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Growing popularity of 1662 prayer book services in a London church draws big congregations from across the capital

The growing popularity of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) used by St
Marylebone Parish Church, opposite Madame Tussauds in London’s Marylebone
Road, accounts for its consistently high levels of attendance at services by
worshippers ranging in age from a few months to more than 100.

That is the view of the rector, the Rev Canon Dr Stephen Evans, who reports that
attendance at the 8.30 am Holy Communion service on Sundays regularly exceeds
100 adults and children – and that is after the congregation was reduced in size as
the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

He said: ‘With 60 children usually present at our BCP Holy Communion services I
feel we are doing our bit in introducing a new generation to the Prayer Book.

‘Ten years ago our congregation comprised just half-a-dozen adults but clearly the
BCP service with its rich liturgical and linguistic heritage has wide appeal,’ he said.
‘Our worship – which we describe as “cathedral worship in a parish church” – also
has a strong following.’

St Marylebone is the latest parish church to sign up as a corporate member of the
Prayer Book Society which encourages rediscovery and use of its majesty and
spiritual depth at the heart of the Church of England’s worship.

A flourishing Young Church and world class music at St Marylebone are among
factors which help to encourage attendance by residents from a wide area as well as
frequent overseas visitors. Although the parish boundary embraces most of Regent’s
Park, including London Zoo and the hospitals and medical institutions of Harley
Street, many of the parish church’s regular worshippers live in the much bigger area
ringed by the M25 motorway.

‘The reason, in many cases, is the absence of BCP services in their local churches,’
explains Canon Evans.

As work gets underway on a £10 million capital works and building refurbishment
project at St Marylebone, the parish church’s close involvement with the local
community continues.

Seven years ago the parish church opened a new Free Special School Academy for
pupils aged between 11 and 16 with speech, language and communications needs.
The Church of England’s only special school, it complements The St Marylebone CE
School, an ‘outstanding’ secondary school with 1,200 students.

Says Canon Evans: ‘For pupils, our parish church is a history lesson in its own right
having been associated over the years with Lord Byron, Francis Bacon, Lord Nelson
and Lady Hamilton, Charles Wesley, James Gibbs, Robert Browning and Elizabeth
Barrett.

‘Others include Wilkie Collins, George Stubbs, Richard Cosway, Benjamin West,
Sherlock Holmes, Leopold Stokowski, Judy Garland – the list is endless.’

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