Where the Trumpet Gives No Uncertain Sound All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, England Easter Sunday Evening, 19 April 2003

By Holmes, David L. | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Where the Trumpet Gives No Uncertain Sound All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, England Easter Sunday Evening, 19 April 2003


Holmes, David L., Anglican and Episcopal History


Where the Trumpet Gives No Uncertain Sound All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, England Easter Sunday Evening, 19 April 2003

All Souls, Langham Place, was designed in the early 1820s by John Nash (1752-1825) as part of an extensive plan to redevelop the Regent Park and Regent Street areas of central London. Set at an angle to the street, the church combines a rectangular nave with a circular portico. A gothic spire-narrow and conical-tops the building. Although the striking wedding cake appearance of All Souls is pleasing to the eye, critics originally derided the building's design. In a debate, one member of Parliament called the new building "a deplorable and horrible object."

From 1945 on, All Souls emerged as one of England's best attended churches after it became identified with John Stott, the acclaimed evangelical preacher, author, and biblical commentator. Serving at All Souls for his entire career in the active ministry-first as assistant pastor and then as lector-Stott became a principal figure in giving the evangelical party of the Church of England an international voice and influence. Some writers, in fact, have viewed him the most influential clergyman in the Church of England in the twentieth century.

The gilded, classical interior of All Souls creates a sense of openness. Where the interiors of other churches have open spaces, however, All Souls has chairs. Thirteen rows of seats flank the center aisle. Behind them stand an additional eleven rows of seats, set into the space available. To accommodate yet more worshipers, the church has added three rows of eight seats to each side of the chancel. Extending on three sides of the interior and broken only by the pipes of the organ, the galleries seat more than four hundred additional worshipers. In all, the interior can accommodate 1,100 worshipers seated closely together. On a typical Sunday some 2,000 worshipers attend the morning and evening services.

As the seating arrangement indicates, this is a church oriented towards preaching. It has a center pulpit rather than a center altar, plain glass rather than stained glass windows, and minimal ecclesiastical ornamentation. At this evening Easter service, the chancel contains only the pulpit and, to its right, musicians (a piano, four strings, two flutes and a trombone). The small orchestra's conductor-he conducted the parish's large orchestra at the morning service-is well known in London's musical circles.

On this Sunday evening the pews are ninety percent full, with some people seated in the overflow room in the basement watching the service on big screen television. The church estimates that approximately twothirds of its attendees are under forty years of age. In one section of the packed balcony, a visitor's quick count shows that thirty-seven worshipers seem below the age of thirty, twelve appear to be between the age of thirty-one and fifty-nine, and only two are clearly above sixty. But had the count been made on the ground floor or at the morning service, the mean age would have been higher.

Whites predominate in tonight's congregation, with Asians next, followed by Indians and Pakistanis, and then by Arab Christians. The seats contain relatively few blacks. Another section of the balcony counted by the visitor displays approximately eighty people, divided nearly equally between whites and other races.

Just before the service begins, the orchestra takes its seats. Without pomp or procession, the clergy then come in from the back of the church. The total staff of All Souls numbers over twenty. Although almost ten clergy work at the church, the congregation sees only three this evening.

At 6:30 PM, a female associate minister-dressed not in ecclesiastical garb but in a blue suit with a pink shirt-begins the service by giving the Easter greeting. After leading the collect, she announces the first hymn, "Jesus Christ is risen today." She briefly introduces all hymns in tonight's service, with the exception of the final hymn. …

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