Tuesday, February 13, 2007

St Aidan`s, Benton


Half a mile away from SS Peter and Paul`s is St Aidan`s Benton. I am also responsible for this church as moderator of the cluster which also includes St Teresa`s, Heaton where, mercifully, the church is looked after by Fr Kellett, the parish priest. Father shares the weekend Masses at St Aidan`s with me. St Aidan`s is the oldest of the parishes I run, being founded in 1906. The area is middle class. For many years there was a temporary church until the present building was put up in the early 1960`s. It was built as the church hall but for reasons I don`t yet understand the church was never built and the hall was converted a church. It is a building of little charm. Recently I had occasion to show the church to two local Anglican clergymen. The younger said " Oh you Romans do things so well!. This confused me somewhat and I wondered whether he was being serious! The other expressed an interest in the sanctuary bells and the newly-acquired gong in such a way that I thought here was someone who talked the same language!
The parish has a good attendance. The previous, very popular, parish priest, Fr Kennedy, established a 5pm Saturday vigil Mass which is always packed with people standing who can`t get a seat. When he took over the parish the Mass attendance was very low whereas Ss Peter and Paul`s was a thriving parish. Whether it was the introduction of the 5pm Mass or the stability of tenure by Fr Kennedy while Ss Peter and Paul had a rapid turn over of parish priests, St Aidan`s has now become a well attended parish while Ss Peter and Paul`s languishes with a small congregation. St Aidan`s has no school. It suffers from a lack of young people: on a Sunday there are no altar servers although there are three at the vigil. In the picture on the right of the sanctuary is a fairly new statue of St Aidan installed for Fr Kennedy`s 40th anniversary of ordination. I only say Mass here twice a week and only since September so nothing has changed yet in the liturgy except that I bought the Luzar starter kit of Gothic chasubles as the vestments on offer did not appeal very much. There is potential for improved music as at present Masses consist of four hymns. The Sunday organist used to run a good choir at St Teresa`s Heaton until 1993 when it was axed but he unfortunately appears very reluctant to try any Gregorian chant now.

13 comments:

Augustinus said...

Those steps behind the altar cry out for something to be returned to them! Prayers for all your endeavours, Father.

Anonymous said...

Father,
Not nearly as bad as your other parish. I would sugest that the taburnacle be moved to the center, where the old altar was and the chair moved to the side, faceing the altar.
Andrew in California

Hebdomadary said...

This reminds me of a picture Fr. Anthony Conlon showed me of the little basement parish church of St. Joseph's, Bunhill Row. You can't imagine an overgrown shoebox any plainer, greyer, with a more disproportionately microscopic crucifix than the gutted and paint-slathered assembly hall he inherited. So he changed it, and you may remember the result. A lovely faux-Georgian chapel, a truly moving transformation which people liked so much. I understand it's been desecrated again, but don't let that stop you. Better to spend money at hand on sacred decoration, than watching one's diocese eventually pitch it out the window in abuse-settlements. That way if they want to put it back, let it be out of their pocketbooks. Don't ask permission. Remember, it's always easier to say "I'm sorry" than "May I?"

Andrew said...

Hmmmmmmmmm... A little bit too plain for what should be a sanctuary.

That tabernacle definately needs to go back in the centre. I can't see how moving it to the side has made a any difference in more reverance being shown to the Blessed Sacrament.

And yes as Augustinus right says those steps behind the altar have been be deprived of something for too long. An orientem altar with simple rederos would look look.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Hebdomadary, I heard about Fr Conlon`s church but never saw it myself. He had someone to design it for him I seem to remember. I think it was at a meal after the reception for bishop Rifan in London on his first visit that I heard the story and what had happened to it.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a typical H&N reorderig of the late 70's - early 80's period with that permanent stone chair. Ughhh!

Anonymous said...

Bunhill Row was indeed glorious in its pomp, thanks to the architect Anthony Delarue. A lot of it was done on a small budget with great imagination. Fr Conlon told me a former parishioner revisited the church at this time, and said, 'But ... but ... this used to be a *modern* church!'

BTW St Wilfrid's York is now officially 'a modern church' - the altar rails were taken out this week.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Look at it this way. It's a lot easier to fix a blank wall than a wall with some grandiose bit of 70's style garbage art tacked up on it. A big painting in the middle would work wonders, even a bigger crucifix.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Augustinus, anonymous Andrew and Andrew I agree that the tabernacle looks silly where it is. Moving it is clearly a priority. That blank back wall is irritating too and does need something more for a focus. I had thought of an icon or two but haven`t thought of a subject. The large statue of St Aidan is a bit of a problem as it has a monopoly on the patron saint. However my first priority is the sanctuary at St Mary`s, Forest Hall. If I can get the tabernacle moved here that will be all I`ll be hoping to do in the short-term.

Joee Blogs said...

Gosh what an exciting project, and with such a large congregation how exciting!
May I throw in my hat with the others that the off centre tabernacle is a serious matter.
I'm sure you'll do wonders with it over time Fr, but please keep us updated with pics of the progress!

Fr Michael Brown said...

Thanks Joee. It may be a while before anything happens at St Aidan`s but I`ll keep the blog posted on any developments. The tabernacle is a problem I agree.

parent of the parish said...

As a long time, active member of this very supportive and vibrant parish I'm appalled to stumble on this site!
Firstly it's way out of date, Fr Kellet being dead for some time. Then the judgemental tone of all the posts - really - your only concern is the taburnacle? What about the fact that this is a university area? The consistant attendance? The support of parishoner for parishoner? The international activities? Look to your selves before you judge.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Parent of the parish. Thank you for your comment. As you will see I posted this blog entry in 2007 that is why it refers to Fr Kellet.
I was sharing pastoral responsibility at the time for the parish with Fr Kellet and was moderator of the cluster of parishes. ( I still am as far as I know: I`ve not been told I`m not!)

I`m glad the parish is vibrant etc. The position of the tabernacle concerned me greatly and would have been something I would have wanted to change as a parish is a Eucharistic community above all else and putting the Eucharist at the centre of the sanctuary says something to me about the regard in whch it is held.