God with Us: Watching

Watching 1 Della robbia nativity

Watching 1

11 December 2017

Prepare for the coming of the light of the world…

Christmas decorations, songs and all things twinkly have been adorning the shops since well before Halloween. Shopping lists get longer and the days get shorter; trees need decorating and presents need wrapping; and somewhere in all that is the stuff of everyday life. The countdown is well underway.

However, Advent isn’t a countdown to Christmas; it is a season that calls us to be attentive and ‘awake’, to see the signs of God’s unmistakable presence in our lives.
As we journey through Advent, with all the anticipation and expectation the season brings, it is easy to forget that these weeks aren’t simply a time when we prepare for Christmas, but a time in which we are being prepared for the coming of the light of the world.

During this season it is good to make time – even if just a few minutes a day – to be still. In one of the busiest times of the year this is even more necessary than usual. The stillness that comes from prayer is a way of waiting, a way of watching, and a way of listening to what is going on within and around us. We come to recognise and see the presence of God through stillness and silence, through attentiveness and watchfulness.

It is my fervent prayer that we embrace an Advent of attentiveness and watchfulness, in order to behold the beauty, wonder and grace of God’s presence in every moment of our lives.

Jules Soanes


God with Us: Listening

Listening 5 disciples 1

Listening 5

8 December 2017

I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean I don’t like spending time with people, and indeed as I work for the church, most of my days are spent communicating in one form or another. But I am a listener more than a talker, and I value silence and aloneness as spaces to recharge my batteries.

Listening to God, I think, takes a certain amount of silence. I used to visit a convent in Wantage in Oxfordshire for retreats, where most of the day, including mealtimes, was spent in silence. The noisiest it got was when we heard the chanting of psalms and reading of Scripture in chapel. In this atmosphere, listening for God starts to come naturally, in the quiet of silent reflection, or the hearing of holy words.

In our daily lives in London, there is more background noise, and social media and email can demand our constant attention. But even here we have the chance to experience a listening place, perhaps while gazing at the sky from a commuter train, or sitting quietly at home (which I am now as I write this) when our diary lets us. I find it helpful to build a little quiet time into most days, just to relax and experience God’s presence, without needing to ‘do’ anything.

And yet knowing that God is with us, Emmanuel, there is another aspect to listening to God we should acknowledge – that God can speak to us through his creation and his creatures. The mystic Meister Eckhart famously said ‘every creature is a Word of God’. So next time you are speaking to a stranger, or taking in a scene, be aware that God can speak, and we should listen, to what God might be saying in that situation. What we hear might surprise, or even change, us.

Martin Carr

God with Us: Listening

Listening 4 Christ

Listening 4

7 December 2017

I listened to life and my thoughts spoke tentatively; I often have to hold my breath to hear them. They observe things within and without me that seem prescient of my life’s direction and yet at odds with my heretofore held aspirations. What is this murmur within me, and can I trust it to lead me? It was with this in mind that I wrote the following.

I can’t comprehend my satisfaction
I can’t comprehend my love
I listen for a call to action
And stare at an unseen path

I hear the murmur of ambition
Without understanding its means
The soul, perhaps, yearning fruition
Or a man in earshot of his greed

To heed the flow of events,
Free and opaque as the sea,
Or continue, recourse to intent,
Fastened to what I believe?

To listen or cast ahead:
To be in the presence of God
And let things unwished for be said
Or continue to question love.

Jake Kirner

God with Us: Listening

Listening 3 Anunciation Keith New

Listening 3

6 December 2017

Christmas Now and Then by Evie Lawley, 9yrs

In the playground, waiting for Christmas Eve,
Children screaming with excitement at school.
What will be in their stockings?
Presents and chocolate for all?

Adults and children singing Christmas carols,
At schoosl, at fairs and in shops.
Loud music at peoples houses,
Neighbours dancing along at a bop.

“Ho, ho, ho and jingle bells”
Father Christmas bellows from your roof.
Flying across the bright, night moon,
You can hear his reindeers’ hooves.

Mary and Joseph heard an Angel,
Who said, “You will have a baby”.
“He will be God’s only son”,
“You are a special lady”.

Baby Jesus born in a stable,
Heard unwrapping of gifts from three Wise Men.
And also noises of all the animals,
And Angels singing “Amen”.


God with Us: Listening


Listening 2

5 December 2017

Sshh! Listen! No not with your ears!
Ears only hear sleigh bells and Christmas carols and nagging voices to buy a bigger turkey and evermore presents!
No, reader, listen with your heart;
Still your mind and listen!
Stop your physical and mental wanderings and be still!
There! Can you hear Him?
A whisper amongst the trees; a shadow that falls across your conscience;
A blanket that envelops you with love and stills your shivering mind;
Everything starts as a whisper reader – you, me, Adam;
God speaks in whispers because he wants to be close to us, woo us, his whisper being the very breath of life that we inhale;
There it is again – strain your heart reader – a whisper gentle, not chiding “Don’t forget Me!”

Hasmeeta Mahandru

God with Us: Listening

Listening 1 Della Robbia

Listening 1

4 December 2017

‘Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening’                                                                                                                                   Rumi (Sufi mystic)

Listening is quite a challenge today with all the demands made for our attention from social media and in the news. The ever-deepening chasm that is dividing society over Brexit is bringing out the worst in individuals bogged down in opposing trenches. Harmful words uttered, without the feedback of a listening ear saying, ‘Hang on, perhaps there is another way’.

Finding time to stop and listen to others and our inner soul takes practice. The silence in our Taizé prayers at All Hallows is a good way to learn to stop, detune the mind from the demands of the world and just listen. First, you might notice the sound of traffic, the clicks and gurgles of the church radiators, and the breathing and rustling of others in the communion. Soon however, focussing on your breath and on the light – the divinity of Christ, Mary and the Saints before you; you come to an inner peace. In these moments, you and only you can hear a truth. A truth that we are the entire same genus and all in this world together and must learn to hear when we listen. We must allow room for others to speak, and then answer with humility, ‘Perhaps there is another way’.

Christ preached another way; in summarising the legal teachings of the Old Testament, he taught that we must learn to love each other. In Luke 12:3 it is said, ‘What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.’

Hear the whisper in the ear and within. Listen with an intent to understand not an intent to reply.

David Risley

God with Us: an Advent blog

God with Us logo

The constant refrain of Christmas, in carols and readings, is that God is with us. In whatever situation you find yourself this Christmas, God is with you – you need only turn to him and ask to know his presence.’                               Archbishop Justin Welby

In Advent we try to take time out from the rush of Christmas preparations, and to pause and reflect on what the coming of the Christ child might mean in our lives. In Matthew’s gospel Joseph is told that the child soon to be born to Mary will be called Emmanuel, a Hebrew word which means ‘God with us’. How can we get ready to hear this wonderful news? How can we unwrap in our own lives God’s gifts of peace, hope and love? One answer to these questions is ‘by praying’.

After the success of the All Hallows Lent blog, to which a wide variety of people contributed, we are running a new blog during weekdays in Advent this year. Based on material from #GodwithUs, a Church of England initiative, we will reflect each week in December on a different aspect of prayer – first Listening, then Watching and finally Waiting – and how we can use prayer to explore the amazing good news of Christmas.

Do join us in getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who is God with us, during this wonderful season. To find out more about #GodwithUs, see www.churchofengland.org/Christmas


life ON TOWER HILL 11/17


Parish news from All Hallows by the Tower                      November 2017


christch2Moving on

At the end of October we heard the news that Bertrand our Vicar will be leaving All Hallows to take up a new post as Dean of Montreal and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral there.  This is an exciting new challenge as he explains:

‘It is a huge honour and privilege for me to have been invited to serve the bilingual Anglican Cathedral Community in Montreal, and I relish the prospect of being able to integrate both anglophone and francophone sides of my personality in order to share the Gospel in this new context for me.’

Inevitably, this announcement will bring change at All Hallows. ‘We have achieved much at All Hallows in recent years’, says Bertrand, ‘and I am tremendously grateful to our Churchwardens, PCC, staff and volunteer team, and all those who have given their time and energy to continue God’s mission on Tower Hill and expand it beyond into cyberspace.’

Bertrand’s last Sunday at All Hallows will be on the Feast of Candlemas (transferred), on 4 February 2018, and announcements will follow about plans for our farewell to him.  After twelve successful years of ministry here, he is held in great affection and will be much missed.



JakeContinuing our series on All Hallows people, this month we meet Jake Kirner, our part-time Verger.

Jake joined us in September this year and works three hours on weekday mornings before speeding off to his other verger’s job at St Giles, Cripplegate.  Jake has a degree in music; he was previously a classical singer and has also worked in music publishing. He has been a concert verger at St Sepulchre without Newgate and his musical connections have already proved useful at All Hallows.  The practical skills needed in his job – maintenance, security, preparing for special services and keeping the church looking tidy and welcoming – have been honed not only by his previous experience as a verger but also by his home life: he lives on a narrow boat, constantly navigating either the River Lee or Regent’s Canal.

Jake says, ‘I enjoy problem solving, from broken locks to overbooked concerts and all the glamorous and mundane things in between.  All Hallows has many lights to fix and artefacts to protect, but I hope also to help the church prosper in its role in the community through concerts, special services and other events that bring people together.’

Send hope for Christmas – 5, 13 & 19 December

Poster for letter writingAdvent is a time when we wait in hope and expectation, but for many in the world today there is little prospect of hope. Do join us to write Christmas messages to some of those who most need to hear it – isolated victims of torture – and send some hope this Christmas.

Come along any time between 12.30-2pm on Tuesday 5, Wednesday 13 & Tuesday 19 December to write cards over a sandwich lunch. Cards will also be available to write after Sunday services in December and after the Taizé service on 13 December.

All are welcome to join us, whether for 15 minutes or for a whole session – whatever time you can spare.

All Hallows treasures… the Roman Stele

Continuing our series on the treasures of All Hallows, this month our Education and History Officer, Adey Grummet, describes an intriguing Roman carving:

Roman steleIn the Crypt Museum of All Hallows is a Roman funeral stele, or grave marker, for a married couple. Although the female head of the image has been lost, it is inscribed to Demetrius and Ateidia, who lived and died together. The draping of the male toga shows that Demetrius was an established citizen and Ateidia’s gown is also of finely woven and draped fabric. More than this of their story can only really be imagined but the Londinium of Roman times was a prosperous and populous trading centre and garrison city.

One possible scenario is that the couple died together in the Antonine plague between 160-180AD. All Roman burials took place outside the city’s wall, which had been completed in stone by the 2nd century. It was a section of this wall that, centuries later, was uncovered and then destroyed during the building of the first underground station on Tower Hill around 1880-81. Soil and material from these diggings was taken to the Tilbury marsh and used as landfill, our stele perhaps amongst it all.

Then, it was dug up once more during the building of Tilbury docks between 1882 and 1886. At this point, someone tucked it away in the corner of an office and there it remained unnoticed for a few more decades. It was not until 1932 that it was brought to the notice of the Port of London Authority. The stele was then examined and found to be genuine and was brought back to Tower Hill for exhibition in Revd ‘Tubby’ Clayton’s new museum under All Hallows, where it can still be seen today.

Upcoming events

CONCERT FOR ST CECILIA’S DAY – Saturday 25 November, 6.30pm                                 East London Chorus: Bach, Mozart, Rheinberger, Finzi and Britten

LUNCHTIME CONCERT – Wednesday 29 November, 1.10pm                                          Johan de Silva (Baritone) and Christopher Moore (Piano) 

ADVENT ACTIVITY AFTERNOON – Sunday 3 December                                                      Help decorate All Hallows

SEND HOPE FOR CHRISTMAS – 5, 13 & 19 December, 12.30-2.00pm                                      Write cards for victims of torture


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life ON TOWER HILL 10/17


Parish news from All Hallows by the Tower                                 October 2017



Onwards and upwards…

Bertrand marathon medalAfter overcoming leg injuries and a 42 gruelling kilometre (26.2 mile) run, Bertrand our vicar made it through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on 24 September to complete the Berlin Marathon.

He was running in aid of vital improvements needed to the first floor facilities in the church so we can welcome more community and charity groups.  There’s still time to donate to this excellent cause.

Harvest time

Harvest 2017 rotatedHarvest Festival was celebrated at All Hallows on Sunday 1 October.  Fresh produce was donated after the service to the Manna Day Centre in Southwark, which provides meals and support for the homeless.

The tinned and dried food we collected was given to the Tower Hamlets Foodbank.  It’s not too late to bring your contributions for the Foodbank – you can leave them in the box provided in church.  Items they particularly need at present are:

Tinned Fruit
Mashed Potato
Tinned Vegetarian Meals (e.g. macaroni & cheese/ratatouille)
Juice (long-life)/branded Cordial
Milk (long-life) 1 ltr
Jelly (cubed)
Washing Powder (small/medium size)
Shaving foam
Washing Up liquid

Thank you!

Time to remember

maritime memorial book 2On October 12 All Hallows holds a very special event: the annual Maritime Memorial Book Service, where friends and family gather to remember those who have been lost at sea and have no known grave.  A Memorial Book to record their names,  and, where possible, the circumstances of their deaths, was established here in 1987.

Sadly of course new names are added every year, and are read out during the annual service.  We hold these families in our prayers and hope that having a lasting memorial and focus of remembrance at All Hallows is of comfort to them.

All Hallows treasures: the Caravarca cross


This month we begin a series featuring some of All Hallows’ lesser known treasures.

Over the past year NADFAS volunteers have been engaged on a challenging but very worthwhile project: to record the entire contents of All Hallows. Working in small teams, they’ve been visiting us once a fortnight to document memorials, metalwork, stonework, woodwork, textiles, paintings and so on. When the recording is complete, they will produce an illustrated book detailing each item and its history; copies will also be sent to national institutions. Even our seasoned recorders have been surprised and at times a little daunted at how much we have here, both on show and stored away! But they have already drawn attention to objects with a fascinating history that might otherwise have been overlooked.

One of these is the Caravarca cross kept in our Treasury. Identified by the Victoria & Albert Museum as late 17th century, this is an example of a ‘plague cross’ designed to protect the wearer from illness. The design originates in Caravarca in Spain, a town famous for its miraculous cross which is said to contain a relic of the true cross.

Each side of our small brass cross, which was once gilded, is inscribed with letters. These would each have denoted an individual blessing, probably associated with S. Zacharius, who was said to have collected a set of prayers against the plague. For example, ‘D’ stood for ‘Deus, Deus meus expelle pestem a me, et a loco isto, et libera me’ (God, my God, drive the plague from me, and from this place, and liberate me). The crosses which punctuate the letters represent separate prayers for God’s protection from the plague, each one beginning ‘Crux…’ (‘Cross of Christ’).

It’s a stark reminder of the fear which plague aroused, many centuries before the disease was understood or a cure found, and a token too of the people’s hope and expectation of divine protection. For further information, see this interesting article.

Upcoming events

ALL HALLOWS SUNDAY SCHOOL second and fourth Sundays, during the 11am service

LUNCHTIME RECITAL  by Iain Gibbs and friends, Saturday 7 October, 12 noon

MARITIME MEMORIAL BOOK SERVICE Thursday 12 October, 12 noon

JUST SHARE EVENT: Ethical employment practices Tuesday 24 October, 6pm

ALL HALLOWS QUIZ NIGHT Saturday 21 October, 7pm

Join us for all these and more at:

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life ON TOWER HILL 09/17


Parish news from All Hallows by the Tower                                 September 2017



Stewardship Sunday

Many thanks to Tilly and Evie, two young members of our congregation, who made the video above. It was shown at our special Eucharist for Stewardship Sunday on 3rd September, as we reflected on the ways in which we can give back to God some of the gifts – both in goods and in talents – that he has given us. As the video shows, All Hallows is a special place to many people, and we need the support of all our members to continue our mission here on Tower Hill.

Please look at the stewardship page on our website for more details of how you can donate to All Hallows or help in other ways.

Meet… Angie

angie2Continuing in our series on the All Hallows team, this month we feature Angie Poppitt, our Operations and Finance Manager. Angie runs the parish office, co-ordinates services and events, manages the church finances and is also PCC Secretary – in other words she is a lynch pin of the organisation and fount of All Hallows knowledge!

‘What I like about the job is its huge diversity’ she says.  ‘One minute I might be choreographing our triennial Battle with the Tower of London or wrestling with a cash flow spreadsheet, and the next making tea for a homeless visitor to the church or arranging a guided tour for a U3A group.’

Before coming to All Hallows Angie spent ten years working in politics, organising conferences and seminars as well as dealing with PR and publicity. She had previously worked at St James the Less in Westminster, as well as being involved with a number of different charities, including a stint in Uganda helping to train youth workers.

A happy All Hallows memory is co-ordinating a celebrity chefs’ pancake race soon after she joined, which got good press coverage and helped to raise money for the Sport Relief ‘Run a Mile’ challenge.

Bertrand marathonBerlin Marathon

Speaking of running, you may have heard that Bertrand our Vicar missed out on this year’s London Marathon owing to injury.  The good news is that he is back on track, and will be running the Berlin Marathon on September 24th to raise funds to upgrade parts of our building for community use.

Please click here to donate via his fund-raising page.


Upcoming events

ALL HALLOWS SUNDAY SCHOOL second and fourth Sundays, starting on 10 September, during the 11am service

HARVEST FESTIVAL Sunday 1 October, 11am

MARITIME MEMORIAL BOOK SERVICE Thursday 12 October, 12 noon

JUST SHARE EVENT: Ethical employment practices Tuesday 24 October, 6pm

ALL HALLOWS QUIZ NIGHT Saturday 21 October, 7pm


Join us for all these and more at:

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