Sounding a very sour note at London's St Sepulchre Church

Sounding a very sour note at London's St Sepulchre Church September 5, 2017

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in Holborn, central London, has been known as the National Musicians’ church for more than 70 years.
The ashes of Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Proms, lie in its north chapel, which commemorates eminent British musicians.
But last month, Rev David Ingall, above, who moved to St Sepulchre’s four years ago from the arch-evangelical Holy Trinity Brompton, wrote to professional and amateur musicians and ensembles to say they could no longer make bookings from the end of this year.

Ousting the musicians appears to be the latest move in a bid to give a stronger focus on Christian worship. In order to do this, Ingall, together with a planted congrega­­tion of sixty, was installed at the church.

This, the new management believed, would draw larger congregations. They were wrong. Instead of attracting more worshippers, they drove people away, according to Dr Andrew Earis, above, Director of Music at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Lon­don, and former Director of Music at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.
In this piece, Earis writes:

It is a commonly held belief that the arrival of a church-plant always breathes new spiritual life into a building, where a planted congrega­tion of sixty soon becomes six hundred.
This has not, however, become the reality at St Sepulchre’s, where the Sunday congregation is rumoured to be shrinking, not growing.

He explained that after the evangelicals seized control:

There was a gentle rebalancing of external rehearsals and concerts to make space for new worship activ­ities. The Bishop of London put in place a Bishop’s Mission Order to protect and safeguard the music programme. We were optimistic for the future.
But, from early on, there were seeds of anxiety. In particular, there was unease regarding those music groups and concerts that, up to this point, had been welcomed with open arms, but were now being seen as less acceptable, owing to the new leadership’s interpretation of Chris­­tian teaching …

St Sepulchre’s now has to decide whether it is going to withdraw into a narrow theological ideology, or whether it is brave enough to embrace an inclusive vision for the whole church and be a leader in a new model of church partnership.

Meanwhile, a petition calling  on the church to reverse its decision has garnered almost 7,500 signatures, and, according to the Guardian, dozens of Britain’s most distinguished musicians have backed a campaign to keep a central London church open as an important concert venue and rehearsal space.

Aled Jones, Julian Lloyd Webber and Judith Weir, above,  the first female master of the Queen’s music, are among more than 50 signatories to a letter urging a reversal of the ban, saying they cannot understand why the church is willing to abandon its “unique national cultural remit”.


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  • barriejohn

    Holy Trinity Brompton was the birthplace of the appalling Alpha Course (of course). They have been carrying out a programme of “church plants” for some years now, i.e. effectively taking over other churches in a bid to ensure that their particular brand of Anglicanism becomes dominant. A similar sort of thing happened amongst the Brethren in my time, especially where “charismatics” like Nicky Gumboil were concerned. They’re “Fifth Column Christians”.

  • Robert

    A bit like Daesh and the Taliban who also have an aversion to music.
    And anyway It won’t matter a toss in a few decades time when christianity has deservedly withered into a tiny ridiculed congregation and atheism is dominant.

  • Broga

    They have to try a scam. They will get nowhere using common sense and reason.

  • StephenJP

    Well, I am pretty upset about this, and I have signed the petition. St Sepulchre’s is not known as The Musicians’ Church for nothing. It is steeped in musical history, it has a wonderful acoustic and a fine organ. I have sung in probably at least a dozen concerts there, every time to sellout audiences, and the experience for performers and listeners alike has been truly uplifting.
    And now this (apologies) fucking arsehole has the brass neck to try to destroy this irreplaceable bit of musical heritage. Goodness knows what the Diocese of London think they are playing at. Hopefully they will come to realise that this attempted vandalism will do even more harm to their image than the latest stats showing that people continue to leave the CofE in droves.

  • Barry Duke

    ‘They’re Fifth Column Christians.’ Wrong BarrieJohn, they’re Filth Column Christians.

  • Robster

    Is this perhaps a part of a plan by the Anglicans to further reduce their relevance and whither their already marginal support? If it is, we must offer congrats, it seems to be working.

  • andym

    I think this will happen increasingly. The rump left as the C of E continues its slow death will include an increasing proportion of die-hard fanatics as the young people who used to become more reasonable, quieter, “social” Anglicans see no reason to continue the pretence.

  • Club Secretary

    The Rev wouldn’t look out of place in a bible belt mega church.

  • 1859

    “…..saying they cannot understand why the church is willing to abandon its “unique national cultural remit”.
    Because in heaven there is no memory. If there is no memory there can’t be music. This is why heaven must be so incredibly silent, bland and boring. And since there is no such thing as memory every second will feel identical to all the other seconds gone by – whether 5 or 5000 seconds ago. Time therefore has dissolved.
    So ‘if music be the food of love – then play on!’ and let the dull spaces of former religions be used – for the first time in their history – to make people happy and glad to be alive!

  • Richard W

    Perhaps the musicians should look for somewhere other than a church. Why waste time in a religious building? Let them stew in their own juice.

  • barriejohn

    Club Sec: The still is taken from this video.
    That’s the sort of thing that you see on TBN and at venues like Spring Harvest nowadays. The platform walkabout, shouting, wild gesticulations and little microphone are all obligatory!
    @andym: Exactly. Nicky Gumbel took over the Alpha Course, and transformed it into the “charismatic” tool for evangelism that we see today, rather than the more orthodox teaching course that it originally was. They won’t be satisfied until all Anglicans are, by hook or by crook, either cast in their own mould or forced out.

  • Stonyground

    It immediately occurred to me on reading this that the musicians would be better off finding themselves a secular space to rehearse and perform in. From a God botherer’s point of view the church has been diverted from its true purpose. If the musicians move elsewhere it will be the Church’s loss.

  • Stephen Mynett

    OT but is anyone else having problems accessing the Richard Dawkins site? I keep being redirected to which is nowhere near as good as the Dawkins site.

  • Barry Duke

    On my way back from Gibraltar. Normal service should be resumed by this evening. No indication that my my marriage yesterday is set to visit the wrath of God on the Rock.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Congrats on the wedding Barry. Any piccies?

  • Daz

    Congratulations Barry. May you love as long as you live and get as good as you give.

  • Broga

    Well done Barry and partner. Best wishes for many happy years.

  • barriejohn

    But Gibraltar were thrashed 4-0 by Bosnia Herzegovina. Surely God must be telling them something?

  • Daz

    “Surely God must be telling them something?”

    “You really should employ a goalie”?

  • Broga

    Ingall has the offensive certainty, based on his religious fictions, that must exclude him from civilised discourse. The more the verbiage spews forth the more they seem like preachers putting on a performance. The basis of their performance is so flaky that the emptyness at its core is easy to spot.

  • farouk dauda hamman

    wthe church should be a holy place and not any other place where any other music should be played

  • Cali Ron

    Congratulations Barry, may your Love be strong, your days long and filled with happiness!

  • Cali Ron

    I’ve played in churches and many are not only beautiful, but have great acoustics. I couldn’t care less about the religious ramifications. It’s all about the sounds you lay down and the people around digging your sounds, getting down. Let the sounds take you away to a happier place where your cares slip away and joy takes there place.
    Frankly, the secular music I played was more spiritual than the BS coming from the pulpit.

  • John the Drunkard

    ‘I imagine many of you here have done Alpha?’
    Ingall in the first 30 seconds of the linked video.
    ‘In order to do this, Ingall, together with a planted congrega­­tion of sixty, was installed at the church.’
    The rest of the world awaits any sense of what a ‘planted’ congregation might be. I’m guessing a claque imported with the new guy to serve as shills among the crowd?