Faith, Beauty, Justice
The Chapel of St John’s College is one of the most recognisable buildings in Cambridge and is home to a lively, welcoming and inclusive community. We aim to provide something for everyone, no matter how great or how little your faith and whatever your background or church denomination.
St John’s College has a distinguished tradition of religious music and, since the 1670s, has possessed a world-famous College Choir, whose main duty is singing the daily services (Tuesday to Sunday) in the College Chapel during the University Term.
The College also has a mixed-voice choir, called St John’s Voices, who sing the Choral Service on Monday. During the University Vacation, the Choir carries out engagements in the UK and overseas, as well as undertaking a busy recording schedule.
Commemoration Service Sermon
The Commemoration of Benefactors Service was held in Chapel on Friday 28 April 2023.
The Sermon 'The giving instinct' was preached by Professor Steve Edgley, President, St John's College - you may listen to the sermon here.
Lent Poetry Podcasts
The Dean, The Rev'd Dr Mark Oakley, recorded some Poetry Podcasts for Lent for the Church Times, in association with Canterbury Press.
- Mark Oakley reflects on “Paternoster” by Jen Hadfield to listen to it please follow this link.
- Mark Oakley reflects on “Don’t give me the whole truth” by Olav H. Hauge to listen to it please follow this link.
- Mark Oakley reflects on “Love (III)” by George Herbert to listen to it please follow this link.
- Mark Oakley reflects on “Winter Swans” by Owen Sheers to listen to it please follow this link.
- Mark Oakley reflects on “Prayer” by Zaffar Kunial to listen to it please follow this link.
We are always delighted to welcome you to Chapel for services. Services are held in Chapel during University Full Term dates. Tickets are not required for our services.
Please note that during term time visitor access to the College is limited to the Chapel only, for services. Please enter the College via the Great Gate or Forecourt Gate.
In addition to the regular services, the Chapel organises a number of special events and services which take place during the year. These are all subject to change as the Covid situation develops, and the details below should be regarded as current aspirations. They will be modified as necessary.
Advent Carol Service
The Advent Carol Services are planned for Saturday 25 November 2023 at 6.00pm and Sunday 26 November 2023 at 3.00pm. The Sunday service will be recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 3 on Advent Sunday, 3 December 2023. Applications for seats will open in October 2023. Please note that priority will be given to members of the College. This service is unsuitable for babies and toddlers.
Christmas Carol Service
The Christmas Carol Services, sung by the St John's Voices, is planned to be sung on Monday 27 November 2023.
Epiphany Carol Service
These highly atmospheric candle-lit services are planned for Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 January 2024 at 6.00pm.
This Candlelit Service of readings and music celebrate the season of Epiphany.
This service is unsuitable for babies and toddlers. Applications for seats will open in the November. Please note that priority will be given to members of the College. This service is unsuitable for babies and toddlers.
Ash Wednesday Evensong
This service of Evensong is planned to take place on Ash Wednesday, 14 February 2024 at 6.30pm.
A Meditation on the Passion of Christ
These highly atmospheric services of readings and music for Lent and Passiontide is planned for Saturday 9 March 2024 at 6.00pm.
This service is unsuitable for babies and toddlers. Applications for seats will open in the December. Please note that priority will be given to members of the College. This service is unsuitable for babies and toddlers.
Ascension Day next falls on Thursday 9 May 2024. Every year on Ascension Day, after a Choral Eucharist in Chapel, the Choir ascends the 163ft Chapel Tower and sings the Ascension Day Carol.
Forthcoming events in Chapel...
This Term's Chapel Service list
To download a copy of this Term's service list please follow this link.
Sunday Evensong Sermons
The Disappeared: attending to the unseen
This term’s sermon series has been inspired by the piece of music which the Choir will sing on July 2nd, one of James MacMillan’s ‘Cantos Sagrados’. In these MacMillan is responding to the horrors of political oppression in Latin America, especially ‘the Disappeared’ in Argentina. This Term's Sunday sermons may be found following this link.
Sunday Eucharist Sermons
Sermons Preached at the Eucharist this term may be found following this link.
Each term the Sunday Evensongs have a theme and guest preachers from best-selling novelists like Salley Vickers to eminent scientists like John Polkinghorne have encouraged us to think more deeply.
For a selection of our most recent themed sermons, click here.
The College Choir
The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge is one of the finest collegiate choirs in the world – known and loved by millions from its recordings, broadcasts and concert tours. The Choir is directed by Christopher Gray, who was previously Director of Music at Truro Cathedral. We are part of the Church of England, and Evensong (from the Book of Common Prayer) is sung every day during Term, with a Sung Eucharist (Common Worship) on Sunday mornings. You can find out more about the Choir at its dedicated website.
For information about applying for a Choral Award, click here.
St John's Voices
Formed in 2013 to complement the work of our sister choir, St John's Voices has quickly developed a remarkable reputation for its emotionally-charged, musically committed performances. Weekly evensongs in the College Chapel complement concerts, tours and recordings to offer an inspiring and immersive experience for choir and listener alike.
For more information about the choir and to find out how to apply to St John's Voices, please visit their website.
Annual Highlights for students
Matriculation Service (Tuesday of Fresher’s Week).
Your formal welcome to the College, immediately after the Matriculation Photograph.
Advent Carol Services (Last weekend of full Michaelmas Term)
Broadcast live on Radio 3 and followed by Advent Hall, these are the most popular services of the year by far. Current students get priority.
Epiphany Carol Service (First weekend of Lent Term)
This is one of our most atmospheric services, lit only by candlelight.
Meditation on the Passion of Christ (usually the last Saturday of Lent Term)
A meditative service with music, poetry and singing.
Graduation Service (Graduation Day)
Just after the graduation photograph, this is a service to celebrate the end of your time at St John’s, and is open to visitors who come to support you at graduation.
Study and Reading Groups
Other than in the Easter Term there is usually a reading group or Bible Study group, convened by the Chaplain. The College also has a Christian Union.
Chapel trips and events
From time to time the Chaplain organizes visits or social occasions for students, which he advertises to them directly.
The Chapel has a partnership with the Parish of St John the Divine, Kennington in South London. This is one of the poorest parishes in the UK, but its church community is extraordinarily lively, with one of the largest children’s choirs of any Anglican parish church nationally. Its congregation includes people of over 50 nationalities, especially from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The children’s choirs were founded in 2013 with encouragement from two Johnians in the congregation: Jeremy Martin and Tom Chigbo. Each July, the choirs visit Cambridge for a summer school, staying at the College school and singing for services in the Chapel.
St John the Divine has two parish schools, located within the Lambeth education authority, with which the College has a special connection through the University’s Area Links Scheme.
In September 2017, the Parish set up organ scholarships to provide opportunities for up to five of the most enthusiastic and talented children to benefit from professional lessons, practice facilities and opportunities to perform publicly, with support from the College.
Venue and facilities hire
The Chapel and its facilities are available to hire for a variety of different events. To enquire about hiring the Chapel, please contact the Chapel Clerk on 01223 338676, or by email. If you would like to get married in the Chapel, please contact the Dean by email.
The Chapel can seat up to 247 people in the collegiate style benches and misericords. If desired, additional seating can be placed in the aisle to increase the total number of seats in the main body of the Chapel to 413 (at extra charge). It is also possible for an extra 100 seats to be set out in the Ante-Chapel, but these do offer restricted views.
Please note: Owing to major building works scheduled to take place in the Chapel throughout 2025, the College is unable to accept bookings for concerts and services (including weddings) on dates between 1 January and 31 December 2025.
The Chapel is used regularly for concerts due to its excellent acoustics and versatile space. The stage area has fixed tiering, which can accommodate around 45 instrumental players. The Chapel has excellent recording facilities; for an example of a recorded event, please visit the recent choir webcasts, available on the Choir website.
The Chapel’s four manual, Mander Organ is one of the finest instruments of its kind in the country. The organ can be hired for recitals or as accompaniment for choral or orchestral concerts.
The Chapel is available for hire as a recording venue when it is closed to the public. We do not have recording equipment for hire, but we can provide benches and chairs.
Weddings in Chapel
The College Chapel is available for a Marriage Service and for services of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage at certain times of the year. Members of the College who are within current residence (or out of residence for no more than five years) are entitled to be married in the College Chapel in accordance with the Standing Orders of the College and of the rules governing a marriage within the Church of England. Ceremonies are taken by the College Clergy and initial conversations about arrangements and wedding preparation should be had with them.
A date, if available, may be held for a couple of months, however no date is confirmed until an application has been received and approved by the College Council and therefore reception venues etc should not be confirmed. Please note that weddings do not usually take place during Term time or in August. If you are considering the College for your Wedding Breakfast, please follow this link.
A Marriage Service takes place under a Special Licence issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The College is not licensed for Civil Wedding Ceremonies.
The Rev'd Dr Mark Oakley read Theology at London and Oxford before being ordained in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1993. He served his title at St John’s Wood Church and then served as Chaplain to the Bishop of London, Rector of St Paul’s, Covent Garden (known as ‘the Actors’ Church), Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe and, from 2010 to 2018, Chancellor and Residentiary Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral. He is a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Kings College London and Visiting Scholar at Sarum College. He is also Canon Theologian of Wakefield cathedral and Canon Emeritus of Holy Trinity cathedral, Brussels. Since 1996 he has also been a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to HM the Queen. He was appointed Dean in 2018.
His duties as Dean include the overall responsibility of the conduct of the services in the College Chapel and oversight of pastoral care provided by the Chapel within the College community. He is also responsible for the appointment of clergy to the College’s 39 livings (parishes) with which the College has long had official connections. He is Tutor for College students of mathematics and computer sciences. Dr Oakley is the author of several books, the latest being My Sour-Sweet Days and The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry. He is an Ambassador for StopHate UK, Patron of Tell MAMA (supporting those affected by anti-Muslim hate crime) and a Trustee of the Civil Liberties Trust. His interests include poetry, theatre and human rights.
Andrew Hammond was an undergraduate at Clare College, and then worked in classical music for nearly twenty years: first as a singer, then in arts administration. He was ordained in 2007, and has worked in two London parishes and at St Paul’s Cathedral. Before coming to St John’s he was Chaplain at King’s College.
The Chaplain supports the College Tutors who are the primary point of pastoral care for the 900 Junior members of the College (undergraduates and research students). The Chaplain is available to everyone in College – Fellows, Students and Staff.
The Director of Music
Chris Gray is new to St John’s, having moved to Cambridge after Easter. A native of Bangor, Northern Ireland, he read music as an undergraduate at Pembroke College Cambridge before spending a year as Organ Scholar at Guildford Cathedral while studying postgraduate performance at the Royal College of Music. In 2000 Chris moved to Cornwall to be Assistant Organist at Truro Cathedral, and in 2008 he was made Director of Music, with responsibility for the cathedral choir and its six sung services each week. He has broadcast and recorded extensively, as well as commissioning new works from many of the UK’s leading composers; and as Musical Director of Three Spires Singers and Orchestra he has conducted most of the large-scale choral repertoire. A Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, Chris has given recitals on many of the finest organs in the UK and further afield.
At the heart of Chris’s responsibilities at St John’s is direction of the College Choir: he works with the Choristers, Choral Scholars, Lay Clerks and Organ Scholars to provide music that enhances the liturgy of the beautiful Gilbert Scott chapel, upholding a tradition that dates from the 1670s.
Director of St John's Voices
Graham Walker studied mathematics as a Choral Scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge, and was subsequently awarded a scholarship and bursary to study cello at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Graham has performed as a cellist across Europe and North and South America.
Graham is a highly respected choral conductor, and directs several choirs and orchestras. Alongside his work with St John's Voices, Graham is Director of Music at Emmanuel College and Musical Director of two other choirs.
Stephen came to St John’s in 2007, having previously served as Verger at Romsey Abbey and St Marylebone Parish Church in London. He has been a Verger since 1999. His responsibilities are for the care of the Chapel and associated administration under the direction of the Dean.
Stephen is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Chapel building, he oversees the administration of the Chapel and is the prime contact for all external hirers of the Chapel.
In August 2016 he obtained the Diploma for the Church of England Guild of Vergers with honours. Stephen currently serves as General Secretary to the Church of England Guild of Vergers.
In 2020 Stephen was appointed as the Ostiarius of the Convocation of Canterbury, an honorary role with the House of Bishops in the See of Canterbury.
In 2021 the Church of England Guild of Vergers bestowed upon Stephen the Fellowship of the Guild, this is the highest honour that can be given by the Guild.
John Boulter works with the Chapel Clerk and assists at many of the College's services.
H&S and Safeguarding Policies
The Chapel's Health & Safety policy and Safeguarding policy are found below:
Tel 01223 (3)38676
Address Chapel Office, Chapel Court
Stephen is the main contact for enquires about the Chapel, Services and any enquiries about booking the Chapel as a venue for a Wedding or a Concert
The Rev'd Dr Mark Oakley
Tel 01223 (3)38633
The Rev'd Andrew Hammond
Tel 01223 (3)38617
The Choir Administrator
Tel 01223 (3)38718
Address F2c Chapel Court
Caroline is the main contact for enquiries about Choir activities
The Director of Music
Tel 01223 (3)38683
The Director of the St John's Voices