2004 marked the 1400th anniversary of the re-organisation of the Diocese of London. The Diocese itself was established in the Roman era but reverted to paganism after the Saxon invasions.
In 604, St Mellitus was consecrated bishop and sent by St Augustine to be a missionary bishop to the East Saxons with London as his headquarters. A series of events has been planned to celebrate the year under the title of "London Visions, Back to the Future".
At its launch, the Bishop of London said, "The future is unseen but we can see the way we have come. In the past 1400 years there have been many Christian visions of the holy city and how the Church can anticipate and be an agent of the future that God intends. London in the 21st century is a world city in the midst of rapid transformation. At such a time, how can we best serve together to express the love of God in Jesus Christ for all the citizens of London? Contemplating past visions and responses helps to give us a greater sense of our room for choice and the need for decision.
"It is as if we were sculling on a great river. As the boat moves forward, we cannot see the way ahead. The future seems to flow from behind our back into view. We can, however, see the way we have travelled and that gives us confidence in God who has protected and guided us as a Church in London for more than 14 centuries."
Many special events celebrated this momentous year.
Silver and the Church: Treasures from London Churches
The Goldsmiths’ Company held a spectacular exhibition which demonstrated the strong links, which have existed between goldsmiths, London and the Church through the past 1400 years, with an emphasis on contemporary church silver, including important commissions by eminent British silversmiths.
Timothy Schroder, the Curator of the exhibition, historian of silver and a member of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, said: “This exhibition is more than a display of magnificent works of art. It mirrors the history of London and show how pious gifts of great objects reflects the faith of its citizens.”
Superb objects, many hardly ever seen in public, were graciously loaned by the Bishop of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and parish churches across the Diocese of London. Silver in the exhibition ranged from across the history of the diocese. Historic items include extraordinary survivals from the Middle Ages, magnificent silver-gilt altar sets from the 17th and 18th centuries and superb jewelled vessels together with ecclesiastical jewellery from the High Victorian Gothic revival, all evoking the tradition, symbolism and ritual of the Church.
Among the contemporary silver, which demonstrated the continuing tradition of expressing faith through beautifully crafted objects, was an altar set in silver gilt and enamel commissioned by the Goldsmiths’ Company from Gerald Benney for St Paul’s Cathedral and a bishop’s crosier designed by Paolo Guidi and made by Nicholas Plumber in 1992, for the Right Revd Dr Richard Chartres, now Bishop of London, when he was consecrated Bishop of Stepney. The silver crosier is an exceptionally striking piece, adorned with entwined serpents and inspired by crosiers of the Coptic church making it particularly unusual.
The Bishop of London, the Right Revd Dr Richard Chartres, said: “I am delighted that the Goldsmiths’ Company has decided to hold an exhibition of Church Plate to celebrate the 14th centenary of the foundation of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Diocese of London. The magnificent interior of Goldsmiths’ Hall with its associations with the history of working in precious metals makes the best location for this exhibition”.
Ash Wednesday 2004
A call to prayer, fasting and pilgrimage.
Ash Wednesday was designated at a day of fasting, prayer and pilgrimage across London, bringing before God the mission and resources of the Diocese. A day-long programme was organised at St Paul’s Cathedral and all were welcome to come for part or all of the day or to fast and pray where they are.
The London Bishops taught in St Paul’s during the day with the theme of ‘Following Jesus’. Each concentrated on biblical encounters with Jesus and focused on the different ways in which people met and talked with him. The talks, of 30 minutes each, were followed by periods of music and silence for reflection and prayer.
St Mellitus Day
St Mellitus Day was marked by a Eucharist in St Paul’s Cathedral, a patronal festival Eucharist at St Mellitus with St Mark, Hanwell. Throughout the day, peals of bells were rung in churches across the diocese.
Diocesan Eucharist, St Paul’s Cathedral, 22 May 2004
Processions, drumming, a new musical setting, a stunning icon and thousands of people marked the Eucharist to celebrate the 1400th anniversary of the Diocese of London at St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 22 May.
Groups from parishes across London met in City Churches for a picnic lunch before processing to the Cathedral to be greeted by the steel pan band from John Keble School.
In St Paul’s it was standing room only as clergy and laity gathered to celebrate.
In pride of place was a new icon of St Mellitus by the noted Bulgarian icon writer, Silvia Dimitrova, a former shortlisted candidate for the European Woman of the Year Award for contributions to the arts. During the service this was blessed by the Bishop of London.
The service marked the first performance of a new setting, ‘The London Eucharist’, by Huw Williams, Sub-Organist at St Paul’s, which was commissioned by the Diocese as part of the 1400th anniversary celebrations.
One of the highlights was the powerfully moving Psalm Drummers heralding the Gospel Procession.
The Archbishop of Canterbury preached, taking ‘restitution’ as his theme. The text of his sermon can be found on his website, here.
At the end of the service, everyone left the Cathedral to more drumming and then mingled with the London bishops in the sunshine.
2,000 children visit St Paul’s to celebrate Diocesan Anniversary
To mark the 1400th anniversary of the Diocese of London, the week of 14 June will see five services held in St Paul’s Cathedral for over 2,000 pupils from primary and secondary Diocesan schools. The liturgy for the services has been devised by the London Diocesan Board for Schools and explores the rich history and culture of the capital through music, readings and presentations. The children will attend with their Area Bishop.
The Order of Service for primary schools includes readings about Viking raids on the capital, the work of the missionary bishop Mellitus who reconstituted the Diocese of London in 604 and Dick Whittington, the famous 14th century Lord Mayor of London. The service for secondary schools includes descriptions of London over the ages by writers such as Dr Johnson and Henry James.
Over the week of Monday 14 – Friday 18 June, 1900 primary school pupils and 250 secondary school pupils attended the Cathedral for special services, accompanied by their Bishops.