It’s only a forty-minute drive from Amersham over to Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London and we made that journey on a gloriously sunny day last Sunday.
Whilst living in Hitchin we got to know about the concept, championed by Ebenezer Howard, of a ‘Garden City’ as Letchworth, one of the first, was our neighbour. Hampstead Garden Suburb stands in that fine tradition of thoughtful and creative town planning.
One of the first things that strikes you on arrival is the way the skyline is dominated by two churches that stand either side of a central square, both designed by the internationally renowned architect, Sir Edward Lutyens. On one side is the steepled St Jude’s Anglican Church with the domed Free Church (Baptist/URC) located on the other.
These buildings are hugely significant, and both hold Grade 1 status. I suspect that now they are just over a hundred years old, that both church buildings are quite demanding in terms of maintenance and restoration.
On Sunday we joined a warm hearted and welcoming congregation at The Free Church. In terms of style and demographic, this is the ‘closest’ to our own congregation at AFC that we have encountered during these Sabbatical visits. The service was dignified and formal, yet always friendly.
Sunday’s preacher was the minister of the Baptist Church down the road at Hampstead. He is also serving the Free Church as their interim moderator now they are in Pastoral Vacancy. His style was both thoughtful and refreshing.
The music on Sunday was provided by a grand piano with a first-class pianist. The church makes regular use of both its three manual organ and the piano, and last week the music was delightful.
One of the most touching parts of the service was that moment when a German family were ‘farewelled’ with kind words of appreciation and the presentation of a few gifts. It was clear that they were much loved and the inclusion of this item in morning worship underlined that sense of ‘Church Family’ which was very evident at the Free Church.
Afterwards we stayed for coffee, and it was significant just how many others did too – almost everyone in fact! That, I think, underlined, a keen sense of community within the church. We were made to feel very welcome with a number of folk taking time out to come over and introduce themselves. During this time we took the opportunity to walk around the church and look at the banners on display, the creative handiwork of a talented sewing group within the congregation.
In pondering what I might have learnt from Sunday (that
– after all, is partly the reason for these Sabbatical visits!) the words of the lady who served me coffee went deep. She reflected on different church styles and commented: the great thing about
‘here’ is that we can be ourselves, it doesn’t matter if you stand up or sit
down at the wrong point in the service, no body minds, you can just be
We both came away glad to have worshipped in such a sincere and friendly atmosphere in which people feel able to ‘be themselves’ in this strong and committed community of faith.