St Osmund, Barnes (Roman Catholic)

History

The church of St Osmund can trace its history back to a Roman Catholic mission at Barnes established in 1907. The mission acquired a chapel, which in 1953 began to be rebuilt into the current church building, designed by the architect Ronald Hardy and officially opened on 16 July 1955. The church is affiliated with a nearby primary school, which may go some way towards explaining the large amount of young children present at the service I attended.

Appearance

The interior of the church has an interesting look to it, with the walls and ceiling being formed by near-triangular curved arches (see photograph). Stone Stations of the Cross are situated on each side of the arches, and on either side of the nave is a statue with votive candles placed underneath, one of the church’s patron saint Osmund of Salisbury, and another of a monk whose name I did not manage to see.

A stone altar and pulpit are situated in the sanctuary area, as well as a wooden lectionary and small pews for the altar servers. A tabernacle for reserved communion is set behind the altar, above which is a large crucifix. Above this is a circular stained glass window, with a representation of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Candles and flowers are also placed at the back of the sanctuary area, flanking the tabernacle.

Clergy

The service was taken by a priest in vestments of pale gold and bright red. He was assisted by altar servers; six girls, three boys, and one older gentleman. Some of the prayers and readings were taken by a lady from the congregation, and there was a small choir seated in a gallery behind the nave.

Congregation

I could not make an accurate count of the number of people in the congregation, but most of my attempts came to somewhere around 105. There was a roughly equal balance in gender, and several people of an ethnic minority.

There were about 25 young children in the congregation. Although I am well aware of Luke 18:16, I could not help thinking that it may have been beneficial for them to have some sort of junior church or Sunday school, or at least a designated area for them at the back, as most of them spent the service somewhat noisily playing with toys whilst seated amongst the congregation, sometimes to the point where it was clear that the priest would not have had to speak so loudly had they been quieter.

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 readings were Isaiah 55:1-11, 1 John 5:1-9, and Mark 1:7-11. The service had the theme of baptism and renewal, with the sermon focused on this topic.

After the sermon, the congregation was invited to reaffirm their baptismal promises, with the priest reciting parts of the Apostle’s Creed in question form (“Do you believe in…?”) and the congregation responding with “I do” to each part. There was then an induction of four of the altar servers into a Guild of Saint Stephen, which after looking into I have found is a confraternity for Roman Catholic altar servers which was founded in 1904. The four altar servers being inducted into this organisation were blessed by the priest and awarded medals after making promises to serve the church.

Communion then took place, with members of the congregation going up to the front to receive it both from the priest and from a lady from the congregation. After a closing hymn and blessing, the service ended. It lasted an hour and five minutes.

Four hymns were sung during the service, but very few members of the congregation seemed to put much effort into them. Looking around, I estimated that only about one in three people were singing along to them, many not even looking at the hymn books – indeed, were it not for the choir, I doubt the hymns would have even been audible. Several people actually left the service once the closing hymn had started.

Afterwards

The priest stood by the main entrance after the service, saying goodbye to the members of the congregation as they left. A coffee morning was held in the church hall, which was downstairs but accessible via stairlift, although the way in which I was told this was taking place strongly implied that refreshments are not (as has been the case in the other Roman Catholic churches I have so far visited) served every week.

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