Liturgy, worship and outreach

Chris McWatters speaks to Mark Hatcher on his new role at the Temple Church

Mark Hatcher is an exceptionally busy man. Not only does he have a full time job as special advisor to the Chairman of the Bar, but he was also recently appointed as Reader of the Temple Church.

‘I’m hugely enjoying it,’ says Hatcher, going on to explain that ‘the role of the Reader is to have shared responsibility with the Master, Robin Griffith-Jones, in the liturgy, the worship and the outreach of the Temple Church’.

So what made him want to take up the role?

‘I am an ordained priest,’ he answers. Hatcher was ordained four years ago, having been a non-stipendiary curate in a parish church in Brockley. Having been encouraged to apply for the Temple job, he decided to do so. ‘I thought it would provide an opportunity for me to blend my experience of the Bar and the law with theology and in particular theology in the public square.’

The congregation at the Temple Church also provides a unique challenge for Hatcher. ‘The style of worship is different,’ he says. ‘I think with a significantly legal congregation, you’re conscious of a lawyer’s wish to have proof points, for evidence to be adduced and for an argument to be developed in a reasoned way. One doesn’t always find that elsewhere, and I think one can’t but be conscious of the fact that there are some very fine legal minds sitting below you as you stand in the pulpit. I was conscious of that on my first sermon.’

Hatcher’s first sermon took place at the beginning of the legal year, on the first Sunday in October, ‘which was quite challenging,’ he says. ‘It had a sort of legal flavour and it also took the congregation through the history of the role of the Reader. The relationship between the Master and the Reader in the 17th century was quite a stormy one. The Master of the Temple at the time, Richard Hooker, had a more spacious view of issues of doctrine. And the Reader, Walter Travers, was a strict Calvinist. They squabbled. So that in the morning you would hear the Canterbury version, and in the afternoon, the Reader would demolish the Master’s sermon in the Calvinist tradition. These two eventually fell out. The Reader had to be asked to leave.’

Hatcher doesn’t foresee such tensions arising between himself and the current Master. He is keen to stress the musical qualities of the church. ‘The church has a fantastic choir led by Roger Sayer, the director of music. Music for me has always been a real enhancement to worship.’

However Hatcher believes it is important that the Temple Church ‘provides something other than being a concert venue. One of the challenges of the Temple Church is to provide the congregation with some alternative perspectives on issues of responsibility.’ He cites the current debate about assisted dying as an example.

He also thinks that the Temple Church has an important pastoral role to play for barristers.

‘I’m conscious, as many of us at the Bar Council are, of the terrific challenges that people coming into the Bar, particularly the publicly funded Bar, are faced with nowadays. And indeed perhaps people who are ten years into their careers at the Bar in that area of practice, who are now thinking ‘where is it going? And was all the investment that I made learning the law and acquiring experience worth it?’ I think the Church should be able to provide some pastoral care for people in this kind of situation, who perhaps can’t see a way ahead in the context of the huge funding challenges that legally aided practitioners face today.’

So what would this pastoral role involve?

‘It could be simply be providing a listening ear and being alongside people who want to talk about where they are at. I think the role of a priest in any situation is to be able to identify with a person who has a need for either pastoral or spiritual support in moments of doubt or anxiety or possibly even crisis. There are different ways in which barristers and aspiring barristers can obtain that help. It may be through the head of chambers or colleagues in chambers, or through the Inns. But I think there is a role for the Church, and in particular in this setting at the Temple Church.’

Hatcher believes this kind of pastoral care is an area of the Temple Church’s ministry that needs to develop, and believes his appointment will provide more scope for it to develop. ‘That is my fervent hope,’ he says.

Contributor Chris McWatters, Garden Court Chambers

Temple Winter Festival

In December 2013, the Temple Church and BBC Radio 3 teamed up with the help of our agents Hazard Chase to put on the first Temple Winter Festival: five consecutive evenings of spectacular Christmas music, each concert broadcast live on Radio 3. In the Church, the concerts were a patent success – and we were delighted to know that they were being heard by a nationwide audience of 500,000 listeners. The highlight for us was the concert by the Temple Church Choir itself; it was a real pleasure to have our choirmen and choristers back up in lights where they belong. The BBC quickly booked in for December 2014, and five more concerts went out on the airwaves.

Now we are limbering up for the third Temple Winter Festival, 14-18 December. We start with the dazzling London Community Gospel Choir (and yes, we will all be up and singing too). Then come three evenings of wonderful classical ensembles: Stile Antico, The Cardinall’s Musick and Eo Nomine. And on Friday 18 December Radio 3 is back to broadcast our organist Greg Morris at lunchtime and our whole choir in the evening in two concerts of Nordic music. We hope you can join us, with family, friends and colleagues for some of this year’s lovely musical offerings in one of London’s most beautiful buildings. Tickets: www.templemusic.org.

We are already planning the Temple Winter Festivals for 2016 and 2017. There are ample opportunities for individuals, chambers and firms to join us as sponsors of each Festival as a whole or of individual concerts; we will gladly discuss the benefits we can offer in return, in hospitality and branding. You are welcome to get in touch with me: master@templechurch.com, 0207 353 8559 – or do just call in to the Church and ask for me when you are next in the Temple.

We will look forward meanwhile to welcoming you to the Church this December, for our third Festival’s celebratory run-up to Christmas.

Robin Griffith-Jones,
Reverend and Valiant Master of the Temple, Temple Church

 

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS AT THE TEMPLE CHURCH

MONDAY 30 NOVEMBER, 6.00 p.m.
ADVENT CAROL SERVICE

THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER, 12.00-8.00 p.m.
TEMPLE CHURCH CHRISTMAS FAIR
Middle Temple
In aid of the Temple Church Choristers Education Fund. Tickets: £5.00 on the door

WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER, 6.00 p.m.
CAROL SERVICE
Followed by drinks in the Round Church.

SUNDAY 13 DECEMBER, 11.15 a.m.
CAROL SERVICE
This service, for Benchers and Members of Inner and Middle Temple, is now fully booked.

SUNDAY 13 DECEMBER, 3.00 p.m.
CHRISTMAS NATIVITY PLAY FOR CHILDREN
Would your children or grandchildren like to take part? Please contact liz@templechurch.com

14 - 18 DECEMBER
TEMPLE WINTER FESTIVAL
Booking for the whole week: www.templemusic.org

MONDAY 14 DECEMBER, 7.30 p.m.
JOY TO THE WORLD
London Community Gospel Choir

TUESDAY 15 DECEMBER, 7.30 p.m.
A WONDROUS MYSTERY
Stile Antico

WEDNESDAY 16 DECEMBER, 7.30 p.m.
PUER NATUS EST NOBIS
The Cardinall’s Musick

THURSDAY 17 DECEMBER, 1.00 p.m.
SCENT FROM ABOVE
Eo Nomine

FRIDAY 18 DECEMBER, 1.00 p.m.
COMMOTIO: ORGAN MASTERPIECES FROM NORDIC EUROPE
Greg Morris, organ
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. No tickets required.

FRIDAY 18 DECEMBER, 7.30 p.m.
Northern Lights: Music for a Nordic Christmas
Temple Church Choir with Temple Brass.
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

THURSDAY 24 DECEMBER, 11.15 p.m.
MIDNIGHT CHORAL COMMUNION SERVICE

FRIDAY 25 DECEMBER, 11.15 a.m.
CHRISTMAS DAY: CHORAL MATTINS

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Chris McWatters

Chris practises family and immigration law at Garden Court Chambers. He regularly contributes to Counsel and is a member of the editorial board. Before coming to the Bar, Chris worked as a journalist and TV scriptwriter.