02 November 2023
Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (152) 2 November 2023,
All Souls’ Day
We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Last Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XXI, 29 October 2023). The Church Calendar (2 November 2023) remembers All Souls’ Day, which is a Lesser Festival in the calendar of the Church of England.
Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.
Throughout this week, with the exceptions of All Saints’ Day (yesterday 1 November) and All Souls’ Day (today 2 November), my reflections each morning this week are following this pattern:
1, A reflection on a church or cathedral in Southwark;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
All Souls’ Church, Langham Place, London:
All Souls’ Day is observed in many parts of the Western Church today [2 November]. It is particularly associated with the Roman Catholic Church, and while it does not feature in the calendar of the Church of Ireland, it is marked in the calendar of the Church of England which has restored its place in Common Worship as the ‘Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day)’ (Common Worship, p 15).
A few weeks ago, I visited All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, and All Souls’ Church, Langham Place, London. All Souls’ Day follows the commemoration of All Saints’ Day on 1 November, and these two churches are five minutes apart (450 metres) in walking distance, but as far apart theologically as any two Anglican churches could be.
I find it interesting that Al Souls is the name of one of the leading evangelical churches in London, All Souls’ Church, Langham Place. Yet the history of the church on the parish website gives no explanation for the choice of the name of All Souls’ Church.
All Souls’ Church is in the West End, across the street from Broadcasting House and has often been used by the BBC for broadcasting, as well as for occasional organ recitals.
All Souls is the only surviving church in London built by the Regency architect John Nash (1752-1835). This neo-classical church was built in part in a celebration of thanks for Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It was built in 1822-1824, and was part of John Nash’s grand vision for developing Regent Street. There is a bust of Nash in the portico.
Nash had the support of the Prince Regent for a grand redevelopment scheme in central London, involving a broad route from Regents Park to Carlton House in The Mall. The scheme, which included plans for parks, villas, crescents, a canal, and terraced houses for the nobility, included All Souls’ Church.
Nash’s vision involved buying up over 700 shops and houses in Soho and creating a broad avenue to act as a boundary between the ‘narrow streets and mean homes’ of Soho and the ‘streets of the Nobility and Gentry’ of Mayfair. He placed All Souls at Langham Place at a bend in the road between Portland Place and Oxford Circus, so it would act as a punctuation to the grand vista looking north.
However, very little of Nash’s plan for Regent Street was rever ealised. The 40 or more villas planned for the nobility were never built, nor was the Prince Regent’s own villa that was to be the focal point of the design. On the other hand, Nash succeeded in building rows of elegant terraced houses along the perimeter of the park, and most of these still survive.
Nash was criticised for the design, particularly the slender conical spire, which rises above the circular classical ‘wedding cake’ peristyle and circular portico. One critic said the church was ‘one of the most miserable structures in the metropolis.’ Political cartoons showed Nash impaled on the tip of the slender spire.
All Souls’ was built with a grant from the Church Building Commission. The Commission was set up by the Church Buildings Acts of 1818 and 1824 to create new churches and reorganise existing parishes. The commission granted £12,819 for All Souls’, but the cost eventually rose to over £18,000. The church was consecrated in November 1824, and celebrates its bicentenary next year.
All Souls’ is the only surviving Nash church in London. He was designed Saint Mary Haggerston in Hackney, but this is now demolished. Saint Paul’s Church in Cahir, Co Tipperary, is one of a handful of churches in Ireland designed by Nash.
All Souls’ Church is built of warm-coloured Bath stone. The circular portico is raised on a flight of steps and has giant Ionic columns carrying an entablature and balustraded parapet. The circular tower, with an architraved and corniced entrance at its foot, rises above the portico to the open peristyle with Corinthian columns screening the base of the 12-sided stone spire. A sedate rectangular block encloses the body of the church.
The church suffered bomb damage during World War II, when a parachute mine detonated in Portland Place. The church roof was destroyed, the spire was badly damaged, and the portico was declared unsafe. The church was closes for worship for a decade while repairs were carried out, and most of the furnishings are modern.
The gilded false-marble columns inside the church support a gallery on three sides. Over the west entrance to the nave is a gilded and painted royal coat of arms of Nash’s patron, George IV.
One surviving feature is the large-scale landscape painting, ‘Ecce Homo – Behold the Man,’ by the Victorian artist Richard Westall. All Souls has remarkably few memorials. The organ with gilded pipes is in a case of Spanish mahogany designed by Nash.
The Rector of All Souls is appointed not through the normal system in the Church of England, but by the Prime Minister, through the Crown Appointments Commission. Previous rectors have included John Stott, one of the best-known evaneglical leaders in Anglicanism, who was there for 30 years, first as a curate (1945-1950) and then as the Rector (1950-1975). and Michael Baughen (1975-1982), later Bishop of Chester. The present Rector of All Souls is the Revd Charlie Skrine.
A sign in the church porch says ‘Whoever you are, wherever you are from, you are welcome here.’ All Souls’ runs one of the largest church-based ministries for homeless people in London, All Souls Local Action Network (ASLAN). The range of activities include feeding people sleeping rough on the streets, evening meals for homeless or vulnerably housed people, a day centre for homeless and vulnerably housed people, regular befriending meetings, a winter shelter, and an addiction recovery programme.
All Souls’ and Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) have been described as the two Anglican megachurches in London. Both are evangelical in their theology, with HTB having a more overtly charismatic spirituality. All Souls’ is a ‘conservative evangelical’ church that rejects the ordination and leadership of women, and it receives alternative episcopal oversight from the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Rob Munro, who holds ‘complementarian’ opinions.
Earlier this year, the PCC of All Souls’, Langham Place, and of another large ‘conservative evangelical’ church in central London, Saint Helen’s, Bishopsgate, said they would pause payments to the diocesan common fund until they knew the outcome of the General Synod’s deliberations on ‘Living in Love and Faith’.
All Souls’ Church is open most days. However, on the afternoon I tried to visit All Souls’ was closed – while All Saints’ Church five minutes away on nearby Margaret Street was open. The parish website is confusing about when or how often the Eucharist is celebrated in All Souls’ on Sundays. And, while the online calendar says there is a ‘Prayer Meeting’ at 8 am this morning and a ‘Living and Telling Course’ online at 7 pm this evening, I cannot find any events in All Souls’ Church today to mark the patronal festival of All Souls’ Day.
John 5: 19-25 (NRSVA):
19 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, 23 so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.
25 ‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.’
Today’s Prayers (Thursday 2 November 2023, All Saints’ Day):
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 inspired by a Reflection – ‘He restores my soul’ – by Revd Dale R Hanson, introduced on Sunday.
The USPG Prayer Diary today (2 November 2023, All Souls’ Day) invites us to pray in these words:
We pray for all those who have gone before us. May we cherish our memories of family and friends who are no longer with us.
Eternal God, our maker and redeemer,
grant us, with all the faithful departed,
the sure benefits of your Son’s saving passion
and glorious resurrection
that, in the last day,
when you gather up all things in Christ,
we may with them enjoy the fullness of your promises;
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 Prayer:
God of love,
may the death and resurrection of Christ,
which we have celebrated in this Eucharist,
bring us, with all the faithful departed,
into the peace of your eternal home.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,
our rock and our salvation,
to whom be glory for time and for eternity.
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