Penge Congregational Church, High Street Penge
what human voice can reach the sacred organ’s praise?”
A new arrival
On the evening of February 23, 1915, the new three manual pipe organ at Penge Congregational Church was dedicated to the service and the glory of God. The service of dedication was followed by a recital given by Walter W Hedgcock, the Organist of the Crystal Palace. The recital included Handel’s aria on Dryden’s ode to St Cecilia (quoted above).
Music is big
Our organ, built by Lewis and Company of Brixton, has for a whole century inspired our church’s praise and made itself heard in thanksgiving to the Lord. It has played a vibrant role in the celebratory events of the church, and has been valued throughout its history by organists, congregations, and the audiences for public concerts. From the earliest years of the church a rich musical tradition developed, and a large choir was sustained for many years. The 50th anniversary of the church featured a week-long series of organ recitals, and the 100th anniversary was marked by the production of a CD of organ music. The organ’s own centenary is being celebrated in recitals by the Southwark and South London Society of Organists (February), and by the Bromley and Croydon Organists’ Association (April). A third recital will be given in June as part of Penge Festival. Click the photo (or here) to hear some music – details of the organ are at:
Penge Congregational Church is non-conformist in the Congregational tradition of the independence of each local fellowship, and acknowledging Jesus Christ alone as head of the Church. It was founded in 1908, and the present building, designed by P Morley Horder, was completed between May and October 1912.
However, while the principles on which the church was founded were, and remain, Congregational, the building commissioned by the founders is by no means typical of Free Church architecture: the building is cruciform, with a barrel-vaulted oak ceiling and a lofty chancel. The chancel contains low-reliefs of Moses and Elijah; stained glass windows depicting Christ in glory flanked by St Peter and St Paul; and a panelled ceiling painted with angel-musicians. The organ case, with frontages on both sides of the chancel, and both pulpit and reading desk are made of ornately carved oak. The marble font is carved with waves and scallop shells, and above it is a woven silk hanging presented to the church to mark its 95th anniversary. Other details of the decoration of the building include emblems of the four evangelists, and stained glass illustrating the Parable of the Sower and a depiction of St Cecilia.
Part of the community
The church, from its beginnings, has been very involved with community concerns, and our halls provide accommodation for public meetings as well as mothers-and-babies groups, the AA, a dance school, the rehearsals of a ladies’ choir, and martial arts lessons. There has been a Scout group connected with our church since 1910, and we are grateful to the men and women who have devoted themselves over many years to the activities of Guides, Cubs, and Brownies. The church is associated with Churches Together in Beckenham, and recently was host to the local service for Women’s World Day of Prayer. A lunch club for the elderly meets weekly, and our transept has become a store for a local food bank. During the past decade the SE20art group has held annual exhibitions in the Kenilworth Hall, and on occasion filled the church itself with paintings and drawings.
Marilyn Nicholson, grandmother, artist, and amateur musician, is the current organist of Penge Congregational Church.