The church in words and pictures

The church is normally open to visit or for prayer during daylight hours. However due to covid-19 restrictions in 2020, the church is only open at limited times for private prayer and services.

Words….

The newest part of the church, first conceived in 2012, started in 2018 and completed in 2019 is the modern glass and steel porch which replaced a loved but rather tired wooden structure dating from the 1960s which served as a place of meeting, gathering and shelter. It’s a wonderful piece of architecture that expresses what a Church porch should be. Where the Secular and the Sacred meet; a warm place of welcome for all; a place to gather as a community; a place where we enter to worship, to pray and to celebrate God’s presence in our midst. The Corten or weathering steel exterior, which represents the labour of the human person, often harsh and enduring – the material not unlike the chains that enslaved and imprisoned Peter – draws us into a bright, friendly space, where we can take off our work clothes and put on our clothes of recreation and blessing.

As for the feature window, that too was a journey of discovery. 2018 was the year of centenary celebrations of the end of the First World War. The Church has a dedicated window to all those who died in that war; and as an expression of desire for peace. How could we extend that great aspiration, longing and yearning?

A peace window, looking in and looking out. An invitation into celebrating and receiving the Sacrament of Peace. ‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.’ (John 14: 27) Jesus sends out his disciples with these words ‘Whatever house you enter, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!’(Luke 10: 5)

Who could express this best but those who embodied and lived the virtue? The saints. How does one choose? Beginning with a couple; growing to six, men and women; from north and south, from east and west. Modern-day witnesses that can speak to our world today. All having a deep love for the Eucharist; love and service of their brothers and sisters, exemplified by the forgiveness of their oppressors and persecutors; facing every situation with courage, deep joy and faith, despite all the trials, hardships and difficulties. True hope for our world that enables humanity to discover its true dignity and destiny.

So who are they: Oscar Romero, Francis Van Thuan, Josephine Bakhita, Maximilian Kolbe, Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa of Calcutta? You can gain a great insight into their lives through the internet. Be good to yourself and explore.

The central pane shows Oscar Romero of El Salvador celebrating Mass, Eucharist, Sacrament of Peace, when one shot rang out and assassinated him. Francis Van Thuan kneels before the altar of sacrifice with hands outstretched, holding a few drops of wine and a little piece of bread; the means by which he celebrated the Eucharist during his thirteen years of imprisonment in Vietnam, nine of which were in solitary confinement. On the left as you look in, you see Josephine Bakhita freed from the shackles of slavery and now patron of human trafficking victims and survivors. Maximilian Kolbe, deliberately dressed in his Franciscan habit, throwing off the Auschwitz concentration camp garb, as he gives his life for a fellow inmate. On the right, you have Dorothy Day who said, ‘Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily’, but whose life and holiness cannot be dismissed when you see her legacy, in the Catholic Worker Movement, radically challenging not only poverty but the causes of poverty. And finally, we have Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a vocation within a vocation, who celebrated Mass early every morning, to receive Jesus, to take Jesus, to be Jesus, to meet Jesus in the poorest of the poor. Role models; witnesses; inspirations; examples that will enable us to discover how we can be the Body of Christ today.

And all because Jesus is our Lord and Saviour who frees us in His love. Peter expressed this so powerfully when he realised the chains had fallen off: ‘Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and save me from Herod…’. (Acts 12: 11)

The Lady Chapel aisle, by comparison, is the oldest part of the church. Outside, over the side entrance, you can see the same carving of Jesus and an eagle that decorates the front of the altar. This is the badge of the Canons Regular of the Lateran who founded the parish. Traditionally, the eagle represents St. John the evangelist. Inside the Lady aisle, there are four images of Mary – a late victorian statue of Our Lady of Lourdes originally from a CRL priory  in Dorset – beautifully restored in 2021, a painting of the Greek Madonna from Ravenna in Italy and a window depicting the Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven in the chapel itself plus a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham near the side door. This statue was carried in procession in May between Holy Trinity church in Granville Road and St. Peter’s.

The stained glass window in the Lady aisle depicting the warrior saints – St. Maurice, St. Martin of Tours, St. George, St. Joan of Arc and the Archangel Michael was erected as a memorial after World War I.

To the left of the chapel is a modern carved wooden statue of St Anthony of Padua. Now mainly invoked to help find lost articles, St Anthony originally joined the Canons Regular before becoming a Franciscan where he became known as ‘The Hammer of the Heretics’.

There are four depictions of St. Peter in and outside the church. The relief carving above the main doors shows the story of St. Peter being freed from his chains by an angel with Roman soldiers nearby; there is a statue of St. Peter above the porch – somewhat the worse for wear. Inside the church two more traditional statues show St. Peter with the scriptures in one hand and the keys of the kingdom in the other. One is just to the left of the crucifix at the back of the Sanctuary while the other, the parish’s most recent acquisition bought on a parish pilgrimage to Fatima and paid for by donations, is located in the niche above the door to the Sacristy next to the Lady Chapel.

The six statues at the back of the Sanctuary are, from left to right, St. Monica – the mother of St. Augustine, St. Patrick, St. Peter, St. Augustine, St. Edward the Confessor and St. Agnes – holding a lamb.

In Spring 2021, the original Baptismal Font which had languished un-used in a small baptistery at the back of the Blessed Sacrament Aisle, was moved to the stand in front of the Sanctuary reflecting it’s importance in Christian life. Set into the parquet flooring of the church, it looks as if it has always been there.

In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel there are 3 paintings: The Last Supper – below the altar, Melchizedek giving bread and wine to Abraham (Gen. 14-18) – above the altar on the left and, on the right, is the story of the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). These flank a statue of the Sacred Heart. Above the altar is the first of two stained glass windows depicting Christ the King.

On the pillar to the right of the chapel is an icon depicting Christ the King, again bought by parishioner subscription to mark the Millennium.

The beautifully tiled side altar dedicated to St. Joseph illustrates three of the roles we associate with the saint – the window above the altar shows Joseph holding the infant Jesus, while the contemporary carved wooden statue of St Joseph the Worker shows a smiling carpenter. The ceramic tiles behind the alar show St. Joseph as patron of the dying and it is for this reason that this altar is the home of the parish Book of Remembrance.

The statues of the English Martyrs in the Martyrs Chapel, dedicated to the Conversion of England, were carved by an Austrian artist, Joseph Furthner (1890 – 1971). The chapel also contains a glass case with copies of St. Peter’s chains while above the chapel is a second stained glass window showing Christ the King.

Around the church are a set of ceramic Stations of the Cross and at Easter we bring out a large black crucifix with a white figure of Christ which is venerated during the Good Friday services.

Behind the carved screen doors of the original baptistery there is more stained glass showing the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist and the original home of the stone font where many parishioners will have been baptised now brought back into use and moved in front of the Sanctuary. The chapel is now the home of a statue of St Francis of Assisi embracing Christ on the Cross.

Then, of course, as well as other decorations and fitting in the church, there are the chalices, ciboria, the monstrance, processional crosses, candlesticks, vestments, lectionaries, missals, and other vessels, used as part of liturgical celebrations – a number of which were given by parishioners or to commemorate members of the parish.

Pictures….

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