St Philip’s Church plays a large and vital part in the community life of Avondale Square, the Old Kent Road and surrounding area. As well as one-off events such as fun days and local events, our Community Hall hosts a variety of activities for all ages.

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Holy Week and Easter services 2017

In Holy Week, Christians follow Jesus’ final journey to the Cross. The services enact dramatically the main stages in this journey, ending with his death on Good Friday and finally the life changing events of the first Easter.  Our Holy Week and Easter services fully embrace children’s participation, especially “Messy Church” on the morning of Good Friday.  Everyone is welcome to join us for any of our services.  For more details see the attached flyer: HW&E 2017 design final

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Bishop Christopher’s Advent sermon at St Philip’s on 11 December


It is a great joy to be with you once again at St Philip’s, of which I am very fond – I need to say Bishops are not to have favourites – though we do now go back a long way.  I was Area Bishop before I becoming Diocesan, and I always look forward to standing at the Altar or behind the Lectern here, or sharing a meal in the Hall.   Not only that, but, as many of you will remember, Mother Anna’s predecessor was a certain Father Mark Steadman, and after he ceased to have the cure of souls in this Parish, he became my Chaplain, thus taking on a cure of just one soul; but, I fear, a soul that was a sore trouble to him.   So we meet as friends and uphold each other in the love of Christ as we are led by Him on our journey of faith.

And this is indeed a Parish of the Journey.  Less than a hundred yards away is the old road to Kent, down which generation after generation of Pilgrims have walked to Canterbury – having started their journey by praying in what was then the Parish Church of St Mary Overie, now Southwark Cathedral and, no doubt, fortified themselves with a flagon or two at the Tabard Inn.  St Philip’s is indeed a Church on the Pilgrims’ way. 

But more than that, this is a place that has always been on a journey.  The very name, Camberwell.   What does it mean? Possibly Comber Well, or the Well of the Britons, to be more precise the remaining Britons.   And this would then be an Anglo-Saxon name.  So this was a place where Celtic inhabitants were still living among the newly arrived and increasingly dominating Anglo-Saxons.   The very name testifies to the constant flow of the new into the old, the new becoming the old and again welcoming (or sometimes resisting) the new.  

Since those Anglo-Saxons arrived and found the Britons clustered around their well (and of course, the Britons themselves were migrants of an earlier generation), people without number have come and settled here.   This has always been a place where those who were born here live side by side with those who have just arrived.  Not always in harmony: but by God’s grace, within St Philip’s, that saving sense is alive and well that what unites us is greater than what separates us (and that our differences are a source of strength).

By the same token, however, this is not a place where life has been easy.  This very building speaks to the challenges this part of South London has faced.  It replaces a Victorian church destroyed by bombing in the Second World War; which was itself damaged in the First World War.  And today, for all that it is so close to the City of London, this is a place where many people face serious deprivation.   Out of 12,599 Parishes in the Church of England, 11,827 are richer than this one.  

But I have to ask, richer in what sense?   Undoubtedly richer in the sense that economists mean – material poverty is a very serious thing lived out in the lives and choices of this community.  Not having enough for daily needs, let alone having less than others, is indeed hard to bear.  But do we really want to say that other places are richer when they might be spiritually dead or lack the strong sense of common purpose and mutual love which is so evident in this Community of Faith.

The Gospel holds out hope and offers most to those who have least yet who know their need of God.   To whom does the Good News come?  What do we read in our Gospel?   John has sent his friends from prison to find out whether Jesus really is the one he hopes that he is – the promised one, the anointed one, the one coming into the world to make the world new.   And what is the sign that Jesus is the Messiah?   …‘the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have Good News brought to them.’ 

Jesus begins the Beatitudes and Woes in St Luke’s Gospel with: ‘happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’; but he also says a few verses later, ‘woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation’.  The last shall be first.  

This all has something to do with being on the way: on the Pilgrims’ Way. 

For we Christians are nomads, like the people of Israel.  We are wanderers in the desert, people who live in tents.  Now, please do not mistake me.  I see very clearly there is no romance in poverty.  It is hard.  It is unjust.  It is wrong.  Yet it has this about it: it does not make one complacent.  The problem with being rich is that it can make you like where you are too much.   Those who have little will stay on the Pilgrims’ Way, searching for something better, always with their eyes lifted to the heavenly city towards which we journey.  The journey may not be short.  As St James says, we must be patient and strengthen our hearts.  But this is our calling.

Now, let me in conclusion say two things about this journey, to make it more concrete and relevant to life lived here and now.

The first is this.  We are on a journey together.  We keep each other warm.  We help each other as we fall down.  We share our food.  And in this there are great riches.  Truly poor is the rich man alone with his money in his counting house.  We who are on a journey must rely on one another.  And in that reliance is true riches – both in relying, and in being relied upon.  In a Parish Church we can build up virtuous circles of connection and support.  Each time we give a kindly greeting, make an offer of help, ask for advice, lend a power tool, share a meal, look out for a home when the family are away, call on someone we fear may be ill, welcome the stranger and refugee in our midst, tell our fears and sorrows to another; in all these ways, we build up a web of connection which is irreplaceable and beyond value.  So do not grumble against one another, as St James enjoins, but rather be patient and loving.  Each act of gentleness and each expression of trust is a victory of infinite worth.

And the second is this.  As we journey on, someone else is journeying towards us.  We walk the Pilgrims’ Way, trampling it with our feet so that it is a straight highway.   But Jesus is coming towards us from the other direction.  He is coming swifter than we are going.  He is coming to meet us.  So we do not do this on our own.  We build up our community as we journey together.  We are bound together by more than our own love and trust.  We are bound together by the strong thread of God’s Holy Spirit, which Christ breathes into us.  This we can trust.  This we can rely upon.

As Advent draws towards Christmas, here beside the Holy Way of the Old Kent Road, let us indeed strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.  And let us say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!  Here is your God.’


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Christmas Service 2016

at St Philip’s Church, Avondale Square, SE1 5PD.  All are welcome.

St Philip’s Xmas services flyer

SUNDAY 16- 23 December

4.00pm Celebracion Novena Navidena: Inicio y bendicion del nacimiento, Mision Hispana Anglicana, St Philip’s Church, Avondale Square SE1 5PD (Facebook: Mision Hispana Anglicana, or email


10.00am Parish Mass

3.00pm Misas en espanol/Spanish Mass

6.00pm Carol Service by Candlelight


4.00pm Crib Service (especially for children)

11.30pm Midnight Mass and Blessing of the Crib


10.00am Mass of Christmas


10.00am Parish Mass


10.00am Mass of the Epiphany (coming of the 3 Kings)

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Join us for Holy Week and Easter

Scroll down for Holy Week and Easter service times

On Palm Sunday in Church, we remember the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey.  In the service, we also read the account of his betrayal and abandonment, crucifixion and death from one of the four Gospels.  The different parts are read by members of the congregation, and we all join in with the crowds, adding to the dramatic tension.

These events are a turning point in our faith, and a turning point in human history.  This week, the most important week of the Christian year, the Church invites us to take part in them ourselves, and to be changed by the experience.  On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week, the normal 6pm Mass is followed by a short reflection and ancient nighttime service of Compline, which prepare us for the Easter Triduum, the great Three Days that stretch from the evening of Maundy Thursday to the eve of Easter Day.

We share the Passover with Jesus’ disciples in the Upper Room; we keep vigil with Jesus in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We journey with him from his trial to the cross and burial in the tomb.  From there, we await his rising again on Easter Day.  Taking part in the events of this week, through the services below, is to embark on a journey that can change our life.  We look forward to sharing this journey with you.  Service times, including Spanish Mass, are below:

Holy Week and Easter Services at St Philip’s, Avondale Square

Palm Sunday, 20 March

10.00am         Parish Mass with blessing of palms

this service begins in the Church Hall

3.00pm           Spanish Mass

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of Holy Week

6.00pm           Said Mass

6.30pm           Reflection followed by Compline

Maundy Thursday, 24 March

8.30am           Morning Prayer

11.00am         Chrism Mass at Southwark Cathedral

7.00pm           Supper in the Church Hall (please sign up on list in Church)

8.00pm           Sung Mass of the Last Supper followed by the Watch until Midnight

Good Friday, 25 March

9.30am           Morning Prayer

10.30am         Messy Church: Journey to the Cross

Activities for children with crafts and prayer activities, followed by refreshments

12.00 noon    Open-Air service at the Blue for all ages, followed by lunch at St James’

2.00pm           The Liturgy of Good Friday (at St Philip’s)

5.30pm           Evening Prayer

Holy Saturday, 26 March

9.30am           Morning Prayer

8.30pm           The Paschal Vigil and First Mass of Easter followed by festive refreshments

Easter Day, 27 March

10.00am         Parish Mass for Easter Day

with Baptism and Admission of Children to Communion,

Blessing of the Easter Garden and distribution of Easter Eggs

3.00pm           Spanish Mass


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at St Philip’s Church, Avondale Square, SE1 5PD



5.00pm Christingle Service (especially for children)



10.00am Parish Mass

3.00pm Misas en espanol/Spanish Mass

El próximo día 20 de Diciembre a las tres de la tarde será la segunda ocasión en la que nos reuniremos para la celebración mensual de la Eucaristía en español. Es un oportunidad para que toda la comunidad latina, y todos aquellos que nos quieran acompañar, podamos expresar nuestra fe en nuestra propia lengua. Además después de la celebración nos reuniremos como siempre para compartir comida y risas. Anímate y participa!! Esta es tu comunidad!! Por supuesto no faltarán los típicos villancicos.

6.00pm Carol Service by Candlelight

  Continue reading

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Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, is a season of new beginnings. So it’s fitting that we’re launching our website- not in September, or January, or any of the times we normally associate with a new year- but at the start of a new year in the Church.

Advent is a time of renewal. It’s an exhilarating time, one of my favourite seasons. I’ve always loved the traditional Advent hymns, with their sense of fresh expectancy and longing: “O come, o come Emmanuel” and “Lo! he comes with clouds descending”. To me, they speak of the ancient desire for God, and our human need to be loved. Advent is a season of heightened expectation: we believe in transformation; we believe in change.

We’re always being led into newness. Here at St Philip’s, as well as our website, we had this week an exciting new service in Spanish. Thirty people from the Latin American community in Avondale Square and the surrounding area came together to hold what we believe is a first in the Church of England: an Anglican Mass in Spanish! The service was led by Fr Hugo Adan Fernandez and Fr John Watson. We had a wonderful time and shared traditional refreshments afterwards, bunuelos baked by Celina.


The next Spanish Mass, a Christmas celebration, will be on Sunday 20 December at 3pm at the Church. All are welcome. In the parish, families and friends will celebrate the traditional novena in the nine days from 16 December to 24 December, to honour the Virgin Mary, St Joseph, the Wise Men and the baby Jesus, travelling from one household to another, praying, eating and singing villancicos (Christmas carols).

There is so much to celebrate as we think of the new events that have taken place in our church and community. On Saturday 5 December, Avondale Community Events (ACE) will be holding the second Christmas dinner and party for all children and their families on the Avondale Estate and surrounding area, building on the success of last year’s event with a pantomime. Once again, the event will be followed by the Christingle service in the Church at 5pm for all who wish to attend.

Advent and Christmas are a time to recognise and celebrate our diversity. There are so many talented individuals in our community and different traditions in evidence. In our part of London, we are from many cultures, but our longing for freedom and love, for ourselves and our world, brings us together.

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