A historic parish church in central London has celebrated the 900th anniversary of Christian worship in what became the parish of St Marylebone with a special Choral Eucharist presided over by the Acting Bishop of London.

The present parish church, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, is the fourth parish church to have served an area of central London which runs from Oxford Street to Maida Vale and from Edgware Road to Great Portland Street.

Through the passing centuries many famous names have been associated with the parish: Francis Bacon, Lady Hamilton and Admiral Lord Nelson, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, and Willkie Collins to name just a few.

The Choral Eucharist also marked the 30th anniversary of the installation of the great Rieger organ and the founding of the ground-breaking St Marylebone Healing and Counselling Centre – which offers low cost psychotherapy and spiritual direction – and the innovative Marylebone Health Centre, a GP practice with 10,000 NHS patients, located in the area once used as the church crypt.

In 2016, St Marylebone was awarded a grant of nearly £4 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help complete its ambitious Changing Lives project. This £8 million project will help the parish church become even more of a community hub, restore the parish church’s fabric, expand the crypt to create a new community-led café and install new lifts and staircases to enhance the site’s accessibility.  The new work will also tell the fascinating story of St Marylebone “the great city north of Oxford Street”.

The Right Revd Pete Broadbent, Acting Bishop of London, said of the service: “For 900 years St Marylebone has done what the English parish church does best, service to its community, engagement with its neighbourhood; facilitation of a bigger vision for society. The changing lives project will allow St Marylebone to continue in this role, and commits the church to not just worship, but also to offer pastoral care, to engage with the lives of children and young people, and to look outwards to what God is doing in his world.”

The Revd Canon Stephen Evans, Rector of St Marylebone said: St Marylebone has been proactive in changing lives and cityscape for 900 years. We thank all who have joined us to celebrate this year of anniversaries and to launch a much-needed community-shaped project that will help continue to change lives for the next 900 years.

The Choral Eucharist forms part of the week-long St Marylebone Festival, which runs from 22nd – 29th July, and which celebrates the history of the parish through a series of world-class musical events and recitals. These events include a one man show based on the life of Charles Dickens (who lived next door to the present parish church), a performance telling  the courtship of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning (who eloped to marry at the parish church), and a teddy bears picnic for children and families.