About All Saints Peckham
All Saints theology
James is 5 years old and painting a picture. His paper is covered with spots, splashes and coloured- in bits of every colour. His teacher in Reception class asks him what he is painting. “God”, he says. “But no-one knows what God looks like, James.” “They do now”, he replies.
Like James, we can all of us try to picture God. At All Saints we believe this: no painting can define Him, no systematic theology can confine Him, no grave can hold Him, and no mind can fully grasp Him. But as one expression of the Church of England in Peckham, we are privileged to share the words of what is called ‘the Creed’ – or what we believe – with God’s Church worldwide. A Creed worked out at great cost by saints who have gone before us in history. Whose legacy is a foundation of trust and belief.
Following them, we believe and trust in God the Father… Picture a father, a dad, the best in the world. Then picture the dad in a story Jesus told. His younger son takes what dad has given him; goes away and wastes it all; comes back years later a ruined man. Dad comes running out to welcome him home. He’s been waiting for this day and has spent all those years scouring the horizon for sight of his child. Now all he wants is to throw a celebration party for the return of the prodigal. That’s a picture of what God is like. Ponder. Pray. Believe. Follow.
We believe and trust in God’s Son, Jesus Christ … From what the bible says and unlike most depictions of him, Jesus didn’t have film-star looks. He didn’t have the right connections or the right followers, he didn’t own a home or anything else, he didn’t have a wife, or children, or status, he didn’t have what is called luck. Jesus did have the power and authority of God. We believe he still does. Because he is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation”, as St Paul writes in Colossians 1 verse 15. Left to make up our own mind about God, we are always likely to reflect personal preferences and prejudices. To opt for a Jesus with power and success and everything that feels good. Instead, he leaves us his body and blood, broken and shed on a cross. In the sign called holy communion which remembers this cosmic act of forgiveness for the sins of the world, we can take Jesus to heart. And ponder. Pray. Believe. Follow. In the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because we believe and trust in the Holy Spirit. As Jesus is God in the flesh, the Holy Spirit is God’s invisible presence at all times. He, the Holy Spirit, fills the hearts and minds and spirits of all who receive Jesus. A picture the bible gives of this is like opening the door of your home (Revelation 3:20). If we welcome into our life the presence of Jesus, we give room for the Holy Spirit to work. The power at work is the same that in Jesus turned water into wine, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, set prisoners of all kinds free, that raised the dead including Jesus himself. The power of the Holy Spirit convicts us of what is wrong in our lives and leads us into what is right. Jesus said to his disciples that athough he was leaving them in the flesh, he wasn’t leaving them alone like orphans. The Holy Spirit’s presence is in effect the same as Jesus’ presence in the flesh.
As the Anglican liturgy for holy communion says, ‘Great is the mystery of faith.’ Words like the Creed get us so far. We thank God for them. If all we had was mystery, we could all make up our own answers. If all we had was answers, God would be too small.
At All Saints we have five ways – we call them ‘values’ – in which we believe the not-too-small God wants us to grow. The first of them overarches all the others. It is that God’s Word and Holy Spirit are how we encounter God. We should be a changed people. The next four values describe how. Firstly, that as a church we grow more like God in our welcome to all regardless of who they are. Second, that we grow in supporting one another in our faith. Third, in discovering and using all our gifts. Fourth, in going out into Peckham and beyond to make Jesus known.
A 5th century saint called Augustine wrote this: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” This is a temptation and a danger for all of us. Therefore, we aim to encourage one another to believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Rather than in ourselves.
All Saints history
The church started in 1867, when Peckham was a village on the edge of Camberwell and a haven outside the intense bustle of Victorian London. It was carved out of several larger parishes and was sited near the newly built Peckham Rye station having opened itself in 1865. Within a few years the church had grown from about 20 people, meeting in the vicar’s sitting room, to over 600 adults in the congregation. There was also a children’s service for 800 children on Sunday afternoons.
The church was originally intended to have been twinned with a school, built at the same time. However the school once built proved superfluous following the passing of the Elementary Education Act 1870 which made local authorities responsible for the education of all children up to the age of thirteen. The building was therefore never used for this purpose and was gifted to the newly established church as its church hall.
The church grew rapidly in the early 20th century but, like many inner-city London churches, declined after World War II. By the mid-1990s, the church congregation had fallen in number to a small handful of members. The church was no longer viable and plans were made to sell the land for housing but to incorporate a small worship centre for the remaining members on the site.
In 1996, a last-ditch effort was made to save the church. The diocese appointed the Revd Bob Hurley (who had been on the staff at Holy Trinity Brompton in South Kensington) as vicar. Bob believed that “God had a plan that All Saints could be full again on Sundays” and, with the rest of the small congregation, was determined to fight the closure plans. The then Bishop of Southwark agreed to Bob’s proposal that within two years he would double the congregation of 20 people and install a heating system in the church or else the church would close. Bob rose to the challenge and both targets were achieved within six months – the threat of closure was removed and the church grew rapidly in the years that followed.
In 2002, Bob moved to five rural parishes near Salisbury and in 2003 the Revd Francis ‘Frog’ Orr-Ewing (previously a curate at St Aldate’s Church in Oxford) was appointed as vicar. During his time as vicar the number of people attending All Saints grew considerably, the staff team expanded and the outreach and public profile of the church further increased.
Frog stepped down as vicar in May 2010 to lead a new church in Buckinghamshire and in July 2011, All Saints welcomed the Revd Jonathan Mortimer as their new vicar. The church is currently in the process of commissioning a feasibility study to look at how the church and its congregations can best continue to serve the local community by ‘making space for good in Peckham.
All Saints governance and trustees
Our Parochial Church Council (‘PCC’) (our Trustee Board) has overall legal responsibility for All Saints and is accountable to the Charity Commission and Church of England. We are registered with the Charity Commission as the ‘The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of All Saints Peckham’, registration number 1131846 and are part of the Church of England and the Diocese of Southwark.
The PCC approves the strategic direction of the church and ensures we meet our legal obligations (e.g. producing an annual report). The PCC is supported by a number of important sub-groups vital to the life of God’s church here. If you would like to get involved please speak to Jonathan Mortimer or to Eleanor Orr, our PCC secretary, who co-ordinates these groups.
The PCC is formed from our clergy as well as elected representatives as follows:
Jenny Dawkins, Jonathan Mortimer
Andy Clarke, Geurline Griffin
Deanery Synod representatives
Rich Hillier, Roger Orr
Ed Brecknell, Damien Dacey, Neil Fenton, Jane Fryer, Gareth Hepworth, Fiona Hillier, Emma Lidbury, Jane Lindsay-Nyoni, Tim Mungeam, Eleanor Orr, Chris Sewell, Eian Stedford, Florence Waterer, Sophie Whitehead, Teresa Williams