In the Roman Catholic Calendar All Souls Day (2 November) commemorates the souls of the faithful departed who are regarded as being in purgatory. This being so, we at All Souls are often asked why such a committed evangelical church as ours should have been thus named. The answer is not hard to find. We understand that the church founders were determined to build a church large enough to seat all the souls of the parish. Thus their resolve was not to commemorate all the souls of the dead, but rather to accommodate all the souls of the living.
The church was consecrated and opened to the public on 25 November 1824. So when the year 1974 dawned, we were anxious to mark the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the church. I was asked to preach on the nearest Sunday and to look into the future. With due apologies to Martin Luther King and his famous dream speech in Washington, D.C., I concluded my sermon with my own dream:
I have a dream of a church which is a biblical church
which is loyal in every particular to the revelation of God in Scripture,
whose pastors expound Scripture with integrity and
relevance, and so seek to present every member
mature in Christ,
whose people love the word of God, and adorn it
with an obedient and Christ-like life,
which is preserved from all unbiblical emphases,
whose whole life manifests the health and beauty
of biblical balance.
I have a dream of a biblical church.
I have a dream of a church which is a worshiping church
whose people come together to meet God and worship him,
who know God is always in their midst and who
bow down before him in great humility,
who regularly frequent the table of the Lord Jesus, to
celebrate his mighty act of redemption on the cross,
who enrich the worship with their musical skills,
who believe in prayer and lay hold of God in prayer,
whose worship is expressed not in Sunday services
and prayer gatherings only but also in their
homes, their weekday work and the common things of life.
I have a dream of a worshipping church.
I have a dream of a church which is a caring church
whose congregation is drawn from many races,
nations, ages and social backgrounds, and exhibits
the unity and diversity of the family of God,
whose fellowship is warm and welcoming,
and never marred by anger, selfishness, jealousy or pride,
whose members love one another with a pure heart
fervently, forbearing one another, forgiving one
another, and bearing one another's burdens,
which offers friendship to the lonely, support to the
weak, and acceptance to those who are despised
and rejected by society,
whose love spills over to the world outside, attractive,
infectious, irresistible, the love of God himself.
I have a dream of a caring church.
I have a dream of a church which is a serving church
which has seen Christ as the Servant and has heard
his call to be a servant too,
which is delivered from self-interest, turned inside out,
and giving itself selflessly to the service of others,
whose members obey Christ's command to live in the
world, to permeate secular society, to be the salt of
the earth and the light of the world,
whose people share the good news of Jesus simply,
naturally and enthusiastically with their friends,
which diligently serves its own parish, residents and
workers, families and single people, nationals and
immigrants, old folk and little children,
which is alert to the changing needs of society,
sensitive and flexible enough to keep adapting its
program to serve more usefully,
which has a global vision and is constantly
challenging its young people to give their lives in
service, and constantly sending its people out to serve.
I have a dream of a serving church.