25 June 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (28) 25 June 2023

Part of the Edward Burne-Jones East Window in Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Third Sunday after Trinity (25 June 2023). Yesterday, on the Feast of the Birthday of Saint John the Baptist (24 June 2023), I marked 22 years since I was ordained priest on 24 June 2001, and today is the anniversary of the day I was ordained deacon 23 years ago (25 June 2000).

Later this morning, I hope to be in Saint George’s Church, Wolverton, as the Revd Francesca Vernon presides at the Eucharist for the first time following her ordination as priest yesterday. It is good to be reminded at another priest’s celebration of my own life-long commitments at ordination.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, was described by John Betjeman as the ‘Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London:

At the annual reunion of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) last year, we were invited to a celebration of the Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, followed by lunch and a short presentations by USPG staff.

Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, is right at the heart of London. The former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, described Holy Trinity Church in Chelsea as the ‘Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’, referring to treasures and glass by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and many others.

Holy Trinity Sloane Square is in the Catholic tradition in the Church of England, and says on its website and materials ‘The world will be saved by beauty’, a quotation from The Fool by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Holy Trinity is one of the few churches in these islands that can be regarded as what the Germans describe as a gesamtkunstwerk – a total work of art. Behind the magnificent red brick and stone fa├žade, reminiscent of collegiate architecture of the late 16th and early 17th century, is truly a jewel-box of the best stained glass, sculpture and highly wrought metalwork created by many of the finest artists and craftsmen of the late 19th century.

The first church on the site was a Gothic building from 1828-1830, designed by James Savage and built in brick with stone dressings. The west front, towards the street, had an entrance flanked by octagonal turrets topped with spires.

It was originally intended as chapel of ease to the new parish church of Saint Luke, but was given its own parish, sometimes known as Upper Chelsea, in 1831. It could seat 1,450 in 1838 and 1,600 in 1881.

George Henry Cadogan (1840-1915), 5th Earl Cadogan, and his wife, the former Lady Beatrix Craven, decided to replace the earlier church building which was part of their London estate. The old church was closed and demolished in 1888, and a temporary iron church with seating for 800 was provided in Symons Street while the new church was built.

The Cadogans chose John Dando Sedding (1838-1891) as the architect. He was one of the prime movers in the Arts and Crafts Movement, which was inspired at an early stage by AWN Pugin and John Ruskin.

At the Liverpool Art Congress in 1888, in a roll-call of the great architects and designers of his day, Sedding declared, ‘We should have had no Morris, no Burges, no Shaw, no Webb, no Bodley, no Rossetti, no Crane, but for Pugin.’

While he was still in his teens, Sedding was influenced by Ruskin and his Stones of Venice (1853). He trained as an architect in the offices of GE Street (1824-1881), the prolific and influential church architect. Other key figures in the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris, Philip Webb and Norman Shaw, had also trained in Street’s offices.

Holy Trinity Church was built in 1888-1890 on the south-east side of Sloane Street and was paid for by Lord Cadogan.

Sedding’s church was not the longest church in London, but it was the widest, exceeding Saint Paul’s Cathedral by 23 cm (9 inches). The internal fittings were the work of leading sculptors and designers of the day, including FW Pomeroy, HH Armstead, Onslow Ford and Hamo Thornycroft. Sedding died in 1891, and his memorial is on the north wall in the Lady Chapel.

Sedding died two years after Lady Cadogan laid the foundation stone of the church. His chief assistant, Henry Wilson (1864-1934), took charge of the project to complete the interior decoration of the church to Sedding’s original design.

The main structure is as Sedding designed it, but the street railings and much of the interior fittings and decoration were inspired or designed by Wilson, including the font, the Lady Chapel, the Byzantine-inspired metal screen and the bronze angels that flank the entrance to the Memorial Chapel. However, Sedding’s original conception was never fully completed.

The first thing that impresses visitors is the wealth of stained glass, particularly the great Pre-Raphaelite East Window by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and William Morris (1834-1896), the largest window ever made by William Morris & Company.

Burne-Jones first contemplated a window with ‘thousands of bright little figures.’ This idea became 48 Prophets, Apostles and Saints in three columns of four rows that make up the bottom half of the window.

There are impressive windows in the north and south aisles, three by Sir William Blake Richmond (1842-1921) and two by Christopher Whall (1849-1924), and by James Powell and Sons in the Memorial Chapel.

The large west window, which Morris and Burne-Jones planned to complete before moving onto the east window, but this never happened. Its plain glass was destroyed during World War II, although all the other windows survived or were repaired.

The range of sculptures includes FW Pomeroy’s bronze angels and sculptured reliefs. There are works of other major sculptors too, including Onslow Ford, Frank Boucher, HH Armstead, Harry Bates and John Tweed, who carved the marble reredos in 1901.

A wealth of different marbles is employed, especially on the pulpit and in the Lady Chapel, while the bowl of the Font is made of one piece of Mexican Onyx.

The processional cross is a reproduction of the 12th century Celtic Cross of Cong.

The Sedding Altar Frontal, originally intended for use in Advent and Lent, was designed by Sedding and embroidered by his wife Rose.

Sedding believed that nature was the source of all true art. He always sought to find his inspiration in hedgerows and cottage gardens, especially those in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. He also had a deep love of mediaeval embroidery, a passion he shared with his wife.

The emblems in the panel of the frontal alternate between symbols of Christ’s passion, and human images of holy devotion: Prophets and Saints.

Above the display case with the frontal are busts of William Morris and John Ruskin.

The churchmanship when the new church opened might be described as eclectically high, as the liturgy seems to have been drawn from a number of sources and traditions.

The church soon attracted the attention of Bohemian artists and poets some of whom clustered loosely round Oscar Wilde, who was arrested nearby in the Cadogan Hotel on Sloane Street. Many notable figures have been parishioners, including the Liberal politicians WE Gladstone and Sir Charles Dilke. Dilke lived on Sloane Street; his promising political career was destroyed by a well-publicised divorce case in the 1880s.

The interior was whitened by the third architect of Holy Trinity, FC Eden, in the 1920s, lightening the character and feel of the building considerably. The south chapel was remodelled to become the Memorial Chapel with Eden’s crucifix painted by Egerton Cooper, and the panelling inscribed with the names of parishioners who died in World War I. The War Memorial is in Sloane Square and on Remembrance Sunday clergy, choir and congregation process from the church to Sloane Square.

The church was very popular in the 1920s with a very extensive clergy team under the rector, the Revd Christopher Cheshire (1924-1945). For a time, the liturgist and hymn writer Percy Dearmer, who collaborated closely with Ralph Vaughan Williams, was associated the church.

During World War II, the church was hit by several incendiary bombs, one at least bursting in the nave, causing considerable damage.

It took several decades of work to carry out post-war repairs and the church was closed except for Sunday matins. There was pressure to demolish rather than restore the building, and it was saved only by a vigorous campaign mounted by the Victorian Society and Sir John Betjeman who wrote in verse:

Bishop, archdeacon, rector, wardens, mayor
Guardians of Chelsea’s noblest house of prayer.
You your church’s vastness deplore
‘Should we not sell and give it to the poor?’
Recall, despite your practical suggestion
Which the disciple was who asked that question.

Betjeman said the central North Wall window by Sir William Blake-Richmond, with the theme of Youth and its sacrifice and joys, was ‘symbolising the hope that this great city may rise to the value of beauty, setting aside money and society as chief aims of life.’ Needless to say, Betjeman’s ‘noblest house of prayer’ was saved.

After a long period of less symbolic worship, notably when the Revd Alfred Basil Carver was Rector (1945-1980) and the shorter incumbencies of the Revd Phillip Roberts (1980-1987) and the Revd Keith Yates (1987–1997), the church has returned to a liberal Catholic style of worship and liturgy.

The church now has a thriving congregation built when Bishop Michael Eric Marshall, former Bishop of Woolwich, was Rector (1997-2007). The connection with the world of the fine arts continued under the Revd Rob Gillion was Rector (2008-2014). He later became Bishop of Riverina in western New South Wales.

Holy Trinity has enjoyed a reputation for church music since its early days. John Sedding, also an organist, provided an unusually large chamber for the noted four-manual Walker organ. Notable organists have included Edwin Lemare (1892-1895), Sir Walter Alcock (1895-1902), John Ireland (sub organist, 1896-1904), and HL Balfour (1902-1942).

The organ was badly damaged in World War II, but was repaired in 1947 and partially rebuilt in 1967. Harrison & Harrison completed a rebuild in 2012, using the surviving Walker pipework and matching new material. The organ has 71 speaking stops and about 4,200 pipes, and remains one of the principal organs in London.

Today, the church sees itself as a ‘Shrine and Sanctuary’ for Sloane Square, and, for example, also provides chaplaincies to neighbouring places such as Harrods and the Royal Court Theatre. The parish of Saint Saviour, Upper Chelsea, was added to Holy Trinity in 2011.

Canon Nicholas Wheeler is the Rector of Holy Trinity and Saint Saviour. He returned to London from Brazil where he worked with USPG in the Parish of Christ the King in Rio de Janeiro and as a canon of the Cathedral of the Redeemer. His work in Cidade de Deus, one of the most disadvantaged communities in Rio, inspired the 2002 film, City of God. Before going to Brazil with USPG, he spent 21 years in the Diocese of London, where his posts included Team Rector at Old Saint Pancras.

The Sung Eucharist is celebrated in Holy Trinity Church every Sunday at 11 a.m.

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, facing east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Matthew 10: 24-39 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 24 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

The great East Window by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris is the largest window ever made by William Morris & Company (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Freeing people from the Traps of Human Trafficking.’ This theme is introduced this morning:

‘The Church in North India’s diocese of Durgapur launched its Anti-Human Trafficking Programme with support in 2011. The programme’s main objective is to spread awareness about human trafficking and show local people how they can protect themselves and others from getting trapped.

‘The programme conducts awareness campaigns and rescue missions and built a network with local government and law officials. It organises prevention workshops and camps where experts in trafficking-related issues explain the various ways human traffickers work and the reasons victims get pulled in. One of the main reasons is poverty; other factors include corruption, civil unrest, and a lack of access to education or jobs.

‘The programme also has a focus on gender equality. It highlights child marriage, which can often lead to the trafficking of girls and young women, and it collaborates with women’s self-help groups to make people aware of the various livelihood programmes and schemes offered by the government.’

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 June 2023, the Third Sunday after Trinity) invites us to pray:

Heavenly Father,
we pray for all people who have been tricked or coerced into slavery;
suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
We know that nothing is hidden from You,
and we cry out to You for justice, freedom and mercy.

The Sedding Altar Frontal and busts of William Morris and John Ruskin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)


Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Holy Trinity sees itself as a ‘Shrine and Sanctuary’ for Sloane Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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