Hampstead vicar to bless new website at church on Sunday

Reverend Stephen Tucker, vicar of The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead in Church Row, Hampstead

Reverend Stephen Tucker, vicar of The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead in Church Row, Hampstead. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Archant

A church in Hampstead is to make history this Sunday by joining other places of worship across the UK in the blessing of a new website.

Hampstead Parish Church interior

Hampstead Parish Church interior - Credit: Archant

The vicar at the Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead, Stephen Tucker, will use this Sunday’s service to say a prayer for ChoralEvensong.org – a new site directing people to choral Evensong services across Britain and Ireland.

Described as a “new type of blessing for the digital age”, Sunday will see churches and cathedrals across the UK and Ireland take part in the unique ceremony with some vicars lighting a candle in front of a laptop and others saying a specially written prayer. It is thought to be the first joint blessing of its kind.

Rev Tucker told the Ham&High: “This Sunday we will have a table with a laptop computer open on the website. In the service I will include a prayer, blessing the website, and give thanks to church musicians. This Sunday is also the day on which the church remembers St Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

He added: “It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever done something like this. It’s an intriguing concept.”

This Sunday’s website blessing will also see services involving the Deans of Westminster Abbey in London, Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, St. David’s Cathedral in Cardiff, and St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.

It’s all the brainchild of the Hampstead Church Music Trust and Dr Guy Hayward, who say they hope to reverse what has been a decline in the number of people attending choral services over the past 50 years.

Dr Hayward, a former choral scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, said: “We have this wonderful tradition of choral evensong, yet when you want to go to anywhere but your own church to listen, it’s quite hard to find what services are happening, when, where, and what music is being played or sung. We felt very frustrated.

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“So we came up with the idea of having one website to bring it all together in a universal format. You could just put in your postcode or address, and it would find the nearest one to you — or wherever else you wanted to go.”

He added: “We really hope this website will make choral evensong accessible for more people.

“Choral Evensong offers everyone a free moment of inspiration, a chance to reflect on beauty in the gap between a day’s work and dinner.

“It is the most accessible service, because the music is so uplifting and there is little liturgy. In London alone, every day of the week at 5pm, one can enter Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral free of charge and listen to world-class music for 45 minutes.

“By blessing this website, churches and cathedrals are sending a clear message that they want to welcome people who do not usually go to church, even if their intention is just to hear good music in historic buildings, and they are embracing the use of modern technology to do so.”

Dr Hayward said blessing a physical object or tool has precedent in the church, with the plough blessed on Plough Sunday in early January before taking to the soil.

This Sunday’s hour-long service at Hampstead Parish Church, in Church Row, will begin at 4.30pm with a party to follow. All are welcome to attend.