fielden, Janice Fielden, Julia Fielden, Nigel Fisher, Mark Fleming
20th – Stuart Fletcher, Christopher Forman, Anthony Fox, Charlotte Gauthier, Margaret Goddard, Paul Golding, John Goldsmith
21st – Genevieve Gomi, The Ven Thomas M. Greene, Jack de Gruiter, Canon Michael Gudgeon, Sheelagh Gudgeon, Ginger and Del Hall, Monica Joan Hall
22nd – Roger Hancock, Canon Richard Hanford, Paul Hannah, Jillian Hargreaves, Christopher Harrison, Patrick Hartley, The Rev’d Canon Jeremy Haselock
23rd – Eoghan Healy, Rebecca Hirst, Fr David Hobden, James and Gwendoline Holdcroft, Edwin Holmes, The Rev’d Canon Graham Holcombe, Bishop David Hope

The sick:

Martin Berka, David Craig, Jason Dunlop, Frances Gayler, Gill Hargreaves, Fr. Harry Hodgetts, Michael Lamprell, Elizabeth Lyon, James Roger, Bruce Ross-Smith, Doreen and Melvin Warren, Jean

The faithful departed:

Gary Hargreaves, Alma Lockley, Frances O’Neil, Mary Rowe, Pat Castle Stewart

Those whose anniversaries of death fall at this time:

December 17th – Edwin Forsyth, Joan Gower, Philip Prain, Richard Vick
19th – Ena Knight
20th – Lily King, Jack Monk, Elaine Bullock
21st – Charles Hillier, Adam Reddington, Harry Nuttall
22nd – Elizabeth Ross, Anthony Greek, Richard Routledge, Helen Turner
23rd – Harold Pobjoy Pr, Anne Scott
24th – Cynthia Tucker, Miriam Smith, Augustus Thompson, Paul De Fortis Pr, Doreen Forde


Service times this week

Saturday 16th December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30pm Vigil Mass of Sunday

Sunday 17th December – Third Sunday of Advent
11.00 am High Mass
5.15 pm Mass
6.00 pm Parish Carol Service of Nine Lessons and Carols

Monday 18th December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Tuesday 19th December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Wednesday 20th December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Thursday 21st December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Friday 22nd December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Saturday 23rd December – Advent Feria
12 noon Mass
6.30 pm Vigil Mass of Sunday

Sunday 24th December – Fourth Sunday of Advent
11.00 am High Mass
6.00 pm First High Mass of Christmas
11.00 pm Midnight Mass