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Music & Liturgy

crucifix closeWorship is not meant to be a ‘comfortable’ pastime, but neither should it be a completely alien experience!  That’s why at St Mary’s we try to offer opportunities and styles of worship to meet the different needs of different people.  So in the course of any month at St Mary’s you will find a rich mix of formal and informal services, and a variety of styles.

Above all else, worship should be an encounter with Christ that engages our whole selves: body, mind and spirit.  Music, colour, language, movement & symbolism all play an important part in our worship, as we use all our senses to respond to God.


choir advent choral evensong 09St Mary’s is affiliated to The Royal School of Church Music. Our Choir was reformed in September 2006 after a nine month break to take stock of our musical needs in worship. The choir is now focused on Sunday Evensong, but also sings for morning and occasional midweek services.

Our hymn books are Hymns Old & New (10am) and New English Hymnal (6.30pm)

A team of Cantors lead the singing at the 10am Sung Eucharist, and in addition to the hymns, the congregational musical setting includes the Gloria (Kyries in Lent and Advent), a Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel Acclamation, the Eucharistic Prayer, and the Agnus Dei. Once or twice a year we are pleased to welcome visiting choirs who usually sing a full mass setting to mark a particular festival.

The choir is always on the look out for new members – please contact the Parish Office for more information.


frontalThe seasons of the Church’s liturgical year are readily identified by the colours used in worship.  At major festivals such as Christmas, Epiphany and Easter, the vestments and hangings in church are white or gold; in Advent and Lent they are purple (although at St Mary’s we often follow the old English practice of using blue during Advent); at Pentecost and from All Saints’ Day to the Feast of Christ the King they are red; and the rest of the time (Ordinary Time) they are green. Saints Days are white, and Apostles, Evangelists and Martyrs are red.  For All Souls and requiem eucharists, black is used, and white and blue for the feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  On the third Sunday of Advent (‘Gaudate Sunday’) and the fourth Sunday of Lent (‘Laetare Sunday’), the vestments are rose to signal a lighter mood in the penitential season!

At the Eucharist, the President wears a stole and chasuble (coloured according to the season).  The altar cloths are painted silk, designed and painted by Yvonne Bell.

Language & Movement

Worship and prayer are not just cerebral activities, and should therefore engage our whole selves as much as possible.  Liturgy means ‘the work of the people’, and so there is an emphasis on everyone being involved in celebrating the Eucharist, rather than just the those ‘up the front’.

We are quite limited for space sometimes, but as often as possible we try to make best use of the whole building: Messy Mass and broken/ (our alternative worship community) regularly involve ‘prayer stations’ in various parts of the church (or even outside!)

Evensong (most Sundays, 6.30pm) and Mattins (quarterly Sundays, 10am) uses the Book of Common Prayer, which is still the foundation of the Church of England’s worship.  Its language is beloved by many people, and it has a timeless quality which emphasizes the majesty and transcendence of God. (of course its not actually timeless, but very much rooted in the 17th century!)

Sung Eucharist (most Sundays, 10am) and our midweek services use material from Common Worship: Services & Prayers for the Church of England published for the new milennium.

Further details of particular opportunities for worship can be found on our Services page.


Two thousand years ago, the Word became flesh; and since then  we have been trying to put him back into words……    [Anon]

The words we use to describe God are important, of course.  But they are only ever the beginning, and its is not long before we have to rely on images and metaphors to articulate what we want to say, or what we believe.  As human beings we naturally use symbols as a way of  moving beyond words and expressing a profound sense of mystery and wonder.  Jung understood that symbols represent that which is unknown or something that cannot be made clear or precise, and so form an essential part of our spiritual development.  Symbols also have a sacramental quality – making visible and tangible something that is hidden and spiritual.

Through the ages, Christian worship and theology has been crammed with symbolism, as countless Christians have attempted to express their response to God, and describe the understanding of God revealed through Jesus Christ.