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|1922: St Mary's,
Little Ilford, London, England
St Mary's, Little Ilford, England.
Church of England, Diocese
This is an ancient site. Archeological excavation has uncovered
Romano-British pottery, as well as evidence of a Saxon Norman
church. The doors and windows of St Mary's are Norman round
headed, and the walls a mixture of ragstone rubble, flint, chalk,
and re-used Roman tile, owing to the lack of natural stone in
the area. The nave could well be older than the estimated late
12th century. It has seating for eight rows of eight chairs,
with a central aisle. In addition, there is the chancel, a porch,
and a square chapel used as a vestry. Also a small wooden bell
tower. There are many old features, including memorial tablets,
monuments, brasses, hatchments (painted coats of arms), and
stained glass of which the earliest examples date back to the
This is a sister church to St Michael and All Angels. It is
linked to all the latter's parish activities, but could be described
as meditative by comparison with St Michael's lively and vibrant
Little Ilford, about six miles northeast of London, forms part
of the London borough of Newham and is also known as Manor Park.
It is a multicultural, multi-faith area, with Roman Catholic,
Pentecostal and Greek Orthodox churches, Hindu and Tamil temples,
and mosques. Also the oldest Jewish cemetery in London. The
local markets are an ethnic delight, and you can buy fish and
vegetables I've never heard of.
The celebrant was the Revd Brian Lewis, rector. The Revd Neil
Walsh, his curate, who was ordained last year, preached. There
were also two candle bearers, male and female.
The date & time:
Maundy Thursday, 1 April 2010, 8.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
The Eucharist of the Lord's Supper.
How full was the building?
Four in the chancel, a choir of seven ladies, an organist, and
eight in the congregation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I hovered over the table with the hymn books and orders of
service, the rector handed me one of each and told me to help
myself. He later noticed me taking notes as I was admiring the
memorial plaques, and gave me a visitor's guide to the church.
A gentleman who later gave the first reading asked me if was
new to the church. The peace was a jolly affair, with everyone
shaking hands. I stopped short of the choir, but no one else
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden chairs, not uncomfortable, each with a gross point kneeler
on it. Linked in the front rows, but not where I was sitting.
The kneelers were standard issue patterns, with the occasional
boating scene, or sheep on a hillside for variety.
How would you describe the pre-service
There was a good deal of chat coming from the vestry, some of it a commentary on the smallness of the congregation. In the nave, people either sat quietly or chatted quietly. Some to-ing and fro-ing of servers.
What were the exact opening words of the
"We will begin with hymn number 318."
What books did the congregation use during the
Common Praise and a specially printed service sheet.
The choir were using a service setting that I didn't recognise.
I think they also may have been using a volume of worship songs
called Sing Praise.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ. This two manual instrument was restored in 2002, and
now the bellows can open fully! Its organisation was previously
only suited to an anorexic dwarf – and I should know,
having attempted to play it at one happily unmemorable evensong.
It has lost its asthmatic air and acquired a sweet flute stop.
Did anything distract
Clergy and choir processed in to the first hymn. There appears
to be no upper age limit to the choir nor, to be fair,
does there need to be. But I did wonder if the lady who was
arguably the oldest singer there would wake up in time to sing
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
This was a robed, processed, sung service, in a relaxed formal style. In such a small church, everything becomes intimate. No PA was necessary or used, and the clarity of sound was exemplary.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The curate is not, I think, a native English speaker,
but he took immense care with the language, and made his points
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Washing the apostles' feet demonstrated Christ's servanthood
and his hospitality, which we try to emulate. His later words
in the garden: Stay with me, remain with me, watch and pray,
are also something to which we can dedicate ourselves.
Which part of the service was like being in
After a sudden return of winter temperatures and an icy rainstorm
earlier that day, it was a pleasure to walk into a warm church.
The choir had obviously worked hard to prepare their contribution,
and the hymns were to well known melodies. Everyone, from the
members of the congregation who gave the readings, to the two
clergy, spoke clearly and resonantly. It was a pleasure to hear.
I also enjoyed the very lovely altar cloth and frontal to the
lectern – a mixture of embroidery and appliqué in a beautiful
design that echoed the theme of communion.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The wooden floor naturally helped to keep the congregation warm;
nothing is worse than cold seeping up through a stone floor.
But it was very noisy when the two servers tried to clear the
altar quietly. Someone should tell them to walk on tiptoe. Both
of them brought down their full body weight with each step,
and the floor vibrated in sympathy.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was announced that the church would remain open till 10.00pm
for meditation and prayer. One or two others and I left after
a few minutes. A lady from the congregation overtook me and
we engaged in some light conversation. I asked her to clarify
for me some facts about the church.
How would you describe the after-service
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I'm already committed, but this is such an intimate
family environment, and a lovely, ancient building, that it
would be a temptation. Maybe when I retire.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The nodding chorister.
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