Weekly Email – The Baptism of the Lord | All Saints Margaret Street All Saints Margaret Street | Weekly Email – The Baptism of the Lord

Weekly Email – The Baptism of the Lord

Friday 6 January 2023 at 13:30


Dear friends,

We have just finished calculating our online and in-person attendance statistics for 2022 and they make very interesting reading indeed. They show a heartening increase in attendance at All Saints’ over the past year by comparison with last.

A number of articles have appeared in the Telegraph and Church Times over the past few weeks revealing the extensive damage the COVID closure of places of worship has done to church attendance nationally.

On average, it appears that Church of England congregation sizes in 2021 were still down a third on what they were just before COVID. To put it simply, enormous numbers of regular worshippers did not return to church in 2021 after the the pandemic closure of places of worship.

In the light of these statistics, it strikes me that if a church has managed to return to more than two thirds of its pre-COVID attendance figures during 2022, it is doing reasonably well. To have achieved any growth at all on 2018/19’s attendance figures, therefore, is an exceptional achievement.

To give some context, I’ve been asking a number of colleagues in different London churches over the past weeks where they feel their attendance figures are at. It has revealed a wide range of results very dependent on local circumstances.

Even in parishes which have experienced a strong and energetic bounceback after COVID, anecdotal evidence seems to point to many churches in London still being at about 80-90% of the strength they were at in 2019. Many of the churches which stayed closed under COVID for longer, however, have really struggled to recover and are in much more parlous states.

It is clear the recovery from the Pandemic is going to be a long road. However, it is also important not to assume everything is simply going to return to be as it once was – new trends of church attendance and Christian discipleship are emerging, and these are very much to be seen in the statistics at All Saints’ from the last year.

Our Sunday in-person attendance has continued to grow back from the 2020 plummet. It has substantially increased on last year’s, but has not yet quite returned to pre-COVID levels yet. Total Sunday in-person attendance averaged 164.1 in 2022. This is a significant increase on last year’s average of 112.1. When one compares this with our pre-COVID figures, we find attendance for 2022 is at about 83% of the average for 2019, which was 197.

My personal hunch is that this is to do with the frequency with which people come into the centre of London on Sundays rather than the total number of people who are members of our parish (which has remained buoyant). My sense is that many people have returned to worship with us at All Saints’, but perhaps not quite so often each month as they used to.

By contrast with our pre-COVID experience, however, we have sustained throughout 2022 a sizeable online congregation week by week, which we didn’t have before 2020. The numbers for this online congregation have held strong through 2022 and have become a permanent part of our parish life, averaging a Sunday total of 64.8 people joining us live for the whole liturgy.  Although most COVID restrictions were lifted during the course of 2022, this was not matched by any discernible drop-off through the year in the number of people joining us live online.

If you add our in-person and live online figures for 2022, you get a total Sunday average of 228.9, which is substantially higher than the average Sunday attendance for 2019 of 197.

How do we calculate Sunday online figures?
If you go to our YouTube channel you will see that a couple of days after each Sunday, we receive most weeks something in the region of 700-900 “views” for our High Mass.

If you use this uncomplicated measure of “views,” it is clear we have one of the highest online attendances for live worship in the Diocese of London. We regularly outstrip most English Cathedrals. Our online attendance figures are higher than Southwark, Guildford, Chelmsford and St Albans Cathedral and neither St Paul’s Cathedral nor Westminster Abbey offer live-streamed worship on Sundays. This makes us, by my reckoning, the most popular online offer of live sacramental worship in London.

However, those 700-900 people who view our High Mass are a mixed range of people with different interests and levels of commitment. Some will have participated in our Mass live all the way through, others will have watched it in other time-zones after the event. Some may simply be browsing and will just watch a few seconds, or come back and clock up several “views”. Some stay for the whole thing, and others might just want to listen to a particular piece of music, or the sermon.

In order to get a bit deeper into the statistics, we have focussed more over the past few months on something YouTube calls our “concurrent viewers” figures. This is essentially the number of people who watched the whole liturgy live from beginning to end. Our experience is that this is usually 5-7% of the total “views” figure a couple of weeks after the live-stream. So, a Sunday High Mass with a total of 800 views will actually have something in the region of 50-60 people watching all the way through, joining us live for the whole liturgy. Our average Sunday online live attendance according to this measure for 2022 is 64.8.

This is the figure that the Church of England statistics people are interested in gathering and which they now encourage us to record and report each year.

Midweek online figures
Our online worship figures for the daily Mass also make fascinating reading. Throughout 2022, we still maintained a daily tally of around 100-150 “views” for each live-stream of our 12 noon Mass a few days after each broadcast.

The proportion of people who are live participants watching all the way through the live-stream of the daily Mass is higher than on Sundays, at about 10-20%. This means we get most days between 10-15 live attenders of the daily Mass online.

Our offering of online daily eucharistic worship is, I think, unique. No other institution or church offers this, as far as I am aware. In addition, the only other Anglican churches in London to celebrate the Mass twice daily are Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.

We currently have daily communicant figures across the two Masses of between 15-25. When our in-person and live online daily Mass figures are combined, this gives a total of between 25-40 people participating in some way each day.

It strikes me that we have seen sustained over the past year a pattern of church attendance at All Saints’ that is bouncing back strongly and showing growth in some key areas when compared with last year.

My guess is that the levels of attendance we have sustained over the past twelve months place us substantially above the Church of England average. Indeed, by some measurements – especially online worship – we have experienced significant growth that puts us in a stronger position than we were in 2019.

Priorities for the next year will include focussing on whether our in-person attendance can increase further and return to the sort of levels we had before COVID.

Nonetheless, there is much we can take heart from in these statistics. God is calling more and more people to worship with us and find him in our parish community. The growth of our online community of worshippers is a particularly remarkable achievement and is the fruit of a splendid group of volunteers working hard to help more and more people participate in the liturgical tradition so many of us hold dear at All Saints’.

Fr Peter


We are so grateful to Marc Risby of Boxer Systems for the very generous gift of a new NDI controller for our cameras just before Christmas. It is a very generous donation indeed and is already making a big difference to our livestreams. We are also hugely grateful to Huw Pryce, Richard Everton and Paul Weston for all they do to mastermind our online liturgical live-streaming. We owe them so much for what they contribute to our parish life!


Feast of the Epiphany

We look forward to welcoming the Revd James Hill, Vicar of St Benet Fink, Tottenham, tonight as our preacher for the feast of the Epiphany, which will be kept with a High Mass at 6.30 pm. The music will include Mozart’s Missa Brevis in F and Crotch’s Lo! star-led chiefs

The High Mass will include the wonderful Epiphany tradition of singing a text called the Noveritis. This announces the dates of moveable feasts over the coming year after the Gospel of the Mass. It is sung to the same tone as the Exultet.

It originates from a time when calendars were not widespread and people needed to know the date of Easter early in the year so that other dates could be calculated around it.

However, it soon came to be seen as a beautiful way of announcing the mysteries of our salvation which will be observed throughout the next 12 months as we begin a new calendar year of salvation together.

We will also follow the laudable German tradition of blessing chalk on the feast of the Epiphany. This will take place at the 12 noon Low Mass. This praiseworthy practice prompts us to invoke the intercession of the Wise Men by taking the chalk home and inscribing their initials over the door ways of our homes.

For this year, it should read ” 20 + C + M + B + 23,” which asks Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar to bless the house with their prayers for God’s presence through the new year of grace 2023. The blessed chalk will be left at the back of church for parishioners to pick up in the evening if they wish to.

This helpful diagram below shows how it should be done and you can use the following prayers to bless your house as you inscribe the letters:

In addition to celebrations on the feast day itself, our traditional Epiphanytide 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 tonight for the High Mass and on Sunday 8th January for our carol service.



Visiting Preachers 2023

Friday 6th January 2023 – Feast of the Epiphany
High Mass | 6.30 pm
The Revd James Hill,
Vicar, St Benet Fink, Tottenham.

Sunday 29th January 2023 – 4th Sunday after Epiphany
High Mass | 11.00 am
The Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward,
Principal, St Stephen’s House, Oxford.

Thursday 2nd February 2023 – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Blessing of candles, procession and High Mass | 6.30 pm
The Revd Matthew Duckett,
Priest-in-Charge, St Matthias’, Colindale.

Saturday 25th March 2023 – Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord
High Mass | 12 noon
The Revd Christopher Trundle,
Vicar, Our Most Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, and Chair of the House of Clergy, Diocese of London.

Holy Week Preacher 2023: The Bishop of Fulham.
Sunday 2nd April – Sunday 9th April 2023

Thursday 18th May 2023 – Ascension Day
High Mass | 6.30 pm
The Revd Steven Brookes,
Chaplain, The Royal Hospital Chelsea, and Deputy Priest in Ordinary to His Majesty the King.

Thursday 8th June 2023 – Corpus Christi
High Mass, Procession and Benediction | 6.30 pm
The Revd Philip Warner,
Rector, St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge.

Sunday 13th August 2023 – Assumptiontide Procession 
Evensong, Procession of Our Lady and Benediction | 6.00 pm
The Rt Revd Glyn Webster.

Sunday 10th September 2023 – 14th Sunday after Trinity
High Mass | 11.00 am
The Revd Dr Michael Bowie,
Vicar, St Peter’s, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, Australia.

Sunday 1st October 2023 – 17th Sunday after Trinity
High Mass | 11.00 am
The Revd Katy Hacker Hughes,
Priest Pastor, St Marylebone Parish Church.

Wednesday 1st November 2023 – All Saints’ Day
High Mass | 6.30 pm
The Revd Richard Bastable,
Vicar, St Luke’s Uxbridge Road, and St Matthew’s, Kensington Olympia.


We look forward to welcoming Fr James Hill, Vicar of St Benet Fink, Tottenham, as our guest preacher at the 6.30 pm High Mass tonight.


Next Zoom Theology Seminar

Our next Zoom Theology seminar will take place on Tuesday 24th January 2023 at 7.00 pm. 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.


“The Liszts make lists. They make lists most usual and lists most unusual. They make lists in winter, spring, summer and fall. They make lists every day except Sundays, which are listless.” From Sunday’s sermon for the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. Watch the sermon and find out more here or read the text here.


Pope Benedict XVI

As we have been giving thanks to God for the life of Pope Benedict over the past few days and praying for the repose of his soul, it is touching to remember that All Saints’ has an intriguing connection with Pope Benedict XVI.

On one of his last visits to Rome as Archbishop, Rowan Williams borrowed a purple cope from our sacristy to wear at a liturgy at San Gregorio Magno al Celio. Here it is, below, worn in the presence of Pope Benedict, as Archbishop Rowan gave the homily.

How lucky our two churches were to have these great theologians and teachers of the faith presiding over them as their chief pastor at the same time.


Archbishop Rowan Williams at San Gregorio al Celio with Pope Benedict in 2012.


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.


We have welcomed a total of 1,606 people to carol services so far this Christmas. We look forward to completing our celebrations of the Epiphany with our Epiphanytide Carol Service followed by Benediction on Sunday evening (8th Jan) at 6.00 pm.


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.



The Christmas traditions of Rome:
the Bambino of Aracoeli

One of the most interesting Christmas traditions of the city of Rome is the devotion that surrounds a beautiful depiction of the Baby Jesus to be found in the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

A pious Roman legend recorded in the 12th century claims the church was built on the location of an altar that commemorated a prophecy given by the Tiburtine Sibyl to the Emperor Augustus predicting the birth of Christ. The church itself is set at the top of a substantial set of steps. A pious local legend asserts that if you ascend all 124 steps on your knees, you are more likely to win the lottery!

In the church at the summit of the magnificent sweep of stairs you will find a small bambino wrapped in a cloth of gold swaddling mantle and decorated with precious stones and gold and silver ex voto offerings. The image was originally carved in the 15th Century from a piece of olive wood from the Garden of Gethsemane. To this day, hundreds of pilgrims flock each day to pray by the Christ Child.

The extraordinary truth, however, is that the bambino on display in the Aracoeli was stolen in 1994 by thieves and has never been recovered. In its place, the friars of that church had a replica made which has been a focus of devotion ever since.

The theft caused such a sensation, and was seen as such a grievous offence against the honour code of the criminal world that all the cat burglars serving time in the Regina Coeli Prison broke the silence of omertà and signed a petition encouraging their “colleagues” on the outside to return the bambino, or provide information leading to its recovery!

However, a rival story offers hope that the original statue has not been lost. It is said that Cardinal Scipione Borghese actually removed the bambino in the 18th Century to prevent it being desecrated by Jacobins and had it replaced with a copy. The original was unknowingly given to the church of San Giovanni, Cori, Lazio for safe keeping. If this version of the story is to be believed, then the baby stolen in 1994 was actually a fake and the original one still exists in Cori!

1994 is not the first time the precious bambino was stolen. During the French Revolution, the statue was seized by French troops occupying Rome, and was ransomed back by a nobleman called Serafin Petraca to prevent it being burned!

[The present day image of the Bambino of Aracoeli on the left with letters sent by children at its feet; on the right, an image of the Bambino before the 1994 theft, with a famous Sun of Justice brooch, made by Milanese jeweller Carlo Sartore, which was stolen in the 19th Century.]

The Aracoeli Bambino has for centuries been associated with numerous miracles, especially those associated with death beds and the gravely ill.

In the 19th Century this became closely associated with the princely Torlonia family. After a member of the family was healed by the Bambino being brought to a sick bed, Prince Alessandro Torlonia spent the rest of his life taking the Bambino around Rome in a carriage provided by Leo XIII on Thursday nights to any house where someone was lying sick and in danger of death. Even after his death, until the early 20th Century, his carriage continued to be used to take the Bambino to those in need of healing.

Whilst visiting Rome, Charles Dickens happened to see the spectacle of the Aracoeli carriage visiting the house of a sick person. He is supposed to have remarked wryly that if the poor man wasn’t dead already, the shock of this cavalcade of flummery arriving on his door step would certainly be enough to see him into his grave!

[Alessandro Torlonia’s carriage, used to take the Aracoeli Bambino around Rome to the sick and dying.]

A charming new tradition revolves around children sending the baby Jesus letters in Rome, especially at Christmas. The letters are left by the shrine unopened, and then every few weeks, when a new batch comes in, the old ones are burned with incense, as a sign of the children’s petitions and prayers rising to heaven. The Italian Post office guarantees that any letter addressed to, “Il Bambino, Roma” will get to the Aracoeli Basilica.

A particularly moving Roman tradition for the Octave of Christmas involves the veiling of bambinos on the feast of the Holy Innocents. This evokes the way in which Mary and Joseph had to spirit the Baby Jesus away to a place of hiding, to keep him from death at Herod’s hands.

[The High Altar of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini, Rome, with the Bambino over the tabernacle veiled for the feast of the Holy Innocents, so Herod’s men can’t find him.]

All these traditions and stories point to the immense joy and love the Christmas story prompts and to the power that depictions of the crib scene have to communicate the truth of the Incarnation. Let us pray that the blessings of the Christ Child may fill every home and every heart, and be the strength and consolation of the sick and those in particular need.


Links for Sunday

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

This Sunday’s evening’s Epiphany Carol Service will be streamed here, and a service booklet is also available at the end of this email.


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, Cathy Horan, Kevin Coughlan, Tony Hawkins

The faithful departed

Sister Dorothea CSC, Pope Benedict XVI

Anniversaries of death

January 8th – Kay Leahy, Christine Ellis
9th – Sylvia Scott
10th – Vera Freeth, Hermia Mills, Ann Ind, Jack Finnie, Katherine Humphries, Michael Fleming, Anthea Candlin,  Richard Candlin, Frank Hawkins Pr.
11th – Eric Bailey Pr., Sophia Wickenden, Beryl Peryer
12th – Charles Backus
13th – Dorothea Graham, Vivian Curson, George Currie
14th – Alfred Stephens, Ethel Hewelson, Hugh Shepheard, Lyn Jones, Mavis Mercer

The Friends of All Saints’

January 8th – Christopher Davies, Robert Davies, Francis Davis, Jack de Gruiter, Laura Denton, Suzanna Eaton, Linda Edwards
9th – Pamela Edwards, John Eldridge, Terrence Ellsworth, Sue Enoch, Carolyn Farrar, Sue Feakin
10th – Adrian Felaar, Julia Fielden, Janice Fielden, Nigel Fisher, Gloria Fleming, Stuart Fletcher
11th – Christopher Forman, Anthony Fox, Charlotte Gauthier, Margaret Goddard, Paul Golding, John Goldsmith
12th – Genevieve Gomi, Fr. Thomas Greene, Fr. Michael Gudgeon, Sheelagh Gudgeon, Ginger and Del Hall, Monica Joan Hall
13th – Roger Hancock, Jill Hargreaves, Christopher Harrison, Patrick Hartley, Canon Jeremy Haselock, Eoghan Healy, Fr. David Hobden
14th – Canon Graham Holcombe, James and Gwendoline Holdcroft, Fr. Andrew Hollins, Edwin Holmes, Bp. David Hope


Service times this week

Saturday 7th January – Feria
12.00 noon Mass
6.30 pm Vigil Mass of Sunday

Sunday 8th January – The Baptism of the Lord
11.00 am Solemn Mass
5.15 pm Low Mass
6.00 pm Epiphany Carol Service and Benediction

Monday 9th January – Feria
12.00 noon Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Tuesday 10th January – Feria
12.00 noon Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Wednesday 11th January – Feria
12.00 noon Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Thursday 12th January – St. Aelred of Rivaulx
12.00 noon Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Friday 13th January – St. Hilary
12.00 noon Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Saturday 14th January – Feria
11.30 am Rosary
12.00 noon Mass of Our Lady of Walsingham
6.30 pm Vigil Mass of Sunday

Sunday 15th January – Epiphany 2
11.00 am Solemn Mass
5.15 pm Mass
6.00 Evensong and Benediction