St Anselm, Kennington

Just opposite my London home is the little church of St Anselm, Kennington. It’s built in a rather appealing 1930s Italianate style: a contrast with the astonishing high Victorian St Peter’s Vauxhall and the rather ugly 1950s Lambeth Mission, which together constitute the North Lambeth Team Ministry (Inspired? No, I’m not either.) But even St Anselm’s doesn’t look entirely happy – it has a rather run-down air. They appear to have a decent congregation, though I suspect a million quid or two wouldn’t go amiss.

Here’s a link to what there is of a St Anselm’s website. (There’s a better one nowadays.)

Kennington, St Anselm – Exterior
Kennington, St Anselm – Interior

I’m fond of this little church, though I remember when I used to go there no-one ever said hello to me; but I like its 20th century character and the fact its not like many of the miserable Victorian (and earlier) churches that sit hopelessly around London. That said, as usual some of the furnishings make me cringe a bit. Those little lantern lights are a bit naff, and those rather colourful wall paintings actually feel rather oppressive. Taken as works in their own right I like their abstractness, their colour and their vigour – and they were done by some famous artist – but in the church I think they clutter the place and make it feel gloomy. For my taste I’d rather they’d just left it as a pure white box – and please take out that horrid baldachino (the arch over the altar.) Actually the church describes itself as ‘liberal catholic’, so that isn’t going to happen.

Here’s a photo of the congregation, nicked from their website…

St Anselm, Kennington – the Congregation

There are elements in the building that suggest it was designed with love and attention. But as it’s been lived in it seems to have lost a coherent hand and a consistent approach to quality. Perhaps it’s time for Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen to do “Changing Churches”, or Kevin McCloud to do “Grand Churches” on TV.

The font is rather nice…

..but the back kitchen could do with an uplift!

Part of the nave is set up as a lounge. It feels rather pleasant, if perhaps a little tired…

…and these little creatures on the pillars are a treat!

But just look at this ghastly communion rail!

Concrete or marble I’m not sure, but it’s certainly horrid

At the back of the church is this rather nice ‘rainbow’ of the Christian Life. If only it always worked like this!

In the side room there’s a horrible smell – I really suspect there’s a dead body in there – but there are also some rather cheerful screen panels. I would normally bother photographing such stuff, but they did seem to add a welcome, if informal, element of cheer. I particularly like the cross-eyed sun!