Statement re St Sepulchre from Bishop Pete Broadbent, Acting Bishop of London
There has been much discussion in recent weeks about St Sepulchre, in the City of London, and its recent decision to suspend its external hire programme.
I am grateful to the Rector and PCC of St Sepulchre for being willing to engage with me and other diocesan colleagues about their decision. In that engagement I have repeated and re-inforced the role the Church of England plays in the communities it serves. The Church of England is called to be a welcoming, inclusive, and engaging church. I have re-emphasised the importance of this to all those at St Sepulchre.
In the Diocese and particularly in the City of London, serving our communities is central to the life of the Church. We are proud that our own work and partnerships, whether it be with youth based charities, heritage bodies, 12-step groups, international communities, homeless agencies, mental health, counselling, and legal advice, really do impact on, and change lives. Innovative use of our buildings, aided by a great network of volunteers enable these activities to happen. It is these ‘Partnerships in the Gospel’ that help define the Church in London today. We are proud of proclaiming afresh the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and proud of serving our communities, and demonstrating through that service our love of God and neighbour.
I recognise that the hiring of space in churches, and in particular providing space for musicians to rehearse and perform, need to be balanced with all the activity that a parish and community wants and needs to take place. It is sometimes not an easy balance to strike.
Major flagship concerts and rehearsals in preparation for these concerts will still take place at St Sepulchre, and the PCC is developing a wider programme of music which they will be announcing soon. I am pleased a new album from their choir will also be released shortly.
Across the City Churches, we have many places of worship with a wide variety of ministry to musicians, providing space for concerts and rehearsals. This has always been the case and although St Sepulchre has for many years been the spiritual home of the National Musicians’ Chapel, and will continue to be so, many of our churches can rightfully claim to exercise a role as a musicians’ church.
For example, we have an active and successful hiring programme and children’s music outreach programme at St Anne and St Agnes, in partnership with the Voces Cantabiles Music Foundation, that reaches over 25,000 children every year, and exciting plans in partnership with Sir Roger Gifford, former Lord Mayor, and Dr Clare Taylor, director of the City Music Foundation to establish a new teaching and performance space at St Bartholomew the Less. This is in addition to the concerts and rehearsals that take place in almost all of our 33 churches of the Square Mile.
The Diocese has a role to play in facilitating and encouraging stronger relationships between the Church in London and the musical community, including making it easier for musicians to access rehearsal and concert space. The wide coverage of these matters has convinced me that we need to improve access to churches which are willing and able to provide such space. So, as from 1 November, we shall be launching a website – www.musicianschurch.org – that will provide easy access to hire space and booking options for musicians in London, as well as be used as a tool to promote concerts and events. I do hope this will also allow us to help support and encourage new musicians, as they form ensembles, and bring together family, friends and the wider public to enjoy the creativity and celebration of God-given musical talent.
I am confident that these steps, along with a clearer programme of activities at St Sepulchre, will start to rebuild confidence in our partnerships and focus our minds on growth. Growth in the work of the church, growth in the use of our buildings, and growth in the music performed in our churches.