Thursday, 5 December 2019

2. St Martin in the Fields: December 2019

Advent Carols at St Martins

Our day in London ended with a 5pm service at St Martin in the Fields just by Trafalgar Square.

I often attend this church but nearly always that’s on a Thursday lunchtime for Great Sacred Music with St Martin’s Voices.  The Voices are ‘professional’ singers who work at St Martin’s a couple of times a week leading the mid-day and early evening services. Each Thursday, Dr Sam Wells, the Vicar, weaves a theme through five anthems sung by the Voices and two hymns sung by the congregation.  For me, over the last few years, this Thursday lunchtime appointment has been a wonderful ‘wellspring’ which I’ve really appreciated.

The choir rehearsing before the service

However, Sunday was different in that we were attending an Advent Carol Service led by the choir, not the Voices.  The choir is much bigger and the service much more formal that Thursdays.

Advent Carol Services have become popular recently.  They are similar to the traditional Carol Services at the end of Advent but are held on the first Sunday of the four-week cycle.  At St Martin’s the theme for the service was ‘Light’ with readings and anthems speaking of God’s light piercing our darkness.

Order of service
I’m beginning to realise, as a visitor to churches, just how important church websites are.  For both services we attended on Sunday we gleaned all we needed to know about preparing for our visits from their websites.  St Martin’s told us the Advent Carol Service would be popular so come early, the doors would open at 4.15pm for a 5.00pm start.  We got there early and had a good seat and sure enough by 5.00pm the church was comfortable full downstairs.  And that’s great isn’t it?  That in our day and age a church like St Martin’s, in the middle of a busy and sometimes ‘aggressive’ cosmopolitan city can still attract a couple of hundred people to an afternoon service on a cold December day to hear God’s promise that darkness will not overcome the light!

The liturgy
The music of the afternoon was of the highest possible quality.  The sermon was theologically challenging! One thing we noticed was that often people don’t join in with the hymns these days.  Even though we were surrounded by others we heard our own voices – which may not have been a good thing!

So ended a fascinating day in London – a really good day.

I was struck just how odd it seemed having a whole weekend!  Normally when that happens it’s because I’m on holiday and there’s a week to come.  But last week it was a real treat to have both Saturday and Sunday clear before returning to work on Monday – that’s just not normal for ministers, but I think I could get used to it!!

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