The Gardeners’ Carol Service

December 15th 2016

Report by Heather Barrett-Mold

The Company’s much-loved Carol Service was held as usual at St. Stephen Walbrook with our Honourable Chaplain the Venerable Peter Delaney MBE leading the service. The traditional singing competition took place during ‘We Three Kings’ although we didn’t find out who won – it was probably that part of the congregation where the Master was sitting!

The Christmas welcome reflected on unconditional love. Joe Sentence played the organ including ‘Meditation on the Coventry Carol’ by William Lloyd Webber and ‘Prelude on In Dulci Jubilo’ by J.S. Bach. An added treat was ‘Quem Pastores’ sung by Abigail Tribe, Eleanor Hughes and Stephanie Rochford.

The Church looked wonderful with its huge stone altar surrounded by candles and with stunning flowers arranged by Stephen Crisp. St Stephen Walbrook was the only church designed by Wren in 1672 and was his prototype for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was the first classical dome to be built in England at the time.

At the heart of the redevelopment at St Stephen Walbrook there is a major statement about the theology of the Church in the City. That is the large altar by Henry Moore commissioned by Lord Palumbo for the church during its restoration in 1978-87. The altar was carved in 1972.

Henry Moore's striking round altar table at the heart of St Stephen Walbrook
Henry Moore's striking round altar table at the heart of St Stephen Walbrook

Henry Moore conceived a centrally placed altar made of travertine marble cut from the very quarry which provided the marble for Michelangelo’s work. By carving a round altar table with forms cut into the circular sides Moore suggested that the centre of the church reflected the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac as a prefiguring of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and the place for the offering of the Eucharist at the heart of Christian worship. This place was designed for people to gather as a community around the altar where God could be found at the centre.

Some of you may have noticed in the past the stole which our Chaplain Peter Delaney wears. He and Beryl Dean were friends. Beryl Dean was a remarkable ecclesiastical embroiderer, one who did more than any other to influence the direction of embroidery for religious use in the 20th century. Beryl’s most notable works included five large panels for St George’s Chapel, Windsor, which were made between 1969 and 1974. In 1977 she designed the Silver Jubilee mitre, stole and cope for the Bishop of London. At her funeral service, Peter wore this stole depicting the Resurrection, which was one of the last embroideries that she completed.