Weekly Email – Advent 4 | All Saints Margaret Street All Saints Margaret Street | Weekly Email – Advent 4

Weekly Email – Advent 4

Friday 16 December 2022 at 13:30


Dear friends,

What a joy it has been to welcome a number of schools, colleges, businesses and other organisations to All Saints’ over the past two weeks for their carol services. I have been touched to see how positively and thoughtfully people of many different ages and backgrounds respond to the riches of the Anglican musical tradition at Christmas; but I have also noticed how profoundly many of these newcomers react to the sacred space of our beautiful church as they experience it for the first time. All this helps them to enter into the mystery and the joy of the season we are beginning to celebrate.

I have a strong hunch that many forms of what one might broadly describe as traditional liturgy are undergoing a period of rediscovery and revival at the moment. There have been a series of key moments and national events over the past few months and years which have all pointed to a deep thirst for liturgical worship, traditional music, thoughtful preaching and beautiful Christian architecture.

The liturgies and ceremonies that accompanied the death of our beloved late Queen, for example, revealed how easy certain sorts of traditional ceremony are for people to connect with and how deeply they speak of the kind of corporate, national grief and thankfulness we all wanted to express.

The COVID period, in which our churches were closed and clergy illegally instructed not to enter them, showed us just how important the beautiful architecture of our historic church buildings is to us and the value of sacred space in a way we hadn’t realised before.

Christmas, too, is a time when traditional liturgy comes into its own. Through song and music, light and darkness, movement and stillness, we enter into the mystery of the Incarnation afresh each year. One of the most beautiful ways of doing this is through the liturgy of Nine Lessons and Carols, which we will celebrate on Sunday evening at 6.00pm.

Everyone imagines the service of Nine Lessons and Carols is the invention of Eric Milner-White at King’s College, Cambridge, in 1918. However, this is a vain Cantabrigian fable, fondly invented. The liturgy is actually Cornish in origin.

Forty years before Milner-White’s first Carol Service at King’s, the tradition of a liturgy made up of carols and readings on Christmas Eve had emerged in Truro Cathedral under the aegis of Bishop Edward White Benson, who eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury. He had originally organised a service of carols and readings to dissuade people from going to the pub on Christmas Eve and getting drunk, but hadn’t realised how popular carol singing had become amongst the ordinary people of Truro. Out of the blue, 400 people turned up at that first Christmas Eve Carol Service and this beautiful liturgical tradition was born.

Our own celebration of this liturgy on Sunday evening will include an impressive range of beautiful music sung by our choir: Rutter, What sweeter music; Poston, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree; Manz, E’en so Lord Jesus; Tchaikovsky, The Crown of Roses; Joubert, There is no rose; Matthias, A Babe is born. There will be ample opportunity to sing some of the most beloved carols of the season too, including: Once in royal David’s city; God rest you merry, gentlemen; A great and mighty wonder; Hark! The herald angels sing; and O come, all ye faithful.

The wonderful thing about the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is that it lays out in music and song, prophecy and poetry, the full arc of the story of our salvation from “the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.” Through this simple but moving liturgy, the birth of Christ is put in the context of the loving purposes of God throughout salvation history. Christ’s birth is both the culmination of God’s ancient promises to Israel; and the breaking into human history of a new creation. It is a wonderful sign of God’s saving love for us in itself; yet also points forward to the Cross and Resurrection.

I urge you to join us for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening at 6.00 pm if you are able. The service will be live-streamed for our online worshippers.  If you come in person, it is a service that’s really easy to persuade friends and relatives to attend – especially those who may be a little hesitant about church at other times of the year. If you are one of our online worshippers, please spread word about the service on social media.

Sunday evening’s carol service is wonderful way to prepare our hearts for Christmas, and to celebrate the truth and wonder of the incarnation. It is also a beautiful way of inviting others to enter into this mystery with us too – either online or in person.

Fr Peter


How pleased we were to welcome Magdalen College, Oxford, to All Saints’ on Tuesday night for their London Christmas Carol Service. The college’s Consort of Voices (i.e. the academical clerks plus student sopranos) sang the liturgy and were on excellent form! We were joined by the Informator Choristarum and the Dean of Divinity.


Christmas confession times

Fr Peter will be available to hear confessions next week in preparation for Christmas from 5.30-6.00 pm on Tuesday 20th, Wednesday 21st, Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd December.

Our evening service times resume their usual pattern next week now that all our visiting carol services are over, with a 6.30 pm Mass each night. For full details, see the liturgical calendar outlined at the end of this email.


Old members of the Bishop’s Diocesan College, Cape Town, enjoy festive refreshments after their carol service last week. We are so grateful to all our parish volunteers who have served mulled wine and mince pies several nights running this week as part of our welcome to those who have organised their carol services at All Saints’.


Services in the Octave of Christmas

Please note that in the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, there will only be one Mass each day, at 12 noon (i.e. the 6.30 pm Mass will not take place). There will also be no 5.15 pm Mass and no Evensong and Benediction on Christmas Day and on New Year’s Day.



Advent retreat reflections

Rachel Foss reflects on her experience of our parish’s recent Advent retreat in Walsingham:

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a small group of ASMS parishioners on the Advent retreat in Walsingham. Having been on the Parish Pilgrimage in the summer, during a weekend in the middle of the heatwave, I was looking forward to seeing Norfolk in winter and to some much-needed silence and space for reflection.

Our period of silence began following dinner and drinks on the Friday evening. I was initially surprised to learn that ours was the only parish group – the other retreatants having booked as individuals, of whom some were obviously ‘regulars’ – but I found that I quickly settled in to the retreat programme.

Being in silence and particularly the prospect of silent mealtimes – if it’s a relatively new experience – can initially seem awkward and even daunting. However, punctuated as it was by the various addresses of the retreat leader and services in the Shrine Chapel, the amount of time spent in actual “silent silence” didn’t seem that much at all. In fact, I would have been happy for there to have been more space allowed for it within the programme, so difficult is it to find rest from the perpetual noise and activity of London. That said, the balance of activities for a weekend retreat was probably well-judged and I enjoyed participating in the various liturgies in the intimate space of the Shrine Chapel.

The cold and darkness outside seemed to make especially poignant our reflections on the need for making ready for a new light to usher in a re-made world and the hope it brings for a troubled humanity.

I felt the retreat addresses helped me to begin, perhaps, to apprehend a little more the role of Mary as god-bearer: her example to us of creating a dwelling-place within herself for Christ, not as a passive recipient of miraculous intervention but fully cognisant and accepting of the wonder, terror and hardship that her vocation carries with it.

The weekend was certainly a rewarding experience that I’d recommend to others, as our parish continues to explore how its retreat programme develops in the future.

Rachel Foss


Our group of pilgrim-retreatants makes its way to Walsingham by train a couple of weeks ago for the Advent retreat. Rachel is the third from the right. 


Epiphany 2023

We look forward to welcoming the Revd James Hill, Vicar of St Benet Fink, Tottenham, as our preacher for the feast of the Epiphany, which will be kept on Friday 6th January with a High Mass at 6.30 pm. The music will include Palestrina’s Missa Brevis and Marenzio’s Tribus miraculis

Our traditional Epiphany-tide Carol Service and Benediction will take place on Sunday 8th January at 6.00 pm. Music will include: Palestrina, Surge, illuminare (pt. 1); Handl, Omnes de Saba; Phillip Moore, Benedictus; Bingham, And lo, the star; Elgar, Light of the world; and Poulenc, Videntes stellam. The Tantum ergo at Benediction will be the setting by Vierne.

The season of Epiphany encompasses some of the most beautiful and richly theological hymnody of the whole church year, and the carol service will include many of those great hymns: Of the Father’s heart begotten; Brightest and Best; As with gladness men of old; Bethlehem of noblest cities; and O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Do join us online or in person on Friday 6th and Sunday 8th January.


It was a joy to welcome Merton College, Oxford, to All Saints’ for their London Carol Service last Friday. The college choir were in superb voice and many alumni attended. It was a particular honour to have the Warden, Professor Irene Tracey, present. She will soon be leaving the college to take up the role of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and a special farewell presentation was made to her.


Next Zoom Theology Seminar

Our next Zoom Theology seminar will take place on Tuesday 24th January 2023. Its subject will be: “When history is painful: difficult and contentious memorialisation in churches.”

This seminar will be led by Fr Charles Card-Reynolds, and will take the example of S. George’s Cathedral, Kingstown, St Vincent which contains multiple colonial era memorials to those directly and indirectly involved with enslavement.

The Zoom link for the seminar can be found here.


Our High Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception last week was followed by a Vicarage drinks party for all who volunteer in our parish to thank them for their service and generosity: servers; choir; PCC members; trustees; bar staff; and sidespeople. Thank you for all you contribute through the year! Our whole parish is grateful to you all.


Parish outing to the British Library

There will be a parish trip to see a new exhibition focussed on Alexander the Great on Tuesday 31st January, 2023. We will meet at the British Library at 6.15 pm and the cost of the trip is £15, followed by dinner at Pizza Express at 8.00 pm for those who wish to stay on at a cost of £25. To book a place, please email the Parish Office.


Ian, Patrick and Keith: stalwarts, respectively, of our serving team, our finance department, and our sidespeople and welcoming team – all enjoying the festive cheer of drinks at the Vicarage as a thank you for all the wonderful work they do to support our parish.


King Charles the Martyr

The annual commemoration of the saintly death of King Charles I, which is organised each year by the Society of King Charles the Martyr, will take place at All Saints’, Margaret Street, with a High Mass on Monday 30th January 2023 at 12 noon. This is because the Banqueting House is still undergoing renovation.


In the homily at our High Mass for the Immaculate Conception, Fr Peter explored what the Angel Gabriel means when he addresses Mary as “highly favoured one.” God has already been at work in Mary, preparing her to be the Mother of God. You can watch the sermon here, or read the full text here


In the Pink

Fr Peter reflects on the use of the liturgical colour rose in our parish’s history:

A number of old rose vestments and altar furnishings were returned to liturgical use last Sunday which had either been recently rediscovered in our sacristy spaces, or lain unused for many years. It has been a fascinating process discovering these historic artefacts and piecing together the role they played in  parish’s history.

The practice of wearing pink or rose vestments at the mid point in Advent and Lent signals the opportunity for a brief moment of rejoicing amidst the rigours of those two seasons of preparation and penitence. This was expressed in the entrance antiphon used at last Sunday’s High Mass: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. The Lord is near!”

The origins of the use of liturgical pink probably lie in the practicalities of the fact that pre-synthetic dyes used to make the silk for vestments were rarely as static as modern dyes, and often faded or changed with the years.

Many medieval churches will have had purple or red vestments which will have faded to deep pink over time. Historians suspect a virtue will then have been made of this and a theology constructed around it, that it was a good thing to create a moment of relaxed joy at the mid point of Lent and Advent by wearing these pinker vestments.

On the Third Sunday of Lent, the organ is played more freely once more, and in the old rites the folded chasubles and broad stole which signified the penitential season were laid aside and High Mass vestments of chasuble with dalmatics returned for one Sunday.

All Saints’ has a remarkable set of pink High Mass vestments with a fascinating historical pedigree. This rose set, which was worn last Sunday, was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and made by Watts in 1927. It is constructed out of an extraordinary fuschia-pink lamé, which shimmers beautifully in the light. Silk lamé is notorious for perishing very quickly, but the fact that these vestments have only been used twice a year means they are in excellent condition and a remarkable historical and theological artefact.

Our parish’s remarkable rose High Mass set in fuschia-pink lamé, designed by Sir Ninian Comper.

The vestments’ cut had been the focus of some debate. Comper went so far as to write to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome asking what the Holy See’s approved shape of chasuble was. The reply came that only two options were permissible: either the classic Latin cut; or a full gothic shape with sleeves reaching the wrists. In other words, the “semi-gothic” shape which had emerged out of the Tractarian antiquarianism of the 19th century and had been so associated with the Gothic revival of Pugin and Butterfield was ruled out as an inauthentic fantasy and a 19th century invention.

Out of this correspondence with Rome, there emerged Comper’s fuller gothic shape of chasuble which we see used in our parish’s famous pink High Mass set – more gracious and substantial than most gothic chasubles, with a very handsome shape. This cut is also sometimes described as the “Downside Abbey” shape as it became used widely there.

Further recent discoveries in the sacristies have also included a remarkable pink chasuble and cope, which I suspect may date from the 18th – or even late 17th – century. From the shape and cut, I would say they almost certainly originate in Spain. These had lain in a sacristy cupboard for years. Research reveals they appear for the first time in our records in the 1940 parish inventory. I would have thought, therefore, they will probably have been acquired somehow by Dom Bernard Clements, who was Vicar at the time.  Parishioners with long memories tell me the last vicar they remember wearing them was Fr Hope.  This Low Mass set was worn at Low Masses last Sunday, and the cope at Evensong.

The fabric of these Spanish vestments is actually a coarse wool, not silk, with woollen embroidery. I have seen examples of this kind of work dating from 17th and 18th centuries in various museums. The hardy character of the material is probably one of the reasons why they have survived in such good condition. Indeed it was often chosen for Spanish vestments of this sort to be sent to the missions in the New World so that they would survive the rigours of voyage and tropical heat. The shade of pink is precisely the sort of beautiful hue one would expect from the period prior to the mid-19th century invention of synthetic dyes – not a screaming, intense pink, but rather a gentle, light, orangey-rose.

Recently uncovered treasures from our sacristy: C17th/18th Spanish rose cope and matching chasuble.

We also returned an original rose frontal designed by Comper to use. It had lain in storage in our strong room for many years. This proposes yet a further shade of pink to us for liturgical use – this time the famous pinky-red silk which Comper developed and used in so many of this designs.

The frontal appears at one stage to have been used for a period as the second best red frontal for lesser feasts. However, it is entered in an early 20th century parish inventory in Roscow Shedden’s hand as a “rose” frontal made in 1910. It would appear, therefore, that the commissioning  of this frontal was part of the extension of the high altar and acquisition of the continental candlesticks and altar requisites in a more baroque style that took place under Fr Mackay

The story is told that Comper had this shade of silk bleached in the Spanish sun until it got to just the right shade of deep red-rose which he wanted. This “Comper Rose” has particularly characterised the hangings behind the High Altar at All Saints’ for many years in festal seasons.

The Comper rose frontal itself is quite delicate and parts have perished, but it strikes me as perfectly useable twice a year on the rose/pink Sundays if we are careful with it. Its historical provenance associated with Sir Ninian, along with the stunning, simple beauty of the silk surely merit its return to regular use.

Our beautiful sanctuary last Sunday, with the 1910 “Comper Rose” frontal restored to use.

The most important point about the use and history of this curious liturgical colour – in all its debated hues and contested shades – is the joy that it signals on our journey of expectation through Advent. As we approach Christmas, and the prospect of the dawning of our salvation, our hearts cry out with joy, asking the Lord to come quickly. As we enter this last stage of Advent, I pray the Lord will give you some measure of that joy and that hope – expressed and signalled by our use of the liturgical colour rose each year.

Fr Peter


We were very pleased to welcome Fr Bruce Batstone, Vicar of Hornsey, to preach for us last Sunday at the 11am High Mass. He explored the notion of patience with us as a crucial part of Advent expectation. You can watch the liturgy and listen to the homily on our YouTube channel here.


Links for Sunday

The links for the livestream and service sheet for this Sunday’s High Mass are at the end of this email.

This Sunday’s evening’s Festival of Nine Lessons will be streamed here, and a service sheet is also available at the end of this email.


Flowers this Sunday

Celia Lamprell arranged the flowers in blessed memory of her father, Richard Vick, whose 13th Year’s Mind falls on December 18th.

We are looking for volunteers to help with the flowers in church and the Courtyard Garden. If you have a particular talent for flower arranging or gardening, or can even help with watering or sweeping the courtyard, please contact Shawn on 07988 287 663 or shawnwilbe@outlook.com.

If you would like to make a donation for flowers or the garden, please contact Shawn.


Prayer list

The sick

Fr. Harry Hodgetts, Elizabeth Lyon, James Shrimpton, Gloria Fleming, David Craig, Martin Berka, James Rodger, Amanda Barrett, Don McWhinney, Greg Loveday, Keith Bevan, Theresa Moses, Cathy Horan

The faithful departed

Tom Day

Anniversaries of death

December 18th – 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

The Friends of All Saints’

December 18th – Fr. Stephen McClatchie, Fr. Peter McGeary, Nigel McNeill, John McWhinney, Colin Menzies
19th – Anne Merritt, Hazel Miller, Thomas Moller, Barry Moore, John Morrell, Fr. Stephen Morris
20th – Inger Mosbery, Christopher Naylor, Fr. Philip Need, Brian Newman, Graham Norman, Elaine Norman
21st – Richard North, Fr. James Nuzzo, Priscilla Oakeshott, Anna and Fr. Peter Oesterby-Joergensen, Ray Oram
22nd – Fr. Barry Orford, Samantha Parker, Malcolm Parr, Bhaven Patel, Alma Pearson, Pat Phillips
23rd – Colin Podmore, Nick and Cecilia Powell, Simon Pusey, Simon Rainey, Carlos Remotti-Breton, Steve Rice
24th – John Rick, Hilary Rodger, Fr. Jim Rosenthal, Mossman Roueche, Greg Round, Mary Sherred


Service times this week

Saturday 17th December – O Sapientia
12.00 noon Requiem Mass
6.30 pm Vigil Mass of Sunday

Sunday 18th December – Advent 4 (O Adonai)
11.00 am Solemn Mass
5.15 pm Low Mass
6.00 pm Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Monday 19th December – O Radix Jesse
12.00 noon Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Tuesday 20th December – O Clavis David
12.00 noon Mass
5.30 pm Confessions
6.30 pm Mass

Wednesday 21st December – O Oriens
12.00 noon Mass
5.30 pm Confessions
6.30 pm Mass

Thursday 22nd December – O Rex Gentium
12.00 noon Mass
5.30 pm Confessions
6.30 pm Mass

Friday 23rd December – O Emmanuel
12.00 noon Mass
5.30 pm Confessions
6.30 pm Mass

Saturday 24th December – Feria (Christmas Eve)
12.00 noon Mass
11.00 pm Midnight Mass

Sunday 25th December – Christmas Day
11.00 am Solemn Mass