01 October 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (126) 1 October 2023

Saint Michael’s Church, Chester Square, London, was built in 1844 while the rest of Chester Square was being built (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVII, 1 October 2023).

Two of us are in York for a few days, and I hope to be present at the Choral Eucharist in York Minister later this morning. But, before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection.

The Church celebrated Saint Michael and All Angels on Friday (29 September). So my reflections each morning during Michaelmas last week and this week are taking this format:

1, A reflection on a church named after Saint Michael or his depiction in Church Art;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Michael’s Church, Chester Square … the stained glass window in the chancel is blocked from view by the projector screen (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint Michael’s Church, Chester Square, London:

Last weekend, after taking part in the USPG annual reunion in Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, I also visited Saint Michael’s Church, a prominent evangelical church on Chester Square in the Belgravia district of West London.

Chester Square is an elongated residential garden square. It was developed by the Grosvenor family, as were the nearby Belgrave and Eaton Square. The square is named after Chester, the city nearest the Grosvenor ancestral home of Eaton Hall.

Notable residents of Chester Square have included: Roman Abramovich, Russian oligarch and former owner of Chelsea FC; Matthew Arnold, poet and critic; Tony Curtis, actor; Julie Andrews, actor; King George II of Greece; Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull; Nigella Lawson, celebrity chef; Yehudi Menuhin, violinist and conductor; and Margaret Thatcher.

Saint Michael’s Church was built in 1844 while the rest of Chester Square was being built, and it was consecrated two years later. The church is in the late Decorated Gothic style, with an exterior of Kentish Ragstone. The architect was Thomas Cundy the younger (1790-1867), son of another architect of the same name.

Cundy succeeded his father as surveyor of the Grosvenor Estate in London, and held that position during the main phase of the development of Belgravia and Pimlico by Thomas Cubitt.

In later years, Cundy worked mostly on building churches on the west side of London, including Holy Trinity Paddington, Saint Paul’s, Knightsbridge, and Saint Barnabas’s, Saint Michael’s, Saint Saviour’s and Saint Gabriel’s in Pimlico.

Curdy’s plans for Saint Michael’s, Chester Square, were constricted by the site, and the short nave and shallow chancel are the result. The tower had to be placed to the north of the north aisle, an unusual place that made it look out of proportion to the rest of the building until the east transepts were added to the north and south of the chancel in 1874.

The Ecclesiologist magazine criticised the church at its opening, saying it was ‘an attempt – but happily a most unsuccessful one – to find a Protestant development of the Christian styles.’

Two Pre-Raphaelite windows on the south side are by Morris & Co and date from 1882 (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Two Pre-Raphaelite windows on the south side are by Morris & Co and date from 1882; the West Window is by Hugh Easton (1906-1965), who also created the ‘Te Deum’ West Window in Holy Trinity Church, Coventry. The stained glass window in the chancel is blocked from view by the projector screen.

Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900), the composer of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, was the organist at the church in the early 1860s.

The War Memorial Chapel at the north-east end of the church was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and was completed in 1920. Wooden panels on the wall of the chapel list the names of 86 parishioners killed in World War I.

Canon Wallace Harold Elliott (1884-1957), known for his radio broadcasts as ‘the Radio Chaplain,’ was the Vicar of Saint Michael’s from 1930 to 1941. He began a series of broadcast sermons from the church in 1931, and they lasted for the next eight years. Congregations of up to 500 would attend the broadcast Thursday evening services, with another 2,000 attending on the following Sunday.

An appeal for a fictitious poverty stricken child nicknamed ‘Sally in our Alley’ attracted 212,000 gifts from listeners and a prayer appeal in 1936 resulted in 5.5 million signed prayer cards.

Margaret and Denis Thatcher attended Saint Michael’s briefly while they were living in Chester Square but they were said to have found it too ‘happy clappy’ and went instead to the chapel of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

The Revd Rupert Charkham has been the Vicar of Saint Michael’s since 2020. Sunday services are at 9 am, 11 am and 6 pm.

The hidden East Window shows Saint Michael in triumph beneath Christ the King (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Matthew 21: 23-32 (NRSVA):

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24 Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ 27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29 He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.’

The West Window is by Hugh Easton (1906-1965), who also created the Te Deum West Window in Holy Trinity Church, Coventry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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 ‘Supporting Justice for Women in Zambia.’ This theme was introduced today:

USPG has been supporting the Church in Zambia in combating gender-based violence since 2012. A recent gender justice programme had objectives to help reduce gender-based violence, to get more people to report it when it happens and to mobilise men and young people to be advocates for gender justice.

The church runs a range of educational and awareness-raising activities it also provided counselling services for both female and male survivors of gender-based violence with more than 3,000 people benefiting from this service. The church also provided 600 adolescent girls with basic financial and health education. Priests encouraged the lay leaders in their churches to keep talking to their congregations about the evils of gender injustice.

The role of men within the Church in promoting gender justice is important and they have organised structures that can be channels for transformation. These include the Anglican Men’s Union, Boys Brigade and male clergy networks. These groups can commit themselves to promoting gender equality within the Church by enhancing checks and balances and removing gender disparities.

The Zambian Church continues to see success with its approach. Communities have seen an improvement in both the response to and prevention of gender-based violence. Survivors now have increased assets and many are self-reliant. The programme has since been replicated in other communities.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (1 October 2023, Trinity XVII) invites us to reflect on these words:

‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25: 40).

Saint Michael (right) and Saint Gabriel depicted in a window in the tower (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Collect:

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face;
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.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Lord, we pray that your grace
may always precede and follow us,
and make us continually to be given to all good works;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The High Altar and reredos are difficult to discern behind the drums, guitars and projector screen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

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

The tower at the north of the north aisle looks out of proportion to the rest of the building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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