‘A new type of worship’: Wanstead church spreads word of God with Jazz, wine and candles

PUBLISHED: 17:00 13 February 2019

The Nick Tomalin Quartet and singer Inge-Lise Nygaard-Parsons perform at a Jazz Vesper held last month. Photo: Sue Fitzgerald

The Nick Tomalin Quartet and singer Inge-Lise Nygaard-Parsons perform at a Jazz Vesper held last month. Photo: Sue Fitzgerald


A new medium for spreading the word of God – using wine, candles and live jazz – is proving popular among the borough’s Christian worshippers.

Wanstead Parish’s rector, the Rev Dr Jack Dunn, told the Recorder that his congregation is pioneering Jazz Vespers in London.

These services see a traditional liturgy become interspersed with jazz numbers performed by professional musicians in a candlelit Christ Church, Overton Drive.

“As far as we know there are just a few other church communities in the London area providing Jazz Vespers services on a regular basis,” Dr Dunn said.

“We visited them and it seemed to us, though we are no experts, that at some the music was not jazz while at others it was not a service of vespers!

“We therefore like to claim that we are the first regular provider of ‘proper’ Jazz Vespers in London.”

The word vespers comes from the Greek hespera and the Latin vesper, meaning “evening”.

It was an act of worship designed to be said at sunset and is one of the most ancient liturgies of the church, dating back to the 2nd century.

“We could, of course, be wrong,” he joked. “Come and find out!”

The jazz songs are performed by The Nick Tomalin Quartet – consisting of piano, sax, bass and drums – while psalms are sung by Inge-Lise Nygaard-Parsons.

This line-up was assembled by music teacher Sue Fitzgerald, who has been the church warden for the past two years.

“It is very reflective and relaxed,” she told the Recorder.

“It is a completely different way of worshipping, to reach out to different people whether they are religious or not.”

She spoke of how the performers vary their repertoires to match the theme of the evening.

The fourth in the series is set to take place on March 17 to mark St Patrick’s Day.

“We encourage our congregation to bring their own refreshments, alcohol is permitted, to enjoy throughout and after the service,” she added.

The parish is also calling on worshippers to sponsor the musicians to help these services continue in future.

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