1. Our vicar used to be Dave Tomlinson and he lived with his wife Pat in the Vicarage next door to the Church. Dave is a scouser and supports Liverpool FC. He once ran a church in a pub called Holy Joe’s. Public House, piloted in 2014, was ‘Lent in a Bar’ and had a similar vibe.
2. We have two services on Sunday morning, and an evening service on the first, second and fourth Sunday. (Of the month, not the year). At 9.15am there is a short, meditative communion service, with no talk or hymns, no notices or collection. At 11am our main service, including a crèche and activities for children, features our choir and the eucharist. It finishes as the smell of freshly brewed coffee drifts across the church and the fairly traded products of the Traidcraft stall are on sale.
3. St Luke’s has a long connection with St Mary Magdalene Academy, about a mile away on Liverpool Road. Lots of young people from the church have attended the school and several of our members are governors.
4. As a church we’ve stolen or inherited or invented many approaches to worship – and they often turn up in the same service. We love the ancient, the modern and the post-modern. You might find a C17th liturgy next to an African chant. Or an old hymn next to a music video. We are Church of England in London in the 21st Century and, like you, we have no idea what it means.
5. St Luke’s was established on the corner of Penn Road and Hillmarton Road in 1860. 2010 was our 150th birthday. Parts of our building were bombed in World War II and have been rebuilt. Other features began life in different churches – our organ, refurbished in 2011, was originally the organ at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. For 150 years local people have gathered here – we’re just the current crop.
6. At 7pm on the first Sunday of the month we have Choral Evensong. At the same time on the second Sunday we host ‘Soul Space’, exploring spiritual themes in a chill-out room atmosphere. At 7pm on the third Sunday, nothing is happening – which might be just what you need. At 7pm on the fourth Sunday, we host ‘Listen to the Silence’, a reflective service rooted in the liturgies of the Iona Community with an emphasis on peace, justice and healing.
7. We have a mixed congregation averaging 180 or so (in numbers, not age). We have doctors, administrators, gardeners, social workers, teachers, musicians, shop assistants, writers, care workers, artists, people who are mainly raising families, people who are mainly retired and people who mainly look forward to being retired. There are lots of kids.
8. We are a church where people who want to get involved can. People lead services, write and say prayers, make coffee, run the Sunday Clubs, manage the sound system, engage with local groups like London Citizens, do the gardening, organise the fayres, volunteer for the Winter Night-shelter… and a load of other things.
9. There are nearly 200 people on the Electoral Roll (that’s the number of people who sign up to say they’ve joined) which has doubled in recent years. (This may be because it’s free.) People on the Electoral Roll get to vote for people to be on the Parochial Church Council (PCC), which is the group that works with Martin and the Church Wardens – Susie and Dean – to run St Luke’s.
10. You can find out more about the kind of folk who call this church a home in The Gospel According To Everyone two little books edited by our Associate Vicar Martin Wroe. The books feature stories of people in our community which we’ve used in our services. They’re all saints because none of them realise.
11. Jimmy Nail once came to our vicarage for a few days to make a film for the big screen about rock music. (Didn’t break any box office records.)
12. See 16.
13. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings you can usually find Martin, Judi and a few others meeting in the Church for a short service of prayer at 9.30am. It is called the Daily Office and lasts about 20 minutes.
14. Robbie Williams once came to our church to record a b-side for one of his singles. (We never got any royalties.)
15. Most Tuesdays the Helen O’Grady Children’s Drama Academy meets in the church
16. There is no sixteen. (Or twelve.)
17. Sam Murphy plus Jean & Norman Willson look after the gardens at St Luke’s, which is one of the reasons we have so many weddings here. Rev Dave used to marry about 20 couples every year. He also baptised around 30 children a year and conducted around 45 funerals. Martin buries another dozen or so.
18. In the first three months of the year, the coldest, the Church is open on Saturday nights to offer homeless people supper, a bed and breakfast. This is part of a project by churches in Islington (Caris Islington) which host a night-shelter all week round from January to March.
19. At the top of North Road (turn left after the tube, coming down Cally Road), you’ll find a sixties building now called The Gower School – a nursery for pre-school children. For many years this was St Francis Church Centre, a sister church to St Luke’s. Nowadays we rent the premises to the School and use the funds to help St Luke’s own initiatives in the parish.
20. At the ‘sharp end’ of the church, on the chancel under the window, you’ll see a beautiful triptych commissioned from the artist Paul Martin. It features heaven at the end of time, where all kinds of saints – ordinary people like us – are in heaven with Jesus Christ. Churches often had portable pictures like these – to help people think visually about their faith. Some of the saints are painting or listening to music, some are wearing badges, spectacles – even Converse All Stars. If it was painted today the saints would have headphone wires dangling from their ears, they’d be lost in the shining screen of their iPhones.
21. It costs about £2,500 a week to run St Luke’s – we have an annual budget of more than £130,000. The biggest item of expenditure is the ‘quota’ – the figure we pay the central body of the Church of England. In return we get a vicar and the vicar gets a vicarage. They also help us with other things, like raising funds to keep the building up. Contrary to popular impression, the Church of England is virtually broke. We can usually pay our bills because the people who are part of St Luke’s are generous.
22. Not so long ago we re-faced the Tower of St Luke’s, which was falling down. Not only does it look quite good now but as an added bonus you won’t get hit on the head by falling masonry when you pass by. It cost more than half a million quid but fortunately we won the lottery. (We have a Lottery Syndicate at St Luke’s which along with a few million other lottery players, funds The Lottery Heritage Fund. They gave us 90% of the money for the job.)
23. If you’re standing in the chancel and look up – right up above your head – you’ll see the golden branches of a tree spreading across forty panels embedded in the ceiling. A Bible verse runs along either side, taken from Revelation, where the writer has an ecstatic vision of a holy city with a river running through and trees alongside: ‘The leaves of the trees,’ she writes, ‘Are for the healing of the nations…’
People from St Luke’s worked with the artist Rob Pepper to create this huge piece of community art. Springing from the branches are thousands of greeny-grey leaves – but what you can’t see from the ground is that every leaf has a name written on it. The name of someone who has been part of St Luke’s, the name of someone loved and lost, the name of someone venerated because of their lives – from Aung San Suu Kyi to Martin Luther King, from Mary Davies to Garry Rutter. One day we will put up scaffolding again and add more names.
24. Although your neck may be aching as you look up into the roof, if you focus carefully on the centre of the tree, where are all the branches meet, you see three blue shapes. These are hares, chasing each other around and never catching up. Look closely and you’ll see each hare has two ears but there only three ears between them. This is a picture from before Christianity, later adopted as a sign of the trinity – one in three.
25. If you want to keep up with what’s going on at St Luke’s West Holloway, click the ‘Subscribe to our Newsletter’ text by . You can get an email update every week.
26. On weekdays you’ll often find a theatre group rehearsing a play in the main church space… or an orchestra or a dance troupe. We like to keep the place busy and it helps pay the bills. If you’re interested in hiring space at St Luke’s please get in touch with Tina.
27. Most Sundays you will notice a handsome thespian playing the piano or conducting the choir. Justin Butcher is our Music Director and Choirmaster – as well as a playwright and composer. If you want to get married – or buried – Justin will help you name those tunes. Another talented musician Rick Leigh is our Assistant Music Director.
28. Every week the morning service includes ‘communion’ – where people are invited to share bread and wine and wonder if God is in the house. You don’t need special qualifications to participate. It’s for everyone without exception.
30. At St Luke’s we always try to be open. Even when we’re closed.