Author Archive

Thursday Lunches

Sunday, October 11th, 2020

Usually each Thursday around 35 senior citizens meet at St Anne’s to enjoy a hot cooked lunch with desert, tea and coffee, prepared and served by volunteers. There is always a raffle (£1 a ticket) and a great deal of laughter. There is a modest charge of £4 for the lunch.

At the moment we are unable to host these lunches. However the Rector is scheduling weekly ‘Tea for Six’ parties in the Rectory  for those who usually attend and at Christmas a very special Christmas Tea Party will be held in accordance with social distancing regulations. 


Sunday, October 11th, 2020

St Anne’s is currently open Monday to Friday from 12.30-1.30 as a place for quiet prayer and reflection. On Tuesdays there is a service of Holy Communion at 1.05.

We apologise that current restrictions mean we are unable to be open all day as we would normally be.

Please email the Rector if there’s a specific need or person that you would like us to keep in our intercessions here.

Morning Prayer is usually said Tuesday- Wednesday -Thursday at 8.30am


A New look for Dean St

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Did you know that our re-designed entrance won the President’s Award (for alterations to a church building) in the 2017 Church Architecture Awards of the National Churches Trust.

The award was presented on October 26th at a ceremony in Kensington by HRH the Duke of Gloucester.

The Judges said: “We are delighted by this small scheme which brings a sense of style and fun to the entrance of St Anne’s Church, Soho. The involvement of architecture students from Central St Martin’s from the start of the project has clearly paid off by bringing, as it has, a fresh artistic eye to the design of this new foyer. The design has a strong idea but has been carefully refined employing subtle geometries in the ceiling and joinery. These elements have been combined with a striking lighting scheme to make a dynamic and inviting entrance to the church”.

We were thrilled by this accolade and divided the £500 prize money between Lina Viluma and Sherief al Rifa’i, who designed the entrance.

Good News not Easy News, 2nd Sunday of Lent, 2018

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Romans 4.13-25/ Mark 8.31-38
Rev’d Simon Buckley, St Anne’s Soho

Reading today’s gospel passage reminded me a bit of a scene in a soap opera: a family gathering at some kind of celebration, maybe a wedding or a post-Christening knees-up in the Queen Vic at which someone says something out of turn, lets some cat out of the bag and the mood turns ugly as the event quickly descends from being a joyful party into brawling in the street.

Even without ‘alleluias’ the announcement of the gospel, suggests that you’re going to hear Good News. The passage appointed for today follows on from three exhilarating events: Jesus feeding four thousand people, him healing a blind man and then Peter acclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. So we’re reasonable in our assumption that we’re about to hear something that will lift our spirits and put a spring in our step. But instead of something upbeat what we get is Jesus telling everyone that the Son of Man (a term he frequently uses about himself in Mark’s gospel) is going suffer, be rejected and killed and rise again. Not the good news that everyone had gathered to hear. So Peter pulls him aside and quietly rebukes Jesus, but Jesus then rebukes Peter in front of everyone. If not quite a punch up at the Rovers Return the atmosphere is a million miles from the joyful awe at the miraculous feeding of the crowd with which this chapter of Mark’s gospel had begun.

I quite understand Peter’s reaction. Firstly, this is not what he was expecting either for Jesus or himself. He had responded to Jesus’ call to “come, follow me and I will make you fish for people”, and only now is the plain reality of what this might entail beginning to sink home: “take up your cross and follow me on the path of rejection and suffering” It reminds me of Churchill’s great rallying cry to the chaps of Great Britain to join up with his enticing offer not of glory or the promise of medals but only “blood, toil, sweat and tears”! But for Peter who has seen Jesus work all manner of miracles and wonders the thought that suffering might be part of God’s way for either of them seems unimaginable. And we too might well also wonder why Jesus had to endure the suffering and death that we commemorate week by week in the Eucharist and consider particularly as the days of Lent lead towards Passiontide and Good Friday. Why couldn’t Jesus have ‘miracle-d his way out’ of all the messy stuff. Surely if he was really God’s Son then, as those who were to stand at the foot of the cross mocking were to say “why didn’t he just use his healing powers to get out of here? ”.

There’s a funny thing about the healing miracles of Jesus that Mark particularly highlights in his retelling of the Jesus story. Almost invariably when Jesus heals someone or performs some great wonder he says “don’t tell anyone about this”. For example he heals a deaf man and says “don’t tell anyone”, a blind man and says “don’t even go back to your village so people see what’s happened”, to the disciples who saw him transfigured he says “keep this to yourselves until after the resurrection”.  Though unsurprisingly not everyone did keep quiet, word spread about him and what he had done for people so the crowds around him grew daily. But why does Jesus seem to want to keep his powers slightly under wraps? When prompted by compassion he’ll use them for the benefit of others- yes, that’s fine; but to use them to affirm who he is, he’s more than reticent. If you recall the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness the first two things he resisted was using his powers to prove a point- to prove that he had power to turn stones into bread; and that he had special power as God’s Son which meant he wasn’t subject to the dangers of life experienced by ordinary people- “jump off the temple and God will save you”, said the devil.

Jesus is trying to avoid his ministry being just about the things he could do, and do for the people who gathered around him. Jesus’ ministry was about more than that : it was not about impressing people with powerful actions, by doing things for them to satisfy their immediate needs, but about leading them into a relationship of trust with him. Yes physical healing restores to one man his sight and to another his hearing, but the event that would change everything through which sins would be forgiven and people released from guilt and fear would be achieved by a very different, surprising, nay shocking way.

The event that was to change everything – even how we think and talk about God was to take everyone by surprise. Rowan Williams, in his recent book ‘meeting God in Mark’ notes that Mark’s gospel appears to have been written for a church that was a bit too much in love with miracles, wonderworking and success- a church that was putting too much store on  tangible signs of God’s favour and assistance. At the time when Mark’s gospel was being written what was coming at it thick and fast was persecution and threat and it’s as though Mark – who can’t deny all the miracles Jesus did- is helping his readers make sense of their suffering. Just imagine a Christian reading this gospel today in Afghanistan or parts of Nigeria, rural India or Indonesia, where God isn’t stepping down to solve problems, in a world where suffering and the risk of death are daily occurrences.

Very often we are a bit like the first disciples who would much rather believe in a god who, in a rather exaggerated way, would run the world as we would- if we were god! Like the Jim Carrey character in the film Bruce Almighty, who discovers that using power to solve problems is not what actually makes you God and that a world that is manipulated to go exactly the way you would like it to go is neither real nor ultimately satisfying or indeed as ‘good’ as we might think.

The God who Jesus incarnates- shows in his life- is one whose supreme power is not in removing our painful human experiences but sharing them. One who lives with us and transforms those experiences by his presence, a God who respects our humanity and maturity (even if humans don’t always!) rather than cossets us as children. A God who shares the fullness of our life rather than sanitizes it.

Of course we shall still pray for those in need- ourselves included- for healing and for miracles; but perhaps the greatest miracle has already happened : which is that by Jesus’ experience of suffering, death and resurrection, God is already there with those for whom we pray. This is why St Paul said “we preach Christ crucified, the power of God and the wisdom of God”. Ahead of all the miracles that Mark said (in effect) “don’t make too much of these” Paul points us to the cross as the greatest sign of God’s activity- more than feeding 5,000 surprising as that may seem.

We may think of signs of ‘God’s kingdom’ (if we think in those terms) or of ‘God’s blessing’ being most evident through times of prosperity and events that are characterised by happiness, and like Peter, resist the possibility, or should I say the reality, that it is through the apparent opposite of these things that God has worked most decisively.  But that’s what the gospel is pointing us towards: that whilst healings brought gratitude and  joy, it was the cross that elicited – even from one of the group who carried out Jesus’ execution- the reverent recognition that ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’.

That’s why the story of Jesus’ suffering and death remains good news for us- a story of triumph not defeat.  The moment when God is fully revealed as he is in and through Christ who is most fully seen to be who he is, Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us after all as we too are most fully ourselves – most accessible, most loveable, most real – at those moments when we are most vulnerable, broken and powerless, rather than when being the ‘we’ we like to project, hide behind or pretend to be. Of course we’d prefer it to be otherwise but Jesus rebuked Peter and rebukes us when we think we can walk a different path to him.

As the penultimate verse of our opening hymn put it:

Take up thy cross, and follow Christ

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only those who bear the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

Made in God’s Image, 2nd Sunday before Lent, 2018

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Colossians 1: 15-20/ John 1:1-14
Rev’d Simon Buckley, St Anne’s Soho

“He is the image of the invisible God”.

Words from St Paul’s letter to the Colossians which we heard a few minutes ago and which I think are perhaps some of the most wonderful, succinct, profound and seemingly audacious words in all scripture.

I know how like my own father I am- people tell me I’m the image of him, even though he was bald by the time he was 25 and I, now more than twice that, am very clearly not.  A few days after my dad died some neighbours saw me walking down the path to empty my parents’ bin and came running out in shock: they said seeing me was just like seeing my dad and it had quite startled them.

But our similarity wasn’t really about physical appearance. There was something about the way we would respond to things and certainly our sense of humour and even the way we walked, that was so similar that it wasn’t mimicry but about our shared DNA.

Of course, my parents’ neighbours had actually known and seen my dad. They knew what he was like and what he looked like, no wonder they knew what it was they recognised in me. St Paul could not say the same. For no one had seen God face to face to face and lived. God had appeared in a pillar of cloud by day and as a light by night, as a burning bush to Moses and in whirlwind and earth-shattering silence to Elijah; but since the day of Adam no human has seen God ‘unfiltered’.

That is until Jesus of Nazareth walked on earth. Not that Jesus had seen God but, that rather that, in him God could be seen. St Paul is convinced that the human being Jesus is so unique that, though being made of flesh and bones, his DNA is the exactly the same as God’s, tracing back to the beginning of creation. This is what the gospel writer, John, is trying to explain in the passage we more usually expect to hear at Christmas- “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.  God’s very essence took human form in Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus God dwelt among the people that were not worthy to see him. Some recognised him for who he truly was, and others as we know didn’t; and the same is true today.

So, if you want to know what God is like, if you’ve always wondered what God must really be like, Christians say “look at Jesus” – he is the image of the invisible God. The firstborn of all creation.

And to some degree we each, being also God’s creation, his sons and daughters, bear God’s imprint upon us. In some people we see glimpses of that imprint and image quite easily- think of those people you know or know of, of whom you say “she’s an angel” or “he’s a saint”. Then there are others whose personalities and lives are so disfigured that it’s hard to believe they are really human, let alone bearers of the image of God. It is perhaps a life-times work for us to discover God’s image within ourselves and indeed to recognise it in the lives of others. It requires an attentiveness, freed from ego and vanity to see clearly enough.

On Monday of this week I went to St Cuthbert’s Church in Earl’s Court for the funeral of a ninety year old man who, ten years ago, had a severe mental breakdown made worse by dementia. The final years of his life had been as seemingly sad as the beginning of his life, as within a month of his birth in 1927 he had been placed in an orphanage in his native Canada and I don’t believe he ever knew who his parents were. Later he took, as his surname, the name of the orphanage and children’s home he lived in.

But at 15 he left school and started work in a nursing home – not an obvious choice for a fifteen year old boy- before leaving Canada for London six years later. Here he worked in Foyles for a bit before becoming an air steward and then training to be a psychiatric nurse. He received a medal from the Queen Mother for his exemplary work in psychiatric nursing, something he excelled at because he too suffered several psychotic breakdowns. He had great compassion for, and empathy with, those he was caring for. Bill hadn’t been baptised as a baby, but was baptised and confirmed when he was 37 and in 1970 he arrived at St Anne’s as Fr Bill Kirkpatrick, newly ordained as an Anglican priest. For five years he lived upstairs in a bed-sit in part of what is now the Rectory where I live.

Here Fr Bill worked closely with Centrepoint, the homeless charity which had been newly established here to respond to the large number of teenagers who were gravitating towards London in the hope of a bright future only to find themselves sleeping rough on the streets around Soho. Never paid by the church but supported by some nursing work or the kindness of others, Bill moved from here to Earls Court where, from a small flat paid for by a charity, the Rufford Foundation , he founded ‘Reaching Out’ a counselling and befriending service. But rather than have clients come to him, he went to them: out on the streets, in bars, in dodgy clubs engaging with those most on the margins in what he described as a “small cell of contemplative action… allowing for a ministry of sharing from within the sacredness of each other’s vulnerabilities and strengths where there is no ‘them’ and ‘us’”.

In those days Earls Court was London’s gay village and shocked by the murder of a fifteen year-old rent boy Bill started ‘Streetwise Youth’, looking out for the young lads who worked that area: who youngsters who were ignorant of ,or refused to accept ,their own vulnerability. In the early 80’s this naturally led him into contact with people with HIV and AIDs and he wrote a wonderful and ground-breaking book on pastoral ministry called “AIDS- Sharing the pain” which, a note inside my copy, tells me I bought in Liverpool in 1988.

Through all his work Bill was supported by a deep faith and contemplative spirituality- that God, the eternal mystery was present in the life of the world and its people in ways that words could never fully do justice to. God was present and recognisable in the beauty and fragility of each person, which needed to be encountered rather than described; and which could never be seen or encountered by those who stigmatised others. A stigma, after all, blocks the vision of the person looking. Fr Bill saw clearly enough to recognise the image of God in every person.

Several of us at the funeral on Monday commented that it was rather sad that, apart from a retired Bishop of Kensington- the bishop who in fact ordained me 17 years ago- there was no one from the London church’s hierarchy to pay tribute to such a remarkable though unusual priest.

But ironically that is quite fitting.

Because here had been a man who had an unconventional start in life. Someone who went on to live a life marked by a deep faith in God and boundless, self-giving compassion for those on the margins of society. A man who needed solitude and also the companionship of others, fellow members of the Religious communities who loved him though they never fully understood him. A man who lived dependent on charitable giving and on others just having sufficient understanding of his vision to be willing to enable him to carry it out. A man who the religious authorities recognised but just didn’t quite know what to do with, because he didn’t fit with their normal expectations of what being a holy man should be.

Does some of that sound familiar ?

In such an unusual life and in repeatedly unexpected places the pattern of Christ was lived out in Bill. The image of Christ, the image of God, is- when you know what to look for- unmistakeable in Bill. I am very pleased that Bill’s image- captured in this portrait of him by Natalie d’Arbeloff, has been given to us and will hang on the landing outside the rectory where it will join a couple of other paintings of Soho-clergy-past.

The painting is called ‘The Listener’, the name by which Fr Bill was often referred, reflecting his attentiveness to those he spent time with and whose attentiveness enabled him to recognise the image of God in each of those who, to others, appeared unlikely souls who came his way. It’s painted on a reflective surface and when you look at it you catch little glimpses of yourself as you look at it. You can see your own face in Bill’s, so looking at him you see yourself looking back at you. This painting will certainly challenge me to see how I can see my life and ministry mirrored in Fr Bill’s in some small way and to see if his image can be reflected onto me.

‘He is the image of the invisible God’ wrote Paul about Jesus. As indeed we all are – though to lesser degrees. We are each made to know and to share the love of God, it’s part of what it means to be human- to be made in the image of God. And when we live a fully human (humane?) life we bear something of the life of Fr Bill, of Christ. We too bear God’s image for those who take time to see it.

The word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

For Fr Bill, for Christ, for one another. Thanks be to God.

A sermon is for life, not just for Christmas, Christmas 1 / New Year’s Eve 2017

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Luke 2: 15-21
Rev’d Simon Buckley, St Anne’s Soho

After our packed carol service a week last Thursday I was having a drink with a couple of parishioners and mentioned that amongst the things I probably wouldn’t get done before Christmas was writing a sermon for today. One of them suggested that I do a ‘Christmas Special Sermon’, in other words follow the pattern set by many TV series whose ‘Christmas Special’ contains no new material at all, but just edited highlights of the pervious years programmes! To prove Gavin’s point watching the Christmas special of ‘Have I got News For You’ the next night ( whilst still writing Christmas cards!) I was treated to a random selection of clips from the last year’s programmes and very entertaining it was too.

But of course sermons aren’t supposed to be simply entertaining- so a selection of the sermon illustrations, stories and witty one-liners that got the best reaction from you might not exactly expound the scriptures and preach the word of God as a sermon is supposed to. And reading off the key verses of scripture that had inspired those sermons – one after another- was also going to sound rather disjointed and peculiar.

Nevertheless, inspired by Gavin, I did take a brief and random tour back through some of the sermons I had preached last year and it was interesting to see how many of them I had forgotten writing and which you will I am sure have forgotten hearing.

I am not asking you to shout out if I mention one you remember!

There was one sermon where I gave everyone a postcard of the Da Vinci painting Madonna of the Rocks from the National Gallery Collection. In it John the Baptist was pointing to the infant Jesus, a cuddly chubby little chap and I reflected how much more comfortable we were looking forward to the reception of Christ as a baby ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ and all that, than as our judge.

On this very Sunday last year (which was also New Year’s Day) our gospel gave us the Nativity Story and the slaughter of the innocents all in one go-  stories of life and death – reminding us at the end of a turbulent political year of God’s presence in the world in both the best and very worst of times.

Reflecting on the story of Jesus turning water into wine I shared with you what difference being a Christian makes to my life – not just where I live and what I do for a ‘living’ as a priest- but how I see the world, where, through the eyes of faith I see the water of life being transformed into something richer by the grace of God, and encouraged you in the coming year to do the same.

The story of Thomas helped us explore how Jesus invites us to walk with him, who is the way the truth and the life, taking our doubts as well as our faith with us.

And reflecting on the epistles we found familiarity with Paul who couldn’t understand why he didn’t always do what he wanted to do or what he knew what was best for him; and also thought about his call to ‘let love be genuine’, causing me to note that genuine love demanded sacrifice. To be loving often means sacrificing our own desires, preferences, prejudices and comfort for the well-being of others.

We thought too about the importance of silence and stillness before and during worship. In a series of sermons in August we revisited the stories of great Old testament characters like Ruth, Samson and Daniel. And the parable of the vineyard challenged us, here at St Anne’s, as part of God’s vineyard to be a place in which Christ is welcomed, recognised and recognisable, a place where he is received, proclaimed and followed.

Now you might think, “oh dear, I’m here most Sundays and I don’t remember half of those sermons”, but you shouldn’t be surprised by that, and I am not offended. It’s gratifying when someone says to me (sometimes years later) “I remember you saying in a sermon once that….” It’s gratifying but also surprising! I rather think of sermons as being like most meals we have had – appreciated at the time, necessary to sustain us and to give us the nourishment we need; but their details stay in the memory for as short a time as the taste of last week’s Christmas pudding lingers on our taste buds.

And whilst you won’t find me repeating any of those sermons in the year ahead you will find me revisiting some of the themes and re-treading familiar ground. We will of course think about God’s compassion, our need of him, the vocation of this church as a Christian community, the difference God makes to our lives and how we can live and love and be more Christ-like. The liturgical year and its cycle of festivals and readings means that we will reconsider them over and over again, because no one reading of scripture, no exploration through one sermon, can capture all that there is to say, to think about or to know. Apart from that, the enormity of what sermons consider – the Love of God revealed in different ways- is just too huge to fully encapsulate in ten minutes on a Sunday morning. And today’s gospel tells us so.

Our gospel reading today begins after the angels have proclaimed the birth of Jesus and disappeared as suddenly as they had lit up the Judean sky.

  • The angels’ words had whetted the shepherds’ appetite to know more and to explore what they’d heard for themselves.
  • Having seen Jesus they then shared what they knew with others.
  • Having heard what the shepherds had been told Mary treasured the words and pondered them.
  • The shepherds went back to work, how could they not, but with a new and thankful spring in their step.

The angels’ proclamation – let’s call it a ‘sermon’ – prompted a response that was immediate for some, long lasting for others and which required further thought by more and which contained a message worth sharing.

For me the most significant of responses to the angels’ sermon was that of Mary who, as we hear a couple of times in scripture ‘pondered these things in her heart’, she replayed the good news she had of who her son was – and which must have sounded like terrifying rather than ‘good’ as in ‘happy’ news at first-  and she did this throughout her life and probably especially when she was most perplexed and things weren’t going as expected.

And that’s why no one sermon you heard last year will have answered all your questions or be stored in your memory with full and total accuracy, because we, like Mary, will need to return to the word of God revealed in scripture and re-read it against the changing circumstances of our lives and our world, year by year, week by week.  Sometimes what you’re offered won’t be quite what you need – how can it when we each bring such diverse expectations and experiences, arrive with different concerns and things pressing on our minds? It won’t make sense because it won’t fit with where you are at that moment in time- just as the angel’s first message to Mary made no sense initially. But my hope is always that there will be something – if only one thing- for everyone to take away and chew over. And I also recognise that in no sermon is it possible to say all that is said, any more than in one meal we can stock up our bodies with the food and nutrients we will need for the rest of our life.

So in the coming year, in church as in life, you will hear much that is familiar maybe even repetitive, much that we will relish and stuff we will find unpalatable or hard to swallow. Some things you will hear again but as if for the very first time as a penny drops or it connects in a new way. Here as a community we will endeavour to hear what God is saying to us, and seek to explore where God is present in our lives and our world. Here we will seek to grow together in love and compassion, understanding and graciousness. Here we will recognise that we get it wrong and here we will mirror God’s forgiveness and help one another get back on our feet.

Who knows what this year holds? A royal wedding and the World Cup… probably…. But I am certain of one thing, and it is that the year will be better if we place ourselves in God’s hands and journey with God in the year to come, trusting that he is holding us and remembering how we have been held before. If you don’t remember any of my words over the last twelve months don’t worry- just remember those of the Christmas Gospel and take these with you into 2018:

The word was made flesh and dwelt among us…..the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

As one year ends and another begins that truth remains.


What Does it Mean to be a Priest in Soho?

Monday, January 5th, 2015

A five minute film by Jacob Harbord.

Both Soho and St Anne’s have changed since this film was made in 2014, but it remains a window into the life of this church and into the ministry of its rector….

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