St Joseph’s, Roehampton (Roman Catholic)

History

The church was founded in 1869, and the present building was opened in 1881 by the Jesuits, being extended in 1955. It has links with two small convents which are nearby.

Appearance

Upon entering the church, one’s gaze is drawn to a large crucifix hanging from the ceiling, with models of Mary and St. John on either side. This crucifix hangs above the altar, which has a silver cross on top and is flanked by two candles. To the left of the altar is a lectionary, and behind it against the front wall is a high altar, on which is placed the tabernacle for Eucharistic reservation. As I visited on the second Sunday of Lent, the tabernacle was draped in the Lenten colour of purple. To the left of the high altar is an icon of the Holy Family, to its right one of Christ, and above it is a rose window.

The side walls of the church have stained glass windows – some of them depicting saints, others of a simpler design featuring a “SJ” for Saint Joseph – beneath which are pictures of the Stations of the Cross. On the wall to the left of the church there were also some paintings of New Testament events such as Pentecost in a very modern style.

In a corner at the front of the church was a statue of Christ. There was also a statue of the Virgin Mary and a statue of a male saint (whose identity I couldn’t ascertain) at the back of the church, where there was also a font of holy water and shelves with leaflets.

Clergy

The service was led by a priest in purple vestments, accompanied by a deacon in white and red vestments and a large number of altar-servers, some of whom were dressed in what looked like beige monastic habits. A second priest, in a white cassock with a purple stole, helped serve communion. A choir was situated in an alcove of the church at the front, and a lady from the congregation came up to give some of the readings and prayers.

Congregation

There were roughly 100 people in the congregation, but I was unable to make an exact count. A large proportion (perhaps about two thirds) was made up of ethnic minorities, and there were a large amount of children there as well.

Service

The service was very similar in structure to those I attended at the other Roman Catholic churches I have visited, following the Pauline Mass order of service. The service started with the altar servers processing up the main aisle to the altar with a crucifix on a pole, during which a hymn was sung and the priest censed the altar. After prayers of confession, there came a reading, Genesis 12:1-4, followed by Psalm 32 sung with responses, and then a reading of 2 Timothy 1:8-10. The Gospel reading came next, preceded and followed by an anthem; it was Matthew 17:1-9, on the Transfiguration.

After the readings came the sermon, reflecting on the Transfiguration and also on the Trinity and the recurring references to mountains throughout scripture. Prayers came after this, followed by notices and a collection. The choir then sung a hymn while the priest prepared the wafer and wine for communion, which was followed by some mostly sung prayers, including “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Latin.

The congregation then knelt as the priest lifted up the wafer and the wine in turn while prayers were said asking for them to become the Body and Blood of Christ. After the sharing of the peace, the congregation went to receive communion, which was served both at the front of the church by the priest and at the back by a second priest, who hadn’t before this done anything in the service.

After communion, there was a hymn sung with the congregation seated, accompanied by a guitar, as the leftover communion was stored in the tabernacle in the high altar. After more prayers, some more notices were announced. The priest then asked if anybody had a birthday over the coming week, and those who did stood while the congregation sung a blessing to them.

The priest then blessed the congregation, and processed to the back of the church with the altar-servers while a hymn was sung to St. Patrick, whose feast day it is tomorrow.

Afterwards

There were no refreshments served afterwards. The priest stood at the door, saying goodbye to members of the congregation as they left.

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