On this page.....
- About our Church
- Ernest Shearman, the Architect
- Unfinished Design
- The Chapels
- What we Believe
- Our Patron - Saint Gabriel
About our Church
The forward-thinking Bishop of London 1901 to 1939, Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram, had a vision for expanding the Church of England in London to make provision for the spiritual needs of the growing suburbs. He planned 45 new churches in what were to become the great suburban districts of the capital. Forty-five mission huts were built, and forty-five priests appointed ("London Diocesan Home Missionaries"). These forty-five mission huts attracted congregations, who raised funds, and eventually forty-five new church buildings rose up with forty-five new church congregations. St Gabriel's, North Acton, is one of Bishop Winnington-Ingram's "new churches", and in fact is acknowledged to be the very first of the 45 (see the Acton Gazette, 24 July 1931). The mission was launched in 1921, church construction took place in 1930 and 1931, and the church was opened and consecrated on 18th July 1931.
Today the nave and chancel of St Gabriel's are used for Sunday worship. The chancel and sanctuary (with the massive high altar) are also used regularly for benediction, and daily offices. The chancel is wide and spacious, and dominated by the very large high altar, and three hanging red sanctuary lamps. The rear of the nave is also used for social activities and for community functions. There are smaller side chapels (see below). There is a large gallery at the west end, which is currently out of use. There is also a large western narthex which serves as more than just an entrance hall. Being the size of a large room in a domestic dwelling, it now doubles up as a Junior Church area for children on Sundays. A church catering galley was installed in 2012 and new toilets and storage facilities were installed in 2018.
Bishop Arthur Winnington-Ingram, who founded our church.
Ernest Shearman, our Architect
St Gabriel's Church is one of the six London masterpieces of architecture designed and built by the architect Ernest Charles Shearman. Sadly, one of his six London churches was destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War, but the other five remain in use. All are broadly similar in style, though different in detail. Shearman built large and lofty churches, with high ceilings, and sweeping gothic arches and arcades of red brick.
One of his signatures was the elaborate rose window - always with plain glass, as the detail was in the tracery of the stonework. Each of his London churches had a rose window, except St Silas, Kentish Town, which had a half-rose. St Gabriel's was designed with two rose windows. Sadly, only one was installed (on the south transept, at high level) as funding for the other window could not be found.
The other rose window was to have been massive, and in the west wall, which remains unfinished. There are other unfinished parts of St Gabriel's. The towers to the east of the transepts should each have been topped with a spire, as should the matching towers on the west end of the building. A planned ambulatory around the eastern apse was also never built. The largest side chapel was never built - Shearman usually provided several side chapels in his church designs. Most significantly, the parish halls and offices planned for the north side of the church were never built - the church still owns the land beside the church building where these facilities should have been constructed, and we hope that one day the funding will be available to provide them. Also incomplete are the planned tiling on the floor, and the planned vicarage next to the church.
The beautiful Lady Chapel (Chapel of Our Lady - St Mary) is used regularly. Much of our mid-week worship takes place in this chapel. The chapel has a neatly carved wooden altar, above which Shearman provided an aumbry for the reservation of the blessed sacrament. The aumbry is still in place, but is now redundant owing to the installation of a tabernacle above it. The former wooden reredos has been moved from this altar to the church's shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and its place is now taken by a magnificent modern work of art - a painting of the Annunciation by John Pelling (see details at art and devotion for more information). This chapel is also home to a large statue of St Anne (the mother of the Virgin Mary). Beautifully carpeted, and with comfortable seating, this chapel is a haven of peace, and we encourage visitors to use it as such. Even on a Sunday morning the Lady Chapel is reserved as a place of quiet for private prayer, before, during, and after the main services.
On the south side of the nave, and featuring the second-largest window in the entire church (second only to the great rose window) is the Chapel of St Francis of Assisi. The extraordinary Francis, founder of the Franciscan movement, regarded all animals and plants as his brothers and sisters. He engaged with the "green agenda" centuries before it was a political issue, and urged Christians to practice careful stewardship of God's creation. The Chapel of St Francis, which includes a two-foot tall statue of the saint, is a spiritual focus for us not only in devotion, but also in terms of our determination (as a church family) to engage with environmental issues, and to discover ways of reducing our carbon footprint. The Chapel is used for private prayer, and for the celebration of mass on some weekdays, including St Francis' Day (4 October) each year.
On the north side of the nave sits the little Chapel of St Michael and All Angels. This little chapel is a focus for private prayer, and a place where many visitors to our building choose to pray and light a candle. The attractive altar (made of wood, with an inset altar stone) is dedicated to the great Archangel Michael and all the heavenly host. A large statue of our patron, the Archangel Gabriel, stands in this chapel, and is much loved by our congregation. Weekday masses are occasionally said in this little chapel.
There is a prominent Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. There is a lovely statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, donated by a former church member who died in 2010. Our parish engages in regular pilgrimage to Walsingham, both privately, and on corporate pilgrimage days. There is a small altar, and mass is very occasionally offered here.
A quieter midweek service taking place in the Chapel of St Mary, also known as the Lady Chapel.
What we Believe
St Gabriel's Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion - a fellowship of around 85 million Christians under the spiritual leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Certain other churches are in full communion with us, including the European Old Catholic Church, the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Episcopal Churches, the united churches of the Indian sub-continent, and the Indian Mar Thoma Church. In total we are over 100,000,000 (one hundred million) Christians in fellowship together under the authority and leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
We hold to the teachings of the early "Ecumenical Councils" - those gatherings of Bishops from around the world which took place in the days before the Church first became divided into different denominations.
We teach the faith received and codified in the 'Catholic Creeds' - that is, the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
We believe that God's single greatest revelation of himself to mankind was the Incarnation - the birth, life, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and we seek to keep Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as our constant model and inspiration.
We also believe in God's continuous revelation of himself to mankind through the guiding work of the Holy Spirit, and we believe that in Confirmation each individual receives gifts of the Holy Spirit particular to his or her ministry and calling.
We believe in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New Testament as the revealed Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation. We hold to the Anglican tradition of basing our faith upon "Scripture, Tradition, & Reason". A faith informed by the teachings of Scripture, by the developed tradition of the Church (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit), and by the God-given gift of human reason by which we interpret these ancient truths and proclaim them afresh in each generation.
As Anglicans we believe in the government of the Church by Bishops, and in the ordained ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, supported by a huge range of lay ministries, including Licensed Lay Ministers, Commissioned Lay Ministers, Religious (monks & nuns), Evangelists, Missionaries, and indeed the individual vocational ministries of each member of each congregation.
We celebrate the two Sacraments of Holy Baptism (God's cleansing forgiveness, freely given, through blessed water), and the Holy Eucharist (Jesus' own body and blood, freely given for our spiritual nourishment, through blessed bread and wine); and we hold these great sacraments, commanded in scripture, to be necessary for salvation. We also recognise God's use of other sacramental gifts to feed and sustain his church - in particular in the sacramental celebration of Unction (anointing the sick with oil), Confirmation as a channel of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Holy Matrimony (Christian marriage), Holy Orders (Christian ordination), and Reconciliation (the gift of confession with forgiveness of sins).
At St Gabriel's we hold to an open policy of welcome and worship. This means that everybody is welcome at any of our church services. We recognise our own sinfulness, and as such we do not judge others, lest we ourselves be judged. Our worship is open to all people of any gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, or creed - we care about people's present and their future, so we do not waste time judging anybody's past.
Our Patron - Saint Gabriel
Gabriel is an angel - perhaps the most well known angel of all. He features in the traditions of many religions, including Christianity and Islam, as a messenger from God. It was Gabriel who told the Blessed Virgin Mary that God had chosen her to be the mother of his Son. It was Gabriel who told Joseph not to divorce Mary when he discovered that she was pregnant.
Gabriel is ranked as one of the Archangels of Christian tradition. Michael is the Archangel of God's heavenly host, that band of angels who fight the spiritual battles for good against evil. Raphael is the Archangel of healing, whose angelic band bring peace and health. Uriel is the Archangel of hope, whose ministrations help to turn situations around, and bring triumph out of adversity. Gabriel is the Archangel of God's heavenly messengers, the angels who are commissioned to establish contact between heaven and earth. The Bible is full of examples of angels coming to minister to men, and to bring them messages from God. The same is true of the holy books and stories of many other faith communities.
We also remember Gabriel and all the angels every year on their special feast day, 29th September. For us, 29 September is our Patronal Festival, marked by special celebrations inlcuding a dinner party, and a sung mass. In recent years our Patronal Festival preachers have been:
- 2011 - The Rev'd Timothy L'Estrange (the Vicar)
- 2012 - The Rt Rev'd Lindsay Urwin OGS (Administrator of Walsingham)
- 2013 - The Rev'd Dr James Matarazzo (Oxford University)
- 2014 - The Rev'd Paul Smedley (assistant priest)
- 2015 - The Rev'd Timothy L'Estrange (the Vicar)
- 2016 - The Rev'd Justin Trevelyan Parker (Diocese of Hereford)
- 2017 - John Burnapp (Licensed Lay Minister, Diocese of St Albans)
- 2018 - The Rev'd Michael Scotchmer (Diocese of Chelmsford)
Our patron saint is the great archangel Saint Gabriel
Patronal Festival 2012 - left to right, Fr Paul (assistant priest), Bishop Lindsay (guest preacher), Fr Timothy (parish priest), Fr Callan (assistant priest).