Weekly Newsletter, 25 January 2024

Dear St Mary’s,

This Sunday is Candlemas, also called the Feast of the Presentation – a day where we remember Joseph and Mary bringing the infant Jesus to be dedicated in the temple. When they got to the temple, an old man, Simeon, who had been praying for many years, proclaimed that Jesus was a ‘light to enlighten the nations’. Traditionally, churches have blessed candles on this day, seeking to take that light into the world, and we will do the same this Sunday, 28 January. Join us for 9am Holy Communion or for our 10.30am Intergenerational Service when our young people, supported by our curate, Revd Jacintha Danaswamy, will help us celebrate the feast of Candlemas. 

Service of Thanksgiving for St Luke’s this Sunday at St Mary’s, 4pm

Please join us for a service of thanksgiving as we look back over more than 15 years of St Luke’s serving on the stall in the London Farmers’ Market. The 4pm service on 28 January is an opportunity to thank God as well as to thank those who have served and taken part. There will be tea and cake, prayers and conversation, and we would love you to be part of it, especially if you have supported St Luke’s in any way or have volunteered at the stall over the years. This service marks the beginning of a new season of discernment about how we might, as a Parish, serve our community on the High Street. If you feel God might be calling you to that discernment, come and join us to hear more. 

Youth Group in the Welcome Centre at 5pm

Join us for youth group this Sunday, 28 January: games, chat, hot chocolate, snacks and Bible study in the Welcome Centre at 5pm.

Sophie’s Giant Litter Pick and Hot Chocolate this Saturday at 1.30pm

We’re excited to bring to fruition an idea from our Vision Sunday. Sophie, a young member of our congregation, suggested a giant litter pick as part of our life as an Eco Church and so we are gathering on Saturday 27 January at 1.30pm outside the church to care for our local environment. We have over 30 pickers but if you have a litter picker and could bring it, that will mean even more people can get involved. We will end our time together with hot chocolate and marshmallows. 

Lent Begins on Ash Wednesday, 14 February

The season of Lent – a time of deep reflection, prayer and penitence – begins with the powerful and moving service of Ash Wednesday where you are invited to receive an ash cross on your forehead as a sign of humility and repentance and also of devotion to God. We offer two services: one morning service from 7.30am to 8.15am (for those who are commuting) and one evening Ash Wednesday Vespers at 7.30pm: a service of stillness, music, reflection and communion. You are very welcome to either service. 

Learning Community: deepen your faith and meet others through Lent

Last Sunday, Revd Alan Moss set out how we can each take the next steps in our discipleship and grow in our faith. In the coming weeks, there are three options you may like to consider: 

  • Everyday Healing (CORRECTED DATES: begins 29 February – four online sessions on Tuesday evenings, 7-9pm. This course is now fully booked, though you can join a waiting list). Run by the Guild of Health, explore the potential of the healing ministry of the Christian faith to bring real healing and hope into the world today, and raise your confidence to be a healing presence whether you have a clear ministry, or you simply feel drawn to explore this way of understanding the Christian life. Although this course is fully booked, you can join the waiting list here
  • Lent Course: Spiritual Disciplines (six Thursday evenings from 15 February, 7.30 to 9pm in church). Join with others in church as Revd Alan Moss leads this course on the spiritual disciplines, including prayer, fasting and meditation. There will be an opportunity to consider how these ancient practices can nurture and nourish your faith. It’s also a great way to meet others and connect. If you would like to be part of the course, sign up here
  • Gospel Pairs (five meetings, held at a time and location convenient to you): Read the Gospel of John with one other person in church. Sign up with a friend or be matched with someone to read the Gospel of John over the weeks of Lent, which can be done at a time and location convenient to you. You don’t have to be an expert in the Gospel, resources are provided and the programme is designed that each person can notice what stands out to them and explore these things together. If you would like to be part of Gospel Pairs, you can sign up here.

Friday Chaplains

One of the great joys of our restored building is being able to keep it open throughout the week. Every day we meet so many people who are coming into church for the first time, sometimes for a drink and sometimes looking for information, help or advice. Our staffing capacity means that on Fridays, we have fewer people around and available and so we are exploring whether we could build a team of Friday chaplains who might be able to spend some time in the coffee shop (with a free coffee on us!) and be available if anyone needs a point of contact with the church. The role might be simply to share information, to signpost to other services or just to listen. Training and support provided. If you might be interested, email Vanessa () or speak to any of the clergy.

St Mary’s Arts Open Call 2024

St Mary’s is launching its inaugural Arts Open Call in 2024 to connect with local artists and organise an exhibition for the E17 Art Trail 2024 in June. To make this happen, we’re also looking to build our Arts Advisory Group. Would you like to be involved? We’re especially looking for those with experience in the arts to help us organise the Open Call. those with arts sector experience, to help organise the Open Call. Volunteers will meet twice a month initially, with the potential for more meetings closer to the exhibition. If you’re interested in joining the Open Call Team, please contact Fran () or Fiona () for more information. 

Key Recall: do you have a key to St Mary’s or the Welcome Centre? 

In order to keep our building safe and secure, we periodically recall our church keys to ensure we have a good record of their location! If you are a keyholder of St Mary’s or of the St Mary’s Welcome Centreplease could you return your key to church in an envelope marked with your name and the building the keys are connected to. We’ll be undertaking the key recall for two weeks from Sunday 4 February. You can deliver your key to the office during that time or place it in the white box at the back of church. Questions? Contact Operations Manager Dan Copperwheat ().

EcoTip of the Week

St Mary’s is joining with Christian Aid and climate campaigners from around the country to take part in the No Faith in Fossil Fuels prayer vigil. For ten days from Ash Wednesday, people will be keeping a constant presence of prayer outside Westminster, seeking to raise awareness of the damage and injustice caused by climate change. We have two slots on Sunday 18 February from 1pm-3pm. A group will be going straight from church after the 10.30am service and others will follow – do join us! 

Please pray

  • Please pray for refugees and asylum seekers in our borough facing eviction and forced removal – pray especially for children, young people and students having to move schools and leave friends
  • Please pray this week for those facing devastating losses and bereavements – pray for those in our Parish facing the loss of a child 
  • Please pray for those who are unwell and facing difficult treatments
  • Please pray for our children and young people giving thanks for them and praying especially for those who struggle with school 
  • Please pray for our world, remembering places of violence and conflict – most especially Palestine and Israel, the Red Sea, Ukraine and Sudan. 
  • Please pray for no further escalation of conflicts and for the world to find new paths of peace


I had a conversation last week with the Church of England’s Liturgical Advisor. His role is to promote an understanding of the use of liturgy (the prayers and words we say through services) and to work with others to develop new forms of service for different moments. He said that often what he was trying to help people navigate was the balance between innovation and the familiar. 

It’s important, he said, that there is newness – it captures our imagination and helps us see in new ways. It keeps us curious, wondering and open to learning. If every service we shared was identical over years, there would be eventually be something deadening and tedious about our time together. 

By contrast, if there is nothing familiar, if nothing gets repeated, then it’s hard to feel at home, hard to learn a way of being – difficult for anything to become part of us. We know nothing by heart. 

Most people, if I were to ask them to think about all the things they know by heart, would probably profess that they know very little. I meet very few people who are confident in their memory and if I asked them to memorise something, might actually feel fairly panicked. But liturgy is not a cognitive test; it’s a gentle weaving. Words and images are being layered up within us tenderly yet powerfully. 

If we attend church week after week, our bodies are learning the rhythm and shape of a service – first we sing, then we confess, then we learn. We might not be able to say the Eucharistic Prayer from memory, but when the priest says, ‘The peace of the Lord be always with you’, we’ll find, without thinking, that our voices call out, ‘And also with you’. 

When I was younger, I was much more interested in innovation than familiarity. I feared that repetition dulled the senses, and wondered whether we just said things out of habit more than feeling. Now I find myself drawn to the rhythms and patterns which worship offers. They are safe anchors in a world of constant, and sometimes bewildering, change. And the weaving within me, within us, means that there is a well of resource to carry us through the days and weeks. 

When my heart was heavy the other day, I found myself saying, ‘But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy’, which are words from the Prayer of Humble Access, a prayer we say just before we receive communion. I don’t remember all of it, but those words are enough to comfort me and give me hope. They spring up when I am anxious or sad or in need. Perhaps you have your own story. 

I pray you will come this Sunday, to be drawn into innovation which can ignite and inspire your imagination, bring you joy, help you to wonder, put words around the things which leave us wordless. And I pray that you can experience the gentle, imperceptible weaving of familiarity, so that given to you is a treasure store of prayer and scripture to sustain and guide you all your days. 

With love,


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