Sunday, February 11, 2007

SS Peter and Paul`s Longbenton

When I was moved from St Wilfrid`s, Gateshead in 2005, as well as St Mary`s in Forest Hall I was also asked to look after the parish of SS Peter and Paul, Longbenton. This is in an area of Newcastle that has had its fair share of social problems but which has been the recipient of much regeneration planning recently. The parish probably saw its heyday in the 1970`s and 1980`s when it was a centre for charismatic renewal. In recent years there has been quite a rapid turn over of parish priests and the parish has gone into something of a decline. At present there is one Sunday Mass at 9.15 attended by about 80 people, most of whom are elderly. At least SS Peter and Paul`s looks more like a church than the other two venues in which I say Mass at the weekend although the large black marble altar is rather daunting. As I only say Mass there on a Friday night apart from the Sunday I haven`t applied myself much to thinking what could be done with the sanctuary. I hope to have some tabernacle veils made soon. The altar might benefit from a frontal and some different candlesticks. What I like about the parish is that it reminds me in many ways of St Wilfrid`s in Gateshead where I had ten relatively happy years in that the congregation and area is quite similar, although they do not have the traditional devotions ( such as the Forty Hours and May Processions) that were a normal part of life at St Wilfrid`s and which are so hard to re-introduce once it has been decided to scrap them. I have introduced weekly exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour before the Friday evening Mass. The presbytery is the home of the remarkable Fr David Milburn, author of the History of Ushaw College and president of the North East Catholic history society, who provides valuable help in both parishes. Here are some pictures of the sanctuary. The figure above the altar I find hard to love but haven`t come up with a replacement as yet.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh Father, the area behind the altar needs help and fast. Paint and a proper crucifix will go a long way to making the church have that correct feel.
Here in the States I know that many pastors have found very nice traditional crucifixes and statuary of the Saints from parishes that have been closed or torn down, often at no cost.
A very good idea though to start with Adoration.
Andrew in California

Fr Michael Brown said...

Andrew, I agree it is fairly tragic. If I wa living there I would have done something by now if I could get the parishioners to agree. I had asked an icon painter for estimates for an icon of St Peter and one of St Paul for the two side panels and then a Christ in Pantokrator pose between them. That would be a bit expensive and the parish is rather under patronised so I wonder whether it is worth spending a lot at this stage. We have a diocesan storehouse of discarded items which I have never explored. I might make a trip soon.

Jeffrey Smith said...

The trip could be well worth the trouble. Never know what you might find.

Hebdomadary said...

There's alot of potential there though, Padre. At least it's symmetrical, and pretty much undecorated. Lots of scope for your imagination. An architrave or two around the edges and an ad orientem celebration, and Bob's your uncle. St. John the Evangelist in San Diego, Ca, was very much the same, and is in the process of re-traditionalizing the sancturay. Tabernacle's gone back to the center, on a full mensa substituting for putting the old altar back where it was, and a re-marbled sanctuary floor. That's the trend here a the moment.

As to mass attendance, if you're only getting 80 on Sunday, start a second mass in Latin, new rite, ad orientem, or follow Fr. Basden's lead and just plop in a tridentine. You'll soon begin developing congregations around those liturgies, that's certain. What have you got to lose? If the attendance gets low enough they'll close the place anyway, so strike out in another direction!

Besides, you don't need anybody's permission to do the new rite in latin anyway.

Augustinus said...

I'd explore the diocesan store house, Father. It would be great to see what they've got. Knowing what's been done to many churches in H and N, there could well be some treasures to find - unless the iconoclasts got there first and did their worst.

Hebdomadary - I suspect it's not so easy for Father to put in place your admirable suggestions, given the nature of the parishes for which he is responsible and any local circumstances.

pierro said...

That figure on the cross: charity dictates it has to go and so does th GIRM.

Fr Michael Brown said...

I agree it has potential, Hebdom. Recenly this parish lost it`s Saturday night vigil Mass, which was attended by about 30 people. If I now introduce a Latin Mass on say a Sunday evening things could get ugly. Another problem is that my oher church, which will be in my next post, is only half a mile away.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Pierro, I agree. If I was there every day I would have done something. Now I tend not to notice it except when I feel vaguely ridiculous incensing it on a sunday morning. Its days are numbered but I must find something to replace it first.

Ben Whitworth said...

You could send these pictures to Shawn Tribe at The New Liturgical Movement blog - he's offering a sort of virtual makeover service. He's already posted up a couple of examples of suggested low-budget renovations, and I think he is making sensible suggestions.

If you make Ss Peter and Paul beautiful (as I am sure you will), you will be doing a favour not only for your parishioners but, probably, for their children and grandchildren. I wish you every success, Father.

Joee Blogs said...

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL I'm in hysterics at "the figure"!!! How wonderful - please don't destroy that when you take it down - if you don't want it may I take it off your hands! It's so 1970s it's positively an antique of those times!

Fr Michael Brown said...

Joee, I`ve almost blanked the figure out of my mind. I agree it should be preserved as an example of what happened in the 70`s. (It may even be 80`s.) my first priority is St Mary`s but I hope to get around to the others eventually.

Augustine said...

Father, I'm aware that this is an ancient post, but I was wondering if you have made any of the changes you've hoped for since? This has the potential to be a beautiful if oddly modern church. Let me know if I can help in any way at SS Peter and Paul. :-)

Fr Michael Brown said...

Augustine, no changs so far I`m sorry to say. However we are expecting the icons to be here by Christmas. I should make arrangements to remove that figure soon. I might suggest an altar rail given recent developments in Rome. Come to the sung Mass on June 1st to see how we do the EF there.