Our Vibrant Community

St Olave's Church aims to be a warm, welcoming, loving and inclusive community of people with widely differing gifts and an ethos for charitable giving.

Welcome to our vibrant community

Warm, welcoming, loving and inclusive

St Olave's on Sunday

Our Church Community

There are many ways to get involved in our vibrant St Olave’s Church community, which spans the age spectrum from younger families to very elderly people. Here are a few:

  • Bible study and discussion groups, weekday Eucharists, supporting local charities….
  • Leading the worship as a retired member of clergy
  • Contributing to the Sunday morning worship as an altar server, reader, sidesperson, singing in the choir,leading the intercessions or readings, Sunday School, serving tea and coffee after the service….
  • Cleaning the church, arranging the flowers, tidying the churchyard….

We have a regular bible study group, with additional opportunities for discussions in Advent and Lent. Congregation members also attend other City Centre Churches groups, such as Cross of Nails and Amnesty International Letter Writing Group and weekday Eucharists.

St Olave’s members support local charities and further afield the work of USPG. Some are also involved in the wider work of the Deanery and Diocese Synods and as well as other Diocesan Boards.

There is a Social Committee which organises various parish events, such as lunches, talks, outings, entertainment, picnics and, most recently, a walking group. Such activities are particularly important in an eclectic congregation who are otherwise only likely to meet at services.

You can find out more about some of these activities below.  If you are interested in getting involved in our church community, please let the PCC and churchwardens know by emailing churchwardens@stolaveschurch.org.uk.

Worship of God in liturgical form

An essential ingredient of our Eucharistic celebration

Here at St Olave’s we strive to create carefully crafted dignified ceremonial, an essential ingredient of our Eucharistic celebration. The worship of God in liturgical form is designed to pay heed to all our senses: see, hear, smell, touch, taste. Symbol and imagery are important, and the servers’ task is to join the celebrant in drawing attention to specific parts of the service where the activity of God is presented and to enrich its possibilities. The crucifer carries the cross, symbolic of the story of God in Christ. The thurifer prepares the way, and at points in the liturgy, sanctifies the priest and people, easing their passage to worship with the ancient custom of burning sweet smelling incense. The acolytes shed light on the gospel as it is carried out and read among the congregation and hence into the world; it is honoured with incense. In the Eucharistic prayer, light and incense confirm and enhance the elevation of the bread and the wine in their transformation. In short, the servers offer a vehicle by which the liturgical experience is enriched to the glory of God.

Reading the Gospel


A vehicle by which the liturgical experience is enriched to the glory of God

St Olave’s sits firmly within the liberal Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England and we are blessed with a team of people who offer themselves as altar servers to enhance our liturgy. We can confidently claim an age range stretching from early teenage through to an octogenarian. Whilst the demand does not always match the supply, our aim is to provide a full team of servers at our Sunday morning Eucharist, as well as for other festivals. The team would ideally consist of an MC, a thurifer, crucifer, two candle-bearing acolytes and a ‘boat’ person, a young trainee, who prepares the incense, carrying it in the boat-shaped vessel for use during the service.

Clearly in this hiatus of the pandemic, there will be a challenge as to the shape of our future liturgy and the place of servers within it. We wait in anticipation but know that in whatever form the reverence and honour of what we attempt in our worship will be sustained.

Simon Lockley

Christmas Day 2019


The work of Saint Olave’s Church Choir lies at the heart of the liturgy of this ancient York parish church.

Music is a very important part of church life at St Olave’s and our robed choir is one of the region’s most accomplished.  The choir numbers up to 40 singers, ranging from school-age to ‘retired’, and including a number of families and students. We are fortunate in being able to draw upon a wide repertoire which covers the most important styles and periods from plainsong and polyphony to the twenty-first century, including new works written for the choir.

Our Church Choir

The core work of our church choir is to enhance the Sunday morning Sung Eucharist, which it does with a wide range of music. Highlights such as the major festivals of Christmas and Easter – and concerts – give the choir a prominent profile. An important part of the yearly cycle is a sung Requiem on Remembrance Sunday (those by Fauré, Duruflé, Mozart, Brahms and Howells have been performed in recent years), for which the choir has on occasion been joined by the Orchestra of St Olave’s Church.  The choir has also been joined by the orchestra for notable concert performances of Britten’s St Nicolas and Bach’s St John Passion, as well as a hugely successful ‘come-and-sing’ performance of Handel’s Messiah for the York Residents’ Festival. Listen to the choir and organ in action by clicking on the button below!

Keith Wright

Parry Concert, June 2018

Children and Young People

Children and Young People are Integral to our Worship


Fellowship and discipleship for children and young people is integrated throughout the life of the church family at St Olave’s. The input of children and young people is encouraged both in church and in our community activities.
There are many ways for children and young people to get involved.

Sunday School

We have a small but thriving Sunday School which enables primary age children to develop friendships and learn through play and crafts during the first half of the church service, and then to share their projects with the congregation. There is also an area within the church where younger children can draw or read during services in full sight of their parents.

The play area for smaller children
Sunday School Epiphany Presentation
Sunday School Palm Crosses
Sunday School Art
Sunday School Donkey

Opportunities for Young People


Children and young people might be  involved in welcoming the congregation as they arrive at church, serving coffee and biscuits at the end of church services, participating in social activities or helping in church yard clear up days. At various festival times throughout the year the young people in the church family take part in worship – reading, speaking and inspiring the congregation with their innovative intercessions. On one occasion we even rejuvenated the tradition of the ‘Boy Bishop’!  In addition, young people can grow within our church community by joining the Junior Choir and Altar Servers team.

Junior Choir

Junior Choir prepares children to confidently join the main ‘intergenerational’ choir leading worship at St Olave’s. There are practices on Tuesdays after school and before the Eucharist service on Sunday mornings. Younger members of the Junior Choir are encouraged to take part in the Sunday School activities. 

Junior Choir Members

Altar Servers

The Altar Servers team has progression routes for people from a very young age from incense boat bearer, to acolyte to cross bearer and so on.  Some  Altar Servers also sing in the choir.  You can read more about the special contribution that Altar Servers make to the liturgical experience at St Olave’s below.

Christmas Day 2019

As young people from families at St Olave’s grow and progress to work, university or into adult life, we see them take a passion and commitment for choral and liturgical worship with them and a genuine appreciation for the community and fellowship they were part of in York. They also have an extended family across the generations in the congregation – looking out for them, supporting them and upholding them.


Weekly on Friday mornings

St. Olave’s Holy Dusters are a small friendly group of about 7 or 8 men and women, complemented by 3 or 4 flower arrangers who “dust” when not doing flowers. Friday mornings between 9am and 11.30am, come rain or shine, frost or snow, see us tidying up and sweeping inside and out, polishing the pews and candlesticks, scattering spiders from high places, cleaning sinks and taps and generally caring for St. Olave’s.

Flowers around the font

Caring for St Olave’s Church

Round about 10.30am we break for coffee or tea and biscuits, with a good catch-up and exchange of news. We also celebrate members’ birthdays with flowers and cake and, if Max happens to be in practising, the lucky person gets Happy Birthday sung to them as well (so far without any hand washing!!). Coffee breaks are supportive times and there is invariably much laughter.

I think we are all missing our regular get-together on Friday mornings which, during the current lockdown now see a flurry of email exchanges with lovely photos instead of friends around the table in St. Giles’s Room.

Janette Lake

Cleaning the pews

Bible Study Afresh

Monthly on Thursday Mornings


There are 11 monthly Bible Study Afresh meetings throughout the year, on the fourth Thursday of each month other than December, held in the St. Giles Room in St. Olave’s Church. We begin at 11 o’clock with coffee and conclude at about noon. The topics discussed are wide ranging and varied – we have covered everything from ‘bit part players’ (the ones you’ve hardly heard of!) in the Bible, to women in the New Testament via non-Pauline letters, to name but a few. There have also been broader topics such as Saints, much loved hymns and Christian verse.

Our discussions are wide ranging and many valuable insights have been gained from what we have read and shared together with every member of the group making relevant contributions. It has become apparent that, although ‘co-ordinator’ led, members of the group are willing to take on the responsibility for a particular discussion and to share their views with us all. There is no pressure to take on this responsibility but it has helped vary the way our meetings have progressed.

The meetings are open to anyone who is interested and are a relaxed and friendly way to share fellowship, knowledge and the strength of our beliefs.  A warm welcome is guaranteed!

Janet Fox


We enjoy a range of activities each year through the efforts and enthusiasm of many people.

Parish lunches, charity talks, walks, bike rides and picnics, churchyard open days, fundraising events, fascinating lectures and musical evenings – thank you to everyone who makes a contribution to this aspect of the life of our church family!

Advent Lunch

2019: A Year in the Social Life of St Olave’s

Our activities for 2019 began in January with a well-attended Parish Lunch and illustrated talk from Margaret Eyre and family about a recent trip to Paraguay, where Miriam had been teaching English and perfecting her Spanish. (Did you know that Paraguay is the only country with a two-sided flag: useful knowledge for a pub quiz, perhaps?)

In February and March we focussed on the work of USPG. An informative Regional Day, attended by supporters from across the North, was held in St Olave’s hall. There was another Parish Lunch during Lent, this time featuring a very lively and inspiring talk from Helen Dawe, who gave us a first hand account of USPG’s work amongst women in Malawi. Our younger members took a real interest in the artefacts Helen showed us and were intrigued to learn how people can make use of everything that is produced by animals….. A few weeks later, Gill Pace and Anne Hall organised a ‘bucket collection’ for USPG in order to support survivors of Cyclone Idai.

A new venture was our Parish Walk in June, ably organised by Robert and Frances Brock. Twenty people, plus some dogs, took part. Having two routes allowed walkers of different abilities to join in, whilst non-walkers headed straight to the pub in Sheriff Hutton. After an excellent open air lunch, most of us completed the day with a visit to the church, where we had an interesting guided tour and heard about its Richard III connections. There was an immediate call for another walk and this took place in September. Ten people walked from Cropton to Rosedale Abbey but, because of initial transport difficulties, as two separate parties who managed never to meet up (thus proving how resourceful St Olave’s people can be). Further walks are planned for 2020.

Once again, Buff and Dick Reid kindly treated us to drinks and nibbles in their lovely Marygate garden one Sunday in July. Helen Fields and company continue to tend our ancient churchyard and, under Helen’s direction, a small but enthusiastic group organised two Open Churchyard Days in July and September. Visitors were able to access our grounds directly via the gateway from the Museum Gardens and appreciate the refreshments, children’s activities and churchyard tours – and the chance to shelter from the rain. There is scope for us to develop these ideas in the future, as outreach to the local and wider community as well as tourists.

September was a very busy month, with a special event available every weekend. We began with our annual picnic and bike ride to Beningbrough Hall. Thank you to Jane and Simon Lockley for organising this. Then there was the vital fund-raising day at St Crux, masterminded by Liz Backhouse. Helen Fields and team ensured the success of the wonderful William Etty Lecture and Evening Reception, raising awareness of Etty’s life and work, as well as funds to go towards the restoration of his tomb. At the end of September we said farewell to Jane, with a ceilidh at St Lawrence’s and a final Sunday morning at St Olave’s.

Hidden talents were revealed at the Jane Austen Evening in October. With the help of Frances Brock at the keyboard, Bill Read and Janet Fox gave us a dramatic reading of Bill’s story ‘Pride and Plesiosaurs: an Unremarked Episode in the Life of Jane and Cassandra Austen’. This was a really fun evening, with references to dinosaurs, exploding ferrets and other unlikely topics, and an opportunity for a few folk to dress up as a character from an Austen novel.

There were a number of concerts during November’s Remembrance season. Jacqui Edwards gave us another very enjoyable and entertaining one-woman show at Bootham School. This was an excellent start to the Advent/Christmas period. The final Social Event for 2019 (apart from the coach trip to Newcastle for Jane’s induction service) was an Advent Lunch. Our churchwardens, Ben and Paul, encouraged us all to think about what we value about St Olave’s and our hopes for the future.

Ruth Sillar

Our Community Gallery

Click or tap on the images to display large versions

Beating the Parish Boundary - June 2023
William Etty Evening
Fundraising at St Crux
Olaf the Viking Saint - Talk by John Carr February 2023
William Etty Evening
Fundraising at St Crux
Olaf the Viking Saint - Talk by John Carr February 2023
World War 1 Exhibition
In the footsteps of St Paul

Helping others

Charity Work

Members of St Olave’s Church are actively involved with the other York City Centre Churches in writing letters for Amnesty International and as part of the Community of the Cross of Nails.  Both activities are based at St Martin’s Church Coney Street – the York church dedicated to peace and reconcilliation.

St Olave’s Church members also support the work of USPG  and Accomplish Children’s Trust, a Christian charity supporting children with disabilities and their families in Africa.

There is a very strong ethos within the congregation of extending the reach of St Olave’s by supporting different charities, with much associated and inventive fundraising.


A short introductory video about Accomplish Children’s Trust

The Amnesty Letter Writing Group

A small and friendly group meets every second Saturday of the month in the Upper Room of St Martin’s Church in Coney Street. We aim to begin our letter writing at 11am, with the opportunity to share Fair Trade refreshments and conversation beforehand. All stationery and postage are provided, as is guidance for those who are new to the activity.

We write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, from a list of cases highlighted by Amnesty International every three months. The countries and cases will vary but they usually involve a serious infringement of human rights: torture and maltreatment, a failure to follow correct legal procedures, unfair trials, perpetrators evading justice and so on. Normally we write to both the head of state and to the ambassador in London, expressing our concern and asking for appropriate action to be taken. Only very occasionally do we receive a reply but our letters, and those of other groups, are a reminder to officials that these prisoners have not been forgotten by the outside world. It is always encouraging when Amnesty International is able to report the release of an individual.

New members are most welcome to join us in this important work. Contact Revd Kingsley Boulton for further details.

Ruth Sillar

The Community of the Cross of Nails

Central to the prayer life of the Community of the Cross of Nails is the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation. This is said at all services at St Martin’s, where on Fridays at 12 noon prayers for peace and reconciliation are also offered. Whilst churches are currently closed resources are posted each week here comprising a Bible reading, reflection, prayers and the Coventry Litany. You can read more about the Community of the Cross of Nails in the June 2020 edition of Touch Base.

Kingsley Boulton

Accomplish Children’s Trust

In recent years, St Olave’s has supported Accomplish Children’s Trust www.accomplishtrust.org.uk in many ways, including members of the congregation visiting their projects, and fundraising. Accomplish Children’s Trust CIO is a UK based charity (registered in England & Wales) that fundraises for partner organisations running projects in rural Africa. The mission is to transform the lives of children with disabilities in Africa, usually in poor, remote regions. They believe every child should be loved, respected and encouraged to reach their full potential.

Following Christian principles, Accomplish Children’s Trust supports projects for children with disabilities that promote education, medical needs, income generation and community outreach. They do this in several ways:

  • UK based fundraising
  • Award of grants
  • Strategic collaborations and long-term African partnerships
  • Communication of news, support actions and prayer needs to our members

Chris Acton



Accomplish Children's Trust

Accomplish Children’s Trust

Accomplish Children's Trust

Accomplish Children’s Trust

Send a Cow

Send a Cow