The Lambeth Mission was set up by the first Methodists, converted by John Wesley himself when he preached at Kennington Common. Between the wars it was made famous by the energetic and forward-looking minister Thomas Tiplady, author of such hymns as "Above the hills of time the cross is gleaming."
Tiplady wanted to harness the new medium of film to the cause, and collaborated with a Methodist lay preacher called J. Arthur Rank to produce wholesome films with a Christian message which were shown at the Mission.
Alec Gavin, and Tiplady also commissioned Bainbridge Copnall to provide a monumental sculpture for the front.
Copnall was headmaster of the Sir John Cass Institute of Arts and Crafts at the time, and had been scouring London's bomb sites for nice bits of stone. It is fitting that debris from the hell that was the blitz should be used to create this uplifting and optimistic piece.
Officially called The Word, it is better known as The Lambeth Street Preacher. The minister points heavenward, while a couple at his feet hold their child up to clasp the Bible in his hand.
Copnall was not very happy with the final work, as he wanted it to have a rough finish and to stand free in its niche. The architect insisted that it be given a high finish and for it to be enclosed in a brick surround.
Of course, Copnall could not possibly have predicted that many years later his street preacher would look just as if he was calling heaven on a mobile phone.