Weekly Email – Holy Family Sunday
I wish you all a very happy and blessed feast of the Nativity of Our Lord! What a holy whirlwind last weekend was – and how much we owe to all those who made our parish’s liturgical offering possible!
As I reflect on the past few days I am filled with an immense sense of gratitude for all that God has done in our midst. I am particularly grateful to all those whose dedication, skill, love and care made the many Masses over Christmas Eve and Day possible.
The big picture is that, with God’s help, we have seen a marked increase in the number of people attending nearly every single Christmas liturgy. In particular, we have managed to double our Christmas Eve attendance by comparison with last year – largely by the introduction of a number of extra services at different times than usual. You can read about this increase in our Christmas attendance in a more detailed article below.
I want to thank our PCC for the courageous and insightful way in which, several months ago, they backed plans to experiment with the liturgical schedule we offer each Christmas. It has been a resounding success far beyond what I imagined would have been possible. I am grateful to our Parish Council for the imagination and energy they showed in encouraging the ideas we came up with earlier on this year for extra services this Christmas.
A huge thank you should go to our heroic choir and servers! They have worked tirelessly to bring off a huge number of liturgies faultlessly. The music has been exceptional over the past week, and we owe Stevie Farr, our Director of Music, so much for the unfailingly professional way in which he has led the music making in our parish at the very highest level of excellence. A particular word of thanks should also go to Hamish Wagstaff, our organ scholar, who has worked with Stakhanovite energy over the past few weeks, covering for Jeremiah Stephenson, who is taking a period of leave. Our Christmas music would not have been possible without Hamish, and we are hugely grateful to him. The choir were simply wonderful throughout all our Christmas liturgies, and I want to thank them for their cheerful stamina through such a punishing musical marathon!
Without our servers, we would have been lost! They have rallied together with a wonderful esprit de corps over the past week and given so selflessly of their time at what is, I know, a very busy time for everyone. In addition to several carol services earlier in the month, they served 4 High Masses in the space of 24 hours last weekend, and did so much to prepare and beautify our church. I have been so impressed by the way in which our serving team, now led by a triumvirate of three “coordinators” has responded so calmly, expertly, and knowledgeably to the liturgical challenges of the past week. I am hugely grateful to Mark Fleming, Shawn Welby-Cooke and Quentin Williams for the leadership they give to our servers. I also want to say a special word of thanks to Ian Marsh, who, back to back, MC-ed two High Masses in a run so well on Sunday – no mean feat, I would say!!
We have served more mince pies and mulled wine at various services than any year yet by my reckoning!!! I am so thankful to all those who directed, organised and helped with refreshments and welcome over the festive season. By my calculations, we have welcomed 1,541 people through our doors for carol services. I am so proud of the way in which we offered hospitality to them all, and I am particularly grateful to Janet Drake, Kate Hodgetts, and Chris Swift for the incredible work they have put into organising it all.
The church looks simply ravishing in its Christmas splendour. I want to thank Shawn Welby-Cooke for the wonderful flowers he has arranged in front of our Lady of Margaret Street. They are amazing. We also owe John Forde a huge debt of thanks for the hours and hours he has put into preparing the altar and sanctuary. Last Sunday he changed all the East Wall hangings, frontals, and altar candles in a matter of hours – and all with such love and care for the place of God’s presence. Thank you, John, from all of us!
I also want to thank all those who helped with the putting up of the Christmas crib. It’s a very complicated affair – without Huw Pryce’s ingenuity directing the operation so expertly it would still be a heap of planks and screws on the floor now! We are also grateful to Huw for all he has done to coordinate the live-streaming of our liturgies over Christmas.
Last, but certainly by no means least, I would like personally to thank my clergy colleagues, Fr Alan and Fr Julian, for all their hard work over Christmas. Their homilies have been wonderful, and we have all appreciated the beautifully prayerful way in which they have presided over the many liturgies of the past few days. I am so grateful to them for their kindness, generosity, humour, and willing support.
As we all give ourselves some well earned rest and take time to enjoy the Christmas break, I rejoice that our church family is celebrating Christ’s birth with such joy and confidence. I pray the Christ Child’s presence will be felt in all our homes, and I give thanks that we have known him present with us so vividly and so clearly through the liturgy of the Church over the past few days.
With my very best wishes and prayers for you over this festive season,
Changes to liturgical schedule this week
Please note with care a number of changes to our schedule of Masses this week.
There will be no 5.15 pm Mass or Evensong on Sunday 31st January as it is New Year’s Eve.
Monday 1st January will only have one Mass at 12 noon (i.e. the evening Mass is cancelled) because it is a Bank Holiday.
Frances O’Neil’s funeral, with a High Mass of Requiem, 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 note that the 12 noon Mass on 4th Jan will be cancelled because of the funeral.
Epiphany Carol Service
Next Sunday 7th January will be kept as the feast of the Epiphany. In place of Evensong, we will celebrate our Epiphany Carol Service at 6.00 pm. This is a wonderful opportunity to continue our celebration of the Mystery of the Incarnation, as the Christ Child is revealed to the nations, and receives the homage of the Wise Men. The liturgy finishes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Parish Visit to the British Library:
“Fantasy – Realms of Imagination”
On Tuesday 23rd January 2024 there will be a parish trip to The British Library to see an impressive new exhibition entitled, “Fantasy – Realms of Imagination.” One of the curators of this exhibition is our own parishioner Rachel Foss.
I am so pleased and grateful to Rachel that she has offered to give us a personal introduction and tour of the exhibit. The show itself explores the role that fantasy and fable play in our corporate fictive imagination. It delves into the realm of fairy tales and folk story, epics and quest narratives, portals to other worlds, and use of the weird, startling and uncanny in literature.
We will meet at the British Library at 6.00 pm on Tuesday 23rd January 2024. Our visit to the exhibition will be followed by supper at the Pizza Express opposite the British Library on the Euston Road at 8.00 pm. The cost of the exhibition is £15, and supper is £30 (including drinks). Please email the parish office to book a place.
Fr Rowlands: Confession times
Fr Graeme Rowlands will be available at All Saints’ to hear confessions at the following times over the next month or so: Wed 3rd Jan – 5.30 pm; Wed 10th Jan – 11.00 am; Wed 17th Jan – 5.30 pm; Mon 22nd Jan – 5.30 pm; Tues 30th Jan – 5.30 pm; Tues 13th Feb – 5.30 pm.
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 on Tuesday 13th February 2024 at 7.30 pm. 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.
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.
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.
Christmas Attendance 2023
It has been a cause of great joy to many of us to see the Christmas liturgies we have offered over the past week so well attended. Many people have remarked how there have seemed to be significantly more people present at most of our Christmas services.
In statistical terms, the big picture is that we have managed to double our in person Christmas Eve attendance (i.e. Vigil and Midnight Mass) by comparison with last year – to the degree that our total Christmas figures now significantly exceed pre-COVID levels of attendance.
This increase in attendance is the result of a careful plan of experimentation which our PCC agreed several months ago, and a huge amount of effort on the part of so many volunteers in putting it into action.
The key realisation our PCC discussed in early 2023 was that some of the timings of our Christmas liturgies meant it was difficult for people to get to them once the public transport system starts to run down in the early evening of 24th December (those who do not live in London or the UK may not know that there are no buses, trains or tube services at all on Christmas Day).
We also admitted we did less than we could to attract local people, visiting tourists, and those who, for various reasons, found themselves in the West End. We recognised that we tended to rely on attendance by “regular” parishioners at Christmas, failed to attract people beyond that narrow sphere, and simply assumed Christmas numbers would always be low because we are situated in the middle of town.
The plan we put in place involved increasing the number of services we offer at times that were more convenient for people to get to. We also decided to build on success we had had by using online advertising through social media as a way of reaching out to local people – along with redoubling our efforts at “traditional” methods of advertising such as posters and flyers. Both these things have involved significant extra expenditure but have reaped very rich rewards.
This year, we introduced an extra High Mass at 6.00 pm on Christmas Eve and a Low Mass of the Dawn at 9.00 am on Christmas Day. The 6.00 pm Vigil Mass was attended by 112 people, many of whom were clearly visitors, tourists, and newcomers. The great blessing we experienced was that this in no way harmed attendance at the Midnight Mass at 11.00 pm, which was attended by 104 people (107 attended Midnight Mass in 2022, so this year’s figure was easily in the same realm of what it has been in recent years with no great diminution).
Attendance at all Christmas morning liturgies also increased (87 in 2022; 102 in 2023). The new Low Mass at 9am attracted a small handful of people (5) who were not regular parishioners and came from the local area, but wanted to come to a short said service before getting back to join their families to prepare Christmas lunch.
The significant resources we put into advertising of various sorts seems also to have had a significant effect on our carol service attendances, which have been noticeably fuller this year. The Advent Carol Service had around 50 more at it than last year (2022: 106; 2023: 151), and the parish’s Nine Lessons and Carols increased by a similar number too (2022: 150; 2023: 210).
The clear trajectory of the past two to three years has been a gradual and sustained recovery in Christmas attendance from the dip produced by COVID. It is now evident, however, that we are managing to exceed pre-COVID levels of attendance.
It strikes me certain All Saints’ Christmas “myths,” which we have told ourselves over the years, need to be challenged and dispelled: notions like “nobody lives near us in the centre of town to come to Christmas services”; or assuming “everyone at All Saints’ goes away for Christmas”; or acquiescing in the idea that public transport issues mean we will always have low numbers over Christmas. The evidence of this year is that none of these assumptions is correct.
I am convinced if we open our hearts imaginatively to how God is prompting us to experiment and re-think what we offer, he will reward our efforts. If we respond with generosity of heart and energy, as so many volunteers in our parish have, we will be able to help more and more people to experience the presence of the living God through our liturgies and the welcome we offer.
I want to offer a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed in any way to such a splendid and encouraging keeping of Christmas – with God’s help and inspiration so much is possible as we root our life together in the Word made flesh!
Attendance last Sunday
The flowers before Our Lady this week are given in memory of Frances O’Neil, whose funeral is on Thursday.
The Friends of All Saints’ Margaret Street:
December 31st – Pat Philips, Colin Podmore, Nick and Cecilia Powell, Simon Pusey, Simon Rainey, Gordon Reid
1st – Carlos Remotti-Breton, Dr Steve Rice, John Rick, Fr. Peter Roberts, Hilary Rodger, Mossman Roueche
2nd – Greg Round, Fr Jim Rosenthal, Jamie Rundle, Mary Sherred, James Shrimpton, William Shufflebotham
3rd – Gabriel Simerson, Brad Singer, Ingrid Slaughter, Naomi Slippe, Vaughan Snook, Harvey Solomon-Brady
4th – Gwynedd Sooke, Richard and Louise Stallwood, Iain Stewart, Jason Stewart, Ian and Veronica Summers, Colin Symes, Ann Tacchi
5th – Sebastian Taite-Ellis, Michael Taylor, Kitty Thompson, Charles Thomson, Dr James Thomson, Jeremy Thorp, Dr Christine Vaughn Lillie
6th – Sam Walsh, Christopher Walsh, Christopher Waterhouse, Philip Wayne, Fr Benjamin Weitzmann, Mats Wendt, Michael Westcott, Dr Roger White
Javier Barbetta, Martin Berka, David Craig, Jason Dunlop, Frances Gayler, Gill Hargreaves, Fr. Harry Hodgetts, Michael Lamprell, Elizabeth Lyon, Ian Lyon, Lionel and Lynn Persey, James Roger, Bruce Ross-Smith, Doreen and Melvin Warren, Jean, Paul Sturgul.
The faithful departed:
Gary Hargreaves, Alma Lockley, Frances O’Neil, Adam Persey, Deidre Laing.
Those whose anniversaries of death fall at this time:
January 1st – Ethel de Rougement, Trevor Burnett-Brown, Nicholas Luff
2nd – Hugh Glaisyer Pr
3rd – Berdmore Compton Pr (second vicar of All Saints), Eileen Prior
4th – Henry Howell, John Wylde Pr, Joan Banyard, John Auton
5th – Ernest Waggett, Timothy Shaw, Emily Finnis, Tom Ryder Pr, Mary Park, Constance Tweed
6th – Robert Routledge, Winifred Nash, Florence Mason, Richard Mosbery
7th – Fay Ireland, Jill Horley, Anthony Bullock
Service times this week
Saturday 30th December – Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas
12.00 pm Mass
Sunday 31st December – Feast of the Holy Family
11.00 am High Mass
Monday 1st January – Mary Mother of God
12.00 pm Mass
Tuesday 2nd January – Ss. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass
Wednesday 3rd January – The Most Holy Name of Jesus
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass
Thursday 4th January – Feria
10.30 am High Mass of Requiem for Frances O’Neil
6.30 pm Mass
Friday 5th January – Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass
Saturday 6th January – Feria
12 noon Mass
6.30 pm Vigil Mass of Sunday
Sunday 7th January – Epiphany of the Lord
11.00 am High Mass
5.15 pm Low Mass
6.00 pm Epiphany Carol Service & Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament